Roderick lacked confidence as a child, but after his Grade 5 teacher at his Christian Brothers school in Victoria gave him roles in class for which he had previously been overlooked, his self-esteem was given a boost.
The following year, his Grade 6 teacher ‘took a set against me. He was tremendously emotionally abusive and everything that the previous teacher had built up suddenly collapsed as if he was systematically trying to undermine [it]’.
Several years ago, Roderick heard that his Grade 6 teacher had appeared in court on sexual abuse charges and had been sent to prison. ‘My feeling was, when he was imprisoned, it was a tremendous sense of justice, even though my case wasn’t sexual. This is where the sexual merges with the emotional. And when you talk about teachers as sadists, there’s a real truth to that, as if he derives pleasure from that.’
After Roderick began high school at the Christian Brothers school, his mother decided that he would get a better education if he was sent to a boarding school run by the Jesuits, which was where he spent his final four years of school in the mid-1970s.
‘Probably a good move, but maybe not a good move, because what it did, it severed the emotional tie between me and my family … I [learned] a lot of things [that] have been very useful in life, but a lot of them have been very unusable, like the fact that I can’t relate emotionally to people easily.’
Father Waterson was Roderick’s housemaster. Compared to most of the staff at the school, who were physically and emotionally abusive, he was ‘kindly … amongst all my secondary school teachers, he’s probably the one that I would describe as the most respectful’.
Although he was considered by the boys at the school to be kind and friendly, Father Waterson was also known to be ‘free and loose’ with his hands. One night, Roderick woke up feeling ill and knocked on his housemaster’s door to seek assistance. After he invited Roderick into his room, Father Waterson sat him on the bed and began touching him inappropriately, while he masturbated himself.
Roderick told the Commissioner that this was the only time that Father Waterson sexually abused him and to him, the emotional abuse he experienced at the hands of his peers and other teachers at the school, was much worse.
‘The highlight of the school year, the school formal … I deliberately made excuses and didn’t go because I felt I wasn’t worthy … Part of it was because you were continually put down … It’s a culture of abuse and the important thing is that I too was an abuser in that, given the chance, I would kind of give heaps to my fellow students.’
Roderick never told his mother about the abuse because ‘I didn’t think it was significant’. As an adult, when a former student wanted him to join a class action against the school, Roderick refused to participate.
Roderick believes that because of the ‘culture of disrespect’ at primary and high school, he has suffered from life-long issues with self-esteem. ‘I was denied a normal life that I wanted … In my thirties I wanted marriage and children … but I believed all along that nobody would want me and that’s something I find very difficult to erase from my consciousness … I consider that I’m kind of second class.’