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Trevor Heath's story

Trevor’s family lived in country Victoria. Trevor’s mother was a devout Catholic and supported the local Catholic organisations. She would often host representatives from the organisations and Trevor boarded at a high school run by the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart (MSC) a few hours away from his home.

‘The grand poohbah of the MSCs and they’d come up and do a drive to build up to their numbers and we’d have them for lunch …’

Trevor knew that his mother hoped that one of her sons would become a Brother. ‘In my mother’s eyes that would have been a wonderful [thing]’.

In the late 1970s, when Trevor was about 15 or 16 years old, he was caught smoking at school by one of the Brothers. The Brother subjected Trevor to a brutal beating. In his written statement to the Royal Commission, Trevor stated that:

‘When I went into the room, he directed me to drop my pants and underpants and bend over the tea chest. I recall he stood behind me and told me to bend further over the tea chest as he clinched the fan belt in one hand.

‘Waiting for what seemed an eternity at the time, I received six cuts across lower/under side of my bare buttocks. The cuts appeared to be in quick succession of each other and after the sixth and final, I pulled up [my] underpants and pants and left.’

The abuse caused Trevor much grief and anxiety. He told a fellow boarder about it but didn’t tell his parents or the school authorities.

‘You were there as a student, they were there as a teacher or a boarding master … it was the power – you didn’t really question what they were … I don’t think they [adults] believe you though either.’

His schooling suffered and he was asked to leave the school.

‘I left school feeling a real failure … I did feel aggrieved many years later … I spent 10 years of my life proving that [I had academic ability].’

Trevor studied through TAFE and then university and gained a number of degrees.

‘I just couldn’t quite work out why … I’d sit beside people [at university] and … I’m like “How come you’ve come straight through?” … It’s just taken me a lot longer time to get there.’

Trevor never told anyone about his abuse until a couple of years ago when he received a phone call from police enquiring about his treatment by the Brother. Another boy who had been at the school with Trevor had gone to police to make a statement about the man’s abuse and mentioned Trevor’s name. Trevor spoke with police and made a full statement. A number of other boys also came forward and spoke to police. The man was charged with multiple counts of child sexual offences and plead guilty.

But the trial was a disappointment to Trevor. Despite the perpetrator being jailed, Trevor found the judicial process confusing and unsatisfactory. He also felt that the fact they had to face their abuser was re-traumatising.

‘He’s in the dock. He gets … let out. We’re all in the corridor … he’s up one end we’re up the other end. People are wanting to fight him … We’ll end up in court, ourselves. The anger was …

‘The power that the priests and Brothers exhibited 35 years ago was not dissimilar on the day of the court … don’t ask questions … no explanation … it’s the same power that was going on, you just do as you’re told and you don’t ask questions.’

Trevor realised the full extent of his abuse during the trial.

‘What also became apparent during the recent trial was the sexual gratification [the Brother] was receiving while belting our bare buttocks with a solid rubber fan belt. The thought of this repulses me.’

Trevor feels that more respect needs to be shown for sexual abuse survivors when their cases are being heard.

‘Two people unfortunately aren’t here and that’s half the reason I’m here, because two people aren’t here … [their] charges were dropped.’

These men have died, one taking his own life, and Trevor believes that just because they can no longer stand in court and physically accuse their abuser, the crimes committed against them should not be forgotten.

‘The crown prosecutor then comes out after the sentencing boasting … beating her chest about, “Well we’ve nailed him, we’ve put him away”, but she … wasn’t acknowledging the two people that weren’t here. She wasn’t acknowledging what had actually happened.

‘There was no apology. There was nobody from the school. There was nobody from the church. He was just led away. And that was it.’

Trevor is talking to lawyers about proceeding with a civil claim against the school and the Church.

‘When Pell wouldn’t come back and he was in Rome and I found myself reading the papers intently, watching the television looking for that apology … and I think the day he said, “Well, it’s not really my problem”, I thought … I really have to do something … That was at the point where I found I really needed to speak to somebody.’

Trevor has difficulty opening up about his missing years, and is anxious about people finding out he is older than they think because he completed his studies and began his career years after them, ‘There’s just this period in my life that’s not there’.

He has received comprehensive support from a counselling organisation but finds his workplace unable to deal with the sensitive issues around the trauma he has experienced. He distrusts people and this distrust has seeped into his family relationships.

‘I have become disgruntled towards the double standards that I have lived my life. I expect trust and transparency from my family but do not offer the same to them and I have concealed a whole chapter of my life from my friends and family. Approximately, three years are missing from my life.’

Trevor still wants Cardinal Pell to apologise on behalf of the Catholic Church.

‘He’s the highest ranking Australian person in the Catholic Church today.’

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