‘Part of my life that puzzles me is that I wake up every morning. If I were to die in my sleep tonight, I wouldn’t care. I’m tired of living this useless, wasted, lonely life, with my drinking problem’, Quentin told the Commissioner.
Quentin came to the Royal Commission with a written statement outlining the sexual abuse he suffered from his teacher, Brother Mordecai, while a student at a Christian Brothers school in Melbourne in the late 1950s. He asked the Commissioner to read it aloud, as it was too painful for him to do so.
The abuse took place over several months when Quentin was nine, and occurred three or four times a week. It began with fondling in the classroom. ‘He would kneel on the floor to show me how to do my schoolwork. He would stroke my legs. I wore shorts as it was summer. It wasn’t long before he started to fondle my penis by putting his hand under my shorts and underpants’, Quentin wrote.
After a few weeks, the abuse escalated. Brother Mordecai would take Quentin to secluded places on the school property. There he forced Quentin to masturbate him and perform oral sex. ‘I remember that he wore white Y-front underwear and had reddish pubic hairs - it’s embedded in my mind’, Quentin wrote.
Eventually, Brother Mordecai raped Quentin. He did this up to 10 times, Quentin recalled.
One night Quentin was having a bath at home when his older sister came in and saw him undressed. She asked him about the marks on his buttocks. Quentin told her that he’d been hit by his teacher. She told their parents. In response to their questions, Quentin revealed what he’d been forced to do by Brother Mordecai.
‘I’m sure that I was crying and upset about having to tell them’, Quentin wrote. He didn’t understand about sex at that time, ‘but I knew I didn’t like what happened to me’.
Quentin’s parents met with the school principal that night. The principal explained that Brother Mordecai had been dealing with difficult family matters, and was taking his frustrations out on Quentin. His parents accepted this, and didn’t pursue the matter any further. Brother Mordecai remained at the school, but Quentin’s abuse came to an end. ‘Nothing happened again to me after that meeting’, he wrote.
Quentin’s abuse was never discussed within his family. He recalled being very spoiled by his parents as he grew up, ‘possibly to ease their pain and guilt’. As an adult, Quentin attempted suicide several times. He couldn’t maintain intimate relationships, became estranged from his family and had few friends. He became a heavy drinker.
‘Approximately 20 plus years ago I realised my life was totally stuffed’, he wrote. ‘I never forgot my abuse but it was never addressed.’
He got in touch with a centre against sexual assault, and began receiving counselling as part of its support services. Over time, the counsellor, Peggy, became a close friend.
In the early 1990s, with Peggy’s support, Quentin decided to report Brother Mordecai’s abuse to police. Giving his statement was a slow and painful process. ‘It was a horrible experience reliving the past’, he said. Nonetheless he felt respected and supported by the police officer he dealt with. This was not the case when the matter came to court for the committal hearing.
‘It was horrible.’ One of the first questions put to him, by Brother Mordecai’s barrister, was ‘You weren’t very clever at school, were you?’ That night Quentin went back to where he was staying and stood under the shower for an hour and a half, ‘just to wash the shit away from me’, he said. The demeaning, denigrating ordeal of that cross-examination convinced Quentin not to pursue the matter to trial, a decision he has never regretted. He later accepted compensation of $15,000 from the Christian Brothers and also received a payment as a victim of crime.
A few years ago Quentin joined a men’s group, all survivors of child sexual abuse, organised through the centre against sexual assault. He has found it a great comfort. ‘Being with other males has really helped me. I realise I’m not alone.’ He had never spoken in detail about his abuse to friends or partners. However, he’s not scared to tell the men in the group, he said – ‘because we’re all the same’.
He is grateful for help he has had from the men’s group and the centre generally. He has nothing but ‘praise, admiration and respect’ for them, he said. He’s also very positive about the counselling he receives to help with his alcohol addiction.
He used to believe that his problem with alcohol arose from uncertainty about his sexuality, he said. He knows now that he’s gay and is comfortable with that. He also knows now that being abused doesn't necessarily mean he will become an abuser. ‘I’m not of that belief’, he said. And he is definite about what he would to do protect others from the experiences that were forced upon him.
‘I’d kill, if I found somebody close to me was doing something to a young person. I’d kill, and then suffer the consequences, because nobody goes through what I went through, if I have a say in it.’