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Reg Francis's story

‘I know, only too well, the burden of waking up every morning and thinking, “Your life is crap”. And your life wasn’t crap when you were 13, but it was when you were 14 …’

For Reg, the great divide resulted from the attentions of two Christian Brothers, teachers at his Victorian high school in the 1990s.

‘It started when I was rude to Brother Patrick in class and got a detention. You had to go to this room in the chapel building after school.’ The detentions then cropped up regularly, and Reg later realised that Brother Patrick had begun to groom him, gaining his trust – and then started patting and stroking him inappropriately on the lower back and buttocks.

‘He used to say, “If you put your faith in God, and you put your faith in me, everything will go fine”.

‘I got touched on the backside – and when they touch your backside and say “It’s okay to be open with your sexuality”, you’re turning around thinking, “I’m not even interested in girls. I’m not interested in boys. I’m not interested in anybody”.’

At some stage Brother Thomas joined them in the detention room and Reg said it began to feel like a threesome: one 14-year-old and two men in their mid-50s. ‘I never got penetrated but I certainly remember getting a kiss on the mouth which made me very uncomfortable.’

Prior to the kiss, Brother Thomas had blindfolded him and laid him on a chaise longue. ‘He said, “This will help you relax”. Damn right. I’ve had a horror of blindfolds ever since.’

Other instances of abuse was perpetrated by other teachers and Reg’s fellow students. ‘They started leaving the detention room door open … and the word went out.’ A sports coach called Reg a ‘fag’ and ‘gay’, and other boys began sexual bullying and humiliation.

‘You get held down on the ground and there’s a crowd standing around, and you’re told to yield, and then your clothes are stripped off completely. You’re tied to a goal post and being sexually dominated by stronger people.’

Reg tried to speak out. ‘I remember telling the principal, and he just said, “You’re lying”. I can never get that out of my head.’

Later Reg rode his bike down to the police station. ‘I made a complaint against the other students, and more so against the two Christian Brothers. I got told, “I don’t think you’re telling the truth. If your parents ever found out about this, they wouldn’t be too happy that you’re down here” – and it was dismissed.

‘I went back a second time but I basically got given the middle finger. I got told, “Sorry, you’re telling us bullshit stories. See ya later. Goodbye”.’

Finally, he told his father. ‘He sort of passed it off. Didn’t say yay or nay to it.’

Facing abuse and hostility at school, and disbelief from police and his family, Reg’s work suffered. ‘I left school as a result of the abuse. Eighteen months early. My marks had changed … But when you’re bullied and punched and kicked, abused on the bus – I had to go early.’

Reg says he lost confidence as a result of the abuse and finds it difficult applying for jobs. He has trust issues and a fear of rejection, so sabotages relationships and friendships.

‘I choose to be a loner. I don’t want a friend or assistance. Anyone who gets close to me, I either kill the friendship or abuse the friendship … It’s safer to be alone.

‘I don’t have a problem about going to bed with a knife.’

He has not approached police again to tell his story. Once he sent a letter to the Christian Brothers order – ‘I was very sarcastic’ – but he received no reply. He remembers the names of many of the students who bullied him and has considered taking legal action against them, yet fears reprisal.

On the other hand, Reg is glad he spoke with the Commission. ‘I passed up the opportunity to testify earlier, and my grandmother said, “You’re a fool. You’re a fool. You’re a fool. You had a chance and you did nothing”.

‘Then someone said there was a possibility they would be back. And I thought, “If those thousands of other survivors can do it, you must be able to – my God, how much support have you got? An arena full. Let’s do it”.’

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