Will and his brothers were sent to a St Vincent de Paul boys’ home in the 1970s, when welfare decided that their parents were no longer fit to care for them. They were quickly separated from each other, dispersed among the hundreds of boys living there.
Will was eight or nine years old. The home was a violent place, but they had no choice but to put up with it. Survival was a daily challenge for all of the children but Will had an extra challenge of his own, being born with a significant hearing loss.
In order to be ‘two or three steps ahead of what happened next’, his eyes were everything. He wasn’t taught sign language or sent to deaf school. ‘I’d use my vision to survive.’
Will had another big challenge, in that no one understood him when he spoke. So he practised speaking in front of a mirror to learn what different words should look like as they were being formed.
Brother Carey had his quarters at the end of Will’s dormitory. He would wake Will in the middle of the night and take him to his room. ‘I was taken away, one clock, two o’clock in the morning.’
Carey would tell Will to drop his pants and then fondle him. This progressed to the point where he would masturbate Will.
‘I had to do it, didn’t I? What can I do? … It happened in the bedroom, it happened in his apartment. It happened quite a few times … I was confused. It was more than just that. I felt like a guinea pig.’
Will didn’t tell anyone. ‘I thought to myself “Am I the only one?” … Too frightened to speak about it. Or no one’d believe me because they couldn’t understand what I was saying.’
Will had foster parents who would take him out on weekends. But ‘sometimes I was kept back’. Then Carey would abuse him again. ‘That happened a couple of times at least. He’d take advantage of me and use that as an excuse to please himself.’
One weekend, one of Will’s brothers told their parents that he was being sexually abused in the home. ‘Got back to the office and there’s four guys in there with suits.’
The men questioned Will, and he told them he was being sexually abused too. The next day Will and his brothers were removed from the home, and sent to another facility.
Years later, a group of boys laid charges against Carey. It was a long drawn-out legal process and not all the former residents of the home made it through. Some of them suicided. In the end only a handful were left to attend Carey’s committal hearing.
Will didn’t have an interpreter, which made following the proceedings very difficult. ‘I was the last person to know what was going on.’
He also gave evidence against Carey at the hearing. ‘I had to use my voice in court … I had to put two and two together, lip-reading, to understand what questions they asked me.’
‘I told ‘em the detail of what he done. And I actually said the words “He masturbated me”. And location, bedroom, my bed ... I said “He done that”. And I looked straight at him.’
Carey was convicted and sentenced to several years in prison. The boys didn’t get an apology, although one was requested. All in all it was an unhappy experience and they felt abused all over again.
‘It was mostly just swept under the carpet … We were all confused … and it continued on for the next two years, all this drama, paperwork ... I don’t know whether it was a waste of time or not.’
Will deeply regrets the education he missed out on as a child. He wondered what he might have achieved if he’d been sent to a school for deaf children, learnt sign language, and been able to express himself.
‘Education is very important … to kids, especially Deaf people. Deaf kids who can’t defend themselves, can’t speak even. I’m lucky enough to be able to do what I can do now.’
Will won’t take the anti-depressants that the doctors recommend to him. Instead he sees a psychologist and works things out that way.
‘It’s my choice now to try and do the best I can and make more comfort in my life and be happy with it ... to get back to normal.’
Awareness is a major issue for Will when it comes to the protection of children.
‘It comes to awareness, education. The two need to be put together.
‘I’m still trying to figure out my identity … We didn’t have the chance to do that. If you give the kids that chance to identify who they are, they will speak out.’