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Vince Matthew's story

‘I want it recorded that I am deeply in gratitude. I remember the day they announced it [the Royal Commission]. I cried and I cried. I was just by myself when I heard it and I thought “Yes”.’

Vince grew up in a religious Catholic family in the 1970s. He went to a Christian Brothers primary school in Melbourne. The culture there was of severe punishment and cruelty. On one occasion Vince was knocked unconscious. The school principal used to freeze a leather strap overnight so it was rock hard the next day.

In this ‘sea’ of threat and unpredictability, Brother Ryan ‘comes in as like an oasis, like “I’ll protect you” sort of thing’.

Ryan, one of Vince’s teachers when he was nine or 10 years old, groomed Vince. He befriended him and made Vince feel special. ‘Initially it was a breath of fresh air.’ However, he started telling Vince he was proud of him for becoming a man. Vince was maturing earlier than the other boys and Ryan would measure his leg and pubic hair. He would send Vince to the back of the classroom where he would whack him on the bottom, then rub it and hold his penis.

‘And I said nothing. I wanted him to be proud.'

‘The [reason] I punished myself for a period was that I allowed him to do this. To talk to me. And I thought, genuinely, that he cared for me. I’ve only just recently been through CASA [Centres Against Sexual Assault], I’m only learning about grooming.’ His father was busy when Vince was growing up and he remembers his absence being noted by Ryan.

On one occasion, when the boys were away on camp, Vince woke up one night to find Ryan lying next to him, watching him. ‘Then I was frightened.’

Vince went on to high school which was much better as it was bigger and had more lay teachers. As a teenager he saw Ryan in public one time. He hadn’t seen Ryan for years and wanted to greet him.

‘He saw me and he looked straight ahead … as if he didn’t want to know me … and that was the moment I realised that something was wrong.’ Vince realised what Ryan had done was wrong. And that Ryan knew it was wrong.

Vince worked at different jobs, always very hard. He would work 60 or 70 hour weeks. About 15 years ago he saw a TV expose on priests. Ryan’s name was mentioned. Vince saw his face and went into an emotional ‘freefall’.

‘I’ve been through a phase through [then] onwards, that I’ve come out of. To comfort myself, to ease the pain, I drank, I would smoke dope a lot. And it did help … I didn’t know how else to confront it. I’m the sort of person that I search inside and I try and find things to make things better. I’m not a depressive person. I’m not clinically depressed … and I’ve been seeing a lot of specialists. I’ve always wanted to try and work my way through things.

‘And there comes a point where I say “That’s enough dope” or “That’s enough drink”. Because I value my life too much. The other thing is I’m not going to let them win … I’m bigger than this. I’m bigger than them. In conclusion, with Ryan, and I’ve thought about this so much, that he was on a power trip … I was taller than him. I was bigger than him but yet I was vulnerable at the same time. And he knew he had that power over me … He really just got off on the fact that he had it over you.’

Last year, Vince broke down at work. He lost feeling in his legs. He sat in a nearby park and tried to ring his sister but the credit had run out on his phone. He took a deep breath and tried to relax while the feeling in his legs started to come back. ‘I kept on talking, saying “You can do it. You can do it. You can do it. They’re not going to win”. And I did it.’ Vince returned to work.

Recently Vince contacted the police through the sexual abuse task force, SANO. He’s not doing it for the money. He would like to see Ryan, who has already spent time in prison, get another two years.

To stay well, Vince exercises and is developing his interest in the arts and local activism. He loves to learn.

‘I hate the word closure because there is no closure.’

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