Ray described his father as a ‘narcissist’ who knew all the right people and loved to ‘wine and dine’ and entertain them. He befriended many of the Catholic priests in Tasmania, including a man named Father Luke Mitchell.
Mitchell became a regular visitor to Ray’s family home. He began sexually abusing Ray in the late 1970s when Ray was about seven years old. The abuse started with ‘cuddling on the couch’ and ‘went on from there’.
‘Whenever he came it was just uncomfortable. Hands would go down the front of trousers, and tongue kissing. That was the extent of it. So compared to what other people have experienced that’s minor, I think. But my view was it was completely inappropriate.’
The abuse continued off and on for more than a decade. Throughout this time it never occurred to Ray that Mitchell’s behaviour was something he could complain about or report to police.
‘You don’t really appreciate, until you look back, how wrong it was. And you sort of – I just accepted it.’
Ray is certain that many of Mitchell’s colleagues knew what he was up to. There were plenty of occasions when Mitchell abused Ray in front of other priests. None of these priests ever intervened.
The abuse had a ‘significant impact’ on Ray’s self-confidence, particularly in his teenage years. This didn’t stop him from excelling academically and building a strong career. In his 20s his confidence grew, but so too did his distrust of others and his fear of intimacy.
As a young adult, Ray resolved to put the abuse behind him. He didn’t mention it to anyone for many years. Then in the early 2000s he discovered that Mitchell had been charged with child sex offences. The media coverage included a reference to one of Mitchell’s other victims who had committed suicide.
‘I thought, look, if I can’t stand up and say something then that’s wrong. There are people that are much more impacted who aren’t in a position to.’
Ray disclosed the abuse to his wife. She was ‘distressed’ by the revelation and by the fact that it had taken Ray so long to tell her. By then they’d been married more than 10 years. But she got over the shock and has been a constant support to Ray ever since.
Next Ray told his parents. His mum ‘has a lot of guilt associated with this and I think didn’t know what to do. I’m very grateful for her being supportive when I’ve raised how dreadful it was. My father never believed it’.
Around this time Ray also wrote a letter to the archbishop, reporting Mitchell’s behaviour. He was impressed with the archbishop’s response. ‘I liked his letter because he actually – in my view there was an apology … I just thought, “Oh, he understands”.’
Mitchell died a few years later. Ray was glad to get the news. ‘I shouldn’t, but I rejoiced in the fact that he was dead, finally. And that he also had a pretty miserable existence for the last while. That doesn’t sound good, but he got away with a lot.’
Now, after many years of silent struggle, Ray has gained a new perspective on his troubled childhood.
‘Time has been a healer. Time has given a perspective and a strength. And there are positive things out of this for sure … It makes me feel so fortunate for the good things that have come my way in the last 20 years, as opposed to the first 20 years. There were plenty of good material things in the first 20 years but they don’t matter so much.’