‘I suspect they both knew I was vulnerable because I never seemed to have many friends and I was distraught by the loss of my father.’
In the mid 1950s, when Oscar was eight years old, his parents separated and he moved with his mother to a suburb on the outskirts of Sydney. The court order said that Oscar was supposed to see his dad on weekends, but Oscar’s father was an alcoholic with many troubles of his own and would often disappear during these visits or would spend the whole weekend drunk.
It was a lonely life for Oscar. His mother worked a lot so he rarely saw her, and he didn’t socialise much with the other boys at his Marist Brothers school. One day the principal, Brother Daniel, seized on some misdemeanour that Oscar had committed and told him to wait in his office after school.
‘I would have been 10 or 11. And that was the first time. I really wouldn’t know how many times it happened because it just became normal procedure.
'With him, he would always take me into his office. And you know what a school’s like, everyone just runs out at half-past three and that’s it, they’re empty. And that was the case. The cleaners didn’t come in till later on, and that was when he did what he did, which was he used to anally penetrate me.’
Brother Daniel’s attacks continued on a regular basis for the next four years. During this time Oscar was also abused by another teacher, Brother Philip. Brother Philip didn’t have an office so he would abuse Oscar behind the shed or during school excursions, keeping him back late in the change rooms and then forcing him to perform oral sex.
When Oscar was in his eary teens, his mother found him washing blood from his clothes. ‘She went ballistic and that was the last I saw of the school, the teachers. She got the woman next door to look after me, she went down to the school, I have no idea what happened.’
Oscar never saw the Brothers again. His mother, who had always dreamed of sending him to university, ensured that Oscar sat his final high school exams at the end of the year. Then she put him on a bus and sent him off to Adelaide. He never knew exactly why she sent him away. ‘I sort of just got the feeling she was ashamed of me because I was the one who was instigating these horrors. I don’t think she could take it in. I don’t think she understood.’
This moment was both an ending and beginning for Oscar. ‘The end of it, of course, was the beginning for me of years and years of suffering.’ In his adult life he’s battled with depression, dysthymia, agoraphobia and general anxiety disorder.
For a long time he felt like he’d been marked by the abuse. ‘I became rather scared, really, because everywhere I went I was being sexually abused.’ In 1966 he was conscripted to fight in the Vietnam War and was sexually abused by the staff sergeant. Sometime later he was attacked in a park in Sydney and again sexually abused.
‘So I sort of thought I had a big cross on my head, like come and pick me, pick me.’
What helped him to cope at the time was the community he found in the Kings Cross area. They were a diverse and progressive group who made him feel safe. With their support he navigated through a difficult process of self-examination that led him to discover that he was gay.
After years of determination and psychiatric help, Oscar reached a point when he felt strong enough to report his abusers. In the early 1990s he spoke to two detectives and received a disappointing response. They told him that because there had been no other complaints against the Brothers, they couldn’t pursue the matter.
Oscar has no interest in suing the Marist Brothers. He said he doesn’t need their money.
‘Surprisingly, I’ve had a very successful life. I have everything in the world that I want and I need. … I could probably rattle off a list of a dozen what-ifs, but that’s life. I’ve done well, considering the cross that I had to bear. I have achieved. I’ve achieved a lot. As an individual I still have demons, but then we all do.’