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Zachary's story

Zachary was born in the mid-1950s in Western Australia. At the age of six, he was put into the care of his grandmother, a strict Catholic who regularly welcomed priests and Brothers into her home. Zachary did well at sports and his studies at a Perth Christian Brothers college.

Zachary told the Commissioner that Brother Ignatius started grooming him when he was in Grade 6, sitting next to him at sporting events and paying him attention. Then, one day in Grade 7, Brother Ignatius sat him down in the empty canteen and told him to pull down his trousers. Zachary was petrified. Brother Ignatius then started to play with his genitals and tried to get him to have an erection.

Zachary said, ‘At 13, you’ve got no sexual concept of what’s going on. I wasn’t masturbating or anything at that age. I mean, I was still developing’.

Eventually, Zachary become hysterical. Brother Ignatius threatened Zachary, saying ‘If you say anything, you will get a belting and you will be called a liar’.

Zachary kept quiet. Sometime later, one day, after playing cricket, Zachary turned around and Brother Ignatius was standing there in the toilet block with his penis erect, blocking Zachary from escaping. Brother Ignatius bent Zachary over the toilet and raped him.

‘I have never experienced anything so painful in all my life. The pain was unbelievable and I was just absolutely screaming by this stage. He was not giving me any mercy. There was no lubrication, there was no nothing. So he just ripped into me.’

Zachary, bleeding, walked the long eight kilometres home. He told his grandmother that he was not going back to the college and he told her why. She gave him a belting and accused him of being a liar. She took him to see the principal who said that it was best if he left the school.

He said this episode sent him off the rails. He was enrolled in the local state high school and started to abuse alcohol and drugs. He thought, ‘If they think I’m bad, I’ll show them how bad I can be’. He told the Commissioner, ‘At that stage I felt deserted, my grandmother, the only person I loved and the only person I was close to and the only one I trusted – she didn’t believe me’.

At 18 Zachary was able to stop the drugs and alcohol and he reconciled with his grandmother, although he never lived with her again. He has a wife and children and has been with the same employer for over 30 years.

When his grandmother was in her 80s, ‘my wife and I went and saw the old girl, and just out of the blue, we were there for lunch, she said to me “Zachary, remember back in the day you told me that story?” I said “Yes”. She said “Was that true?” And I said, “Yes, Ma. I told you it was true. You gave me a belting”. She started to cry. So obviously she’d started to understand what had been going on – because it was all coming out in the media – so devastating for her too’.

Zachary still has flashbacks and nightmares about the abuse. He has suffered all his life from an inability to sleep for more than an hour or two at a time. He has had ongoing treatment for severe depression and anger management and has been diagnosed as suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. He said, ‘I can describe Brother Ignatius to you in infinite detail at the time he attacked me. I can still see the gap in the teeth, the dark-rimmed glasses, when he looked over his glasses, the facial expression, the way he talked, his mannerisms’.

Zachary said that he has never been able to forgive the Catholic Church. He knows that Brother Ignatius - who has been accused of molesting over 200 boys - was moved around Australia by the Church, was ordained a priest, died in the 2010s and was never brought to justice.

Zachary said that he had decided not to engage in the Towards Healing process because he was cynical about it achieving anything. But he wants to see the Church made accountable.

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