Mark was 13 when he was sexually abused by Brother Brendan at a Christian Brothers’ boarding school in Queensland in the mid-1970s.
He told the Commissioner he was called out of his Year 8 homework class one evening and instructed to see Brother Brendan. He didn’t know why. Brother Brendan was standing behind a row of lockers out of sight of the others. He told Mark to pull his pants down.
‘He stuck his finger in and then he undid his fly, and that’s when I managed to wriggle free and I ran from there screaming, “Rape! Rape!”’
The first person Mark saw was Brother Gerald who looked at him and started laughing. Brother Gerald didn’t ask Mark why he was distressed, but Mark was sure he knew the reason.
He ran back to his homework class and told the boy who was next in line to see Brother Brendan what had happened. ‘I said, “He’s just done something sexual to me and he wants to see you, but don’t go”.’
Mark reported the abuse to the principal, Mr Burges, and to his father who came the next day to the school. Mr Burges took Mark’s father into his office and told Mark to wait outside. ‘My father was furious. He was foaming at the mouth.’ Mark didn’t know what Burges said to his father, but he thought there was a denial and an appeal to his father’s deep faith not to take the matter any further.
Mark remained terrified for the rest of the year and for all of his time at school. He knew of eight or nine other boys who were abused by Brother Brendan. As dormitory master, Brother Brendan was responsible for supervising the boys’ bedtimes, and making sure they were showered and dressed. ‘He used to walk around at night pretending to be checking on us. I never slept.’
The following term Mark was moved to another dormitory overseen by a Brother he said was a good man. Later that year he was moved to a third dormitory under the supervision of Brother Damian, who Mark said was known by all the boys to be a sexual abuser.
When Mark returned to school the following year, he was taken aside by Burges who told him that Brother Brendan had died during the holidays.
Twenty years later, Mark discovered that Brother Brendan was still alive, and that Burges had lied to him. He went to the Queensland Police and reported the sexual abuse. Brendan was charged in the 1990s and two days later committed suicide.
Mark told the Commissioner the impact of the abuse on his life has been immense.
‘I haven’t been able to keep a relationship, or a job, or even a place to live. I’ve lived in 30 places in just the last 10 years. I used marijuana because it helped me forget.’
He describes being highly vigilant around young people. He tries to protect those he sees are neglected or have difficulties. His siblings say this has placed him at serious risk and made him vulnerable to exploitation over the years.
With his siblings’ support Mark approached Towards Healing, wanting an apology and acknowledgement that the abuse had occurred. ‘They said, “We’re not suggesting this didn’t happen”, but they didn’t want to admit the abuse.’ He said Towards Healing didn’t work for him. He subsequently received compensation from the Christian Brothers because the story of charges against Brother Damian was in all the newspapers.
Mark said he thinks Burges was aware of the complaints about the Brothers sexually abusing boys at the school. He wonders about the damage done by Brother Brendan in the years after him being abused in the 1970s and leading up to the 1990s, when he was charged. Mark is very angry that he was lied to.