An average of 50 children die from drowning in Australia every year. This figure is considered unacceptably high. Generously funded multi million dollar public education campaigns called Swim and Survive and Swim Kids aim to teach children about water safety in order to bring that shocking number down.
Royal Life Saving’s CEO Rob Bradley says, “The safety of children’s lives has to be the highest of priorities.”
But only when their life is at risk of unfortunate accident.
When adults who should protect our precious children instead prey on them, the rights of powerful adults not to be held responsible for their crimes take precedence over children’s rights not to be abused. In some cases vulnerable and defenseless children are so traumatised by abuse they cannot bear to live with the resulting long term pain.
Nearly 2,000 children and young adults commit suicide each year in Australia. This is forty times the unacceptably high drowning rate.
Most, if not all, will have experienced some form of child abuse or bullying during their short lives, including child sexual abuse in many cases. And since most of the abuse originates from family members, family friends and trusted, powerful adults such as priests, teachers, and coaches, nobody wants to talk about this issue, face the horrifying truth or do anything to protect the nearly 2,000 abused children who will commit suicide this year.
Or the children who will be murdered by their abusers, or the children and adults who will die from dysfunctional and avoidant coping behaviours resulting from childhood abuse, which are not recognized as suicide.
Two rapist priests in Victoria are personally responsible for the suicide deaths of over 30 of their victims over a number of years. But this number is not considered unacceptably high. Allowing even one child to be raped, then re-abused until they commit suicide should be absolutely unacceptable. But no-one is willing to hold the obscenely wealthy and powerful Catholic Church responsible for its crimes.
The Catholic Church created the conditions which presented these predators to unsuspecting communities as above question, holier than ordinary mortals, incapable of doing wrong, and above the law.
The Catholic Church insisted on the special treatment and undeserved respect for priests, and the sacrifice of unimportant children, which resulted in them and their colleagues continuing to prey upon scores of young boys for decades.
The Catholic Church is also responsible for deliberately withholding the affirmation, support and counseling that may have helped these 30+ kids to be able to live with their pain and work towards recovery. Or even believe that they deserved help and recovery.
And if these cases are typical of the callous treatment routinely given to innocent and damaged victims the world over, Catholic leaders and employees would have called these abused children liars, threatened them with dire consequences if they told anyone what happened to them, and perhaps drove their message home with a brutal physical punishment or additional sexual abuse.
This is just one example among thousands.
Unfortunately it is impossible to provide more details because the Catholic Church also insists on the ability to deal with these crimes in house and in secret.
The Church’s official punishment for those who publicly reveal such details is much swifter and far more severe than any action against the rapists who ruin so many lives. Avoidance of scandal is far, far more important to the Catholic Church than children’s safety.
In fact it is rare for any internal action at all to be taken against child sex predators, except to move them to new locations where unsuspecting communities once again provide privileged access to their favourite prey.
They are certainly not reported to child welfare authorities or the police. If law enforcement tries to investigate their crimes, church members and leaders obstruct the investigation. If a criminal case makes it to court, the Church funds a vicious and expensive defence.
But very few cases survive the loopholes, legal technicalities and horrific toll on already damaged victims, all of which the Church ruthlessly exploits to keep most cases out of court.
Once in court, the Church funded defence deliberately tries to inflict as much additional harm as possible on victims, in order to make them break down and give up, or else to accidently refer to facts that are not allowed to be heard in court and thus trigger a mistrial.
A mistrial means starting all over again with a new trial. It means the victim’s suffering must be exacerbated yet again, with no guarantee of justice in return for their immense bravery, or even of success in protecting other children from at least this one predator. The only purpose of trying to trigger a mistrial is to push a victim beyond breaking point so that they cannot continue to put themselves on the line for justice for all the victims of the same abuser who cannot come forward, and for protection for his future victims.
Yesterday a report was released into improving child protection in the state of Victoria, and soon in NSW a private member’s bill will be introduced aiming to offer NSW victims of Catholic Church sexual predators their first taste of justice.
Undoubtedly the Catholic Church will mount a well funded campaign to fight any child protection measures that affect the Church, and ensure they remain free of any official responsibility for the safety of the children they expose to the predators they protect.
It is up to the people, the politicians and, most importantly, the Catholics of Australia and the world to show them that this is unacceptable.