The most horrifying evidence in recent weeks from a West Australian inquiry into the reign of terror of convicted serial child rapist Dennis McKenna at the head of a state run hostel at Katanning is not about the abuse itself, but about the complete and utter betrayal of dozens, possibly hundreds, of abused children. Every responsible adult the children turned to while trying to find a way out of their nightmare put their own interests above child protection. It seems there was no-one brave enough, or strong enough, to stand up to the influential and highly respected dangerous criminal, McKenna.
Those who sent defenceless kids back to be repeatedly raped, bullied, humiliated, emotionally abused and economically exploited included teachers, principals, Board members, parents, social workers, councillors, police, leading politicians and even the head of Anglicare.
In many cases there was absolutely no question what was going on. But all these powerful adults deliberately turned their back on innocent children’s right to safety and to not have their lives stolen from them.
What this says about Australian culture is shockingly challenging to our misguided perception of ourselves as a caring and compassionate society. Even those who do not knowingly participate in a conspiracy to cover up serious child sex crimes, are still happy to ignore the suffering of victims, to not talk about this issue, to not demand we do better to protect today’s children from sharing the terrible fate of so many of yesterdays victims. Or to offer victims justice and healing.
The fact these adults were threatened by, or afraid of the influence of McKenna is no excuse. It is always, unquestionably, wrong to sacrifice children to protect adults. To rely on children’s vulnerability and their silence to avoid facing responsibility for your own actions.
The result? Destroyed lives lasting for generations, a community with its heart ripped out, and a swathe of needless, preventable suicides.
It is imperative the inquiry by Justice Blaxell does not just expose the appalling suffering of McKenna’s victims, and their disgraceful betrayal. It must lead to additional jail time for McKenna, who has only been convicted of a tiny fraction of his actual crimes, to criminal charges for those who covered up his crimes, and to unstinting help with healing for all his victims.
As well, the Victorian State Attorney-General Robert Clark needs to pay close attention to the evidence as he considers the clear recommendation from the Protecting Victoria’s Vulnerable Children Inquiry, also known as the Cummins Report, earlier this month, for a formal investigation of the response of religious organisations into the criminal abuse of children by religious personnel within their organisations.
And every other Attorney-General should also, finally, put this issue under serious consideration, particularly since the WA head of the Anglican Church’s Anglicare, Ian Carter, has been implicated as part of the coverup of McKenna’s crimes. And particularly since church protected rapists benefit from, not just apathy, negligence and influence, but also the entire resources of wealthy, powerful and highly secretive organisations who regularly lie to and obstruct law enforcement, believe themselves above the law and will stop at nothing to hide the truth of this issue.
In fact, if the Catholic Church was not a paradise for paedophiles, and the breeding ground for a poisonous rape culture, McKennna’s victims may have been spared all their suffering. McKenna’s experience of bullying and sexual abuse at a Catholic school is very likely to have inspired his own crimes. If the Catholic Church had stopped just one of their thousands of child rapists, hundreds of dead or damaged victims would have been able to live long and normal lives, with every possibility of realising their full potential.
How well I remember, like McKenna’s victims, the feeling of being trapped in an insane adult controlled world with no hope of help from anywhere. I remember with the intensity of long years of terror that those supposed to protect you, supposed to be custodians of justice and morality, just couldn’t give a damn. That every single adult you know is a liar and a hypocrite and a rapist protector. No wonder it is so hard for us to feel worthy of living, worthy of trying to have a future of our own choosing, or worthy of ever elusive justice.
Surely by now we have finally learned enough to understand the importance of delivering justice to all victims of these monsters, and protection from influential predators for all our children.