‘One of my things was that it wasn’t that bad. It really didn’t have much of an impact on my life … Get over it … Unfortunately … it’s not true. It does impact you. And if anyone said “What was the worst thing? Was it the physical touching?”… I would say no, it is the manipulation and betrayal and the stalking that carried on for … three years … When I look back at it I can see exactly what he was doing.’
Murray grew up in a large Catholic family in the 1970s. His early childhood was ‘good’ and ‘exciting’, and he was very active at school and in sport.
Things changed after he met Geoff Fulham, a man in his 40s who was an acolyte at the church, when he was about eight years old.
Fulham was also heavily involved in the local football club. Everyone looked up to him. He groomed Murray and asked him to become an altar server, then sexually abused him.
‘With me it was … every couple of weeks … Before church you get dressed in robes and things so the groping and the touching of me occurred behind closed doors in the sacristy when I was … alone with him.’
Murray didn’t tell his parents or anyone else about the abuse. On a football camp he also witnessed Fulham touching some other boys. During that camp, Fulham took photos of the boys in the showers. He then gave one of these photos to Murray’s mother.
To this day, Murray finds it difficult to understand why his parents didn’t realise what was going on. He has felt a lot of anger because they didn’t protect him.
Another parishioner, who was also one of Murray’s football coaches, Mitch Lonergan, suspected that Fulham was sexually abusing boys. He spoke to the priests about it, and also spoke to Murray’s parents. However, Murray’s parents disregarded Mitch’s disclosure and never even spoke to Murray. ‘You don’t get asked, you don’t say anything of that nature.’
After about three years, the abuse stopped for Murray because Fulham was moved on to another parish in the midst of sexual abuse allegations involving other boys.
As an adult Murray finds it difficult to trust people. ‘It didn’t help with my relationships … my marriage, my relationships with people, friends, those types of things have dissipated … to where there is virtually nothing now.’
His anger has impacted greatly on his personal relationships too. ‘Anger played a huge role, which basically led to the breakdown of my long marriage, which … 10 years ago led me to a whole other path … investigating and studying and counselling.’
Murray wasn’t violent but his anger ‘played out into abuse and manipulation by me against my wife at the time, even my kids … which I have virtually zero relationship with’.
Just a few years ago, Fulham received an award for his volunteering. Murray received an email from a man who’d been a child in the parish at the same time. This man was disgusted by the award, and gave information to a group of them about how to report their childhood abuse to the church and to the police.
Murray was going through a severe depression at the time – ‘I was on the bones of my arse’ – and felt he needed to do something. ‘I didn’t have any fear because life wasn’t great … It [the abuse] was something that I needed to resolve.’
A number of the men, including Mitch Lonergan, reported the abuse to the Church, which stood Fulham down from all his roles. The Church’s Professional Standards Committee suggested Murray could go to the police but, if he did, they would ‘step out of the frame at that time’.
After Murray reported to the police Fulham was arrested and charged. Two days later Fulham suicided.
Murray was feeling suicidal himself when he did a healing course with a Church-based support service. He also took the Church up on its offer to provide 10 sessions of counselling. He has recently sought some legal advice about possible compensation although he still grapples with the idea that he even has any right to it.
In recent years Murray has disclosed his abuse to his family and ex-wife. His wife had suspected something had happened in his childhood, and some of his siblings are very supportive. He was never able to tell his mother before she passed.
Murray’s career has taken a backseat while he has focussed on healing. Other events have meant he got into debt which he has paid off in the last two years. This meant he needed to find accommodation with family members. ‘I’d be fucked without my family.’
Looking back, Murray isn’t sure if he would have reported the abuse as a child, even if there was a safe place to do it. ‘Then there’s a stigma attached to you, with what your friends all say ... Everybody wants to be liked … So it’s a really, really difficult thing.’