'A secret no child should have to carry': Man and woman recall 'absolute horror' of abuse by Christian Brother

John Gibson. Photo: Collins Courts.

A man and a woman who were abused by a Christian Brother in the 1980s have told a court about the impact of the abuse on their lives.

John Gibson (72) of Dun Laoghaire, Dublin is to be sentenced next month after he was found guilty of two charges of indecent assault against a 12-year-old girl at a Christian Brothers’ School in Co. Wexford in 1983.

He was also convicted of the indecent assault of a 12-year-old boy in 1985. Gibson had denied all three charges but was found guilty by a jury following a five-day trial at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court in February.

During the trial, the two complainants testified that Gibson had molested them while washing them after they had carried out some manual work for him around the school.

At a sentence hearing today, Diane Stuart BL, prosecuting, said Gibson asked the boy for help to grease some goalposts on playing fields, and abused him afterwards while he was showering.

The court heard that two years earlier, Gibson asked the girl to do some painting in a corridor. He sexually abused her afterwards in a classroom while washing her with a basin and a cloth.

Both victims read their statements aloud in court detailing the effect of the abuse and the ordeal of going through a trial.

The man, now aged 36, described how he had been a promising football player and a top student, but that after the abuse, school became a nightmare as he faced the “absolute horror of seeing my abuser every day and not knowing when the next beating was coming from”.

He started binge-drinking aged 14, lost interest in sport and eventually dropped out of school.

He said the day he was abused was when he “stopped being a child and had to take on a burden and secret that no child should have to carry”.

The man said with Gibson’s conviction, the embarrassment of being abused was finally gone and he had been able to park the years of anger, flashbacks, drinking and crying to sleep with the help of his family and counselling.

“If my father had known what was done to me by that animal, I have no doubt he would be John Gibson, deceased,” he added.

Both victims spoke of the environment in 1980s Ireland where the church was “untouchable” and “clerics and religious were to be revered”.

The woman, now aged 47, said she was “innocent in a way that can only be imagined” when she was molested at the age of 12.

“I still didn’t know where babies come from or what puberty was. I was an easy target for an adult who wanted to take advantage of a trusting child who always did what they were told,” she said.

The woman described how the abuse transformed her from a bright, confident child into someone withdrawn, nervous, fearful and a target for bullies.

She said she developed a “mental trick” for dealing with the shame of the abuse which she used into her 30s.

I would imagine a wooden box deep inside me with a big iron lock and I would push those memories into the box with all my might and firmly lock it.

It would allow me to bury the pain temporarily, but it didn’t stop its effects,” she said.

The woman said the abuse was a “life sentence” which had cost her every loving relationship in her life as she struggled with intimacy.

She said that every day she grieves the loss of the little girl who “never got to grow up to what she was meant to be”.

Philip Rahn BL, defending, said his client suffered from a number of health difficulties including depression, high blood pressure and severe back pain.

He said Gibson had been “very publicly shamed” in relation to his conviction and was on the Sex Offenders’ Register.

The court heard that Gibson is now retired and lives in a structured and supervised community within the Christian Brothers, where he is subject to the organisation’s Safety Plan. Judge Elma Sheahan adjourned the case until April 1 for finalisation.

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