At 11, given cans of beer, cigarettes, then abused
Steve Danas says he was sexually abused as a child by members of the St John of God order. Photo: Michael Clayton-Jones
NEARLY every second night the brother would sneak into his room clutching cigarettes and some cans of Foster's.
The 11-year-old Steve Danas knew the man was going to sexually abuse him, but as a ward of the state there was no one he could tell.
''I would have a few beers and then he [the brother] would start touching me. He did say to me, 'If you mention it to anybody you will be sorry','' recalls Mr Danas, who was put into the care of the state at the age of three after his mother's death.
''I was in a room by myself. It used to happen about three times a week. I didn't tell anybody because I was too scared and I didn't think anyone would believe me.''
From age 11 to about 16, throughout the late 1960s and early 1970s, Mr Danas says the St John of God brother at the Churinga Special Residential School in Greensborough molested him regularly.
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Over the same period Mr Danas says he also suffered and witnessed violent strappings and beatings meted out by brothers to himself and other boys in the home - some of whom had intellectual disabilities.
And, ever since, the 56-year-old has been haunted by his experiences.
''I don't feel good about that, I feel I contributed to the abuse, I have a lot of flashbacks.
''I kept thinking to myself, 'There is something wrong with me but I don't know what it is'. And as I got older I realised.
''I'm an alcoholic and I can't deny that, and I take pills. I think I'm addicted to codeine.''
In the late 1990s or early 2000s, Mr Danas successfully sought compensation from the St John of God order.
But he says the money brought him little relief.
''It was chicken-feed [the settlement] but it was shit money. I didn't really want it. I put it all through the pokies,'' he says from his housing commission flat in Melbourne.
Mr Danas says that around the time he sought the compensation he also complained about the abuse to police in South Melbourne.
''I was living in a caravan at Yarra Junction and he [the officer] came down to visit me and I made a statement at South Melbourne,'' he said.
''The police officer told me it would come down to my word against his [the brother].''
But Mr Danas says he was never told what had resulted from his complaint.
Informed today that the brother and others from the order had never been charged in Victoria, Mr Danas says: ''When I find out he wasn't exposed it makes me angry.
''I see it on TV all the time. They [the abusers] just get shifted around and nothing gets done.
''When I went to the mediation it was just about exposing him. It wasn't about the money.
''He should be exposed.''