‘I had made myself a promise many years ago, that I would not report the sexual abuse until after my mother died because I didn’t want her to know about what had happened to me.
‘I know that she would have felt responsible for not being able to protect me. She did not deserve to blame herself ... No mother deserves to feel that they have failed to protect their children from the actions of a paedophile.’
Myles was 14 years old when Brother Theo Macken raped him.
It was wintertime in the 1970s, and Myles attended a Marist Brothers school in regional Victoria. Macken taught there, and was young, friendly, and well-liked.
One morning Macken came into Myles’ maths lesson, spoke to his teacher, and took Myles out of class. He led Myles down the corridor, through the courtyard to the Brothers’ residence, up the big staircase – and through the door to his bedroom.
Macken asked Myles to lie on the bed. He said Myles was to do a test about sex, and didn’t need to worry, or tell anyone. He asked Myles to take down his pants and underwear.
Myles was embarrassed, and petrified, not knowing what would happen next. Macken sat down and felt Myles’ genitals, telling him how ‘mature’ he was, and Myles became erect.
After a few minutes, Macken took Myles’ hand, and placed it on his penis, forcing Myles to masturbate him.
‘I felt guilty and scared. This was my first sexual experience, so I had no idea what was going on.’
Then Macken asked Myles to roll over onto his stomach, and digitally penetrated his anus. Myles remembers how much this hurt.
The next thing Myles clearly recalls is being at home after school. Confused, and not wanting to hurt his devoutly Catholic mother, he said nothing about this incident.
Macken sexually abused Myles numerous times. ‘A lot of my memories of school after that are very vague. I can remember seeing that staircase again, how many times I can’t remember.’
The impacts of this abuse were immense. Myles’ grades started to slip. Macken supervised sports, watching the boys while they got undressed, so Myles stopped doing these activities.
Ashamed about the abuse, he withdrew from his friends. ‘I always felt scared that they might find out what had happened and treat me differently.’ All along, he thought he was Macken’s only victim. He became a bully, lashing out at other kids. He still has no male friends.
Myles hated himself. He began wetting the bed, burning photos of himself, drinking too much, and engaging in risky behaviours. Twice, he tried to suicide. He wondered if he was gay. His concept of himself ‘as a sexual being was totally destroyed ... I still struggle with sex, sexuality, intimacy’. He has struggled with depression for years.
Still, Myles tried to get on with his life. He studied, and worked in community services. He married and had children. His wife knew about his abuse and his kids eventually did too. The marriage ended.
‘I struggled through a marriage with a woman who loved me, but I was unable to love her back in the way she needed and deserved.’ In their formative years, his sons ‘were in the presence of a father whom, despite loving them desperately, could only provide a role model who was disconnected from the world emotionally’.
When his mother passed away, Myles was finally free to report the abuse to police. ‘I thought it would help me deal with the thoughts and memories that have haunted me for so many years. Memories that still become so all-consuming and overpowering that I wonder if I can cope. Memories that feel like they will crush and suffocate me.’
Finding out Macken was still alive, he ‘was filled with emotions I still struggle to find words to describe’. The police offered him the chance to do a pretext call with Macken, where he could speak directly with him (to try and collect evidence).
Although ‘filled with such a sense of dread’, Myles agreed. During the call Macken admitted sexually abusing Myles, and asked if he ‘was talking about the time in the sick bay’. Myles didn’t remember this incident clearly, but ‘I don’t want to try and recall those memories, just in case it’s another memory of more abuse’.
In the Victim Impact Statement he prepared for court, Myles addresses Macken about this contact.
‘The way you spoke to me and attempted to defend your actions clearly showed to me that you had no remorse for what you have done to me. The memory of you and the way you spoke so dispassionately to me in that call will echo in my mind until I die.
‘Your admission of what you did. Your attempt to defend your actions by saying you somehow wanted to help me. Listening to you I felt abused again. Your lack of remorse disgusts me.’
Macken was charged over three incidents, but agreed to plead guilty to one indecent assault count if the other charges were dropped. The Department of Public Prosecutions ‘felt it was better to get a conviction for that’ than potentially lose on all counts. Though understanding this reasoning, Myles struggled with ‘the notion that the other two [incidents] didn’t occur’ as far as the public record was concerned.
Despite having a previous similar conviction, Macken received a short suspended sentence. The trial was reported in the media, and more of Macken’s victims made contact with Myles. He believes the lenient sentencing may deter these victims from taking action – ‘why would they come out in their local community, when there was only a suspended sentence?’
Myles is continuing negotiations with the Marist Brothers, and they have offered him counselling sessions. He manages his mental health by keeping a journal, being physically active, and working on any issues he has in stages. Still, ‘I am absolutely and totally aware there are aspects of my life that are not in control, and I do need to do something about’.