Innocence stolen by man of God: Vic victim

Australian Teacher Magazine
March 19, 2014

MELBOURNE, March 19 – A man allegedly abused by a Catholic Brother says he is still suffering more than 30 years after his innocence was stolen by a man of God.

American Brother Bernard Joseph Hartman, 74, allegedly abused two boys and two girls at Altona where he was a teacher at St Paul’s College between 1976 and 1982.

One of the victims told the Melbourne Magistrates Court the scars are still with him.

“In Year 11 in 1982 I wanted to kill him,” the man said in his victim statement to the court.

“I have lived a hard life because of my upbringing, all because of Brother Hartman.

“After more than 30 years I am still suffering.

“My innocence has been taken by a man of God.”

The man alleged Hartman would hit him with a metre-long ruler, slap and punch him and pull his hair.

He said the sexual abuse was constant and Hartman would even fondle him while others were in the Year 10 classroom.

“This used to happen all of the time,” he said.

“Mostly, every time he abused me sexually, he would finish up physically belting me.”

While Hartman appeared charismatic, in reality he was violent and out of control, the victim’s statement said.

“He would be salivating. He was a bit of a sadist,” he said.

He said if he didn’t meet Hartman’s demands he’d “cop a hiding”.

The man said when he told the headmaster, he was caned.

He believed staff at the school knew what was happening but “Brother Hartman could do no wrong”.

A young girl also allegedly abused by Hartman said he offered her 50c per photo if she agreed to be photographed naked, according to documents tendered to the court.

She said Hartman sexually abused her from age eight to 11.

He also allegedly showed her photos of naked girls and talked about sex.

Years later, the woman says she told a nun from Altona in 1999.

The nun told her there were two Brother Bernard Hartmans.

“(The nun) suggested that I shouldn’t tell anyone about what had happened as it may stir up problems in other people’s lives that they are not ready to deal with,” the woman said in her victim statement.

Another woman said Hartman began abusing her when she was five or six and told her it was a big secret.

She said she got no sympathy when as an adult she complained to the Altona parish priest about Hartman.

“He seemed almost annoyed,” she said.

“He kept saying these things are very difficult to prove.”

Hartman, who returned from the US to face the accusations, was on Wednesday committed to stand trial on 14 counts of indecent assault, two counts of gross indecency with a girl under 16 and two counts of assault.


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