Matthias had a very good childhood before he met Father Robinson. His deeply religious parents worked hard to provide him and his sister with every opportunity, and the children attended Catholic schools in suburban Brisbane. In the late 1980s, when Matthias was 11 years old, he began serving as an altar boy at the church affiliated with his school.
One day when getting dressed to serve at mass, putting his robe on over his uniform, the parish priest Father Robinson came up behind him. He told Matthias that it would be better if he were naked underneath his robe, and requested Matthias remove his clothes. Then he said he had to check that Matthias was clean – ‘because I could not be an altar boy in God’s house if I was dirty’ – and proceeded to touch and inspect his penis.
Matthias was ‘slightly confused and shaken at this point’ and frightened of the ‘large, overbearing’ priest. He was then instructed to turn around and put his hand on a bench. Father Robinson then digitally penetrated him ‘to check that I was fit to be in the service of the Lord’.
After this initial incident, ‘stuff of a similar nature happened on two more occasions, before I started to act out a little bit, and was somewhat, I suppose, confused and scared shitless really’. At school Matthias ‘was asked by a chaplain if stuff was going on at home. And I said that I didn’t want to be an altar boy anymore ... said that I didn’t like Father Robinson. And then was reprimanded by the chaplain at the time for speaking against such a man of the cloth. And from that point on, [I] thought that I was at fault. And from there things just went completely haywire’.
His life was turned upside down by the abuse. ‘I see it as a real fork in the road moment where my life could have been completely different.’ Feeling ‘at fault or wrong’, and being shut down by the chaplain ‘I sort of didn’t really go outward with it I suppose, I went inward with it’.
Matthias started getting into trouble ‘every other day’ at school. ‘My behaviour changed significantly from somebody who was outgoing and loved to laugh, and then somewhat became a little bit malevolent and a little bit violent and torturous towards others.’
Through the rest of primary school he was ‘criticised and ridiculed ... for my behaviour. Kind of ostracised. Became increasingly confused with religion and God and what my family had taught me, to what such a significant person in the Church had sort of put toward me’.
He felt confused as to ‘what this God guy was, and how my grandparents always said that he was a loving God and a protecting God ... and I didn’t feel protected or loved or anything like that I tell you’.
He doesn’t know if Father Robinson had other victims. In one way ‘I was glad it was me and not my sister I suppose, but hey, I’ve kinda been shit ever since ... If I was the only one I’d kinda be happy with that too because I’d hate for anyone else to have been as confused and as hurt and as lost as I’ve been ... I’ve spent a large portion – nearly all my adult life – either in drug rehabs or institutions such as prison’.
Matthias left school in his mid-teens and began using drugs, first marijuana then heroin by Year 9. ‘Although it’s a real evil drug, holy goodness it’s a hell of a drug for suppressing emotions.’ He began criminally offending as a juvenile to support his drug habit.
Currently he is incarcerated in a prison unit where there are many child sex offenders, and he finds this very difficult. ‘I walk around in here and I am just simmering ... It’s a continual thing, I feel like I’m just absolutely covered in ulcers from stress, and looking at these people.’
The abuse has had many other impacts too. ‘[My] sexuality’s been completely warped and confused. Relationship with my parents, my health, the stuff that I’ve seen and been witness to, and been a part of. It’s all questionable as to whether that’s a direct result of what that bastard did. I don’t know if you can set out on this journey and be like this, when you come from such a loving family. Something significant has to switch over in your head ... I’m still confused to this day.’
Recently Matthias told his mother about the abuse, and she recalled how he changed at that time. ‘She said, “I remember from that day forward you have never been the same since”. She said, “That day, I felt like I lost my son”.’
Matthias has not reported Father Robinson to police nor sought any compensation from the Catholic Church. He is intent on taking control of his life again once he is released from jail, including accessing trauma-informed therapy.
During the many drug rehabilitation programs Matthias has attended over the years he has not once disclosed the sexual abuse by Father Robinson. ‘In those places obviously you learn cognitive skills and stuff like that to obviously change your belief system ... The one thing that I never ever, ever, ever spoke about was this.’
Matthias sits in his cell thinking how things might have been different if he had spoken about it earlier. ‘If I had brought this stuff up when I first went to rehab maybe, just maybe, my life would have been different then too.’ Although he has received help ‘for many other things, different behaviours and that ... I think those behaviours are just out workings of the core problem – which was the sexual abuse which happened way back then’.
He hopes that talking about his experiences now will ‘set me free basically. It’s the one thing that has eluded me my entire life, is speaking and getting help for this’.