‘In my head I was thinking my parents had found out and they’d think I’m gay.’
Ronan was born into a small Catholic family in New South Wales. His father was in the navy and often away, while his mother stayed at home with the children. At school, Ronan was a happy kid and loved all sports. He was 10 years old in the 1980s when he began cricket training at his local Catholic high school.
Ronan loved cricket practice and was coached by Brother Bradley. A few weeks after joining the team, Ronan was sent to see another teacher, Brother Louis. Ronan has never understood why he was the only one sent away during practice. Brother Louis would wait for Ronan in an empty classroom and ask him to join in on a wrestling match. Ronan said he ‘loved the rough and tumble’ and always said, “Yes”. After each wrestling session, he’d be given money.
Wrestling with Brother Louis continued for a few weeks, always during cricket practice at school. On one occasion, Ronan was asked to take his shirt off. He said he ‘completely trusted’ Brother Louis and complied. Louis then took his own shirt off and asked Ronan to take off all his clothes so they could wrestle in their underwear.
‘He said, “Pull down your pants”. I bent over and I felt something go in my bum. There was a bit of pain but it wasn’t excruciating. It was probably a minute, not that long … I couldn’t see but I’m assuming it was his dick … After that happened, he gave me something and asked me to walk.’
Ronan said that at some point shortly after this, his family moved to Queensland. He thought he was in trouble and that his parents had found out about Brother Louis. However, he couldn’t talk to his parents and for several years didn’t speak of the abuse at all.
At school though, his grades plummeted. He found learning difficult because nothing sank in and he couldn’t comprehend what he was reading. He progressed through high school until Year 10 and then left, later picking up a job in the construction industry.
Throughout his adult life, Ronan had experienced confusion about his sexual orientation. His first relationship with a woman was when he was in his late 20s. When he was with females he often felt that he was ‘molesting them’, and he was ‘hesitant in doing anything’.
He’d also had issues with anger, a significant drinking problem and feelings at times of ending his own life.
‘Never really cared too much if I lived or died because I couldn’t handle that part of my life.’
In the 1990s, Ronan told his girlfriend about the abuse, the first time he’d spoken about it. After disclosing it to her, Ronan then told his parents and siblings as well as a few other family members. He said the experience was ‘a relief’.
It wasn’t until much later that Ronan discovered Brother Louis had been removed from the school. One of his friends told him that Brother Louis was ‘dobbed’ in by another student and moved to another school.
In the early 2010s, Ronan was watching television and heard about the Royal Commission. He said something ‘clicked’ and he felt he had to do something. He went to his local police station in Sydney and made a report about Brother Louis. He was accompanied by his mother and ex-girlfriend, who also made statements in his support.
Brother Louis was charged with multiple child sexual assaults and sentenced to more than 15 years in prison. Ronan and three other victims from his Catholic high school were witnesses. After the case concluded, Ronan submitted a victim impact statement and began counselling.
‘There’s nothing to hide anymore, there’s nothing to hold inside. Nothing to be ashamed of, it’s out so people know.’
Ronan came to the Royal Commission to ‘get it out’ and ‘move on’ with his life. He said that ‘everyone just can’t stay silent’ and people need to ‘stand up’ and talk about their experiences. He refuses to let what happened to him affect his life and he’s proud of how far he has come. ‘He hasn’t beaten me – I’m not dead yet. I try to be the bigger person than he is and what he’s done to me.’