In the early 1970s, Ronny was in his final years of primary school at a Jesuit college in Victoria. Reading from a prepared statement, he said:
‘In Grade 5 my teacher was Mr Delancey … I remember Mr Delancey punishing children in his class on a regular basis. He would do this out the front of the class in view of all students. I remember he used a wooden ruler of sorts and would hit students on their hands, palm side, using the edge of the ruler. This method resulted in the most pain possible.
‘Several times, I don’t remember how many but it must have been at least three, I was sent to Father Tarry’s office for punishment. As I remember he was in charge of punishment, discipline or something.
‘Father Harold Tarry would use leather straps of different types … On one particular occasion I remember being taken, led away from this room … to an attic of some sort.
‘I was told to undress by Father Tarry. After I undressed I was told to lie on the table face down. Then he proceeded to hit me on my buttocks three times on one side, then he moved slowly around to the other side, and three more. I was then told to get dressed. What happened the rest of the day I don’t remember, except that I was in a lot of pain.
‘I remember getting home, locking myself in the bathroom and looking at the damage in the mirror. I was quite alarmed and shocked at how bad the marks or welts were. I remember being black and blue, almost to the point of bleeding.
‘I never told my parents or anyone else for many years. Why? Upon reflection I think, at the time as a child, that I wouldn’t be believed or that I deserved this treatment or that this is just normal … These were God’s representatives on Earth; how does one question that?
‘There was also some strange sexual shame thing going on too, something I still can’t work out. I kept the incident and shame to myself for many years, perhaps until mid-20s.
‘I now feel that I have to get this out of me. It’s not my responsibility, it’s not my fault, I should not have it in me. It should be exorcised. This shit should be with the Church, not me. They knowingly put me, at age 10, into a dangerous environment with abusers, beaters and sexual predators. This wasn’t punishment, it was a sicko getting off.’
Ronny said that when he first heard about the Royal Commission he made a decision to leave the abuse in the past. He felt his experience was ‘not as bad’ as some, and also he didn’t want to relive it. However, he later read about some other former students of the college.
‘It sent shivers up my spine. It knocked me around a bit. It was a realisation: I was there, I witnessed this stuff, I was a victim, too … I felt a strong sense of responsibility to stand up and support and validate these other men’s memories and experiences, and to not let these men face this alone.
‘I did a bit of research on the internet … I contacted Broken Rites and SNAP. I was told of others with virtually the same story as me – stripped naked and beaten.
‘Then I looked at the effects that this stuff has on men as they get older. This was yet another shock. I could virtually tick all the boxes. Up until about the age of 30 or so I had low self-esteem. I was bullied a lot at school and work. I could not assert myself or stand up to bullies. I had no defence mechanisms for people who were cruel. I remember being beaten up, spat upon, etc.
‘As a teenager I was crazy. I lost my licence to drink-driving about four times ... I’ve broken my leg many times: car accidents, motorcycle accidents, falls, etc. I was forever in trouble with the police.
‘I jumped off a bridge in an attempt to kill myself when I was 17. I was in hospital for months – broken arm, leg, jaw, etc. I made up a story to hide the shame I had about trying to kill myself.
‘I’ve had many relationships, mostly lasting for under a year. I’ve broken them all up because I can’t cope with commitment, or is it trust?
‘I’ve smoked since I was 15 years old. I drink too much. I look up tips for high-functioning alcoholics. In the past I’ve been diagnosed as bipolar. I’m obsessive-compulsive, I worry about things all the time, I’m always wary, anxious and nervous.
‘On the other side of things my low self-esteem somehow became as asset as I got older. Not through smarts as I tell people but just pit bulldog determination. I’ve worked my guts out to make some major achievements in my life.
‘I’ve won many professional awards, run successful businesses, spent most of my life in managerial positions, made adequate money, live in a nice house, nice car and have great and loyal friends.
‘So if this abuse resulted in problems for me, there has also been a strong determination to drag myself out of it.’
Ronny said that he has received counselling over the years and has ‘learnt to cope with the person I am and who I am and what I am’. He’s also in touch with the free legal service, knowmore, about possibly taking civil action against the Church.
He told the Commissioner that society needs to be aware of what abusers really look like.
‘I think somehow people think that these sexual predators or whatever are strangers. They’re not. And I think people assume that they see some creepy person on a street corner, that’s the person that it is … the message to the public is: “Goodness me, it’s cousins, it’s priests, it’s all these people” … and these people are ones that are trusted, these are the last people you think are going to do it.’