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Phillip David's story

The formal, strict atmosphere of the western Sydney Marist Brothers high school Phillip moved to in Year 8 was in stark contrast to his previous experiences in the state system.

In the mid-1980s, a year or so after he arrived, Phillip was sexually abused by Brother Edmond, who was the head of his year group. Brother Edmond would summon Phillip into his office after school, and demand that he pull his pants down.

The Brother would then pull his own trousers down and fondle Phillip, while also striking him with a leather strap. He would threaten Phillip to comply with his instructions, saying ‘he’d tell my dad, you know, about [how] I’d been mucking up. Didn’t want to get in trouble at home as well, so I just did it’.

Brother Edmond continued to abuse Phillip on a regular basis for the rest of the school year, and all of the next one. During this period Phillip started drinking alcohol and using drugs, and getting into trouble with the law.

He lost trust in people and didn’t really have many friends at school. ‘I wasn’t the sort of person that you’d speak to. I was more abusive by then.’

Phillip thinks his parents probably noticed changes in his behaviour, ‘but they didn’t know why’. Even now, being close to his family, he cannot imagine telling them about Brother Edmond.

Despite Edmond’s threats, Phillip attempted to disclose the abuse to another Brother at the school. ‘I just said, it’s not good, what Brother Edmond does. And they said, you don’t know what you’re talking about, that would never happen. They just shut me off.’

After leaving school Phillip commenced an apprenticeship but did not complete it. He has spent most of his life abusing alcohol and amphetamines, and has been incarcerated many times for offending related to his addictions.

His longest spell out of jail was around four years. ‘I’ve wasted a lot of years. I’ve got nothing to show for it.’

Phillip has never reported the abuse to police or made any civil claim for compensation. In the past he has seen a counsellor in relation to his addictions, but never disclosed the abuse. ‘I still don’t know how to talk about it.’ He is considering speaking to another counsellor or psychologist directly about the abuse once he is released from jail.

Asked about what might have prevented the abuse he experienced, Phillip was initially unsure. ‘I’ve thought about that heaps of times ... You can’t stop people do what they’re doing. Like, it’s unpredictable ... I presume it’s not a normal thing [that] happens all the time. I honestly don’t know.’

He does think, however, that having someone more approachable and impartial to speak to, either at the school or outside, might have helped him disclose further. ‘Like some parent or something, would have been probably a bit better, a woman ... There weren’t many ladies walking around.’ Having a woman available would have been more comfortable for him, ‘like a mother figure’.

Before contacting the Royal Commission, Phillip had not told anyone about the abuse since the Brother at school. He decided to come forward after a fellow inmate advised him to sort his life out.

‘He said, look, you’ve got problems. I don’t know what it is, but better off speaking to someone or you end up going to do something stupid, and you’re going to do 20 or 30 years like me. I said, yeah, you’re right ...

‘He said to me, if you don’t speak, don’t get it out of you, it’s going to affect you a lot more than what it is now.’

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