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Vincent Peter's story

‘This Royal Commission will go on, various recommendations will be made, but 10 years down the track it’ll all be gone, it’ll all be forgotten. The paedophiles will be back in business – well no, it’ll be less than 10 years, you know – and nothing will change ’cause you basically can’t change human nature.’

Vincent said he wasn’t hopeful that the abuse of children could be prevented.

‘There’s no way to protect children, you know’, he said. ‘I mean it’d be great if it could happen, but see our society’s becoming more and more dysfunctional, you know. There’s, because of financial pressures and all that sort of thing, couples are splitting up, the kids are with the single mother or single dad or whatever.’

In the early 1950s, Vincent was 10 years old when his mother sent him to a Catholic boarding school in Queensland. During the year he was there, Vincent was sexually abused by two Marist Brothers, one of whom visited the school and spoke to boys individually about their vocational guidance.

‘During that whole interview he had his hand up my shorts playing with my penis’, Vincent said. ‘And I thought it was some sort of a test. You know, I mean kids don’t know. But that was the only time I ever saw him. But it was the one that was teaching at the school who kept interfering with me, you know.’

Throughout the school year, the second Brother would wake Vincent from sleep, take him to the bathroom and sexually abuse him.

‘He’d give me a bath and his hands would be all over me with soap and that, and he was sitting on a stool on the edge of the bath, and then he’d get me out of the bath and he’d sit me on his lap and he’d be rubbing his penis up and down between the cheeks of my bottom.’

To get away from the Brother, Vincent once spent the night hiding in a school shed. When found, he was stripped naked and ‘got a hiding’ from each of the Brothers ‘from the shoulder down to the back of your legs’.

Vincent didn’t tell anyone about the abuse because ‘we were all terrified of this bloke’ and ‘it wouldn’t matter who you told, you’d be called a dirty little boy and get another hiding’.

He later wondered if he’d been ‘a good target’ because he didn’t have a father.

While the abuse was occurring, Vincent ‘developed this trick’ whereby he’d ‘disappear inside my own head so nothing was happening’ and ‘it’s not me’.

This pattern continued into adulthood and he found it hard to concentrate in workplaces. ‘I’d be sitting at the desk and I wasn’t there’, he said. ‘Like this became a personal sort of habit.’ As a consequence of ‘this daydreaming business’, he would eventually feel pressure to leave the job or else he’d be sacked.

Vincent described having several ‘mental breakdowns’ and although he was ‘attracted to girls’ he had ‘a fear of being touched’.

By 18, he was drinking heavily ‘and what a balm alcohol was’. He said alcohol took away all his fear. ‘I lived in fear all my life and I don’t know what I was frightened of’, but ‘alcohol was the most wonderful thing on earth’ and took away all his fear.

He married in his 30s and had children but the marriage didn’t last long. Along the way Vincent had seen various therapists and counsellors but hadn’t mentioned the abuse because he was ‘too ashamed’.

‘I can’t remember how old I was when I first went to a psychiatrist. I really can’t, but I’ve been to quite a lot. A lot of them I feel are bloody useless, the odd one was sort of, pretty um, had empathy. And I’ve been on, God, every sort of pill known to man you know, but now I’m not on the real heavy drugs anymore.’

At some point Vincent approached Towards Healing but found they were ‘a pack of bastards’. The interview process was difficult, and as had happened in other stressful situations his ‘mind turns to sludge’. He suggested seeing a lawyer but this was discouraged by Towards Healing staff and in his statement to them, Vincent didn’t mention his ‘mental breakdowns or my alcoholism or anything’ because he ‘couldn’t think’.

During his final interview, Vincent was asked to nominate a compensation amount and replied that he wanted ‘five million’. He was offered $20,000 which he rejected. He later accepted $40,000.

‘The only punishment you can inflict on the Catholic Church is taking their money from them. The thing they value the most is their money and they’ve got enormous quantities of it. This business that I went through was all wrong. You can’t have mentally ill people trying to defend themselves, trying to act for themselves, you know what I mean?’

He isn’t optimistic about the future. ‘I mean my life’s over, you know, like realistically, I’m on the old age pension. I’m battling along as best I can, that’s it, you know. The vulnerability of children – it’s so important to protect that, ’cause they’re so trusting, you know, and they’re so easily influenced.’

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