Will grew up in Victoria in the 1970s. He told the Commissioner that ‘we hadn’t had a strong religious upbringing at all’ and the family only started going to church when he entered the Catholic school system in Grade 5. After primary school, Will was sent to a high school run by the Salesians.
During his first year, Will was called into the principal’s office and Father Symons asked him if he would like his photo in the school year book.
‘He showed me dozens of photos just of me, close-up photos … He must have used a telescopic lens … There was no one else in the frame ... I think he singled me out.’ The photos were taken the year before, when Grade 6 students visited the school for an orientation day.
Later in the year, a close relative died. Will was very upset and sent to counselling with Father Symons. ‘It was from there that events unfolded … I always equate … I have the same idea, if he hadn’t died, I wouldn’t have been in that situation … There’s resentment there. There’s all these horrible feelings …’
Father Symons sexually abused Will twice in his room in the presbytery. Students were not permitted to be in that area, and on one of these occasions, there were two priests sitting in the lounge room when Will walked out of the principal’s room.
One of the priests ‘nearly jumped out of the chair … and said, “What the hell’s going on?” Or “What the fuck’s going on?” or something like that. Something you don’t hear a priest say and I nearly … I was terrified. I thought, “Oh, my God, what have I done? I’m in trouble”’. Will ran out of the room. The second priest did not even look up from his newspaper. Neither of the men ever spoke to Will about the incident.
‘They’re the only people that I know would have had at least some thoughts or some knowledge about behaviour that wasn’t right. They didn’t assault me … but they were in a room at night when a child came out of the living quarters and you know … that’s impossible for me to believe that an adult doesn’t immediately think, “Something’s wrong here”.’
Will said, ‘I was terrified of what he said when I came out of that room, but I know now he wasn’t saying it to me, he was saying it to him. He was angry at him. But he should have gone on with that. He should have kicked his head in. He should have just taken it … done something then and there. As a man, I would’ve’.
Will has been attending a support group for two years and finds it helpful. ‘Being able to be in an environment with people that have shared similar experiences and talk freely, that part has helped … I don’t know if I’m ever supposed to recover or you know, my life’s … my way of thinking’s supposed to change. I don’t know if that’s supposed to happen, but as far as I can gather, it’s about just talking about emotions and …’
Will sought professional assistance after a road rage incident made him realise that he needed help. His counsellor encouraged him to report Symons to the police but, although he provided a statement, Will’s case never went to court. Symons was, however, charged with offences against other boys and sentenced to jail.
Although it has helped knowing that his abuser was jailed, ‘it doesn’t satisfy me … Unfortunately, I have … I want him dead. I want him to die. Sorry, that’s a terrible thing to say, [but] that’s the truth. It’s terrible to have to live with that and have that real hatred there’.
Will has suffered from depression since he was 17. He has had suicidal thoughts, and ‘a lot of revenge thoughts’. He said, ‘Intimate relationships I struggle with … being open with that person and letting them know, letting anyone too close … It comes to the point in the relationship where you need to be open about everything and I … turn them away. I just can’t do it. I’d rather … just be by myself really’.
Will said that he came to the Royal Commission to achieve ‘a sense of unburdening, and at least [have] a chance to tell someone who’s in a position to do something about it … if my evidence corroborated with any other evidence then I would be happy for that to be used … It must be a terrible job to do, but I’m glad you’re doing it’.