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Timothy David's story

Before Timothy he went off to a Catholic boarding school in Victoria, his uncle gave him some advice about how to survive.

‘He went to Catholic schools all his life. My uncle said, “If anyone touches you, just get up and run and go and tell someone”. That’s how this started.’

Timothy was young when his father died and afterwards his mother struggled to cope, so in the mid-1970s Timothy was sent off to start Year 7 at the Catholic boarding school. On his first night there, Timothy copped a vicious beating from the priest in charge of his dormitory. This was just a taste of what was to come.

He said the school was run on a culture of fear, with violence, sometimes extreme, meted out by the priests and Brothers on an almost daily basis.

Timothy was befriended by Brother Webster and they spent time together in one of the classrooms, working on hobbies. Timothy told the Commissioner, ‘He was physical in his displays of affection. Not in a sexual way, more in a fatherly or big brother kind of way’.

Webster’s grooming behaviour included sharing secrets such as his smoking and showing Timothy sexually explicit magazines. When Timothy got an erection, Webster put his hands down Timothy’s pants and fondled him.

Timothy said he was very confused and scared and ran out, straight to the office of the school rector. He reported what had happened but the rector became very aggressive and called him a liar. He told Timothy to keep his mouth shut, then beat him severely and threatened to expel him if he ever said anything like it again.

Timothy said after that day, the rector and Webster focused on destroying his life. He was violently physically assaulted on a regular basis by them and other Brothers. They also turned his fellow students against him by starting a rumour that he was a pervert who had been touching boys in their beds at night.

‘From that day on, I was physically assaulted, heckled, bombarded with vicious rumour and innuendo. I was harassed, spat on, laughed at, humiliated at every turn, and abandoned by any friend that I had ever made in the school.’

The treatment continued year after year, no matter which Brother left the school or which one came, the baton seemed to be passed on regardless.

When Timothy was 14, one of the toughest kids in the school, James Mills, held Timothy down and sexually assaulted him. Timothy broke away and went to the school principal. The principal told him not to report it to police as, once it got out around the school, the other kids would look at him as being the ‘poofter’.

‘I just remember shaking and crying. I didn’t talk of it to anyone … as my life was already such a wreck. I didn’t want to make things any worse.’

A couple of months later, Mills abused him again.

‘I couldn’t do anything. I was that beaten down that I didn’t care. I thought that if this is how it has to be, then this is how it is. For the next year or so, Mills would sexually abuse me every few weeks. There was no use telling anybody. I had told them before and nothing happened. I was just meant to put up with it. Mills would masturbate me or perform oral sex on me under threat, whenever he chose. I just accepted it.’

Mills was later expelled for smoking. Timothy retreated into himself and became a virtual recluse within the school community so as to avoid any trouble. Eventually, when he was 16, he got involved in a confrontation with the school rector and was expelled.

He finished his schooling at the local government high school without incident, although he was unable to make friends, as he said the boarding school had completely ‘de-humanised’ him.

He trained as a policeman and got a girlfriend, but the relationship ended badly.

‘I beat the shit out of her … she had come at me with a knife. It was a domestic situation. But … I went out of control. That was a direct result of what I had gone through and learned all of that time.’

He left the police force – before they could sack him – went into drug and alcohol rehab, and developed an addiction to Valium. He said for many years he dreamt about killing the Brothers and priests, or setting the school on fire.

‘You’ve got to understand my head was like confetti when I came out of there. I didn’t have a friend on the planet. This was the life. This is what a child learned life was about.’

In the early 1990s, he decided to report the abuse to police. He said, ‘The police weren’t that good at dealing with this stuff back then, they didn’t have an understanding of it’, and the case went nowhere. However the Catholic Church did pay Timothy some compensation, which he described as ‘a pittance payment, the “shut up” payment’.

A few years ago he was sacked from a job, after a confrontation with his boss, and attempted suicide.

‘I just never wanted to get out of bed again. I didn’t want to live … I just thought “This is it. I’ve had it now. I’ve had enough in this war called life”. Because life for me has been a war.’

He started receiving social security payments, but is worried what will happen to him if he becomes suicidal and can no longer fulfil job search quotas.

‘What happens then? … Because I am a broken product for what this was. You know, we need to get looked after. Us people that went through it and went through it well … They need to look after what they’ve destroyed.’

In recent years, new evidence emerged about abuses at the school and the police approached Timothy, seeking a statement. He has since re-engaged in the process of seeking justice and redress for what happened to him.

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