Rafael's story

Rafael was in state care from the age of seven to 15, during which time he kept in contact with his mother and visited her on weekends. In the mid-1980s when he was 13, Rafael was sent to a St Vincent de Paul children’s home in Melbourne.

Rafael had his own bedroom in the home, and it was separated from the other residents. He thought the house parents were ‘really cool’, but the Brothers had access to boys’ dormitories and often inflicted punishments. Rafael recalls getting into trouble and regularly caned by the Brothers.

One afternoon, after being in a fight with another boy, Rafael was visited by Brother Lewisham. He expected another caning, but was raped. Over a period of two years he was sexually assaulted by Lewisham many times, and the Brother threatened him not to tell anyone.

‘I just got told my mum would hate me and I wouldn’t go home on weekends. That’s why I never told anyone. He made me believe that this was a love thing.’

Rafael’s behaviour changed dramatically. He ran away several times, but was always brought back, and he continued to fight other boys in conflicts that became more aggressive. He felt ashamed about what was happening and saw other boys being called into Lewisham’s room. However no one spoke about the assaults.

In the late 1980s, Rafael left the home and was left to ‘fend’ for himself. He left school at 15 years old and ‘drifted’ into drugs. Over decades, Rafael had been convicted of several crimes and he spoke to the Royal Commission from jail.

He described himself as a ‘demanding’ man who would be ‘too much’ in intimate relationships. He had developed significant dependence on drugs which had impacted upon his relationships and led to estrangement from his children. He explained that he didn’t know how to be a parent and had always been uncomfortable bathing his children. He hadn’t seen any of his children for 20 years.

In the mid-2000s Rafael disclosed the abuse to his partner, who has supported him in ‘every way’. He then reported Lewisham to Victoria Police but was told he had died. He was referred to Towards Healing but was reluctant to go through their process of applying for compensation.

In recent years, Rafael has sought counselling while in custody. He has also engaged a lawyer to reconsider a claim for compensation. He’s looking forward to being released and trying to reconnect with his children and current partner.

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