Stefan was in Year 7 and falling behind in mathematics when Brother Hudson offered to help him with extra tuition. The lessons took place in the Christian Brothers’ residence which was usually out of bounds for students and the first two lessons proceeded as normal. After that Hudson started touching Stefan on his genitals and not long afterwards took the 12-year-old to nearby bushland and raped him.
Hudson’s abuse continued for three years and occurred before and after school, during lesson times and on weekends. He would call Stefan from class and, to hide him from the other Brothers, make him crawl through his bedroom window. However, Hudson was seen sexually abusing Stefan on at least three occasions by two other Christian Brothers. Each time they walked out of the room without speaking and took no further action. In later years the two Brothers were themselves convicted of child-sex offences.
Stefan told the Commissioner he was told no one would believe him if he reported the abuse. He buried memories of it until an article appeared in a Sydney newspaper referring to a complaint by another ex-student about Brother Hudson. When Stefan’s mother asked him directly if Hudson had ever done anything to him, he answered ‘No’.
On the same day as his mother’s questioning, Stefan attended a scheduled appointment at Centrelink and suddenly broke down and disclosed the abuse. The worker suggested Stefan take action against the Catholic Church and with the aid of a lawyer, Stefan started the Towards Healing process.
It became apparent to Stefan early that he was at a disadvantage in the negotiating process. The Church assessor’s report emphasised that since leaving school Stefan had used drugs and been a sex-worker. While her summation said that on the basis of probability the abuse had occurred, it also laid doubt about whether he’d been anally raped, noting that, ‘in view of experiences gained as a result of his subsequent lifestyle, I am aware of the possibility that this detail might have been constructed to support his claim’.
Negotiations between Stefan’s lawyers and staff of Towards Healing became protracted with neither party prepared to settle. However, over the Christmas holidays in 2007, after his lawyers had closed their offices for the holiday break, Stefan began to be pressured to agree to a settlement and sign a deed of release.
‘They were ringing six or seven times a day from eight in the morning till 11 at night. I had gone quite low into drug addiction and I was feeding my addiction with prostitution. I had no money and this went on for nearly a month, continued harassment. Eventually the stress got to me and I said yes.’
Within an hour of agreeing to the offer of $50,000, Stefan had been picked up, given lunch and taken to the Catholic Church offices to sign a deed of release. He received the money the next day.
His lawyers when they returned from leave, challenged the amount of money and the manner of Stefan’s consent. Again, the process became drawn out. At final settlement, the Catholic Church agreed to a payment of $300,000 of which $200,000 was allocated to Stefan’s lawyers. ‘I overheard them saying how they were going to split my money. I was shell-shocked when they told me. What? You’re getting twice as much as me?’
What struck him as particularly odd was the offer Towards Healing staff made for him to meet with Hudson. ‘He wanted to meet with me and apologise, would you believe? I didn’t want to because I would have jumped over the table and tried to kill him.’
Throughout his years of negotiations, no one had suggested Stefan report the abuse to New South Wales Police. In 2008, he went to a Sydney police station and met with a detective but said he lost courage and ‘backed out’. He wanted to charge Hudson and go to court but was afraid of the effect on his two teenage children.
Stefan knew that other boys were abused by Hudson, but didn’t know if they’d taken any action or gone through Towards Healing. He knew of at least two ex-students who’d suicided after leaving school and said he’d attempted suicide himself three times.
Stefan said one day he got tired of using drugs and doing sex-work so he stopped. ‘I eventually had enough of living between the spaces. I had children that needed me. It wasn’t easy to pull away from that life, but I’d had enough. I wanted the children to know I was there.’
With his mother, he’d been awarded joint custody of the children, but it was his mother, he said, who’d done most of the work. ‘I’m quite happy to admit in the past I’ve been selfish and that I’ve probably let Mum carry a lot of the load. The psychiatrist said my mum appeared “care-worn” and I thought that responsibility lay squarely at my door. I’ve still got time to turn things around. I believe that.’