Today the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse heard from the amazing mother of a child victim of the child sex offender, Jonathan Lord.
AN was the first witness in Case Study 2, which started today, into Lord and the YMCA, which employed, and then promoted him.
In measured tones, though occasionally struggling with her emotions, AN told of the experiences she and her son AO went through as a result of AO being targeted by Jonathan Lord.
But like so many of those put through this nightmare by powerful and well protected criminals, the trauma did not end with the arrest of Jonathan Lord.
AN clearly, intelligently and compassionately identified serious problems with how police dealt with these matters, serious problems with the law including the law of particularity which effectively denies victims access to justice, problems with inadequate or inappropriate support for victims and their families, especially in terms of access to counseling, and the lack of proper and compassionate communication with victims and their families.
She fought back tears as she read her statement. I bawled as I watched from home over the live feed. I wish I could have congratulated her in person but would have found being in the room and hearing her evidence very hard.
She also told how the Principal of her Catholic school was able to be supportive to her sexually abused child. I note that this is possible because in this case the Catholic Church was not responsible for enabling and protecting the offender.
Many other Catholic school principals will have some very hard questions to answer from the Royal Commission about their own, very different, actions.
But despite briefing everyone she could at the school about the support her child needed, the teachers ignored this and shut her child down when he, inevitably, disclosed about his abuse. This was not done as brutally as they usually silence the victims of Catholic religious, but still this response was completely inappropriate and likely to be damaging to AO, and hinder his recovery.
Luckily AO has AN to keep an eye on his progress and to speak up for him and demand changes when other adults demonstrate how poorly qualified or suited they are to hold positions of responsibility over children.
AN was strong, determined, angry where appropriate, took immediate and responsible action, sought professional help when needed, and communicated AO’s needs to the adults around him. Through all this, despite dealing with serious trauma of her own as a result of AO’s father’s suicide at this time, AN kept her focus firmly on AO’s needs.
How wonderful, and how unfortunately rare in such situations, to see an adult mature enough to put the child’s needs first.
I note here by comparison the horrifying detail that Jonathan Lord was promoted in gaining access to children by the efforts of his mother Jill Yankos, who was quite pushy in approaching and recommending young, vulnerable mothers use her paedophile son as a babysitter. Based on the evidence so far, it is impossible to judge whether this mother knew of her son’s criminal activities, but experience would suggest that we cannot just assume she did not.
I will end with a quote from the brave victim AO, who is still in primary school.
“My mum is a hero because she listened to me.”
How I wish my own mother had been even a little like AN. How different my life would have been.
AO has every chance to recover fully from his abuse thanks to his mum AN.
Vote 1 AN for Australian Mother of the Year.
Stay safe everyone.