Rory had learning difficulties as he was growing up. As a teenager, he left the small Victorian town where his family lived to be a boarder at a school run by an order of Catholic Brothers. The school ran a vocational program that Rory and his parents thought would suit him. Rory arrived at the school as a 15-year-old, in the late 1980s.
Four weeks after he got there, he was offered some help with his studies by a teacher at the school, Father Stephen Pinder. When Rory went to Pinder’s office, the teacher gave him some whiskey and then violently raped him.
‘I was sobbing and crying’, Rory recalled. ‘He said, “No one can hear you”.’
Several more brutal rapes followed. Rory did his best to avoid Pinder. He was petrified of him. Pinder was abusing other boys as well – no one talked about it, but it was widely known. ‘There’s other boys crying at night. There’s other boys being taken out. There’s other boys having showers at 12 o’clock at night.’
The fourth time Pinder raped Rory was the worst. ‘It was incredibly violent … and he just left me on the floor bleeding and sobbing and whatnot’, Rory told the Commissioner.
Rory was so badly injured by this assault that he required surgery a few weeks later. It was organised and paid for by the school, and Brothers from the school took him to his medical appointments.
No one asked how the injury had occurred. His parents weren’t told or consulted about the surgery. They found out only when Rory spoke to his mother on the phone. He didn’t disclose the abuse to her and Rory is certain that as a staunch Catholic, she wouldn’t have believed that a priest could be capable of such depravity.
Even before the surgery, the school had engaged in a cover-up of what had occurred. Several days after the rape when Rory was still in the infirmary, he looked out the window and saw Father Pinder approaching. ‘I thought, “He’s coming to get me again”, so I jumped out of bed and I ran as fast I could.’
Rory was brought back to school late that evening, about 10 hours after he’d fled. His mother, Olive, who came to the Royal Commission with Rory, told the Commissioner that she had received a call from the school late at night to tell her that he’d run away, but had since returned.
Rory’s mother thought it was ‘weird’, and she and her husband followed up with a visit to the school the next day. They were told they couldn’t see Rory, because he was working in a distant part of the school property. Rory wasn’t even told his parents had visited.
Pinder left Rory alone after that. Rory didn’t return to the school the following year. He signed up for a TAFE course but just a few months into it ran away from home. ‘It was just eating at me, what had happened.’
Rory took off from Victoria and travelled up to Queensland and then around Australia. His life plummeted into a pattern of violence and despair. In the years since then he has committed violent crimes and been jailed for them. He has abused drugs and alcohol and self-harmed and has been unable to settle anywhere.
‘I'd always feel that Pinder was behind me. … I'd get set up in a small town and then nine months later or 12 months later I felt like he's there with me, so time to self-destruct and get out of there. You know, I'd just do that and move on.’
Rory finally disclosed the abuse to his family in his late 30s. He hadn’t seen his parents for years. Olive contacted him through his sister. She’d read about his school in the newspaper – the widespread abuse of boys that went on there was finally being investigated. It occurred to Olive that perhaps Rory was one of the survivors.
Rory had four kids and a wife by then. His wife had recently taken the children and left him, because of his drug use and abusive behavior. ‘I was at my lowest point.’ He hadn’t told his wife or anyone else about the abuse.
‘I never, ever thought I'd ever say anything to anybody. I just thought I'd just keep it to myself. … I just didn't think I'd be believed and I didn't want anyone to know.’
Rory’s sister called him and asked, ‘Did that happen to you?’ ‘I just said, "Yeah, it did", and that just started the whole ball rolling’.
Rory decided to return to Victoria, and make a statement about Pinder to police. The time following that decision was very difficult for him and his family. He arrived in Victoria in very bad shape and in need of immediate medical attention.
‘We had no idea what we’d be facing’, Olive told the Commissioner. ‘That was a shocking experience. And it’s such a lonely journey and there’s nobody you can go to for help.’
Rory became one of several complainants in the case against Pinder. The charges ranged in severity. The case came to trial and Pinder was found guilty, but the conviction was overturned on appeal, with the judge accepting that different categories of crime should not have been prosecuted in a single trial.
When Rory and Olive came to the Royal Commission, a retrial was soon to take place.
‘I feel I’m in a worse position now than what I was before I said anything. We have to go through the whole lot again. … This retrial stuff just absolutely gutted me.’
The Catholic order that ran the school has agreed to pay for Rory to have counselling. Apart from this, it has not offered any support and he has not received an apology or any compensation. He can’t imagine how much compensation would be enough.
‘No amount of money, really.’