Marco Thomas's story

Marco came from a loving and supportive Catholic family in Western Australia, and attended his local Christian Brothers college in suburban Perth during the 1970s.

Brother Riordan taught at the school, and physically and sexually abused Marco when he was 13 years old. He would grab the genitals and buttocks of students when they were showering after sport, and unzip his pants and make them touch his penis. Although the boys would see this abuse happening to each other, they didn’t ever discuss it.

The physical abuse ‘was just as bad, if not, you know, at times worse ... some of the things he did were just horrid’. Riordan was very fond of doling out the strap, and Marco’s mother once witnessed him punching a boy in the chest. She didn’t intervene, and Marco noted ‘that notion that goes with being a practising Catholic in those days is that you just don't question things, you know ... he's a Brother and, you know, he's a man of the cloth, so to speak ... what were we going to do anyway? If it was to happen today it would be a different story’.

Marco’s ex-wife ‘used to say I wasn't very intimate in the relationship’, but he did not disclose the sexual abuse he had experienced to her. ‘In hindsight, I mean, we're all experts after the event, but I probably should have because I think it would have made a lot of difference.’

It is only recently that Marco has disclosed the abuse to anyone in detail, after the breakdown of his marriage and publicity regarding the Royal Commission.

‘The emotional thing is something that's been very difficult. I don't know whether I'm looking for excuses with what happened in my marriage and, you know, all of that ... I guess that aspect of being, you know, a little bit, not introverted but sort of, you know, not sharing my experiences with the people that meant the most to me ... I guess that probably has had its toll after 20-odd years of marriage, you know, not being honest about things.’

He is now seeing a psychologist, and this is helping him to come to terms with these experiences. ‘I’m a little more at ease with what happened.’

Marco has maintained his faith, but does not trust the Church to adequately deal with sexual abuse by the clergy on its own. He approached the Christian Brothers directly and was referred to a counsellor, but was not told that Riordan later became a priest and was transferred interstate.

‘Even after I've made an effort to try to reconcile all of this, you know, they're still lying about things.’


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