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Rod Paul's story

‘He stole my childhood. He just ripped my childhood out. And I still feel to this day like I’m looking for that.’

In 1970, Rod started Year 5 at a Christian Brothers school in regional New South Wales. In Year 6, Brother De Cruz became his teacher.

‘He was the class teacher. He used to isolate three boys. It was me, John and Keith.’

The three boys were treated differently to their classmates.

‘What Brother De Cruz would do is he’d sit you up in the classroom and he’d sit you on his lap and then he’d play. And you’d have to sit there … I don’t know how many times, I can’t recall, whether it was once or twice or how many times I was made to sit on his lap.’

Brother De Cruz was always around the boys, including on school camps.

‘That’s … the other image I have of him. He was standing … on the creek edge and they were getting us ready to go home … we were told to get in the creek and wash. And Brother De Cruz was standing up on the edge just, “You’ve got to clean your genitals”, and he was up there in footy shorts just rubbing himself up … but then he came in and he started coming for me but luckily he couldn’t swim, so I got away.’

The abuse stopped when one day a boy went to get another teacher while Rod was on Brother De Cruz’s lap.

‘I remember that day because Brother De Cruz, just as soon as the teacher come in, threw me off to the side … from that day on I changed. I just changed. I was angry, confused and that’s the way it’s probably been for most of my days.’

The abuse stopped because Brother De Cruz disappeared from the school but Rod felt as though, ‘people could see straight through me, that they could see that there was something wrong or something like that’.

Rod felt that he couldn’t tell his father about the abuse because of his father’s significantly homophobic attitude. He didn’t want his father to think he was gay. He felt there was no one else he could speak to.

‘I could never tell my grandmother. My grandmother was like an atheist but it was her money that paid the school fees. If she’d have found out she would have killed him [De Cruz].’

Rod has only begun to tell his family about the abuse since the Royal Commission was announced.

The impacts of the abuse have been profound.

‘I’m on anti-depressants, have been since my teens … I don’t know how many times I’ve contemplated suicide. Certainly my life has been full of self-harm, just cuts, hands, smashing your head against a brick wall … just angry.’

He married and had children and then had a second long term relationship which has recently broken up. Both his relationships were rocky.

‘I realised it’s because I didn’t have the skills in relationships … Reality sets in and you can’t be perfect, you can’t be that perfect person and I used to struggle with that. I wanted to be good, I wanted to be clean. I wanted to have some purpose but I could never find it … To this day I have drifted … I just wish he’d left me alone.’

The abuse also affected his parenting.

‘I’m very conscious around children … I’ve always been scared too, that somehow I’ve been infected, like I was going to do it. Even raising your own children … I remember her [my daughter] sitting in the bath with her little mate and you go to wash them and all of a sudden there’s this … feeling like some sickness or something.’

Rod has found a psychologist who has helped him gain some perspective and control over his life. He finds regular sessions financially difficult to afford but knows they are crucial to his wellbeing.

‘As you get older, you don’t forget about it, it sits there in your subconscious and all of a sudden you get angry or something happens and you’re thinking, where the hell is this coming from? … For years there I pushed it away … told myself … “It was nothing”, “he was nothing”.’

Rod is supported by his children and lives in beautiful part of coastal New South Wales.

‘I want to be able to live there and see the beauty, and for a while there I couldn’t … I want to be able to go back and see that. I want to experience the beauty of things. I want to experience elation … because I never had it. There’s always been something there in the background just for everything - the births of my children – everything.’

Rod is also going to seek redress from the Catholic Church and wants the police to pursue his abuser, who is still alive. He is very grateful for the Royal Commission.

‘[I want to] record my thanks to those people who put this Royal Commission together. Thank you very much. I mean, for me … I would have died with this [secret] otherwise.’

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