Vance's story

‘I hate the friggen Catholic Church, I love God and I know there’s truth in faith, I believe in faith. There is a dirty, filthy sex demon within that Catholic Church.’

Vance was born into a Polish Catholic family in the mid-1980s. He said the Catholic faith was an important part of his childhood, but described family life as ‘dysfunctional’. His parents were alcoholics and after they split up when Vance was two years old, he was ‘juggled’ between them both for an extended period of time.

When Vance was eight he met a parish priest during his cousin’s christening. He said the priest lured him away and ‘tricked’ him into exposing his penis. As Vance did this, the priest masturbated himself under his robe. The priest told Vance that he was a ‘good boy’ and if he told anyone what happened his family would ‘burn in hell for their sins’.

Vance explained that he felt very confused about what occurred with the priest. He immediately ‘shut off’ and became obedient with everyone because he wanted to keep his family safe. Vance was scared of priests and his fear grew more pronounced at school. While he attended the local Catholic primary school, he was subjected to humiliation and physical abuse by a priest. He was told that he was ‘worthless’ several times a week for years, and was also ‘belted’ a few times.

At the same time Vance had joined the local Boys’ Brigade youth group. He attended the brigade at least once a week for a while. Vance said the man in charge, who he suspects was a priest, manipulated Vance and the other boys to take off their shirts and pants and then rub each other’s stomachs. The man joined in and would place his fingers in their boxers.

Vance recalled the man encouraging the boys to stroke each other’s penises to ‘please God’ before anointing them. The man sent the boys home with instructions to touch others in the same way and report back to him once they had completed the task. Vance doesn’t remember the man’s name or how many times the abuse occurred.

Vance’s education had begun to suffer because he couldn’t concentrate and was constantly in trouble. This did not change in high school. He started smoking marijuana regularly when he was 13 years old, and in the late 1990s he was expelled from school.

In his mid-teens Vance ‘found heroin’ and all his troubles ‘went away’. He remained addicted to heroin for many years. He lived with his father at the time and his drug dependence affected that relationship significantly. Vance met his girlfriend in his 20s. His father disliked her and that relationship suffered further. Vance hasn’t had any contact with his father for over seven years.

Vance has difficulty trusting men and is often uncomfortable around them. He also has trouble with affection and will ‘push people away’ intentionally. Vance ‘rebuked’ God and rejected the Catholic religion when he was 16 years old, which he believes caused ‘a lot of bad things’ to happen to him. He has spent the majority of his adulthood filled with anger and shame.

‘I’ve always felt worthless and I was never going to amount to anything. As time went by, my thoughts of myself were proving me right.’

In the late 2000s, Vance’s life spiraled out of control. His girlfriend became pregnant and he tried to stop his drug use to care for his child, but couldn’t cope and started using heroin again, which became a factor in the breakdown of his relationship. He lost contact with his child as well. Soon after, Vance was convicted of a serious crime and sentenced to several years in jail.

Vance first shared details of the abuse with another prison inmate in the early 2010s. The inmate had also been sexually abused as a child, something that made Vance comfortable with his disclosure.

Vance came to the Royal Commission to ‘close the chapter, close the book’ and to take the ‘pressures’ away. He said telling his story has helped him reconnect with God and he wants to seek redemption for his crimes.

‘It’s not any of our faults, we are not disgusting. We are just little innocent boys, with our innocence taken. We have been deceived by older, smarter, wiser men. That shouldn’t [have happened]. These guys are put in power to protect, not to take shit away from us. Not our dignity and innocence.’

Vance has recently started counselling and wants to take civil action against both institutions. He described his experience with the Royal Commission as ‘very cathartic’. He has reconnected with his daughter, and that bond is important to him. When he’s released from prison, he explained, he wants to help others and learn to trust people.

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