Vittorio describes himself as ‘just a normal kid’ in his early years. He enjoyed his primary school in Melbourne. His parents were very religious and so there was Church to attend every Sunday, as well as every Easter and Christmas. There was also religious instruction on Saturday mornings and serving as an altar boy from the age of eight or so, which is how Vittorio met Father Manfredi, the local priest.
After serving at weddings and baptisms, Vittorio and the other altar boys would go back to the presbytery with Father Manfredi. He’d buy the boys fish and chips and milk shakes. ‘And he said, “Come and lie down on the bed next to me”.’
Manfredi would then cuddle and fondle the boys. Vittorio doesn’t remember if he said not to tell anyone. One time it was just the two of them lying on the bed on their own. He remembers that Manfredi fondled his genitals.
‘We just lay on the bed … I didn’t know whether it was good or bad … I was only a kid.’
The sessions in the presbytery ended when Vittorio decided he didn’t want to be an altar boy anymore.
For the rest of his boyhood, Vittorio didn’t recognise that the abuse had any impact on his life and he certainly didn’t tell anyone about it. He got regular work and in fact prides himself on having worked hard all his life.
But in his 20s, he started to realise he wasn’t close to any of his family, or to women, or to people in general. He avoided family gatherings and didn’t talk to his siblings. He didn’t have serious relationships at all until he met Joanne in his 40s.
The relationship became rocky and they went to see a counsellor. The sexual abuse by Manfredi came to the surface, almost by accident, during these sessions. Although Vittorio and Joanne worked on their connection, and remain friends, the relationship ended.
Vittorio has been unhappy since then. ‘It just hasn’t been a good part of my life, the last four years … Sometimes I can cope with it, sometimes I can’t. I still haven’t got a lot of friends and I spend most of my time alone.’
He still hasn’t told his parents about the abuse. ‘They always went to church and I just … I just wouldn’t know how to tell them … they’re elderly.’
Vittorio’s been seeing different counsellors for the last couple of years and is slowly strengthening his ties with his family. He’s realised the nature of what happened in the presbytery with Manfredi and the extent of its impact on him. ‘I was groomed for his pleasure, I’d say.’
‘I’ve been in denial all the time … It’s affected my whole life, you know? … And it happened a lifetime ago.’
Vittorio recommended to the Commission that there should be more priests around. As far as he remembers, Manfredi was the only priest at the presbytery.
‘At least if there’s two or three around, one could stop the other.’