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Murphy's story

Murphy was only five when he was sexually abused by older boys in a children’s home.

‘I’m a child of the 40s’, Murphy said. He was born in Melbourne and after his parents’ marriage broke down, his father ‘had no choice but to put us into a home’.

As his father left his sons in the home, the matron ‘gave me the biggest slap across the head’. She also refused to believe it was Murphy’s birthday.

‘That was my introduction to institutionalised violence that I experienced right through my life until 17.’

From that first slap Murphy ‘withdrew’ and kept to himself. After his father retrieved him and his brothers and took them to a Sydney Salvation Army boys’ home, he ‘did whatever I had to do to survive’ conditions in the home where ‘we had no life. We were just locked up’.

A frequent bed wetter, Murphy was routinely ‘frogmarched down to the showers and flogged’, regularly ‘brutalised and bashed’ by staff and given food with ‘maggots in it’.

After he and other children ran away, the extra ‘brutality’ meted out when they were caught ‘affected me to the point that I can’t even bear to look at’ or have anything to do with the Salvation Army.

When he was about six, Murphy was briefly placed in foster care with his brother ‘but every other day we’d be down in the basement with the razor strap getting flogged … that was a short period because I was an evil child’.

Transferred into a Catholic boys’ home, the next three years were the happiest of his childhood at a farm school outside Sydney. Then he attended high school and ‘reached puberty’ at age 13. The conditioning of the previous institutions drove Murphy into isolation – ‘perfect fodder for the paedophile’, he said.

‘That’s when Brother Boyce got hold of me … and I did what I needed to do to survive’ and keep ‘safe’ for the next two years.

Unlike other boys who were ‘viciously bashed and raped’, Murphy’s instinct was to be compliant ‘because I had this need to be loved and held and touched – it had been 10 years since someone had done that to me’.

And so a fearful Murphy, who was threatened to keep the abuse secret, avoided penetration by Boyce ‘otherwise I wouldn’t have done it’.

‘I thought I was his special boy … it’s only subsequently that I’ve learned about the horrors that these other guys [from the same institution] experienced … I thought I was the only one.’

Murphy is convinced another Brother who was ‘a vicious, sadistic man’, interrupted him with Boyce one day and that he must have known what was going on.

One day Murphy ‘asked for forgiveness’ in the confessional and the priest gave him penance of ‘10 Hail Marys, or some crap like that’. Murphy had described himself to the priest as ‘this man’s lover, special boy’, but wasn’t questioned about his remarks.

‘I thought it was my fault … so I needed to repent.’

The abuse stopped when Murphy left the home at about 16. He regrets not finishing high school and describes his potential as ‘stolen’. He thinks he would have made a good lawyer.

After ‘two years of freedom then I went into the army and from then on my life was a nightmare’.

‘The impact of violation and of false love is a terrible thing,’ Murphy told the Commissioner. ‘It affected my life so terribly.’

‘I had this insatiable urge to prove to myself that I was a man and not a homosexual, so the first woman that I ever saw … who was completely wrong for me, I just grabbed hold of her.’

He married, served overseas and had several children. In later life he’d attempted suicide because he felt ‘totally screwed up because of the army and mainly because of my childhood’. He has barely seen his children since the 1970s.

Each of Murphy’s marriages has ‘ended, unconsciously destroyed, because I was suffering from this damage from Boyce’.

In the 1990s he saw on television that Boyce had been fined $500 for the abuse of a boy at the institution. Murphy’s first disclosure was to police and he later discovered seven other former students had also come forward about Boyce.

However, court proceedings were stayed when Boyce became ill and it was decided that, as he was aged in his 60s, ‘he was too old and frail’ for a court case.

‘I was completely shattered by that. My main goal was not to seek compensation but it was to see this man punished.’

‘The church shipped him back [overseas] … hopefully he’s impotent by now,’ Murphy said.

Murphy described the police as ‘professional’, even though the criminal prosecution result was ‘shattering’. A negotiated civil litigation settlement with the Church was ‘ridiculous’. The Church fought ‘tooth and nail … it was just shocking’, Murphy said, and refused to follow its own philosophy to accept responsibility for a mistake, forgive and move on.

Worn down by the process, Murphy accepted $30,000. No counselling or an apology from either the Church or Marist order was forthcoming. He is now considering applying for victims’ compensation.

‘If they’d given me $50,000 and admitted their guilt that would have helped me enormously. They treated me like I was a pariah, a bad person, trying to rip the Church off, another one of these no-good malingerers.’

Murphy said he’d had difficulties with his sexual identity when in his teens, and that he was now addicted to sex. He’d tried illicit drugs and self-medicating, but it had brought him no solace.

He’d told his last wife about being sexually abuse and had consulted a few psychiatrists but didn’t want to take the medication they prescribed.

Murphy has since ‘drifted onto a spiritual path’ as a ‘healer’ working with women who have suffered sexual abuse to ‘try and empower them … because I’ve done it myself’.

Although he’d recently ‘found somebody’, Murphy has no family or home.

‘I live in a caravan,’ he said.

‘What happened 40 years ago, happened 40 years ago … I forgive myself, it wasn’t my fault and it’s taken me all this time to come to that … I [just] live in the moment.’

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