Child Sexual Abuse Inquiry: Christian Brother Called 12yo Boy "Evil" As He Abused Him, Royal Commission Hears

By Peta Carlyon
Radio Australia
May 21, 2015

Victim Stephen Woods recalls being abused by three different members of the Catholic clergy when he was a schoolboy, as the royal commission continues a hearing in Ballarat.

Stephen Woods said he was abused by three different Catholic clergy while growing up in Ballarat. (Credit: ABC)

More tales of horrific abuse have emerged in the third day of the royal commission hearing in Ballarat, with victim Stephen Woods recalling being abused by three different members of the Catholic clergy when he was a schoolboy.

Mr Woods wept in the witness box as he told the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse his parents were "shattered" about the abuse, and his father once took a loaded shotgun to carry out retribution but did not go through with it.

He said his mother lost her Catholic faith after 70 years, and he was left grieving for his "lost life".

"The fact I have no career, no solid relationship, no fixed address ... it's indicative of the sexual abuse inflicted upon me," Mr Woods told the commission.

"My self-esteem was totally shattered. I had a total breakdown. I became suicidal.

"I also have complete, complex, post-traumatic stress disorder. I feel like I have no future."

Mr Woods told the hearing he knew he was gay from a young age.

He said he thought notorious paedophile Robert Best first caught wind of this when he was a 12-year-old at St Alipius Primary School.

"[Best] wanted to know all the details," he said.

"He had me and another 12-year-old boy enact a sexual act in front of him."

He described Best's abuse as both physical and psychological.

"He told me I was bad, he told me I was evil and that I deserved what he did to me," Mr Woods said.

"He told me, 'this is all your fault'. I heard these words from him over and over and over again."

Mr Woods said parents of boys at the school believed Best was a good disciplinarian.

"What our parents didn't know was his control over us was through graphic violence and utter fear," he said.

Mr Woods also recalled being abused by then-brother Edward Dowlan at St Patrick's.

Then, when he went to ask advice about his sexuality from the school's priest, he was directed to prolific child sex offender Gerald Ridsdale, who raped him almost straight away.

"He was two and a half times my size," Mr Woods said.

"I couldn't wait to leave Ballarat. I felt so alone."

Mr Woods cried as he recalled how he did not tell his mother about the abuse until the 1990s, when Ridsdale was first charged.

He said later, after he had gone to the police and Best was acquitted of the charges relating to him, he was devastated.

"I became clinically depressed, I became suicidal," he said.

"To see him get off due to legal word games was one of the worst betrayals of my life."

He said when he "decided to go public", it was "to highlight the systemic corruption within the Church, the cover-up," and "it was quite literally, like the dam bursting".

Mr Woods said he needed a second hip replacement, but he planned to travel around Australia helping other abuse victims.

Victim bashed abuser after he was raped

Victim Paul Tatchell also gave evidence of his abuse, also at the hands of Brother Dowlan at St Patrick's.

He said he always felt he could handle himself around Dowlan, but then he was raped.

"He put me in an awkward position ... he raped me. I kicked him back sideways and tied up my pyjama pants," Mr Tatchell said.

"I started abusing him. I said, 'you bastard'.

"I walked back into the room and started belting him, I couldn't stop."

Mr Tatchell said he was running a pub in Melbourne in the 1990s when a lawyer's compensation cheque arrived.

"I didn't want to know about it ... I gave it all away because it was bloody money," he said.

"I had my day in court. I told him what I thought of him. I told him what I thought about the things he did."

Mr Tatchell said the issue of child sex abuse in Ballarat was "much more complex than money".

"The buck has to stop somewhere and in Australia that's with George Pell," he said.








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