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Tommy's story

As a child Tommy had learning difficulties, and although a ward of the state, he was cared for in early years by his grandmother. However, after getting into trouble and being suspended from school, he was sent at age 12 to a Catholic boys’ home where he stayed for two years.

A few weeks after his arrival in the late 1970s, Tommy was moved into his own room. Away from other residents, Brother Neil Foley beat him with the cane and cricket stumps and also began to do ‘sexual things’ to him. Tommy estimated that, in the time he was in the home, he was raped by Foley about 15 times a week.

Tommy was told that if he said anything, he’d be put into an ‘insane ward with high fences and electric shocks’. Because of this, he didn’t mention the abuse to anyone.

Many years later Tommy had some legal issues, and he was assisted in managing them by a local advocate, Jenny Murphy, who also accompanied him to the Royal Commission.

Jenny took Tommy to see a psychiatrist who, while taking a medical history, asked about the Catholic home. This was when Tommy first disclosed the sexual abuse. ‘It’s a story I hope to never hear again’, Jenny said.

The assaults were reported to police who initially said ‘It was a long time ago’, but found after further investigation that Tommy’s report backed up numerous other complaints they’d received about Foley. ‘Every time they went to interview a witness, they ended up with a victim’, Jenny said.

Foley was living overseas and attempts to extradite him were thwarted by his successive legal appeals. At the time of Tommy and Jenny coming to the Royal Commission, the matter was still being assessed by an overseas court.

Jenny also enlisted support from a legal centre who recommended that Tommy seek victim’s compensation. However, halfway through this process, the lawyer acting for him found out about a class action against the order of Brothers who ran the home and pursued that avenue instead. As a result, Tommy received a settlement of $160,000.

Prior to the class action, Jenny approached the Catholic Church’s Towards Healing program, and staff there offered a series of counselling sessions. She said Tommy already had mental health support and she’d wanted ‘something concrete’ from them, so their offer wasn’t accepted.

Tommy continues to see a psychiatrist and a psychologist but thinks it unfair he has to contribute payment for the sessions. He lives in a public housing flat, but often has problems with his tenancy because of hoarding behaviour. He also has trouble engaging with support providers. ‘I’m trying to make it better’, Tommy said. ‘But sometimes it’s just hard.’

‘Unfortunately, he tries to shock everybody’, Jenny said. ‘And to be perfectly honest, he’s not the most lovable person in the world. He says some terrible things and does some terrible things so every time I get a service that he really likes, because he’s been rejected so often, he shoots himself in the foot before they can reject him again.’

Tommy knew of other boys who’d been abused and had later taken their own lives. ‘It’s not fair, is it?’ he said. ‘So many people have committed suicide, haven’t they? What they should do is have him charged for all those ones that committed suicide – change it to murder. That’s what they should do.’

Jenny’s work with Tommy continues, as does the extradition process for Foley.

‘What someone should do is go over there and tranquilise him’, Tommy said. ‘Stick him in a sack, one of those animal cages, bring him back. Then they’ve got him. That would be simpler.’

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