Pat was born in the late 1930s and grew up in a small town in Tasmania. His mother was a devout Anglican, so when she heard that the visiting minister needed a regular place to stay she offered to put him up in her spare room.
The ‘spare room’ happened to be Pat’s room, and from his early teenage years he shared it on odd Sundays with the Reverend John Riley.
As an adult looking back Pat can see that the Reverend began to groom him right from the start, flattering him, singling him out and giving him special gifts – and he was very vulnerable to this kind of treatment.
‘Because of the man’s charm he had the ability to make me feel good. In today’s language, he made me feel valued. And that was terribly important to me.’
On the nights that he stayed over the Reverend slept in the room’s double bed, while Pat took the small bed in the corner.
‘It was very convenient to meet his needs when he was sleeping in the double bed and he’d say, “Oh, it’s so cold. You must come over and keep me warm”.’
Pat enjoyed the feeling of cuddling up to a warm body but was conscious ‘there was something not quite natural about it. Again, looking back, this was the really manipulative behaviour – he used to say things like, “This is so nice being together, isn’t it? Do you like this?” Yes I did. And we’d cuddle up even closer. And he said, “This is our secret. You must never tell anybody”’.
The abuse escalated to incidents of masturbation and oral sex. In time, Pat ended up living with the Reverend at the rectory. The Reverend was an alcoholic and often gave Pat wine and sherry to drink. Pat recalled many occasions when he had to drag the Reverend into the shower on Sunday mornings to sober him up before mass.
The abuse ended when Pat was in his early 20s. Around that time, ‘the relationship between John Riley and myself was certainly starting to deteriorate, but he was hanging on like hell. He really was. He was being extremely manipulative to make sure he didn’t “lose me”. He used to say he couldn’t live without me’.
Eventually Pat broke all ties with the Reverend and moved on with his life. He never spoke about the abuse to anyone until the late 1990s when he participated in an Anglican Church inquiry. At the time, he was concerned about the impact that such an inquiry would have, not only on survivors of sexual abuse but on all parties involved, including the churches and perpetrators.
‘If they had any sense of guilt or a sense of decency, whatever you call it, they must have been going through a fair bit of guilt themselves, and difficulty.’
In terms of his own difficulties, Pat feels he is very good at ‘self-managing’ the impact of the abuse but he still has to deal with it every day.
‘If I was asked, “What was the worst thing that happened to you?” the best answer I can come up with as far as my own situation goes was: it’s the emotional damage that was done. And that actually remains. And what does relate strongly to that is the total loss of trust.’