Mikey’s staunchly Catholic mum sent him off to Catholic school in fourth class. Mikey grew up in a New South Wales regional town in the 50s and 60s with a large collection of siblings. It was understood that at least one of them would become a nun or Brother. Their dad died when Mikey was only little and he now realises that having just one parent, who was struggling to make ends meet, made him more of a target for Brother Howard.
It was when Mikey was in his early teens that Howard called Mikey up to the front of the class and told him to stand by his desk. Brother Howard then put a hand in Mikey’s pocket, pulled him closer and fondled his genitals through his pocket.
Mikey told no one and put a lid on his feelings. It was the era when priests, Brothers and nuns were ‘gods in our eyes’ and sex was never discussed. His mum hadn’t explained anything to him, just handed him a book to read.
‘Mum gave me a book, little red book. “Listen, son.” I was about 14. That little red book, that was it. … I don’t think I even read it.’
Mikey left school at 15, started to train as a Brother but then abandoned it. ‘I couldn’t at the time work out why I didn’t want to go back. But I realise now.’
In the early 2000s the lid on his feelings started to shift when Mikey read stories about abuse in the Church. He told a trusted priest about what Brother Howard had done to him and was told to contact the local diocese. When they sent him information about the Towards Healing process he left the letter unopened.
But his memories of Brother Howard bubbled up again about 10 years later when he read an article about him in the local paper. This time it was a nun that Mikey turned to and who helped him. Mikey ended up making a statement to police and Howard was charged with multiple offences against Mikey and a group of other men.
Mikey said that when he heard other people’s evidence in court, and heard what they’d gone through at the hands of Howard, he broke down.
‘The worse thing was he sat there like Sitting Bull. Never, never blinked. No remorse, no nothing.’
Brother Howard pleaded guilty – the only good thing he’s done, Mikey said – and was given a prison sentence.
The worst thing for Mikey now is when the memories come back. He attributes any emotional resilience he has to his wife and his faith. He still attends mass regularly, even though the abuse has shaken his belief at times. ‘You think to yourself, they’re preaching one thing and doing another.’
‘I can never understand why a man, anybody, can do that sort of thing and then next day go to church, go to mass, go to communion … It’s hypocritical.’
He’s not sure what might have helped him disclose any earlier than he did. In that day and age such abuse was unheard of. ‘There was a gap between them and us … You couldn’t tell anybody. Who would believe you?’
Mikey’s recommendation to the Commission was simple.
‘Talk to kids. Tell them things.’