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Zachary Paul's story

‘Primary school was a bit scary, you know, like you always got the cane. They were always flogging us … I think that was to prepare us for secondary school … They wanted us to be good by the time we go to secondary school, so they could educate us.’

In the 1970s, Zachary attended a Catholic college run by the Marist Brothers. In Year 7, his form master was Brother Felix. ‘He pretty much welcomed everybody like the way he welcomed me. Seemed like a really genuine person, very caring. And as it turned out, he wasn’t.’

Zachary told the Commissioner, ‘I went and spoke to him one day and it just sort of started from there. My mother caught me masturbating at home. Said it was filthy and was wrong and I shouldn’t be doing it and that, and sort of hated me for a few days, and he must have noticed that there was something wrong with me, and he asked me, and I told him’.

Brother Felix told Zachary, ‘It’s natural and it’s normal to do it. It’s okay because I work for God. So you can trust me’.

‘I sort of thought it was okay, all normal, because when he did touch me, I got an erection’, Zachary said.

Brother Felix sexually abused Zachary about three times a week for the remainder of the year. He touched Zachary inappropriately and eventually had sex with him. The abuse occurred mainly in a room off Brother Felix’s office. ‘I remember being in there so many times, and other teachers come in to talk to him, other students come in to talk to him and I’d just be on the other side of the wall.’

School ‘became a challenge … I didn’t know what was going to happen after Year 7, so I thought, “That’s it. I’m just going to start fighting these mongrels … I’ll show ‘em I’m not scared”. So I did. I turned into quite a violent person. Shitloads of fights … I think that’s what got me out of it. Maybe he was worried that I was going to just get stuck into him one day or something’.

None of the boys spoke about Brother Felix, but Zachary would see kids coming out of his office ‘right up until Year 10 when I left the school … I didn’t have the guts to do anything about it ... I used to feel really guilty about that. I don’t any more. I feel a bit upset about it still, but I used to feel really guilty. I used to think, “Thank Christ it’s not me”, I suppose. How selfish is that?’

When Zachary spent Christmas with relatives, his cousin showed him some pornographic magazines and Zachary queried why there were no pictures of men having sex with each other. His cousin told him, ‘Blokes don’t have sex with each other’ and Zachary wondered ‘what the hell’ had been going on with Brother Felix.

‘I just felt disgusted, filthy. I spent weeks trying to clean myself with a toothbrush. Burned myself. Cleaning products. Trying to make myself feel clean. Nothing sort of made it feel any better. I was just too embarrassed to tell anyone, I think. “What are people going to think? Are they going to think I led him on”?’

Zachary recalled, ‘There was even one time there … I actually cared for him, cared about him, because I thought he cared about me. I wasn’t going to tell anybody then. Thought I might lose, didn’t know what I was going to lose’. Zachary said, ‘Still to this day, [my mother has] never once said she loves me or given me a cuddle, so it just seemed right at the time’.

As an adult, Zachary has had mental health issues, but has been seeing a counsellor for a number of years. ‘It’s got me where I am today. People say you have to do things yourself. That’s true to a certain extent, but … [you need] people showing you the right way …

‘I’m glad there’s something like this that people can be heard, yeah, and anything that I can say that might be able to help in the future in any way, I’d be more than happy to … I don’t want to be sitting down in 10 years’ time saying, “Why the bloody hell didn’t I do that? Why didn’t I have my say then?” And I think it’s just going to make me feel better, too.

‘I’m sure there’ll be some that will never come forward and that’s really sad when you think about that. People have to live the rest of their life with all that crap they’re trying to deal with in their head, when it was no fault of their own … I’m really glad that I came. These aren’t crying tears. These are happy sort of tears now … I feel great.’

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