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Neville Peter's story

‘When you are abused like that you don’t accept it as normal, by any means. But when you come across people that haven’t been sexually abused you just sort of envy that fact.’

It was the late 1960s and Brother Greenwood was the new headmaster at Neville’s Christian Brother’s school in suburban Melbourne. Greenwood was a violent man who did not require much excuse to strap the children, and there was a general culture of fear around the school.

When Neville was in Year 8, Greenwood began calling him out of class to attend his office. There he would make Neville sit on his lap, and would fondle and masturbate him. ‘I was still even at that age ... too young to even realise what that was.’

This abuse happened every few weeks or so. Neville remembers having a ‘sense of peace’ that he was not being physically abused, and that there was a ‘kindness’ and ‘gentleness’ in Greenwood’s approach – which was in stark contrast to his behaviour normally. Still, he was confused and ‘didn’t really understand that context of the whole thing’ and so ‘would tend to just go along’.

Neville knows he was not the only boy experiencing this, as his closest friends did too and they would discuss this openly. When one of them would be called out of class to Greenwood’s office, they would all share a look as they knew what was going to happen. No teachers ever asked questions about why they would be frequently called out of class for no reason.

Sometimes Greenwood would approach Neville and his friends out of class time, and talk to them about girls and ask them if they ever had sexual interactions with each other.

This abuse caused Neville many academic problems, including an inability to concentrate. He did not access any counselling for many years but thinks ‘I should have, because I did have a lot of problems ... just handling normal issues’. He’d take offence at insignificant comments or ‘go off the hammer over nothing’.

‘There was this big lack of confidence, of self-esteem – there was none for years. And still to this day to a fair degree.’

After his mother died he told his wife about the abuse ‘bit by bit’, and in the early 2000s, she encouraged him to engage with Towards Healing. When he went through this process he finally accessed some counselling, with a therapist he chose himself. ‘It was totally useless, absolutely useless to me, you can’t talk to someone that has no idea what you went through. And honestly after about three or four of these sessions it was just like going in for a chat.’

Ultimately, he accepted a settlement of $28,000 because he was told he had no other chance at recourse, and about $4,000 of this went to pay legal fees. While he received an apology from the Church, he didn’t believe it was sincere.

He thinks that if the Church want to be taken seriously they should be ‘proactive’ in addressing the issue rather than ‘reactive’. He never reported Greenwood to police, and does not know if he is still alive.

In recent years Neville has tried ‘very, very hard’ to work on his self-development in other ways, including yoga, philosophy and meditation practices to ‘leave the mind alone for a little while’.

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