Wayne grew up in a large family in the suburbs of Melbourne in the 1960s and, like many Catholic boys, became an altar boy for the local priest, Father Moyer.
Moyer sexually abused Wayne from the age of nine. ‘Mum was a very strict Catholic, which made it hard for me to tell anyone what was happening at the time … It just was continuous over a four-year period. He favoured me over the other altar boys. The other boys used to tease me, saying “You’re Moyer’s favourite”.’
Moyer gave Wayne a job in the presbytery after school, and often abused him there. He would also come to Wayne’s house offering gifts such as a bicycle, a desk, or trips away.
‘A lot of the abuse happened on those trips away – sexual abuse. He used to give me alcohol at times which I took because it used to help numb what was happening to me, what he did to me.’
Using alcohol to numb the pain became a habit that turned into an addiction and overtook Wayne’s adult life. He managed to work and keep a family life going with his wife and children, but he used alcohol as a crutch for most of his life.
Wayne didn’t tell anybody about the abuse until he was in his 30s, when he saw a TV program about an investigation into child sex abuse and he phoned the police. The police came and interviewed him, and he told them everything Moyer had done to him, but he heard little more from them after that.
‘I sort of read that he’d been charged in the newspapers and he’d been jailed for what he did to me, but I also found out that there was another 40 other children that he abused at the time. I thought I was the only one. That was a shock to me, to think that it was so prolific.’
Wayne said disclosing the abuse opened a big can of worms in his life and he had a mental breakdown. He was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and started taking prescription medication, and he continued to self-medicate with alcohol. ‘I was still really, really messed up … It was either work really, really hard, go like crazy seven days a week, or drink. That was my life … Him getting jail didn’t heal the pain.’
Wayne went through Towards Healing, but said there was no justice in it and he felt that he was treated unfairly. The whole thing took about two years and he had to re-tell his story each time he went through a different stage of the process. Despite Moyer already being jailed, Wayne felt like he had to keep proving that something had happened, and that the Church simply didn’t believe him. ‘Every time I had to see someone I felt like the victim again.’
Was awarded a modest sum but his family were in dire financial straits by then and the money went on survival needs. ‘The money didn’t heal me. It didn’t make me any better really. I didn’t care about the money. At that time I wanted more for the Church to say “We shifted him from parish to parish”. They knew. I’m sure they knew.’
This is one of the things that troubles Wayne the most – that people must have known what was going on. He said there were often other adults around in the presbytery when he was there, but none of them questioned what a young boy was doing alone with a priest all the time. No-one, including his parents, questioned the frequent sleepovers at the presbytery. On one occasion, when Moyer was abusing Wayne in the shower, he heard another priest in the shower next door blowing his nose. He still can’t believe how he could hear the other priest so clearly, yet the other priest couldn’t hear him crying out from the abuse.
Despite the Church’s assertion that they’re prepared to review past cases, Wayne said he doesn’t feel strong enough to go through it all again. He just wants the Church to be accountable for what happened to him and other children, and to stop saying they didn’t know. He found telling his story to the Royal Commission very difficult given the feelings it brought up. It was the first time he had ever talked about the abuse while sober.
He recently completed a rehab program for alcoholism.
‘It’s sort of like I’ve been in a coma for 45 years and I’m just starting to realise there’s a good life out there again, so I’m really proud of that.'
'I’ve used it to self-medicate. I’ve been in and out of mental hospitals with a lot of suicide attempts. The most recent suicide attempt was only last year in rehab … I feel like I’m on top of it now but it’s only – I’m in recovery.’
Wayne is now looking forward to starting a new life. After finding counselling very helpful, he has gone back to train in the field of community service and feels he has a lot to offer those who have experienced drug and alcohol or mental health issues.
‘It hasn’t been easy. It’s taken a long time to get to this stage but I’ve had some fantastic people that have really supported me – psychologists and the [people in] rehab themselves … They’re human beings like me, aren’t they? … There’s some beautiful people out there.’