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Theodore Mathew's story

Theodore came from a ‘good Catholic family’, and was sent to a Christian Brothers high school in a regional New South Wales town in the 1950s. On his first day there his older brother introduced him to Brother Redmond, who was his First Form teacher.

Redmond was rumoured to hang students out of the windows and be quite violent, so Theodore was scared of him. ‘He was an aggro type thing ... He had a temper.’

Every day he would insist that Theodore sat on his lap while he taught the class, and would sexually abuse him while he did so.

Theodore doesn’t think other students would have been aware of what was happening, as he and Redmond were partially hidden by a large desk. He never saw any of his classmates being made to sit on the Brother’s lap, though he was aware that one of the other Brothers would take some boys swimming naked in a nearby dam. The abuse stopped in his second year of high school when he had a different teacher.

There was nobody Theodore could talk to about what Redmond was doing, either at school or home. He has never made a police report, nor taken any civil action against the Christian Brothers. He did try to contact the order once, but now ‘I just want to stay away from them as far as possible’.

Other than disclosing to wife 30 years ago, he had not spoken to anyone about the abuse until recently. Telling his kids a few months ago was a ‘relief’. ‘I just wanted to keep it secret, you know ... It was always there, but I just kept it away from the rest of the family.’

He was very protective of his children when they were younger, and because of his experiences brought them up without any religion – though he made sure to teach them ‘to treat others as you’d like to be treated. And they’re going well’.

Theodore told the Commissioner that the impacts of the abuse were ‘probably devastating really’. He thinks he ‘probably did’ suffer periods of depression during his younger years, ‘but in those days you didn’t discuss depression and that type of thing’.

At his wife’s prompting he sought help a couple of years ago, telling his GP about the abuse, and ‘I’m now taking tablets for depression’. Although his doctor didn’t mention counselling in any detail he thinks ‘I wouldn’t mind it’, and is now considering this kind of support.

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