‘We had some basic sex instructions in Year 9. That’s probably the first sex instructions where they had diagrams … And I knew what had happened to me two years earlier ... I’d been touched up. My anxiety levels, my fear. I was withdrawn. I became aggressive and violent towards my other brothers and sisters. Some wouldn’t speak to me. They said I was mental.’
Ralf grew up in a very large Catholic family. They were religious and quite poor. They said the rosary every night and went to mass a number of times a week. In the 1960s they moved from their two bedroom housing commission home in Brisbane to a bigger, better house in a different parish. Although hyperactive, Ralf was a ‘normal, happy kid’ who loved sport.
When Ralf was 11 years old, Father Mark asked him to help him copy and fold the parish newsletter. In an office underneath the church, Father Mark raped Ralf. At the time Ralf also didn’t fully understand what was happening to him. It was painful and humiliating.
When Father Mark had finished he said to Ralf ‘You’re not to say anything to anyone about this. This is a matter between you, me and God. God wanted me to see if you were developing normally’.
‘I was just too frightened to tell anyone’, Ralf told the Commissioner. Within months of the abuse, Ralf had changed dramatically. ‘My behaviour both at school and at home was completely off the rails.’ Ralf’s father took him to a psychiatrist but, again, Ralf didn’t disclose.
Meanwhile, Ralf continued to see Father Mark at church, including at confession. ‘I’d make up two quick sins and scoot.’
At 15 Ralf begged his father to let him leave school. He left and did a series of menial jobs. Later he joined the police force but had more days off than on. After he left he tried to suicide twice. He has suffered from anxiety and nightmares since he was 11. During his life he has had alcohol, drug and gambling problems. By his 40s he developed a serious heart condition. He never disclosed the abuse to anyone. He didn’t report to the police either as he was too ashamed, especially as the police officer he would be reporting to would be much younger than him.
Ralf did, however, marry and still lives with his wife. He was hypervigilant with their children, often telling them that it’s not okay for anyone to touch them. He would always check out the new teachers and sports coaches. ‘I tried to shield them in cotton wool.’ Because of his anger and fits of rage, however, Ralf feels he wasn’t the best of fathers. There was also, at times, domestic violence. Ralf is in contact with all but one of his adult children.
In recent years, Ralf became aware that Father Mark was imprisoned for child sexual abuse. When Ralf started to see the Royal Commission on the news a lot, he decided it was time for him to talk to someone. Meanwhile he disclosed to his sister. ‘We hugged each other and cried for about 10 minutes.’ His sister helped him submit a statement to Towards Healing. Ralf is now receiving counselling which he finds very helpful. He is in the process of making a further claim.
The day Ralf sees the counsellor is the ‘best day of the week’. He also finds being by the water helpful. ‘It calms me.’