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Robin's story

‘I was entrenched with his friendship and ultimate care, like I really felt I was in the hands of God to some extent with this man. I was important because I’d been selected to assist and I did feel important.

‘I remember lots of car trips, initially with others and we’d go places and we wouldn’t always go directly. We would stop in isolated places. Nothing happened in those places other than just talking. There was no touching at all, no hugging and all the rest of it. He let me put fuel in his car which I felt very important …

‘That progressed from there to whenever we entered the sports room – and police didn’t make a big issue out of this – but two of the charges of the three were related to these particular incidents where he would go into the room, close the door, turn the lights off and push up against the wall and just press his body against me, nuzzle my neck, and you could feel his erect penis through his clothing. I didn’t really think much of that. I don’t remember being overly traumatised by that, which was when his counsel asked that they not be put forward as further charges in the case. I thought, well that didn’t really change my life. The final incident did.’

As a 12-year-old in Year 7, Robin was happy to help Marist Brother, Nicholas Stone, with preparing the sports equipment needed at events for the school. Over a period of months Stone’s physical contact increased until one day he called Robin into the sports storeroom and told him to take his clothes off and climb up to the mezzanine level where equipment was kept. Once up there, Stone followed and then he lay down, masturbated and ejaculated onto Robin.

After the assault, Robin left the room not knowing ‘what’s going on here’. At home he asked his brother what the ‘cold and wet’ stuff was. His brother replied that it was ‘how a man and a woman make a baby’.

‘I remember being absolutely devastated and horrified’, Robin said. Until then he’d never discussed personal matters with others and ‘had no idea’ about anything to do with sex education. He was disgusted with himself, he said, and withdrew completely from his family, friends and what had been a promising sporting life.

He took up smoking and from that time on in [the early 1970s], was often truant from school. In his last year he was away for 74 days. ‘I don’t know why I got through without someone saying, “What the hell is going on?”’

One of Robin’s greatest fears was that he’d be ‘detected’: that people would recognise in him what had happened with Stone. He was also worried about being seen as homosexual. He didn’t consider disclosing the abuse and felt, not only an overwhelming sense of shame, but that he’d ‘ruined’ Brother Stone. ‘You lived your life like that’, Robin said. ‘I was a disgusting little grub that ruined that teacher‘s life. I didn’t ruin his life ’cause he went on to become quite successful, but I just believed I could have ruined his life and it was my fault.’

Robin told the Commissioner that after leaving school he’d built a good career and worked up to a senior management role, but he always wondered ‘what could have been’. He’d thought about what had happened with Stone ‘every day’ since 1972, but managed his thoughts by using ‘diversionary tactics’, and avoiding situations or people that might make him feel as he did as a 12-year-old.

At a dinner party one night in the early 2010s, the topic of child sexual abuse came up and someone asked Robin directly if he’d ever been abused. His ‘tactic was nearly blown out of the water’, he said, but he ‘managed to get away with it’. However it was a turning point and as media reports and news of the Royal Commission grew, one day Robin thought it was time to speak up.

‘I felt at that time the mechanisms that I had put in place to get me through my teenage years – and life if you like – weren’t working any more. And I just felt myself shutting down and doing what I did as a 13, 14, 15, 16-year-old.’

After the dinner party Robin started drinking heavily and become withdrawn, isolating himself from his family. When he finally disclosed the abuse to his wife, Jan, she said ‘it was a relief’ to know the reason for his behaviour. Jan accompanied Robin to the Royal Commission and said they’d ‘been best friends and then he wasn’t there. He distanced himself considerably and I didn’t know why’. Together they went to their general practitioner who was understanding and helpful and advised that as a mandatory reporter he would have to notify New South Wales Police if Robin didn’t. ‘We assured him our next visit would be to the police’, Robin said.

He described police officers as ‘absolutely marvellous’. A year after the initial report, Stone re-entered Australia from overseas and was charged. When the matter came to court, Stone made two or three appearances before pleading guilty. He was sentenced to 18 months in prison with a non-parole period of nine months.

The sentencing wasn’t that significant to Robin. He’d been warned of the possibility that Stone would get a non-custodial sentence, but said he didn’t ‘need him to be punished’. He wasn’t sure if Stone was remorseful and wrote a victim impact statement in the hope Stone would understand the effects of the abuse. At the end of the hearing, Stone’s lawyer apologised to Robin who, in turn, asked him to tell Stone that he forgave him, because Robin didn’t ‘want to carry this forward any further’.

Robin said he’d started counselling and was finding it helpful, particularly in managing feelings of guilt and shame. ‘I’m not that person anymore. I know that it wasn’t me. I know that it wasn’t my fault and that what happened to me was really, really wrong. And I’ve borne the brunt of that for many years and I will no longer allow it to affect my life. I’m in a better place, a much better place.’

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