VICTIM to Brother: These Were Your Demons
April 15, 2016
The first time he saw them they were vulnerable young boys, a long way from home.
But on Friday, sitting in the dock of Sydney's District Court, it was Christian Brother William Peter Standen who was powerless, one of his victims said.
The former schoolmaster watched with head bowed as the men he indecently assaulted as children, often under the guise of tuition or discipline, took turns to face their abuser.
"I now know that I can look at you and see clearly that your power is rapidly diminishing, whilst my power continues to grow and flourish," one man told Standen.
"As it turns out, these were your demons, not mine.
"I have faced them, taken them on and defeated them."
The bespectacled 66-year-old faced sentencing proceedings this week after admitting indecent assaults or acts against 18 former students at the regional NSW boarding school where he taught during the late 1970s and 1980s.
Standen, also known as "Brother David", is a former principal of Sydney's exclusive St Mary's Cathedral College, though the crimes for which he is now being sentenced pre-dated his position at the sandstone institution and did not occur at that school.
Court documents detail a pattern of abuse in which Standen's victims - boys who were mostly aged 11 or 12, and who cannot be named for legal reasons - were summoned to his quarters after "lights out" under the guise of discipline or tuition.
Standen would direct boys to bend over, or to lie face-down on his bed or across his knee, and smack or rub their bottoms as he quizzed them on mathematics or tested their spelling.
"To say I was terrified would not be a strong enough word," one man recalled of the assaults.
"Every minute of my life was taken up with avoiding Brother Standen. So bad was my fear that I would wet the bed to avoid meeting Brother Standen at night on the way to the bathroom. I became a loner who trusted nobody and feared everyone."
Other victims recalled being fondled through their underwear, or watched in the showers.
One by one, Standen's victims told of their humiliation and terror at the secret punishments.
"I remember the sense of loneliness as my father and sister left me there that afternoon but my father insisted that the brothers would look after me and take care of me," said one man, as he recalled the day his family dropped him off for his first term of high school.
The abuse began within weeks.
"I had never been disciplined like this before in my life," the man said in his statement.
"I was naive. I didn't know whether this punishment was only for particularly bad boys or whether this was the norm.
"After all, I had been indoctrinated from birth that when in times of strife, turn to the church, and these Christian brothers were men of the church."
Several of the men told how Standen's crimes had shaken their religious faith and had led to family break-ups and life-long struggles with drug and alcohol abuse.
Standen is expected to be sentenced at a later date.
In a statement issued after Friday's hearing, Christian Brothers Oceania said the victims were "deserving of protection" and were "tragically let down".
"No one in the court today to hear the impact of abuse on the lives of those who had been abused as children, could be left unmoved by their stories."