Wayne Thomas's story

Wayne describes his large Sydney family as being ‘bog ordinary’. They spent time in the bush on their block of land, played lots of sport, went to church every Sunday, and generally had a great time. The nuns at his Catholic primary school were tyrannical but lovely, so when he started at a Christian Brothers high school he was raring to go.

In his very first year at high school he met the young and friendly Brother Whitlock. Whitlock could be authoritarian but that was okay.

‘I used to be an altar boy and you would look on the clergy, anyone in robes, as a father figure. We weren’t afraid of these people, they were the people who cared and nurtured us.’

The boys gathered around Whitlock’s desk as he told them stories and talked about the books they were reading. A particular boy would always be perched on his knee. Wayne didn’t think it so strange that Whitlock’s hand was inside the boy’s shirt, but he did wonder ‘what’s the hand doing up there?’

Years later, Wayne talked to that boy, who told him ‘You wouldn’t know it but this bastard used to put his hand down my pants and play with my anus’.

Wayne suggested to Whitlock that, as a kind of group activity, the class could all go camping on his parents’ property by the water. His mum and dad gave Wayne permission to drive there with Whitlock and show him the shacks on the land and the place where the family went swimming.

Whitlock picked up Wayne after school and they drove down to the property. They went swimming and then walked back to one of the shacks.

‘He said “We’ll go into the bedroom.” And I didn’t know what he was talking about and I felt pretty uncomfortable … Then he wanted to dry me and I felt uncomfortable about that and I said “No I’ll dry myself”.’

‘I had no idea of sex at that time … None whatsoever … but I certainly felt scared and I was glad when we got out of there. For whatever reason I just felt this huge relief.’

When they were just about to drive out of the bush, Whitlock pulled into an isolated carpark. He pulled Wayne towards him and took his shorts down. ‘He masturbated me and then he put his mouth on my penis.’

Wayne kept his eyes closed and waited for it to stop. ‘I was terrified.’ Whitlock said nothing and they drove home in silence.

‘I was completely and utterly mortified. I didn’t know what the hell had just gone on.’

When Wayne got back home he told his mother he was feeling unwell, had a shower, and went straight to bed. Whitlock stayed and ate a meal with his parents.

Whitlock continued to make advances to Wayne at school when he was supervising the boys at the bus stop.

The boys had to wait at the stop until the school bus arrived, which meant Wayne ‘had to stand within view of this bloke for 45 minutes every afternoon. And he’d come and approach me and put his hand on my back and I would disappear. I would do everything that I could do not to have contact with this fella’.

Then, when the bus finally arrived, Whitlock would pat Wayne on the back and push him onto the bus.

After the abuse, Wayne changed. He was terrified of physical contact with men, including his own father. He couldn’t start or sustain any sort of connection with females. He was a poor student. He transformed from being the boy who couldn’t help his school enough, to a boy who just wanted to fight all the time.

Whitlock left the school when Wayne was at the end of Year 10. Wayne was so hostile to a new young Brother who started the next year that he asked Wayne what was wrong. Perhaps empowered by Whitlock’s absence, Wayne told him about the sexual abuse. Then, feeling bad that he hadn’t told them first, he went home and told his parents.

Wayne never went back to the school, or any other school. His mum went to talk to the principal. Until then Wayne had no idea that what Whitlock had done to him was a criminal offence. The cat was now out of the bag, in his view, and that was all that he needed.

It wasn’t till the early 1990s, spurred on by the Pope’s visit to Australia, that he formally told the police and the Church. This report led to Whitlock’s arrest.

Wayne has managed to move on with his life and is happily married, with his own children.

‘I still have bloody nightmares … I still suffer the effects of it, but as I’m getting older it’s becoming less.’

He doesn’t go out socialising with mates. In fact he doesn’t have friends outside his own family. He had one counselling session through the Towards Healing process but didn’t go back.

Wayne believes the main damage he suffered was to his education.

‘I started off high school all raring to go and really keen to do well and as a consequence of … a single event … that caused me then to not gain an education. And the consequences of that were profound.’

Wayne received a settlement from the Church and is now studying at university.

‘I believe there are bastards that work within this organisation but I don’t think that the Christian Brothers and the Catholics are evil. I think the likes of Whitlock are evil.’

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