Toby lived with his ‘hardworking Catholic family’ on a farm in New South Wales until the 1970s, when at age 12 he was sent to a Catholic boarding school which he hated from the start.
Toby told the Commissioner that he had a hard time fitting in with the school’s sport-mad culture because he was asthmatic and ‘a bit of a runt’.
The asthma also made him susceptible to illness and he spent a lot of time at the infirmary. There he often encountered Brother Gibbs, who was in charge of looking after the sick boys. During one of these encounters Toby was sexually abused.
‘I was sick, had a nasty dose of something or other … He was caring for me and other boys at the time. He decided that I had quite a high fever and that I needed to have a sponge bath, so he took me into this little seclusion area – and I was either first form or second form, so 12 or 13, something like that – and he put me on the bed and the sponge began, and he said “I’ve got to do this, you’ve got a bit of a temperature”.’
Under the pretext of treating him, Gibbs massaged Toby’s genitals. Toby told the Commissioner he felt ‘overwhelmed by that stage and totally incapable of speech or action’.
For the rest of his time at school Toby managed to avoid close contact with Gibbs and there were no more incidents of abuse.
‘The whole thing sort of ended and I found the whole experience quite upsetting, and from that point on I just didn’t go near the guy and so nothing else happened. And in the scope of the evidence before you, I’m acutely aware that mine is probably on the lower end. But it had a significant effect on me.’
After the abuse Toby’s schoolwork suffered and he graduated with poor marks. He attempted a university degree but failed the first year and returned to the family farm ‘with my tail between my legs’. His family were supportive but Toby found it difficult to associate with others and became increasingly reclusive.
‘Relationships for me didn’t happen until my late 20s, and I think my whole psycho-sexual development was significantly retarded through that experience. And I stayed away from intimacy for many, many years.’
In his 30s Toby returned to university and completed an undergraduate and master’s degree. He put the abuse behind him, married, started a family and ran a successful business.
But the issue surfaced again about two years ago when Toby discovered that Gibbs was living on the grounds of the Catholic high school that his son was set to attend. Toby contacted the police to find out what might be involved if he chose to start proceedings.
‘I said, "I just want to do some preliminary things, find out what you would do if I was to approach you and go through this".’
He found the police very responsive and helpful but decided not to pursue the matter. Later his son moved to a different school.
Toby told the Commissioner he’s still unsure about whether or not he should get the police to investigate Gibbs.
‘I feel very mixed about it. I feel like the pressure for me personally, having my son in that environment, has passed. But I guess there’s a responsibility to go the police – and I really hope that other kids are not in danger yet there’s always that risk.’