Public hearings of the NSW Special Commission of Inquiry in Newcastle in recent weeks have left survivors and supporters disappointed, horrified, traumatised, gasping in disgust, occasionally giggling, and even bravely protesting before the media contingent.
And finally, applauding the amazing bravery of AH in exposing his private pain to public scrutiny. Nothing less, it seems, will serve to stop church officials from evading responsibility for any crimes they may have committed, or from continuing to expose children to serious danger.
One reaction we have not experienced is surprise.
The predictable list of excuses is being rolled out with gusto.
Blaming dead people, impenetrable vagueness about important details, convenient claims of memory loss, avoidance of personal responsibility, denials, excuses, and insulting assertions that refusing to listen to us, neglecting our needs and bullying us into not seeking the help we so desperately want is actually in our best interests; all these are being spouted ad nauseum.
It is no surprise either that these tactics eerily echo similar excuses used in the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry hearings and in numerous investigations of this issue around the world.
Despite all this, some survivors will be helped. Some truth is coming out, mostly in documents. Some admissions are being made, where their own documents leave no room for continuing denials.
The abuse problem in this region is staggering. But this narrow and politically constrained investigation is not allowed to see the full picture. Nowhere near it.
Plus, there are other regions in NSW, and in other states, that have suffered equally from this destructive epidemic. But they were not the subject of politically embarrassing claims on TV. And so, predictably, they do not warrant the time and expense of this Special Commission.
The NSW Government will no doubt claim this whole exercise is intended to help survivors. But we can recognise, through long and painful familiarity with the hypocrisy of church officials, when our abuse is used to further exploit us and harm us, under cover of helping us, by those engaged in self serving power games.
And so we watch and listen as a brave whistleblower is viciously targeted. And church officials are given a public platform for their usual smug, entitled and evasive performance, while survivors and supporters are largely silenced.
We wait to see whether this inquiry will be allowed to do anything with the glimpse of the truth it has been permitted to see through the cracks in the previously unbreachable, heavily armed wall concealing the church’s real actions.
And we wait for the real inquiry, the Royal Commission, to start its public hearings.
Stay safe everyone, this is a challenging time but it is not the end, just the beginning.