Pat grew up in a large, devoutly Catholic family, and boarded at a Marist Brothers college in regional Queensland. As an 11-year-old in the 1960s he was sexually abused by Brother Timmins, his Year 7 teacher. This abuse began with Timmins brushing his hands against Pat’s genitals during the daily rosary. Pat saw Timmins touch other boys too.
‘We would have to push our chairs under our desks and stand with our backs against the desk so our front body was exposed to Timmins as he walked around the class. Brother Timmins would sexually abuse me by brushing his hand against my penis as he walked around the class. He used to stop in front of me and aggravate my penis, causing an erection.’
The Brother began calling Pat into the classroom at lunchtime, questioning him about his sexual thoughts and development. ‘He started by confronting me for being aroused during rosary, even though he was the one arousing me ... At this time I had not received any sex education and had almost no knowledge about puberty or sex.’
At first these meetings ended at this, but then Timmins began asking Pat how he felt about certain girls his age. When he replied that he liked them, the Brother ‘interpreted my response in a sexual way and things started to get grim for me’.
Timmins told Pat his thoughts were ‘very sinful’ and he needed to be punished, and strapped him on his naked buttocks. Afterwards he applied some kind of lotion, rubbing Pat’s bottom, anus and scrotum. ‘I didn’t even know it was sexual. I just knew it was wrong.’ He also masturbated Pat and forced Pat to touch his genitals.
‘I now accept that what he did was sadomasochistic, in that he inflicted pain and then pleasure.’
This pattern of questioning, punishment, and applying of lotion occurred a number of times. Timmins would lock the door and close the blinds so that nobody could see into the classroom while the abuse was taking place. After Pat moved on from Timmins’ class he noticed the classroom blinds closed the same way at lunchtimes for the next five years, and assumes this means other boys were being sexually abused in the same way he had been.
After leaving school Pat enrolled in the military, and began drinking heavily, before later returning to study. He told the Commissioner he has experienced depression for the last 50 years, and used drugs including amphetamines. ‘I have lived a singular unhappy life and engaged in behaviours that I myself find despicable.’
Pat has been overprotective of his wife and children, aggressive towards others, had suicidal ideation, and feels the need to isolate himself. ‘Being aloof is part and parcel of my life. I sleep on the edge of the bed I share with my wife. I have a bag packed at all times so that I can run if I need to.’ Recently he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and prescribed medication to manage his mental health.
When he was in his 30s Pat briefly mentioned the abuse to some friends, who discouraged him from reporting it officially. ‘They told me it would destroy my career if it became public knowledge.’
Around 15 years ago Pat tried to discuss the abuse with a priest who was friend of the family. ‘He became agitated because I had brought the matter up. He said I should let it go and leave it behind, be a man and get over it.’
‘It was at this time that I realised it was going to be a long, lonely, grim battle getting heard by the Catholic Church.’
Pat had disclosed the abuse to his father a few years before that (‘He said he knew something had gone wrong but didn’t know what’), and has recently disclosed to his wife (‘I didn’t provide her with specific details’).
On two occasions Pat attempted to make a report to police, but they did not appear interested and did not take a statement. ‘The officers explained to me it was highly unlikely that a prosecution would follow. They said the process would be more traumatic for me than Timmins. Because of what they said I never made an official complaint.’
Pat learned that Timmins was still teaching, and around a decade ago he decided to inform the Church of the abuse. He contacted the Marist Brothers through the Towards Healing process, and even though the support group Broken Rites had advised against it they assisted him with this.
When Pat met with the Church’s professional standards unit he asked that Timmins be kept away from children, but was told this could not be guaranteed and that nobody else had complained about the Brother. Pat walked out of this meeting.
A couple of years ago Pat was hospitalised for drug issues, and reported the abuse to the hospital. They contacted the police and Pat has now made a formal complaint about Timmins. The police informed him that there would be little chance of Timmins receiving a significant sentence, and they have requested additional information.
Prior to this reporting Pat had re-engaged with the Brothers through a legal firm. However, they cancelled a proposed meeting after learning he had made a police report as they could not deal with his complaint if a criminal matter was ongoing.
Pat told the Commissioner that his mental health is now the best it has been in years. ‘I no longer feel ashamed for what Timmins did to me. It was him who was evil, not me.’