On a day when Cardinal George Pell withdraws his bail application and gets remanded in custody, I watch the news and on all channels it appears this is the most important news item the country — indeed the world — seems to have had in a long time. I listen to people shouting at the perpetrator and I feel for the victims, those we know of and those we don’t, and their families.
Before I realise it, I am crying. Am I crying because I can only imagine what those George Pell has left broken, are going through? Am I crying because the enormity of it all has just hit me? Am I crying for those victims we don’t even know exist yet? I don’t know. I just know a terrible sadness has washed over me. I was raised a Catholic, but ceased to believe a long time ago, so I don’t think I am crying because of the trust broken by these clergymen.
I find it odd that around the world so many people have had no problem in believing in the guilt of George Pell, but have problems believing those who were sexually abused so many years ago by friends, bosses, family and strangers. I firmly feel George Pell is guilty. I firmly believe that if we, as a society, had listened to the rumblings earlier, this would be over now. I believe there are many more like George Pell, however, there are also many who are good, kind, decent priests. I also believe there are many friends, bosses, family and strangers who will never be brought to justice, but there are also as many who are good, kind, decent people.
My problem is that we find it easier to believe these things have been happening in the church and for some who have reported it, they have been swept away, but we believe them, no matter how much time has passed. Yet we have trouble believing the women and some men who have reported these things of the ‘ordinary’ person or the ‘celebrity’ because they too have had their accusations swept away or have been afraid to say anything.
Why do we hold celebrities up on a pedestal? Do we consider that because they entertain us on the screen or in the sporting arena they couldn’t possibly do these things? Whether you are abused by a priest, or footballer, or an actor, whether you are 10, 15 or 50, you should be listened to with as much understanding as any other victim.
I find myself crying and I suddenly know why. It’s not because I am disillusioned with the Catholic church. It’s not because it is such a big story and affects so many people. I am crying because the realisation is that sexual abuse and sexual violence has embedded itself in our lives. It is in the suburbs, it is amongst the wealthy, it does not discriminate, whether you are a victim or the perpetrator. It does not care how old you are. It does not care if you are male or female.
We need to open our hearts to all victims. We need to open our minds to all situations. We need to condemn all those who set out to destroy the dignity and sanctity of life.
If you are concerned about domestic and family violence, or sexual abuse in your family, friends or workplace, contact the National Sexual Assault, Domestic Family Violence Counselling Service on 1800 737 732, Mensline Australia on 1300 789 978, Relationships Australia on 1300 364 277 or Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14 for confidential support, advice and referral that will help you explore your options.