In the late 1960s, Rai was in Grade 6 at a Christian Brothers primary school in Melbourne. The headmaster was a Brother by the name of Worlan.
‘There was always a bit of a joke going around the playground about Brother Worlan. You know, “don’t get caught alone with Brother Worlan”.
‘I had a fight with another boy in the playground … we were both taken in to wait outside the office. And my mate had kneed me in the groin. Brother Worlan actually broke the fight up. Yeah, Jason went in first, and I remember him coming out looking real … I would say sheepish. And then I went in.’
Rai was told to sit while Worlan stood behind him. The Brother reached down and put his hand on Rai’s groin, asking if this was where he was hurt. He continued to fondle the boy’s genitals under the guise of seeing if he was in pain. Rai said he could feel Worlan’s erect penis pressing into his shoulder.
After several minutes the Brother removed his hand and told Rai he was going to be punished. ‘He gave me six of the best after he molested me … that was a veiled threat, I put that down to.’
It would be more than 30 years before Rai was able to talk about the sexual abuse. ‘It was very sort of … no one spoke about it. There was nothing in the open, it was taboo … that’s probably why I didn’t.
‘I know I was deeply ashamed by the whole thing.’
There were other immediate impacts, too. ‘There was a dramatic change in me … I lost all faith in people of authority. Before that I was always up there in the top of the class, every year. After that, I got to about Form 3 and left … I really fully attribute it to what Brother Worlan did …
‘My potential, I’ve been told, was pretty good ... just fell off the rails.’
When he left school Rai did an apprenticeship and found a trade. ‘I really didn’t make life easy for myself. But somehow at work I was able to switch off, I think …
‘Alcohol was a big part of my life. I was able to get through the doors of AA. Yeah, so that helped … There was a lot of turmoil before that. I fell into bad ways, had some nasty mates … so I could’ve gone anywhere. My first bout of incarceration cured me of that.’
After a traumatic family event in the mid-2000s, Rai decided to tell his wife about the abuse. He also spoke with a psychologist and was encouraged to contact a law firm. His lawyers approached the Church, which led to a hearing where Rai told his story.
His old schoolmate Jason spoke too, and revealed that he had been sexually abused twice by Brother Worlan.
The Church accepted Rai’s account and he received compensation and ongoing counselling at their expense.
What he really wanted, however, was to face Worlan, but not even the Brother’s solicitors came to the hearing. ‘Didn’t occur, yeah. Never occurred. And that’s why I don’t think that closure has gone anywhere near what I expected. The money’s not an issue. Not an issue. I couldn’t care if I got two cents for it.
‘I wanted to look him in the eye. And I wanted to say, “You done this to me” … I would hazard a guess that Jason and I are only the tip of the iceberg. But I don’t think anyone else has come forward. Maybe they’ll read about me coming forward.’
When Rai spoke with the Commissioner, he had one recommendation for combating child sexual abuse.
‘It’s got to be more spoken about in the home. It’s got to go back to the grass roots, I think. These campaigns you see, I think there should be a campaign for kids. Comes on the TV, an ad … like a “walk straight across the road” sort of thing. It’s too hush-hush, this stuff. It’s got to be spoken of openly, with children.
‘That’s how they get away with it. Exactly how they get away with it.’