Reflections on the Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse

As most Australians would be aware the Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse has been holding hearings in Newcastle, New

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.

Can you relate to this story? What are your thoughts on the Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse?

  1. I was groomed and abused in a cathedral organ loft as a beginning university student in 1969. Until I had been in therapy for 2 years I thought I had been in love with my abuser. This caused some delay in my taking any action to reclaim my identity, which was stolen by a man of unimpeachable respectability, who is revered in church music circles. I am nearly 65. I first complained to the police, diocese and university in 1997. So far, only the diocese has acted on my complaint. The first response of the head of the police task force was to tell me that owing to the high profile of my abuser, I would need to find another victim before they would investigate. The discovery of a second victim happened. An enquiry set up to investigate the diocese in 2002 produced a memo of a phone call about a 12 year old girl the same man had molested in the 50s. Her son, a priest, reported her deathbed disclosure to his employer, the church. I did not find out for over a decade that as a result, he was targeted by senior church officials and nearly died last year. There is much more to the cover up of my abuse, and of his mother’s. Although I have had a private hearing with the Royal Commission, I hold little hope for justice. So many people are ready to believe badly of me, and are indignant that I have accused someone they held in such high esteem. He has enjoyed a long and illustrious career. I have lived in poverty all my adult life, having lost family, home and career as a result of the abuse I suffered. Thank you for saying that you had no idea your colleague was an offender. I imagine that is why I have not succeeded in gaining justice, and may never succeed. My story stretched people’s credibility to a point where few were willing to believe me. Yet each time an article appeared about my abuse, another of his victims would contact the journalist, refusing to leave their names. All I can hope is that others have told their stories to the Royal Commission.

    • Michael  

      Thank you Sylvia for adding your story to this situation which is truly disgusting in the way you were treated. We can only hope the Royal Commission is able to bring about change and justice to those who deserve to be recognised as the victims of these men who thought they were above the law….certainly the RC in Newcastle has revealed what so many have thought about the Marist Brothers, that so many of them were little more than brutal thugs as I witnessed on many occasions.

    • The ‘it can’t be true Mr X is a pillar of our society’, ‘rubbish Mr Y would never do that’, ‘Mr Z is beyond reproach’ and similar responses must have been hard on victims. I know it happened so often. False accusations aren’t totally unheard of but not common, but for allegations not to be investigated was shameful.

      • Thank you Barbara, for your heartening comment. I was so grateful when the diocese finally did the right thing.

    • Frank  

      thank you Sylvia for your bravery in telling your story – they say sociopaths are over-represented in management – and abusive people can abuse their power and hide behind high office to stay immune from prosecution for a long time – I’m reminded of UK ‘celebrities’ Rolf Harris and Jimmy Savile (there’s nominative determinism – ‘vile’ was in his name – so he was)

      more recently the (US) FOX boss Roger Ailes who walked away with $40M termination payout/golden handshake after being accused of sexual harassment by now 6 females

      You were brave in being first to name and shame – I’ve read also that the second person to support is also brave – the first person looks like a crazy and unbelievable – it’s the second person that swings the mass perception – wait on – maybe this is true – then others can pile in – but it wouldn’t start without you being the first – so thank you and well done !

      • That’s really heartening. Thank you, Frank. The second person’s deathbed disclosure to her son, a priest, has led to some shameful consequences. He nearly lost his life last year. The church needs to own this problem and apologize to him.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *