In the 1970s at the age of seven, Olly was asked to go on an errand with a couple of other boys to the neighbouring church presbytery. The boys did so happily because it meant getting out of class and leaving the school property.
Once inside the presbytery, the boys were told to sit in a corridor while Father Blayney called them into his office one by one. Olly recalled being the second or third boy called and Blayney immediately starting to sexually abuse him. After telling Olly to take off his trousers and bend over, Blayney then digitally raped him and tried to masturbate him, becoming angry when Olly didn’t get an erection.
‘I remember being terrified’, Olly said. ‘It felt like it went on for ages. In elapsed time, I don’t know, it might have been five minutes, but it felt like hours.’
Blayney told Olly to ‘shut up’ and go and sit outside. He then called another boy in. ‘I can’t remember everything’, Olly said. ‘But I remember the room, I remember the desk, I remember how dark it was, I remember how scary he was, how he turned from this friendly priest into this man who was just terrifying.
‘It was only subsequently, years later, when I read about Blayney, it was in a kind of, sort of a morbid way – it was some solace that it wasn’t just me who’d suffered what he did.’
The following year Olly went to the Christian Brothers’ school next door. His teacher was Brother Murphy, ‘a big man, bald, scary, gruff, angry, and he ruled like a tyrant’.
During reading time, Murphy would sit at the back of the classroom and call boys individually to come to him. He’d sit them on his knee and put his hands down their shorts, fondling their genitals, while he kissed and cuddled them. ‘It was terrifying when it was time for him to make his selection who it was he would pick every day’, Olly said.
Every boy in Olly’s Year 3 class was sexually abused by Murphy, with ‘favourites’ abused more frequently than others. Murphy had a fierce temper and carried a stick that he freely used to beat boys, and he’d also lash out with his hands. ‘I got an answer wrong once … and he belted me across the face, knocked my glasses off, and I fell on the floor’, Olly said. ‘That was an example of the sort of brutality of the man.’
Murphy’s behaviour was common knowledge, even amongst boys who didn’t go to the school. Olly found it hard to believe later denials by the bishop and chaplain of the time that they had no idea about the abuse.
The attitude of parents in the tight Catholic community was that a child deserved whatever beatings were meted out, and if anyone reported being abused sexually they wouldn’t have been believed.
That attitude still prevailed, Olly said, and despite widespread contemporary media reports and documented accounts of the extent of the abuse by Blayney, Murphy and many other priests and Brothers in the Victorian town, Olly’s father refused to believe any of it. ‘I think he said to my sisters that these people are lying, it didn’t happen. You can imagine the angst that’s created between me and my father as he refuses to believe that what happened is true.’
Olly said his faith in school and teachers was restored in Year 4 when he went into the class of Mr Simmons. ‘I loved school, I was good at it, and it restored my enjoyment at school having someone who was the complete opposite to Murphy.’
However in Year 5, Olly was again sexually abused, this time by Brother Sullivan. ‘In many respects, he was the one who shocked, left me the most impacted, for a couple of reasons … he was initially great because he was much closer in age, he was seen as the antithesis of Murphy.’
Sullivan was young, energetic, interested in football and he coached the cricket team. On a weekend away, Olly was with about 10 other boys when they all bunked down in their sleeping bags. Olly was positioned next to Sullivan and as he was about to fall asleep, ‘that’s when it started’. Sullivan unzipped Olly’s sleeping bag and ‘stuck his hand in, fondled me, masturbated me … and again tried to insert his finger in my backside’.
Olly said he froze, and trapped among other bodies in the pitch black in a place he didn’t know, was been unable to get away. The assault stopped after a while and Olly then heard Sullivan turn to another boy and abuse him in the same way. The experience, Olly said, was ‘just another example of where the trust that can be built can be lost forever’.
After leaving school, Olly built a successful career and while he enjoyed good relationships with women, he said he didn’t trust men and had never had a male friend. ‘And I feel bad about that, because I feel like I’ve missed out, you know.’
Although he’d told his wife, Kim, early in their relationship about the abuse, only relatively recently had he disclosed the details. Kim accompanied Olly to the Royal Commission and said she felt sad that it had been hard for him to express emotion over the years.
‘I feel huge compassion and empathy and I can completely understand why, and I admire Olly so much … but I don’t want him to miss out on the joys of love and intimacy anymore, and I’m hoping that this will help him to be able to share those things more, because it’s a very lonely life having to be so strong and so resilient. You know, there’s got to be the other side to life, otherwise, you know, you miss out on so much.’
Olly said he felt like ‘one of the lucky ones who’s had a life’.
‘I’m one of the ones who perhaps can stand up and be strong enough or articulate enough, or whatever the thing is, to help those who can now no longer help themselves or are intimidated by a process that they can’t stand up to.’