Ross was unsure why he and another boy had been called to the principal’s office at their Christian Brothers’ school. When the two 11-year-olds arrived, Ross recalled, they were told to strip all their clothes off.
‘Brother McEvoy hit us until we cried, then when we cried, he nursed us back, and that’s when he molested us. We were both naked us two boys. After our first bashing, the other boy said if we don’t cry, he won’t get to cuddle us and then he won’t touch us.
‘But the second time I couldn’t take it, I cried. Looking back I realise crying made him more violent, which aroused him more, so the violence with the act became a pattern.’
It was the 1960s and Ross was the eldest son of devout Catholic parents, growing up in a town where the Church played an important role in community and family life. Life was ‘incredible’, Ross said, until Brother McEvoy arrived.
‘I was an altar boy, and being groomed for the priesthood. There’d be parish picnics and they were a big deal. Brother McEvoy was well-liked, he would often come around to my parents’ place for dinner. My father adored him. He and another Brother would always come in via the backdoor and visit us in our bedrooms before our parents knew they were there.’
Though he can’t remember specific details, Ross believes both men would use the visits as an opportunity to sexually abuse him and his siblings.
Ross told no one of the sexual abuse at the time, and said it only stopped when Brother McEvoy moved away after spending five years in the rural Victorian community.
Ross revealed details of the abuse to his parents in the 1980s, and said they were ‘devastated’ to learn about what he’d been through at school.
‘My life was beautiful until I was 11, then I got expelled in my final year and went to jail just after my 18th birthday. My life was miserable after that, littered with failed relationships. I’ve married twice and just celebrated my 25th wedding anniversary, but my wife wants to leave me because underneath I have problems, I’ve never looked after myself, I’m still reeling from these intimate invasions.’
Brother McEvoy is serving a jail sentence for crimes committed against children, but Ross said many of his victims suicided long before he was sentenced.
‘He was walked before the court a few times and the Church has paid a lot of money to support him, but he’s shown no remorse, there’s been no apology, he’s refused to say sorry or show any signs he feels he’s done something wrong. I know of others abused at school, but they’re dead. It takes a hell of a lot of strength to take your own life, and people must be doing it because they feel they’re better out of the way.’
For the past 20 years, Ross said he and his wife have provided foster care for over 60 children through the Department of Human Services.
Drawing on his own experiences of physical and sexual abuse, Ross describes himself now as an advocate for children.
‘I’ve been to jail to visit these kids as young adults. We haven’t got it right in the way we help people recover. I became disengaged, I didn’t care what people thought. I realise how much harm that did to the first half of my life, and I became very miserable. We have this incredible love for a young child whose been abused, but because we’re unable to help them promptly, by the time they become a teenager, they become the most reviled people in our community. I want that to stop.’