During the 1960s and 1970s Morrie was brutalised physically and emotionally at the local Seventh Day Adventist primary and high schools he attended. His parents were devout followers of the religion.
‘From the very first day of primary school it was bullying, bullying, bullying and nothing was ever done … You worked your way through primary school where it was children bullying and then you come straight into high school where it was adult bullying.’
The principal was the main offender. ‘His normal behaviour was [to] take every opportunity that you can to belittle and hold someone up to ridicule, attack very publicly and very violently and for no logical reason, to maintain a level of fear.
‘He would go off and attack a student with a broom handle, T-square broken over their backs, that sort of thing.’
Morrie also found the church culture claustrophobic.
‘The only day of the week that as a child that you have, outside some kind of church influence … is Sunday. Because you’re at school, the people at school that are abusing you go to church, so that’s your Saturday. So, you just don’t have any down time and escape … I used to long for Sunday to never end.’
Morrie left high school when he was about 16 years old. He felt that he had, ‘pretty much spent … life as a gibbering idiot and couldn’t string a sentence together, let alone confront anybody or report on anybody’.
He quickly found work as a storeman in a supplies shop but resigned that job to take up a trade with more of a future. On his last day, Morrie was attacked in the work lift by a group of six men, all employees of the business. They rubbed chemicals on his genitals and one man digitally penetrated him.
‘It was the last day that I was there … the assumption being that … as a minion … [bullying] needs to happen at some time … so they chose to attack me.’
Morrie reported the abuse to the administrator but the man’s response was ‘very poor’. He then told his parents but nothing was done to follow up the men.
‘Looking back from now, I know that the entire period I spent as an apprentice I was pretty much afraid, partially functional, wasn’t really able to … interact with anybody at any sort of adult level. The result is, today I can’t work for anybody.’
Morrie has recently reported the sexual abuse to the police but, ‘realistically I don’t expect much to come of it, especially this far down the track but it’s just another person speaks out, becomes another statistic’. He has also made a police statement about the extreme physical violence he endured from the school principal.
As an adult, Morrie questions the secrecy about and protection of child sexual abuse perpetrators within the national Seventh Day Adventist Church. One case still causes him disbelief: ‘He was involved with the church, he was convicted of the crimes, he did his time and was welcomed back in … at the end of it all’.
Morrie no longer participates in the Seventh Day Adventist religion and, as a result, has lost a significant support structure. ‘Total collapse of your support group. Yeah, no friends no social life. Further depression and inability to cope … I very much seriously doubt that God exists.’
Morrie has received support from counsellors, psychologists and a psychiatrist. He has also been on anti-depressant medication ‘for many years’. He spent much of his adult life, ‘just struggling along … shoving it back. Just not thinking about it … locked into the coping strategy of just put your head down and hide in all circumstances … even today’.
‘It’s only been in the last five years or so that I’ve been able to piece together so much of it … I could only really describe it as a black dog with spikes.’
He understands now that, ‘what you experience [as a child] is a reality and the assumption of a child at that age is that that [behaviour] is normal’.
The opportunities available to Morrie throughout his life were affected by the abuse.
‘Realistically I’ve been robbed … There’s not much you can do. I wish for a time machine to go back and talk to myself.’