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Nicholas's story

‘I considered myself lucky’, Nicholas told the Commissioner. ‘I didn’t have any of the deprivations, nightmares, alcoholism ... I’ve had a good life but there’s been a festering sore for the last 10 or 15 years.’

Nicholas and his brothers grew up in Perth in the 1950s and 1960s. At age 12 Nicholas started serving as an altar boy at the local Catholic church where he one day encountered visiting priest, Father Garret. He said that Garret ‘groped’ him on that first occasion and this became a pattern that occurred regularly over the next few months.

‘What he would do was almost like hug you but sort of grope your genitals and all that. And nothing much worse happened than that but he would comment on the arrival of pubic hairs et cetera.’

Nicholas said he ‘resented’ these attacks and started to skip his altar duties to escape them. Other than that, he wasn’t particularly affected by the abuse. ‘There were a lot of distractions from these incidents. It didn’t affect how you played sport, it didn’t affect how you studied, I think. I don’t think it affected interpersonal relationships ... I could not attribute anything as a result of what happened.’

Years later, during a family gathering, Nicholas discovered that his brothers had stepped in to replace him every time he skipped altar service, and on these occasions they ended up being abused by Father Garret as well. Nicholas then disclosed his own experience of abuse to his brothers and talked through the issue with them. As a result ‘the game changed’. Nicholas’ perspective on the abuse broadened and he began to feel a strong sense of anger and disgust at the way the Church has responded to complaints of child sexual abuse.

‘Over the, say 15 years, I’ve watched these poor devils on TV seeking compensation, and they’re broken people. Are they broken by the drugs and alcohol that have ensued after the abuse? Of course, but they’ve been further broken by the process.’

He compared the Church to corrupt corporations like ENRON, saying ‘They’ve got the same legalistic, bureaucratic response to diffuse it and push it under the carpet and I’ve watched this with growing despair and anger’.

Still, when it comes to his own brothers, Nicholas is optimistic about the future and believes that things will only improve for his family now that the abuse has been brought to light. ‘It will open up a new chapter for us and I think it will be a good one.’

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