Ray was born in Melbourne in the mid-1950s and attended the local Catholic primary school before moving to a Christian Brothers school when he was 12. He told the Commissioner that his first impressions were positive. ‘They wouldn’t take any rubbish sort of thing. But most of them were quite friendly.’
Even when one of his teachers, Brother Manning, began to sexually abuse him, Ray didn’t realise that it was wrong or that it would end up inflicting such lasting harm on him. The abuse occurred every lesson for two years and the particulars were always the same.
‘What he did was, everyone in the class had to move forward. So there was two per table and they’d have to pull them forward and then he would take his favourite kids right to the very back.’
With the rest of the class facing forward, Brother Manning would then abuse his ‘favourites’ throughout the lesson. Ray said, ‘He’d squeeze you, he’d run his hand up your leg, just sort of real sleazy. I don’t know how to describe it’.
In addition to Ray there were two other boys that Manning targeted. Ray said he never spoke to them about what was going on. Nor did he speak to anyone else.
‘Back then they were God, you just didn’t say anything … We didn’t think anything about it. You don’t think it. These guys were priests for so long you just don’t query it. You sort of had to be there. Saying it doesn’t really tell you what it was like.’
The abuse, in a way, brought itself to an end. Ray said, ‘Because I wasn’t doing the lessons, because I was in the back with him, I failed and you had to pass it to go into form 2’. From then on, Ray wasn’t allowed to attend Brother Manning’s classes and so there was no more abuse.
In all his other classes Ray did well, got good marks at school and went on to land a secure job that he enjoyed. But under the surface he was struggling with serious psychological trauma.
‘I’ve paid a pretty high price. I’ve got schizo-affective disorder. That’s got schizophrenia, major depression and major anxiety all at once. I’ve been on medication since I was 18. Forty years. On top of that I’ve had well in excess of 120 ECTs ... but I never knew why.’
Then, during a session with his counsellor one time, Ray mentioned Manning’s name. ‘He goes, “Just hang on a sec”. He googled Manning, and it all came back from there.’ The counsellor suggested that Ray contact the Christian Brothers, which Ray did. The Brothers then put him onto the Catholic Church’s Towards Healing process for victims of child sexual abuse.
Ray said that the process started well but went quickly downhill and after a few months he contacted a lawyer and found himself immersed in complex legal negotiations. He described the whole thing as ‘a joke. A complete and utter joke … The other side didn’t want to be friendly. All they’re going to do is just jump down your throat. They come across: “We’re the Catholic Church, Christian Brothers. You’ve got nothing. We’ll squash you if you don’t like it”. They couldn’t care less’.
In the end Ray received about $35,000 in compensation, most of which vanished in legal and other fees. He said he isn’t fussed about the money, he’s just angry about the way the Church treated him throughout the process. Still, over the years he’s has managed to build a strong career and raise a happy, successful child. When asked how he did it, he said simply, ‘I just don’t like to feel sorry for myself, that’s all’.