Rosmini College sex abuse investigation: ‘This has haunted me for 45 years’

Brother William Jackson is believed to have sexually abused at least four boys while teaching at Rosmini College in Auckland during the late 1960s and early 1970s. He’s apologised for the abuse, despite claiming he can’t remember it, and the church has paid compensation to one victim. But Jackson won’t be held to account in New Zealand because he’s in his late 70s and living in England. Elizabeth Binning reports.

As a child Tim desperately wanted to be in the choir so when Brother William Jackson, the school’s music teacher, suggested some private voice training he jumped at the opportunity.

There was no way the 12-year-old could foresee what was about to unfold in the music room — or the 45 years of suffering that would follow.

“I would have gone out of my way to say ‘Brother Jackson can I be in the choir’ and it was ‘Sure, come and do some practice’.”

Jackson’s voice training involved getting boys to try to hit a certain note. When they couldn’t he helped them with “diaphragm practice” — something that involved him pressing on their lower abdomen.

Tim vividly recalls not being able to hit the note and the events that unfolded. He says Jackson told him his pants were too tight so he unfastened them, placed his hands inside his shorts and molested him.

“I had nowhere to go because I had my back up against the wall … I froze … I didn’t know what to do,” he said.

READ MORE: Rosmini College sex abuse: Priest William Jackson escapes justice

“I can’t recall what happened after he took his hand out, but I feel like my life changed forever after that.”

At the time the confused and scared schoolboy thought it must have been his fault.

“I was a kid, he was a man and [I thought] he was doing this to me because I had been bad and wrong,” he said.

“I ran away from him after it happened and I wouldn’t go within 100m of him.”

Tim didn’t know it at the time but the parents of other children approached the school later with similar allegations about Jackson and his private voice training sessions.

“Then he disappeared.”

After leaving Rosmini College, Tim says, he buried what had happened in the back of his mind and tried to get on with life. But the impact has never left him despite years of counselling.

He had nightmares, was smoking “a considerable quantity” of cannabis and drinking “four bottles of wine a night to sleep”. He had failed relationships and carried an intense anger throughout his life.

“This has had a major impact on my life,” he said.

“For 45 years this thing haunted me and I nearly killed myself several times.”

During his police interview Jackson, who is now living in a retirement village for elderly Rosminian priests in England, was asked if he remembered Tim — or any of the other three boys he was accused of offending against.

He said he didn’t remember Tim or two of the other boys but remembered the fourth as “a bigger than life character” and “absolutely brilliant”.

“He occupied the room when he came into it, he just took everyone’s attention, a brilliant chap.”

Jackson said he was given the challenge of trying to get all of the junior boys singing without yelling or screaming. He says classroom lessons ended up being a series of giggles and so he did some one-on-one training after school. “I was just trying to refine them really,” he told police before adding boys here were very different to the UK and “we had a lot of fun”.

Jackson acknowledged how it might have looked to any parents if they saw the voice training and apologised.

“I have given this a lot of thought and I’m so sorry to have caused any distress because all I wanted to do was get those kids singing and for the most part we did enjoy ourselves.”

Tim never told anyone about what happened to him until the early 1990s when he finally spoke to his now ex-wife. He then pushed it out of his mind again until 2017 when he saw someone on television talking about sexual abuse survivors.

He then decided that the time had come to confront the school, so made an appointment with current headmaster Nixon Cooper.

“I walked out of his office and I thought ‘What’s going on, I feel lighter’. Not only did he say ‘I believe you’, he said ‘It’s not your fault.”

From there Tim spoke to the Catholic Church’s Professional Standards office and then went to police with an official complaint.

When Tim received his first apology from Jackson he felt angry and described it as a joke.

He wrote a reply saying: “I do not believe you are sorry at all and how dare you write: To Whom it May Concern. That adds to the insult of what you did to me. Or more importantly shows, to me, there obviously are a large number of boys who you also persecuted and so many you cannot even remember their names.

“You have ruined my life and I have spent the last few years trying, very bloody hard, to put it back together again.”

Since approaching the school, laying a complaint with police, receiving the second apology and compensation from the church, Tim says he’s finally been able to start moving on with his life.

The nightmares have gone, the drinking and drugs have eased back and he is happy in a relationship with a wonderful partner.

“It’s kinda over, it’s kinda not because I will never forgive him.”

He believes there will be more victims out there, former students like him who have suffered in silence for several decades and encourages them to come forward too.

“If it happened to anybody [else], please call the cops.”

Where to get help:

• If you’ve ever experienced sexual assault or abuse and need to talk to someone call the confidential crisis helpline Safe to Talk on: 0800 044 334 or text 4334. (available 24/7)
• Better Blokes which provides peer support throughout Auckland, including a specific Pacific group.
• Male Survivors Aotearoa offers a range of confidential support at centres across New Zealand – find your closest one here.
• Mosaic – Tiaki Tangata: 0800 94 22 94 (available 11am – 8pm)
• If you have been abused, remember it’s not your fault.

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