‘I’d pushed this thing down and I didn’t want it rearing its head. I wanted to just lead a full, normal life and forget about it. It took this Royal Commission and then I thought … I just want my story out there.’
Wil grew up in a small farming community in Western Australia and attended a local primary school. Then, in the mid-1970s, he was sent to a Catholic boarding school for his secondary education.
‘I was quite a homesick kid throughout the time there I guess … It was a real change going from having someone, where your nearest neighbour is two miles away, to having 50 kids in a boarding house sort of thing. So I struggled with that. But I still managed to do okay at school and managed to get involved in sports.’
Wil described the first few years at the school in a positive way, but his experiences drastically changed when Brother Lawsen took over as dormitory master. Initially, Wil knew him as a ‘jovial’ person and thought of him as one of the nicer Brothers.
The sexual abuse began when Brother Lawsen singled Wil out and punished him for talking after lights out. In front of all the other boys Wil was told to remove his pants. The Brother then beat him with a leather strap and threatened him with expulsion.
‘Finances on the farm were always terrible … I being Dad’s friend as well as his son, I’m fully – I understand what it means to him that he sent me to this school. So I didn’t want to make trouble and get myself kicked out of the school.’
Brother Lawsen told Wil that if he cooperated he could stop him from being expelled. Over the course of two terms he raped Wil numerous times, warning him not to tell anyone and continuing to threaten him with expulsion.
Wil became very good at avoiding the Brother. ‘I just made sure that I was anywhere else except where I was supposed to be.’ When he became ‘cagey’ so that no one could get near him, he was ridiculed by the other boys. ‘Consequently I ended up with no friends … and I’m sure everyone would have noticed the change in me … Here I was this kid who had just been terrorised …
‘I coped by pushing it down, deep into my heart, as far as it would go.’
After leaving school, the abuse continued to have an impact on his relationships and Wil didn’t think he’d ever be able to have a friend again. He experienced depression, and sometimes the sadness was so overwhelming that he was unable to enjoy the things he previously loved doing.
Wil never reported the abuse to police. He was embarrassed and felt that he wouldn’t win against the Church. ‘I’ve always watched TV and how these things have just been slammed back in the victim’s faces pretty much; I don’t think I ever saw on TV anyone who ever won anything against the Church.’
The media attention of the Royal Commission brought up a lot of traumatic memories for Wil but he was determined to keep it together for the sake of his family. ‘What stops me from falling from grace … is just the fact that, who am I gonna hurt? My whole family’s going to be hurt … Everyone else I love gets hurt.’
Wil still has faith as a Catholic and is hopeful for the future. Close relationships and friendships continue to help him build his resilience. One of the most important things has been being believed by his family and friends. His parents, he said, ‘are the most amazing supportive people that you could ever imagine’.