Stanley Peter's story

For a while, the Christian Brothers denied that Stanley had been a student at a school run by their order in Brisbane. However, alerted by a ‘little bird’, Stanley was able to locate photos stored in an office at the school. ‘I went in there and there they were – there’s photos of me with all the dates on them.’

At the time, Stanley was seeking compensation for sexual abuse he suffered in the 1950s, beginning when he was nine and lasting several years. His attacker was Brother Marsden, a teacher at the school. Marsden took every opportunity to abuse Stanley, inserting items in his anus and performing fellatio on him. During one of these attacks Stanley resisted and Marsden bit him, causing an injury that’s still a problem today.

As a result of the attacks Stanley sometimes bled in his underpants, and his mother asked him what was going on. When he told her, she refused to believe him. ‘She said, “No. Brothers don’t do that. You’ve been in a fight again”.’

Stanley had never encountered anyone like Marsden. He’d enjoyed his time at a Catholic junior school – ‘I loved it there, and I loved the nuns’– and had no difficulties as an altar boy at his local church: ‘Oh, no. They were as good as anything.’ So when his mother didn’t believe him, he decided to take his story higher up the Catholic hierarchy, to the archbishop.

At the time, aged about nine, Stanley got mixed up. He thought the archbishop was the Pope. Years later, when he tried to explain this to Church representatives at a meeting organised through Towards Healing, they told him they didn’t want to hear about the archbishop.

‘I said, “Well, I can’t tell my story unless I tell you what happened”. It was important to me, because I went to him for help … I thought I’ll go down and see the Pope, and tell him what’s going on.’

It was a journey of several tram rides. When Stanley got there he knocked on the door and a man answered. ‘I said, “I’d like to see the Pope”.’ The man asked what the problem was. ‘I said, “It’s between the Pope and me”.

‘Probably thought “another cheeky brat”.’

‘So anyway, he did come out. He said, “Sit down, would you like a glass of water?”, and I said “Yes, thank you, milord” … He said, “What’s the problem”, and I told him what happened. He said – he just went, “Let’s sit down and pray for the Brother”.’

The archbishop gave Stanley some money and lollies. ‘When I got to the gate I threw the lollies away because I thought they were poisoned.’ He used the money to go to the pictures. ‘I bought a bag of potato chips, ice-cream, soft drink – I had a big field day, but it never changed anything.’

Next time Stanley was at school he was beaten by another Brother for telling lies. The abuse by Marsden continued.

It finally came to an end when Stanley’s family moved and he started at a new school. All the truanting he’d done to avoid Marsden meant he was far behind – ‘I never caught up’, he said.

‘Mum used to say we paid a fortune for you to go there and you’ve learned nothing.’

Stanley left school at 14 and found work he enjoyed in a job he kept for many years. After some years he contacted the Church and put in a complaint about Marsden. He was told that someone would get in touch. No one did, for many years. Eventually, though, wheels started to turn. After some frustrating meetings, at which Stanley was presented with information about himself and his family that was plain wrong, he was called to another meeting.

‘They said, "We’ve investigated it, we believe wholly, totally and without equivocation everything you’ve said and we just want to settle it with you so you can get on with your life. It’s your day".’

This meeting led to hearings where lawyers were brought into the process. Stanley’s lawyer was recommended to him by the Church. He didn’t listen, Stanley said. ‘He did nothing but slow things up.’

Now in his 60s, Stanley is yet to receive a payment. He has been offered one, which he rejected as unsatisfactory. Negotiations are ongoing. In the meantime the Church offered to pay for Stanley to see a counsellor, which he agreed to. It’s working out well.

‘When I go to her, I feel happy when I come out … She makes me feel good. Because I’m on the verge of suicide all the time.

‘There’s not a night goes by where I don’t want to walk in front of a bus and end it … But then I think. "There’s a driver of that car’s got a family – and I’ve got a cat waiting for me to get home to feed". That stops me.’

Stanley said he came to the Royal Commission because ‘I want someone that listens. That will believe me’. He won’t stop fighting the Church for what he feels is fair compensation.

‘I don’t want to let them beat me. If I do, he’s won, and I’m not in the habit of losing. That might seem awful of me but that’s the way I feel.’


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