Shortly after Petar’s birth in the late 1960s his parents divorced. To this day, Petar doesn’t know why he was sent to live with his paternal grandparents, but he suspects neither parent wanted to look after him. By the mid-1970s, Petar was attending the local Catholic Church in regional Western Australia with his grandmother.
Petar was constantly getting into fights at school. He said being a child of divorced parents was rare during that time, and he was ostracised because of it.
When Petar was in Year 2, his class received a letter from their teacher suggesting they all attend Sunday school.
When Petar first attended the group there were a lot of students in the class. Also present was Brother Carl, who’d Petar had heard was not meant to come to parish grounds alone. He was the Brother that ‘no one was meant to meet’.
‘I remarked to the parish priest, Father [Goode], and to Miss [Lewisham] who was the teacher at my primary school and also the confirmation teacher at the parish, that I thought [he was] dangerous and scary. He looked at us like an animal … [Goode] told me I was never to go to the rear of the buildings and never to enter without an adult.’
Despite being under ‘house arrest’ on church grounds, Brother Carl was not prevented from going to Sunday school. Petar recalled that he used it as a ‘shopping ground’, taking children unaccompanied out of class and back to his room where he’d sexually abuse them. Only one teacher ever had an argument with the Brother and her complaint yielded no restrictions to his practice.
After Petar was sexually abused by Brother Carl, he told his grandmother he no longer wanted to go to Sunday school but he didn’t tell her why.
At about the age of 12, Petar told one of the Sunday school teachers who was also his teacher at school what Brother Carl had done. She didn’t believe him.
‘Her reaction was, “Shut up, I don’t want to hear that”.’
A couple of years later, Petar received a letter from the archbishop threatening him and his family with excommunication if he ‘libelled’ the Catholic Church ‘in any way’. He received another letter about a year later repeating the statement, and his grandmother asked why the Church would be sending him such letters. Petar didn’t tell her about the abuse, but she and he both stopped going to church.
Throughout his adulthood Petar has struggled with ‘layers of anger’ as well as depression and migraines. He finds it difficult to trust others, especially those from the Catholic Church and though he’d previously sought out counselling, he was disappointed to find most local services were affiliated in some way with the Catholic Church.
In the mid-1990s, Brother Carl was convicted of several child sex offences. Because he pleaded guilty he received a reduced sentence, something which angered Petar.
At the time of the trial no one had approached Petar to ask if he’d been abused and he felt there were ‘many boys that didn’t come forward’.
Petar has never formally reported the abuse to the police but is engaged in a civil claim against the Catholic Church.
‘I think there is no apology or recompense that could ever make up for this.’