‘I believe that part of my life was stolen from me – without doubt’, said Maxim
He’d always wanted to be a scientist but his dream of going to university was thwarted when was ‘asked to leave’ his Christian Brothers school in New South Wales in Year 10. It followed three years of victimisation by the headmaster following a sexual abuse incident on a school camp.
Maxim was the only boy in a ‘poor’ family. His parents made a daily two-hour round trip from their home to his school which was dominated by boys from ‘wealthy’ families.
When he was 11 and on a school camp outside Sydney, he and another boy, George, were found wrestling by Brother Damien.
‘You two, come with me’, the Brother, then in his 40s, said. Brother Damien took them up a corridor and several flights of stairs to a bedroom where he left them until it was dark.
After about two hours ‘he came and got into bed with me and starting trying to fondle my genitals, started to, I believe, perform oral sex on me. I pushed him away. He kept saying, “Are you ticklish? Are you ticklish?” Playing these games. I wanted nothing to do with it. I knew it was wrong’.
Maxim said Brother Damien ‘got the message’ and then ‘got into bed’ with George who was beside him ‘and he proceeded to do exactly the same thing’ to George. The Brother then took George’s hand ‘and led him out of the room and locked me in the room there until the morning’.
George ‘never came back’ and ‘was very scarred after that event. He was never the same child’, Maxim said.
‘After the encounter where he tried to sexually abuse me I was victimised at school. Physically he would beat [me] until I had welts all up my arms – in front of other children. I was beaten to the point where the other children at first through it was entertaining. And then they were sickened by it. But, it didn’t break me. I have always been a very strong-willed person and I was 11 years old.’
All the school records Maxim has subpoenaed say ‘exactly the same thing’ – he obviously has talent ‘but something is wrong’, he doesn’t want to be here, Maxim told the Royal Commission.
He believes his socio-economic status was behind the victimisation by Brother Damien, who became the headmaster in the 1980s. It was more mental than physical ‘because I fought him off’. Maxim could not bring himself to tell his parents who had already sacrificed so much to pay for his fees.
When asked to leave the school in Year 10, it broke his mother’s heart, quashed his dream of being a scientist and stole his ‘whole education’, he feels, as he still struggles with Maths and English.
Despite cutting himself off afterwards and moving interstate where he achieved success in business, the ‘basic skills’ he lacks today Maxim believes all stem from the victimisation and sexual abuse at school.
‘It sort of ruined my future in a way because of what I wanted to do ever since I was a child I wasn’t able to achieve … not that my life has been unfulfilling but I didn’t get to fulfil what I wanted to do all because of the situation that I was put in.’
In his 20s Maxim ran into George in a bottle shop. ‘He looked like someone who had been in trouble with the law a lot. He looked like he didn’t have a good life’, Maxim said.
When he saw the Royal Commission mentioned on television in 2013 and searched for Brother Damien’s name on his laptop Broken Rites came up. He made contact and was later contacted by other former students and encouraged to go to the police.
Brother Damien, now in his 70s, was later convicted and sentenced to jail. ‘I hope he rots there’, Maxim said.
Despite getting away ‘pretty lightly’ compared to other boys, ‘the hate is always there’, Maxim said. But he can’t let it overcome him or he might have taken the law into his own hands – ‘which I considered’ – and wind up in jail.
Offered counselling after his police report, Maxim did not take it up. He sought legal advice but was told that because of his later success in business it would be difficult to prove damage, capped at $50,000 compensation, as his life has not been marred by crime, alcohol or drug abuse or mental health issues. His family had been of great support, he said.
Maxim got ‘a lot of satisfaction’, despite the lenient sentence, seeing Brother Damien jailed on charges that included his incident.
‘Without a doubt the other priests knew’, he believes. There was also another priest who took groups of young boys on camping trips and ‘everybody knew what was happening’. Maxim is angry that the Christian Brothers merely transferred offending members of the order to other schools where boys continued to be molested.
The only reason Maxim allows his son to go to a Catholic school now is because ‘there are no priests, no Brothers’.