Terrence's story

Terrence grew up in Melbourne and in the early 1980s was a six-year-old kindergarten student at a Catholic primary school near his home. A few weeks after starting school, he and other boys were called for a health examination, part of which involved a nurse checking that the boys’ testicles had descended.

Separated from his classmates, Terrence told the Commissioner that he was in the room with the female nurse and ‘a clergyman’ when he was sexually abused by both of them. He recalled the woman pulling up her dress and attempting to get him to perform oral sex on her, which he refused. The man then masturbated and digitally penetrated Terrence’s anus.

When the abuse ended, the clergyman told Terrence he would hurt his family, including his little sister, if he told anybody what had occurred.

From that time forward, Terrence had a deep distrust of authority figures and by Year 4 was wagging school. At some point he was fondled and kissed by the choirmaster of his local Catholic church, but at the time he didn’t consider it as bad as what had happened to him as a six-year-old.

At his Christian Brothers high school he was abused by a female lay teacher who offered to teach him ‘how to deport himself as a woman’, in preparation for a role he had in the school play. This abuse involved the woman rubbing her foot on his genitals while masturbating herself.

Terrence told the Commissioner that as a result of the abuse he became aggressive and disrespectful towards authority figures. He dropped out of school in Year 8 and began experimenting with drugs, including heroin. He was unable to finish his apprenticeship or hold down a job and was always anxious, expecting things to go wrong. He was the ‘black sheep’ in his family, and had a succession of failed relationships.

When Terrence was in his mid-20s, memories of the abuse returned. He didn’t initially do anything because he thought he’d be dismissed as ‘a drug addict’. In his mid-30s he stopped using heroin and approached staff of a community organisation for help.

‘Here I am on a disability pension in a tiny, little shoebox, one-bedroom flat and trying to make sense of it all, you know?’ Terrence had some counselling, but what he really wants is ‘a representative of the Catholic Church in full regalia or whatever, in public, apologising. Shake my hand or something …’

Terrence believes that the Church is using its power to relinquish its responsibility to the many survivors affected by childhood sexual abuse at the hands of their clergy. ‘There’s no point … going up against them [in court] … They can afford tons of QCs …

‘There’s a lot more that they can do and they have the resources, that’s what really upsets me the most. They have the resources until the end of time to help every one of these people that [the Royal Commission has] talked to. Every single one of us can be helped hugely by them and they choose still to hide behinds suits, and that to me is the most depressing, disappointing thing.’

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