During the one year that Rick boarded at a Marist Brothers school, he rang his mother at the end of each semester and begged her to get him out of there.
It was the mid-1980s and the two dorm masters, Brother Ian Holmes and Brother Ron Martelli, were making 13-year-old Rick’s life a misery. Initially Rick just thought it was weird that the Brothers hung around the steps of the dormitories at night.
Then, still in his first week, he saw a boy perform fellatio on Brother Holmes. Soon afterwards Holmes approached him in the bathroom. ‘He thought he’d seen me masturbating and said straight to me, “That’s no different to what we’re doing out here, so why don’t you just come out and join us?” And I was like, no way.’
Brother Holmes unsuccessfully tried to chat to Rick every time he walked to the toilet. Then he ‘heavied’ him in the dorm.
‘If you don’t do what we say life will get a lot harder for you and you won’t be able to complain to anyone. Your mother doesn’t even care … You’re stupid if you don’t do what we want you to do.’
Rick was then punished just about every day for no reason. The Brothers made sure he was an outcast. ‘Even choosing two boys to befriend me who were performing favours for them to try and get me to do it. And to make sure I didn’t tell anyone.’
One day Rick walked over to the Brothers’ house in search of his mates.
‘I could hear boys laughing. That struck me, because the boys were actually laughing and having fun. I was like, you never hear that … And I could smell wine, altar wine. Next thing, two of the boys walked out and they were wearing a robe like the Brother’s robe that’d been lifted up at the back so their bottoms were showing. And they’re running round the house and one of the Brothers inside is giving them instructions and saying, “Yeah run around now, grab me a glass of wine now” …
‘The boys are running in and out … One of the boys saw me and he was like, Rick what are you doing here? ‘Cause they know I didn’t want anything to do with it. … You can pretty much be certain that every Brother there knew this was happening … So a Brother walked out and he was in two minds about whether to get me to come in … I’m like, no way, and backed off down the steps. And then he was angry and said, “Don’t ever come here again”.’
The three boys running around were all from Grade 9.
Rick had run away from home in the past and assumed being sent to the Marist Brothers school was his punishment so he took it on the chin. ‘It was a bloody awful place to be in but I didn’t really understand how wrong it was at the time.’
The Brothers’ sexual intimidation and abuse of Rick intensified. Brother Holmes would rub his penis on Rick’s shoulder during study time. Rick was taken to the Brothers’ doctor with an injury rather than to the hospital. The doctor gave him a needle.
‘I remember waking with my shorts on the floor and my undies pulled down and him playing with my penis.’ One of the Brothers was also there.
A nurse sexually abused Rick during a visit to the school sick bay. She’d knocked him out with an anesthetic but he woke and saw her. ‘I remember waking up a second time and I had my clothes back on and she was saying you can go now.’
When Rick decided to skip class by faking the flu ‘they drew all the curtains in the room and made it comfy and put [a] jug of green drink next to me … Then I’ve got Brother Martelli standing next to me. I can feel his penis on the side of my face. I’m waking but … I pretended to have my eyes shut. And I knew two people were ... at the end of the bed. I could tell I had my clothes off. Definitely Brother Holmes and the nurse, the same nurse … and she’s got my penis in her hand’. When they realised he was awake ‘the two Brothers vanished like cartoon characters’.
Rick decided to talk to Brother Storm, the principal. Storm had reprimanded him about his grades. So Rick told him that Brother Holmes and Brother Martelli were treating him really badly.
Storm’s bluster was immediate.
‘I don’t think they’re treating you all that badly. It’s probably for your own good’, he told Rick. He added that he shouldn’t go complaining to his mum and stressing her out.
Storm added that if Rick wasn’t careful he’d end up in a juvenile home. He even specified which one.
So when a lay teacher – the ‘one good guy’ – asked him, ‘Are they doing something to you?’ Rick said no.
Rick changed schools the following year. Puzzled by his disruptive behaviour, he was sent to a counsellor but he didn’t disclose anything about the abuse.
Rick was treated for PTSD in the 2000s after his marriage broke down. But only in the last few years had he received psychological treatment specifically for the sexual abuse.
He’s now managing things well and has told his family what happened to him.
Rick raised his concerns about professional cliques in institutions and their potential to damage and corrupt the organisation.
‘And then you add on top of that the Aussie thing where nobody dobs and you end up with these situations that probably were going on for decades.’
He was happy to come and talk to a Commissioner.
‘I’ve been waiting for ages for something with a similar shape to come along so I’m more than happy to help you. And I know it helps me too.’