As a Grade 4 student, Martyn was sexually abused by a Brother at his Marist Brothers school in Brisbane.
He told the Commissioner he’d heard it said that people who sexually abused children in the past can’t be judged by the expectations of today, because ‘it’s of that time’.
‘In my view, that’s a load of rubbish.’
Martyn grew up in the 1960s, part of a ‘very traditional Catholic family, whatever that means’. It was a large family, close and loving. He began his schooling locally, at a small co-educational Catholic school. When he was nine or 10 he moved to the much larger boys’ Marist Brothers school, where he remained till the end of his school education.
Martyn was small for his age. ‘I stood out.’ Early on he attracted the attention of his teacher, Brother Thomas. Martyn can’t remember what he was like as a teacher. He remembers him as the person he was abused by. ‘I’ve described him as a sadist’, he said.
In class, Brother Thomas used the cane on Martyn brutally and often. Martyn described other, stranger punishments and he believes Brother Thomas got pleasure from inflicting pain. It wasn’t just inside the classroom that Brother Thomas singled Martyn out.
‘I’m sure you’ll have heard worse, but this is quite difficult for me [to talk about]’, Martyn said.
‘One example is we used to do swimming lessons … If you forgot your togs, he used to make you swim in your underwear. And I remember one day I forgot my togs and he pulled me aside in the shed and then said “You’re going to swim nude”, and took my clothes off.
'You could see he was getting pleasure out of [my] distress … Then he said “No, you’ll swim in your underwear”. And that wasn’t uncommon.’
Another time at swimming he took Martyn aside and told him off for wearing his swimmers in a ‘sexual manner’ – an accusation that baffled Martyn, who at nine or 10 years old had hardly even heard the word 'sex' before. Brother Thomas grabbed hold of Martyn’s swimmers: ‘He kept on pulling them up and then pulling them down … you see in hindsight he was getting some pleasure out of that.'
‘I used to dread those swimming lessons.’
Martyn also recalled a production of a school play. Rehearsals took place over some months. Brother Thomas would summon Martyn and another boy at lunchtime, make them strip off their clothes and then paint them with stage makeup. He told them this was so he could work out what would be most effective in the final performance. Martyn wasn’t sure how many times this happened, but ‘it wasn’t uncommon’, he said.
‘You didn’t have an option not to do it, that’s for certain. I don’t want to say it was normal, ‘cause it wasn’t. I think the other boys in the class were just saying thank God it wasn’t them. As a 10-year-old, being asked by an adult who’s physically intimidating and has already abused you physically, to be asked to do something, you do it.’
Martyn didn’t say anything to anyone about Brother Thomas. But he is certain the principal knew what was happening, because later that year Brother Thomas was moved on to another school. He believes his fellow teachers must have known too. Brother Thomas should not have been able to be alone with a student, he said. ‘That should have been addressed and there’s no excuse for it.’
Martin said he was deeply affected by Brother Thomas’s abuse. ‘I just did everything to keep a low profile and shut down, I suppose …
‘My behaviour … is to try to not confront people, not to be noticed, to get people to like me even when I might be disagreeing with them. And that worked all the way through school. I became more introverted.’
His grades suffered, and as a teenager he developed an eating disorder that he only recognised and dealt with in his late twenties. His life after he left school was very unsettled: ‘I used to just take jobs – really undervalued my skill set and my knowledge. Basically just get a job here, or there.’
Martyn has been married for more than 25 years. His children attended Catholic schools. ‘One thing I do value in the Catholic Church is their sense of social justice – that’s something that’s very active in our family’, he explained. As well: ‘We very much empowered them to say that if anything happened, no matter what, you can tell us.’
His initial contact with the Royal Commission was the first time Martyn had ever told anyone about Brother Thomas’s abuse. His wife doesn’t know about it, and he has never sought counselling or other support for what happened. He described himself as at a ‘crisis moment’. He drinks too much, he is unable to deal with pressures at work that involve male authority figures, and finds it very hard to make friends.
‘I’m heavily reliant on my partner’, he said.
He said that in the past he has found his interest and involvement in the arts to be very helpful. He also described how the death of a family member to whom he was very close changed his approach to life, in a way that has helped him ever since.
‘It was just one of those moments where you go, I’ve got to do something here otherwise I’ll be in the gutter. So I just tried to knuckle down, and tried to be the best person I could.’