In the mid-1950s, 14-year-old Melvin was mucking around with his friends at a Sydney train station after classes one day. Someone must have seen them because the next day the boys were called to the principal’s office at their Christian Brothers school.
They were called individually into the office by principal, Brother Trevor White.
‘I went in first’, Melvin said. ‘He said that someone reported us, he was sort of leaning back against his desk. I was standing in front of him and he grabbed me, kissed me, put his tongue down me throat. Then he started touching me.’
Melvin didn’t know what to do. After about 10 minutes, White told him he could return to class and that he needed to come to the presbytery after school. Melvin however, ran home and told his mother what White had done.
‘She didn’t believe me … ‘Cause she was a strict Catholic … Once your mother doesn’t believe you, where do you go?’
A few days later, Melvin and his friends were called up onto the stage of the auditorium during assembly. They were told to pull down their pants and turn to face the back of the stage. White then strapped the boys six times each on their buttocks in front of the entire school. Melvin was humiliated.
He went home that night and again told his mother what had happened. This time his mother became upset and called White, and a meeting was arranged for her to come to the school. The same day White expelled Melvin.
‘He said that it would be better if I left. So I never went back again.’
Melvin didn’t finish high school and as an adult has felt ‘haunted by what I went through’. He experienced periods of depression and has thought at times of ending his own life. Though he has seen this in the past as a way out, he doesn’t think he could do it because he wouldn’t want to leave his dog alone.
He often has nightmares and flashbacks and apart from his disclosure to his mother, hasn’t talked about the abuse to anyone because he felt that he wouldn’t be believed.
‘You don’t speak about it, that’s the problem. That’s why it wells up inside of you for years and years and you don’t know when it’s going to affect you.’
In the late 1990s, Melvin’s brother told him that one of the boys who’d been called to the principal’s office had gone to the presbytery as directed and had been sexually abused.
Melvin approached a media company in the late 2000s to recount his story of being abused. He was upset to hear that White was still alive and had recently celebrated seven decades as a Christian Brother. Melvin didn’t ever report White to police or the Catholic Church.
‘It’s too late.’