As most Australians would be aware the Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse has been holding hearings in Newcastle, New South Wales gathering evidence into how the Anglican Church handled child sexual complaints.
I think in this day and age it is not unusual to find someone you know who was either a victim or a perpetrator.
I was not a victim but I certainly knew at least three perpetrators. One was a teacher when I was at school who has since met his just desserts, another a priest I was friends with as a teenager, now deceased and in recent times a work colleague.
At the Newcastle hearings evidence has been given from a number of victims covering a long span of time, we know this atrocity has been going on a long time before anyone really took seriously the claims of the victims.
The local Newcastle newspaper has been publishing the events each day. One day they named the men connected with one case they are investigating. There before me was my work colleague’s name.
I found it hard to imagine that the man I worked with so many years was the person they were saying he is. The man I knew was not the man accused but an excellent colleague and one with whom I engaged with in conversation many times during our time in the workplace.
It got me to thinking that we never really know the people around us. Not only that but we can find good reason not to trust them or even question who it is we can trust.
I am not for one moment trying to lessen what he is accused of, for I believe what he and others did was an act of sexual abuse that has clearly ruined the lives of the victims.
I know I have been lucky in this regard. The teacher who was convicted in the past year was committing acts of abuse at the school I was attending and I had no idea they were going on.
The priest in question at one stage when I was a teenager came into my bedroom and at the time I thought he was concerned over my health. In later years I fear he was grooming me. Thankfully nothing happened.
We live in a world now days where we have access to so much information. When we were kids that information was not available and in terms of the church we believed they were God’s right-hand men and could do no wrong. They preyed on that fact with so many victims. They have destroyed so much trust we should have in our clergy and as the Royal Commission has already shown no religious group has been exonerated.
I have found it confronting to see the names people I thought were okay as I grew up accused of crimes, which left their victims scarred for life.