Father of girl molested by pedophile Catholic teacher speaks
"SHE still has dreams. We hear her calling out, 'stop it, leave me alone,' in her sleep."
The father of a girl who was repeatedly molested by pedophile teacher Gerard Byrnes has spoken about the culture of lies he blames for the cruelty endured by his young daughter.
The girl, who can only be referred to as KF, was in Grade 4 when Byrnes first began sexually abusing her in the classroom.
Her father, referred to here as Michael (not his real name), said the abuse continued when Byrnes was rehired after a month-long resignation in 2008.
"When it all came out, she told us that when he was re-employed as a substitute teacher he started molesting her again on his first day back," he said.
Michael said families of victims were lied to by principal Terence Hayes when asked if he had received complaints about Byrnes.
He and other victims' parents were called to a meeting at the school on the Monday after Byrnes was arrested in November, 2008.
"He lied to the families from day one," Michael said.
"Terence Hayes was asked three times if anyone had made a complaint or if he had any prior knowledge.
"To this day, his words just keep going through my head. Twice he avoided the question.
"When he was asked again, he looked to one of the Catholic Education officers next to him and said he could categorically state that at no time had anyone made any complaints and that he was unaware of anything going on."
Families of the victims were treated as outcasts by the wider school community after Byrnes was arrested.
"My wife and I were told that we were ruining a good school community... that we were on a witch hunt against a good, decent and innocent man," Michael said.
It was a bittersweet moment when Byrnes was finally jailed for 44 counts of child sex crimes in 2010.
The hardships did not end there, however.
Michael and his wife became friends with the parents of other victims and witnessed the toll it had taken on each and every one of them.
His own home life was torn apart by the ongoing torment and has never fully recovered.
"Terry Hayes has talked about how it's changed his life and his family's life," he said.
"We became friends with the other families because that was really the only support we had. It has destroyed marriages.
"My wife and I had a rock-solid marriage but when this happened I started blaming myself, thinking I had let my family down.
"My wife did the same thing and it caused us to separate.
"We've reconciled but it's only a shell of what we had.
"That's an extra burden on the kids because they always have it in the back of their minds that none of this would have happened if it weren't for them."
KF is now in her final year of high school and has her heart set on university study.
Her life has been irreparably changed by the cruel hands of her teacher and her father worries she will never have a healthy relationship with a boyfriend or a husband.
The widely-publicised royal commission has put further strain on her studies, the headlines serving as a constant reminder of her abuse.
"We still hear her call out in her sleep. Last night she saw something about it on the TV and became quite upset," Michael said.
"She told my wife she was scared that Byrnes could be out of jail next year and that he will come back.
"She's not only worried about herself and the other victims; she's worried that he might do it to some other child.
"Most girls in high school have had their boyfriends but she's just not interested.
"As her life goes on, I wonder how she is going to handle having a relationship. That's our biggest fear.
"Not only was her innocence taken away, we're worried it has taken away her ability to have a strong relationship."
Michael hoped the royal commission would shine a light on the failings of the Catholic Education Office.
"You have a child protection officer, a principal and a deputy principal who all failed to follow the correct procedures, and yet they are all still teaching.
"I honestly felt the only sincere person in the whole thing was Bishop Bill (Morris).
"They made us feel like we were the ones who had done something wrong.
"When we asked questions we never got answers.
"Knowing what was done to my daughter and my family, it is something I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy."