Welcome to a new year.
The Christmas/New Year period is tough, not festive, for so many survivors. Difficulty in maintaining relationships with family, friends and colleagues is one of the lifelong impacts of childhood sexual assaults. A time of year emphasising the love and support offered by those important relationships only makes us feel more abandoned, isolated, and worthless than ever.
The trauma that caused smiling, confident, normal children to become loners and misfits unable to trust anyone was, and still is, exacerbated unnecessarily by callous, self serving institutions who sacrifice the most innocent and most vulnerable again and again in their attempts to coverup the criminality and abuse of power at the core of this problem. And so the ongoing pain we suffer is increased as a direct result of the policy of denial, of the deceitful PR pretending everything is okay, and that things have changed, and of the criminal coverup of the original crimes.
The very same institutions who knowingly exposed us to danger and brutally denied us the help we need insist on drowning out all other voices at this time of year so they can force their self serving fantasies down our throats and look down their noses at us for not fitting the unrealistic stereotypes they fanatically promote.
How do we make 2014 better than 2013?
How do we move away from the unresolved trauma that has stolen so much from us and keeps us prisoners, serving out our life sentence?
How do we relax and let go of the stress inflicted on our tiny bodies by such devastating and incomprehensible attacks?
How do we learn that not everyone in this world is a terrifying child sexual predator in priests’ clothing, or a despicable self serving enabler who knows children are being harmed but doesn’t do anything to stop it? Or a self described “good priest” or “good catholic” or “good christian” who turns their back and, by not speaking up, by not expressing disapproval of officials’ decisions, gives support for the crimes and the coverup to continue? Or a coward who caves under pressure from the powerful and the vicious and lets children suffer so that they will not be personally disadvantaged?
Here in Australia we have been given a rare opportunity to turn around our lives. To truly become survivors, or even thrivers, and leave victimhood behind.
Because in Australia we have been given a comprehensive, nationwide investigation into how this country, through its most highly respected institutions, has doubly betrayed our children. First by allowing the routine sexual exploitation of children to flourish unchecked, and then by refusing those harmed by such crimes access to justice and healing.
Not only are we the historic beneficiaries of such a momentous instrument for change, but we have also been given the gift of Justice Peter McClellan as Chair of the Royal Commission, and Senior Counsel Assisting Gail Furness, SC. These two have demonstrated in public hearings to date considerable ability and determination not to betray Australia’s children again.
Justice Jennifer Coates has also shown exceptional empathy in private sessions, and ability to help survivors feel truly believed and understood for the very first time in our lives.
Thanks to this Royal Commission, for me, finally, the healing has begun.
It wasn’t the announcement of the Royal Commission by then Prime Minister Julia Gillard on 12 November 2012 that did it.
It wasn’t meeting Julia herself at Kirribilli House in January 2013, and learning that she genuinely believed in and supported Australian survivors and our push for justice.
It wasn’t the early working of the Royal Commission, when I and many other survivors attended private sessions to tell of our experiences.
It wasn’t even the first public hearings, when we first saw important, hard questions asked of those who let children down. Questions to which there was no appropriate answer forthcoming.
For me, as a victim of the catholic church, and I do mean that the catholic church as a whole deliberately victimised me for decades, my healing began with the first Towards Healing public hearings in late December 2013. This was when catholic church officials were first truly held accountable, in exacting detail, for their appalling treatment of children, and their complete and deliberate dereliction of their duty of care to us.
When I saw Justice Peter McClellan and Gail Furness SC work tirelessly to uncover the truth about the catholic church’s criminal conspiracy to coverup child sex crimes, and then not turn their backs on us, not shrug their shoulders and pretend it was nothing really, or that nothing could be done, that is when everything changed for me.
Suddenly my struggle to recover, to self care, to sleep, or even just to live became easier. Instead of being trapped in an endless battle I could never win, I was now engaged in a lifelong process to claw back some of what had been stolen from me. I would still never be the person the innocent child with limitless potential I once was could have become. But now instead of one of the walking dead, I can rejoin the living and work to be the best person I can under the circumstances.
It didn’t take some mythical knight on a white charger to sweep in to rescue us. It just took people of honour, integrity and perception to not fold under the catholic church’s bribes, threats and excuses, and to stand up for what is right, rather than what is expedient.
Our suffering did not evaporate in a puff of smoke with the wave of a magic wand. We fought the lies and the corruption, we stood up to the vile criminals in positions of power covering up for other criminals. We could not be silenced, and now, finally, we are being heard.
And we should never, ever forget those of us who did not make it this far. Who did not live to see this first glimmer of precious, rare justice.
In 2014 I wish the same support and the same hope for all survivors of child abuse, all survivors of abuse of power and injustice. That we all find a way to make our voices heard, and to change the outcomes for ourselves and for those who come after us.
This blog is read in 96 countries around the world, covering all continents. Even in the spurious nation state called Vatican city.
In every country there are victims who deserve to be heard, who deserve justice and healing. In every country abuse is continuing right now because governments don’t value children or prioritise child protection.
I hope in 2014 many other countries will learn from our experience in Australia and be inspired by Julia Gillard’s example. I hope more world leaders will earn their people’s respect by standing up to the political manipulations of religious officials, and announcing a real inquiry into child sex crimes by those using religion to protect paedophiles.
I hope that countries around the world will remove bias in their legal systems that protect child rapists and punish their victims.
I hope in 2014 the UN will take real action against the catholic church (or the spurious nation state called Vatican city or the (un)Holy See) for its appalling record of enabling widespread and systemic child sexual exploitation by its representatives in countries throughout the world.
I hope by this time next year we will all feel a little more hopeful, a little more valued, a little more connected to each other and to the rest of society. A little more sure that we are survivors, not voiceless victims.
Stay safe everyone, and have a healing 2014.