Tristan was eight years old, and was in school choir practice when his choir teacher abruptly led him away. Tristan thought he was in trouble. She took him down into the church and told him to wait there. Tristan recalls there was a small group of other boys nearby.
A man then came and led Tristan to a quiet place to the side. He was gently spoken. Now alone, the man touched Tristan on the groin. Tristan froze.
‘I remember the temperature and I remember the sunlight outside that day … as I’m standing there. Frozen … and I remember the touch.’ It didn’t last long. Then the man said, ‘You’re good now’. He led Tristan back to the seat where he had been waiting. Tristan has no idea who this person was or whether or not he was clergy.
The incident occurred in the 1980s when Tristan was at a Catholic primary school overseen by nuns who he remembered as very strict and harsh. At around the same time as the choir incident, one of the nuns caned Tristan and a line-up of other boys. Although they were caned on the fingers they had to take their trousers down.
Tristan loved schoolwork but immediately after the sexual abuse in the church, he went completely blank for about three weeks. ‘I couldn’t function.’ He thinks this affected him academically throughout life.
Shortly afterwards Tristan was at a children’s party. A man led him away and, with Tristan semi-naked, led him to another man, who took photos of him. Tristan found this very disturbing and remembers he was crying when his father came to pick him up.
‘This is something that I’ve been squashing because … the permanent feeling, like you’ve done something wrong. That’s a very strong part of it.’
Tristan has a career and finds work rewarding. He’s also studying. After he and his wife were together for about five years, she noticed he was angry and drinking a lot. They talked about it and he disclosed the abuse to her. This was his first disclosure. His wife was supportive and urged him to see a counsellor.
Tristan found counselling very helpful. He noticed during that process that after he talked about his sexual abuse to his counsellor he became agitated and upset. Consequently he returned to counselling, extending beyond his initial four sessions.
Tristan respects spirituality and religion. He blames individuals, not the whole Church, for what happened to him. However, an apology from the Church would be meaningful to him, as an act of respect.
Watching his child grow up has been a trigger for Tristan. He and his wife decided not to send their child to a Catholic school – a choice Tristan finds interesting, given his interest in spirituality.