‘I do not remember one sunny day at that college. Every day was grey.’
Viktor grew up in a devout Catholic family. He and his family attended mass every week and his parents spoke ‘glowingly’ of the priests in their local parish. One of his uncles was a priest and the family was very proud of this fact.
In the mid-1960s in Victoria, Viktor started school at the same Catholic college his older brothers attended. The school had large classes of around 40 boys and each term the students were academically ranked against one another in their class. Viktor was an intelligent student who would always comply with his teachers and priests.
He first encountered Father George Holtan when he was 11 years old. He said Holtan would ‘walk up’ to students in the playground and say that he would ‘like to have a little chat’ with them. Viktor followed Holtan to his bedroom, which was on the school premises, and the door would be locked and the curtains drawn. Holtan sat on a chair directly opposite Viktor and would make sure both their knees were touching. He said Holtan always held his hands, then stroked his legs, then moved to his inner thighs.
‘To this day I cannot remember any topic that he discussed with me, nothing. Not religious, not life, nothing. When you sat there, you froze.’
This continued on a regular basis for a two-year period. Viktor recalled receiving a ‘religious card’ with a particular saint on it after each visit, which he kept and still has today. With the benefit of hindsight, he believes that this was a technique Holtan used to make it look like the student ‘chats’ he had were religious sessions.
Viktor’s grades deteriorated significantly after his first encounter with Holtan. He went from being a top student to the bottom in his class. He felt horribly confused about the abuse and didn’t understand what was going on. He said when he tried to tell his mother, nothing was done.
‘I didn’t understand anything about sex until I had my first sex lesson at school when I was 14. For what he was doing, I couldn’t associate its purpose because my mother and father wouldn’t do that. No one did that.’
When he was 11 years old, he went to the college’s farm during the school holidays. He remembers being excited about exploring rural Victoria and discovering how to run a farm. The farm was run by Father Bryant. Bryant approached Viktor and started talking about body building. Viktor was interested in ‘bulking’ his body and so followed Bryant to have a lesson.
‘He said, “You’ve got a really good sun tan. Let’s compare sun tans, take off your top”. I said [no]. He took his shirt off and there was his muscular frame, hairy chest I can still see to this day. I refused and he said, “I want to compare it to mine”, I froze and he came around the desk to take off my t-shirt, forcibly. He said, “Let’s see how strong you are”, and he pushed me to the ground, knelt beside me and held my arms down. I was petrified and he was laughing and grunting.’
Bryant then picked him up, sat down and placed him on his lap and started rubbing his body. Viktor said he thought Bryant had ‘eight hands’ because they moved so quickly. He managed to escape his grip and then Bryant told him to leave the room. He then ran back to the dormitory where he found his brother and his brother’s friends.
‘I told them the story. [One of them] said, “You are so lucky because he was about to get his cock”. I will never ever forget that.’
A few days later Bryant took Viktor on a private shooting lesson. He took him into the bushes and, as he was showing him how to fire the rifle, he started hugging him. At that moment two people walked past them, which seemed to ‘spook’ Bryant and he cut short the trip. Viktor is sure if those people had not arrived, Bryant would have raped him.
Back at school, Viktor was approached by one of his teachers, Thomas Harper, who was known to be a ‘pedo’. He said Harper invited boys into his room to perform oral sex on numerous occasions. Harper ‘interrogated’ Viktor about his sex life and demanded to know why he wasn’t gay. He left the room after an hour of being yelled at by Harper.
Viktor progressed through high school as an average student. He said that he lacked confidence and his academic performance didn’t reflect his full potential. He blocked out the abuse for many years and never told anyone. He developed hypervigilance in his early teens which progressed into intense panic attacks in his 20s. He mistrusts everyone and always suspects ‘their worst intentions’.
It wasn’t until the early 2000s that Viktor spoke about the abuse. He read an article about Bryant and felt he had to say something. He decided against making a statement as he didn’t want to involve himself or his family in a court case. He then wrote to the school in the late 2000s about the abuse. The school acknowledged what happened and apologised and Viktor is currently working with solicitors to seek civil compensation.
Viktor recommended that all religious institutions should complete a thorough audit of their clergy. He believes all religious personnel should undergo annual accreditation processes. Viktor wants schools to include child sexual abuse facts and programs to identify signs of paedophile activity. Medical practitioners should have a mandatory obligation to report all paedophiles. Viktor also believes there should be a vow of celibacy that includes child sex and that there should be a complete ban on one-on-one religious instruction.
‘It is something that I don’t want anyone to go through. Even though there was not the sexual kind of act, it’s almost the fear of the unknown [which] is the haunting part of it.’