The Christian Brothers who abused Simon when he was a child told him he was bad and evil. He was told, ‘This is your fault’. Later, these Brothers denied the abuse and the Catholic Church supported them, spending millions defending them in court.
‘Basically, my whole story can be summed up in that I was told lies, damned lies and bloody lies. That's what really did it.’
Simon is extremely bright and, up until he was abused, did well at school. He was part of a large Catholic family living in a small town and attended the Catholic primary school, where the Brothers were violent to the children. The sexual abuse started when Simon was 11, with Brother O’Dea.
‘I remember specifically being slammed backwards up against a brick wall and held by my neck when I was 11 years old and a couple of hours after that he had me in his office molesting me.’
The abuse was regular and Simon wasn’t the only one. He recalls all the boys were so ‘scared shitless’ of O’Dea’s malevolence that they did whatever he said. Later in life, he became aware that from his class alone there have been six premature deaths, including suicides.
He went on to the Catholic high school where the physical abuse was just as bad. ‘Brother Walsh was there and he was in charge of the first year's boarding room. I mean, talk about Dracula in charge of the blood bank. Dear God.’
Simon was regularly sexually abused there too, sometimes in the back of the classroom during class.
From an early age, Simon was aware that he was gay. When he was about 13 he felt concerned about this and went to the local church to see if there was a priest available he could talk to. There was – a paedophile priest.
‘So within half an hour of talking with him in an upstairs room, he had me sucking his cock, he had me feeling his arse, he had him feeling my penis, had my pants down, and then he drove me to a set of toilets [in a bush area] and he raped me.’
Simon started to hate school. He transferred to the local high school but his grades didn’t recover and he didn’t pass.
In later years, allegations about the men who abused Simon started to come out. When he was in his early 30s, his mother asked him straight out if he had been molested and he told her everything.
‘My parents were utterly shattered. I was told after Dad died, by Mum, that Dad at one point sat in the driveway of their house … engine idling in the car. And he had a rifle on his lap full of ammunition. He was going to go down and kill them … He was a very good shot. It would have been a massacre. I'm glad he didn't but in one way I wish he had.’
Simon’s family continued to be a huge support for him and showed great strength. His father agitated for the archbishop to resign, which he subsequently did. His mother always defended her son and the Catholic Church community shunned her in response.
Simon refused to go to Towards Healing. ‘Why would you go back to a dog that had bitten you?’ He received a victims of crime payment and also pursued civil cases against the Church with regards to O’Dea and Walsh. When O’Dea got off, Simon became suicidal. After a four-year ordeal, Simon agreed to a settlement in relation to Walsh, but most of it was claimed by his lawyers and then Medicare.
‘So I've had this continual thing in the back of my mind latching on to the lies, the damned lies that O’Dea and Walsh told me, that I was bad, I was evil. My self-esteem was utterly shattered – ruined, it was. I was just traumatised to beyond my awareness.’
His older siblings have had successful lives. But that’s in stark contrast to himself and his two brothers who were also abused. One of those brothers is dead and the other is in prison.
Simon eventually studied at university, which he loved, and worked in his field for a time. But he had another breakdown causing him to retire early. He has PTSD, anxiety and a number of other health issues that all stem from the abuse.
‘I remember grieving for my childhood. I distinctly remember a period where I grieved for that young kid and now I feel like I'm grieving for my lost career, my lost life. You know, here I am 53 years old and I'm physically ill, I have no career, I have no house, my car's a dump and I'm living in it partly.’
Simon’s angry. Anger drives him. But he also describes himself as exhausted and fearful. Sometimes, when he’s looking after his friends’ children, he fears he might become a paedophile himself.
The fact that the Church defended these paedophiles, Simon finds ‘palpably repugnant’. When asked what changes he would recommend, he replied ‘disband the Catholic Church. Burn them at the stake. Turn the churches into brothels’. He laughed. ‘I've wanted to say that for years.’