Voiceless Victim

A survivor of clergy child sexual abuse speaks out for those who can't speak for themselves

Category Archives: Prime Minister Julia Gillard announces Royal Commission

How Much Justice Will Survivors See in this New Year?

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.

VV

A Tale of Three Inquiries – Part 3 The Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry

The Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry was the first of the current trio of investigations into the coverup and enabling of widespread child sexual assault by religious institutions.

All three inquiries are officially named in softer, and more complicated and inclusive language, but the core issue is that hundreds of priests and religious have been raping and sexually violating tens, if not hundreds of thousands of kids, and their bishops and cardinals have let them get away with it.

Not only have the self described religious “leaders” helped the rapists to escape law enforcement and continue offending, they have acted decisively to prevent victims being heard or receiving the help we so desperately need. They have made every effort to prevent any independent scrutiny of this issue. They have blocked any legal or political moves to enforce a more compassionate or law abiding response.

And children continue to be exposed to danger, since more than 99% of all child sex criminals, and likely an even higher percentage of this carefully protected subspecies, are still free to reoffend, most with their reputations and identities protected, and with privileged and unquestioned access to kids.

The Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry was widely criticised by many, including myself, at the time of its announcement, for the many deficiencies of its terms of reference. Drafting the terms of reference was a political decision, made by a Premier no longer in power, and is no reflection on those conducting the inquiry.

But despite its inadequacies, this is nonetheless an extremely important inquiry, a crucial milestone and indeed stepping stone towards nationwide attempts at justice, and a strategic testing ground for this issue.

Without the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry into the Handling of Child Abuse by Religious and Other Organisations we would probably not have the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. Or rather, we would probably not have it yet.

This first announcement, on 17 April, 2012, softened up the church hierarchy to the fact that it was no longer politically acceptable for them to continue to be allowed to get away with their criminal conspiracy. This first blow to the bishops’ previously inviolable secrecy paved the way for the more powerful and comprehensive national inquiry announced on 12 November, 2012.

Victorian Attorney General Robert Clark admitted on the 7.30 Report on 20 April 2012 that the Victorian Government had negotiated extensively with Catholic officials and their lawyers in the twelve months prior to the announcement of the Inquiry.

Hullo? Does no one in this country understand the meaning of the word “corruption”? Or is the problem rather that those in power, in all spheres, understand it all too well? The government does not ask permission of drug bosses or bikie gangs before investigating their crimes, or negotiate the conditions of any investigation. This situation is no different, except perhaps that religious criminals commit crimes that disgust even the most hardened ordinary criminals.

The fact that such negotiations took twelve months, despite a clear direction in the Cummins Report from the year before that an inquiry was needed, and public disgust at the growing numbers of suicide deaths coming to light which resulted directly from the appalling response of the catholic church, shows how very hard it was to get the church’s permission to investigate its crimes.

Once again, are we living in the Dark Ages? The church is supposed to be subject to our local laws and answerable to the Government, not the other way around.

For those unsure how this secret influence over Australian governments has been achieved, a brief reading of the Seven Mountains strategy should be illuminating. The actual Seven Mountains strategy is practiced by a different cult, fundamentalist loonies, but it does spell out what the catholic church has been doing for millenia in their attempts at world domination.

Basically the Seven Mountains strategy aims to equip what they call “change agents” to become educated and burrow their way into positions of power and authority in the seven cultural mountains of influence. These change agents are instructed to go into the world and make disciples and teach them to obey the commands of Jesus (as interpreted by them, of course). They believe culture is shaped by only a few operating at the top of a cultural mountain of influence. (world domination, anyone?). They speak in the language of inclusiveness but are actually deeply conservative.  Once having achieved the desired domination (they are often known as dominationists) we can be sure they would soon introduce an authoritarian theocracy.

An example of the catholic version can be seen in attempts to control and profit (even more) from mental health services in Australia by ensuring the appointment of a senior church official to the inaugural position as Mental Health Commissioner. This was a man personally responsible for many mental health problems experienced by thousands of survivors, through his role in developing and implementing Towards Healing. The prospect of the countless thousands suffering from the effects of brutal sexual, physical and psychological abuse by religious institutions receiving the help they need would shrink dramatically under such stewardship. Thankfully he was forced to resign from the role before he could do much damage, but the system is such that there are sure to be many others pursuing the church’s agenda in or near such strategic positions, throughout Australian government, courts, academia, arts and entertainment, the media and business.

And no doubt, the Royal Commission.

The process of infiltrating and perverting our culture and government can be reversed by people standing up for what is right over what is expedient for a bunch of rich, well connected old crims playing dress ups.

Note that the then Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, only found it necessary to phone Cardinal (I’m not the head of the church in Australia) Pell and warn him he was going to have to get a lot more familiar with a concept called the truth. As far as we know there was no extensive consultation, indeed there was no time for it to occur, unlike in Victoria just months earlier.

But I believe the church hierarchy’s insistence that the terms of reference of the Victorian inquiry be widened to other religions and indeed other institutions will backfire and end up shooting them in the foot. First of all, despite their constant whining about being unfairly targeted (try being a defenceless long term child victim of a rapist priest, and then you will know about unfair targeting), no-one has ever suggested the catholic church is the only place of refuge for dangerous serial sex offenders.

It is clearly one of the best and most accommodating host institutions for such vermin, but no one disputes that child rapists exist everywhere, except perhaps where they cannot access their prey.

Did catholic officials really believe they could hide from view in the crowd of other abusive institutions who sacrifice children to protect themselves? Do they not understand the immense and horrific scale of the problem they have allowed to flourish, compared to others. Or do they really only look as far forward as being able to say “Nah, nah, told you it wasn’t just us!”

This strategy of being one of the crowd comes apart when it comes to recommendations, however.

The catholic church always ensures it operates under a series of special conditions, receives special treatment, official or unofficial, which gives it undeserved and unfair advantages over other organisations.

And over victims seeking justice or even protection from ongoing sexual assaults.

But if these crimes are being investigated across the board, as church officials themselves insisted, any recommendations must surely apply uniformly across the board.

The evidence will no doubt support going further than that and imposing especially stringent scrutiny for catholic institutions. Unfortunately that will never happen as the squawking about unfairness would be unending. Rest assured though, the public simply will not accept the catholic church being given any more free passes to continue to commit crimes unchecked.

That alone will be pretty hard to endure for those who believe themselves above the law, and entitled to be above the law.

One item sure to test this issue is the heavily promoted “sanctity of the confessional”. This attempts to place a religious practice, changeable and subject to the whims of a criminal cabal ruling what is claimed to be a sovereign foreign country, above Australian law relating to some of the most serious of crimes against some of the most vulnerable in society. It endangers children, obstructs justice and thwarts law enforcement.

Continuing to give credulity to this nonsense makes a mockery of our legal system.

Other ways in which this inquiry has paved the way is the shocking evidence revealed via public hearings throughout 2012, and the widespread media coverage of that evidence.

This factor is vitally important, as many in the wider public do not have the advantage we survivors enjoy, of knowing just how bad the situation truly is, just how evil and cruel these self serving officials are, and just how desperately significant change is needed. Every incident of media coverage increases public understanding and reduces the chances of the church hierarchy being successful in any future attempts to sweep this under the carpet yet again and carry on with their crimes as usual.

Most significantly, this inquiry provided an opportunity for senior Victorian police to officially stop protecting church officials from the truth, and start telling it like it really is. The results were explosive.

Unfortunately from the NSW Special Commission of Inquiry evidence, it would seem some senior NSW police are still being pulled in two different directions between telling the truth and religious affiliation. Or should I say intimidation?

The evidence revealed in the Victorian public hearings is enormously beneficial to survivors. It is also traumatic and triggering, but hearing the truth told and listened to and believed in public, in a formal, official setting, for the very first time, can help to heal the immense additional damage inflicted by mistreatment at the hands of officials concerned only with covering up.

It can inspire victims to become survivors. To ask for help.  To tell their own stories. And to seek justice and healing.

Hearing church officials being asked hard questions about their actions by an official inquiry for the very first time is also something this inquiry has offered to survivors throughout Australia. This inquiry did not ask enough questions, did not cover enough details, and did not go deep enough, very far from it, but it did put the entitled princes of the church under the spotlight and hold them accountable for a few hours.

For that we are very grateful.

We look to the Royal Commission to finish the job. No matter how large.

Many survivors did not manage to write a submission or front a public hearing in the totally inadequate time allowed, so their evidence was not heard or taken into account. Hopefully in the meantime they have found the strength and the support to contact the Royal Commission and have their say that way.

The flaws identified in the Victorian Inquiry’s Terms of Reference resulted in pretty much what was expected. An inquiry that was too short, too shallow and didn’t get the full job done. Thankfully we now have the Royal Commission to fill those gaps. And in the meantime, with the help of this inquiry, the Australian public, Australian media and Australian politicians have moved some distance from the appalling neglect, cowardice and complacency which allowed these atrocities to flourish unchecked for so long.

One delightful aspect of this inquiry has been to see a group of somewhat inexperienced, and certainly inexpert politicians on the Family and Community Development Committee grow into the role suddenly foisted upon them. They rose to the task without exception and now are finished the immeasurably difficult job of drafting recommendations.

In many ways, knowing what is needed is brutally simple.

Protect children, not criminals

Support victims, not criminals

Hold the criminals accountable, don’t cover up their crimes

Prevent the criminals from continuing to commit these crimes, don’t give them the perfect conditions in which to reoffend

Such simple, obvious concepts. That tragically, appallingly, have never, ever been implemented in this country. Certainly not in the catholic church, and not elsewhere.

Our children deserve this at the very least.

But ensuring workable recommendations that will actually be implemented is horribly complicated.

Hopefully this will be seen as an opportunity to trial some innovative recovery and support strategies, such as the excellent and very practical proposal developed by survivors in Ballarat.

My advice to the Committee, were they to seek it.

Aim high.

Don’t limit yourselves.

Make the most of this once in a lifetime opportunity.

Honour the suffering of all the victims, particularly those precious and far too short lives lost to suicide.

And do everything possible to prevent any more innocents from being added to our number.

The report of the Parliamentary Inquiry is expected to be released on Wednesday morning.

However, the Committee can only make recommendations to the Victorian parliament, for implementation in Victoria. And the implementation of those recommendations will be dependent on support from political parties who until now have shown themselves to be more interested in religious voting blocs and the influence of church leaders than what is best for our children.

Some religious apologists will criticise any recommended actions to protect children. They will argue unfair treatment, violation of religious freedom (do they really want to admit their religious practice requires the rape of little children?) and a range of conspiracy theories.

Officials, if they have any sense, will not argue, at least not in public. Ferocious behind the scenes lobbying and threats will however attempt to remove, water down, delay or otherwise render ineffective any recommendations.

The response to these recommendations will be a test of the integrity of church officials and politicians alike.

Will they serve the best interests of society, and demonstrate they deserve their positions of authority?

Or will their response merely be self serving?

Stay safe everyone.

VV

Voiceless Victim Invited to Tea with the Prime Minister

Who would have imagined as little as twelve months ago, that Australian victims would be about to start work on their submissions to the Royal Commission into institutional child sex abuse we were told so many times would never happen.

And that we would be generally pretty happy with its newly announced Terms of Reference and Commissioners.

And that Australian child sexual abuse victims, heartlessly excluded from the 2008 papal apology in Sydney that was supposedly addressed to us and for our benefit, would be the guests of honour at a morning tea with the Prime Minister.

That, dear friends, is the surreal situation we will find ourselves in tomorrow at Kirribilli House, Sydney.

The cuppa and bikkies we consume tomorrow will not just fill the bellies of the representative few.

They will fill the hearts of all victims with a hitherto foreign emotion.

It is called hope.

We know Julia is using us for a photo opp.

We know there is a healthy dose of political expediency in her announcement.

But at the end of the day, this gutsy woman, Julia Gillard, was the first Prime Minister in Australian history to make the call to a Cardinal Prince of the church and tell him “You’re not going to like this mate, but I’m doing it anyway.”

I will carry all of you with me in my heart tomorrow.

You will all be there, where you deserve to be.

Guests of honour, invited by the Prime Minister.

No longer neglected.

No longer abandoned.

No longer voiceless.

Fire’s Too Good for These Devils

As much of Australia prepares to face catastrophic bush fire conditions today, I hope everyone is safe from fires and comes through unscathed.

That even includes the church’s carefully protected child rapists and those who sacrifice additional children to cover up their crimes.

Fire is too good for these devils.

I want them to make it to the Royal Commission and to face the music, and their own responsibility, for their, until now, hidden actions.

I also hope the imminent announcement of the terms of reference for the Royal Commission and the all important names of the Commissioners are not announced today.

Because if they are announced on a day when everyone is so preoccupied, and many are still on summer holidays, it can only be bad news.

It can only mean there is something in the announcement that needs to be buried under other issues on a busy news day.

An announcement today will mean those who benefit from the coverup have managed to subvert the search for truth before it even begins.

Stay extra safe today everyone. And if possible on such a scorcher, stay cool as well.

VV

Why did you make us wait so long?

The sheer joy of Monday’s announcement of a national Royal Commission into child sexual abuse in religious and other institutions in Australia was not the only emotion bringing victims to tears this week.

There was sadness at years of unnecessary suffering by victims who had begged and begged for anyone to stop ignoring this issue and deal with it head-on.

There is the unbearable tragedy of those who did not survive, those who are collateral damage to the reputations of callous careerists and to institutional arrogance and greed.

There is shock that, at the end, as developments accelerated, this decision seemed so simple and everyone suddenly seemed to get it. Or at least, at last, to publicly admit they get it.

There are the feelings of abandonment, and of worthlessness from having been neglected and ignored and knowingly allowed to suffer all those years. Feelings which can come out now that, finally, finally, finally, our leaders are saying in the national media that we are important after all, we are worth saving, we are worth holding the criminals that harmed us and those who protected them, accountable for their crimes.

Suddenly the inexplicable inability of powerful people to understand that child rape is wrong, always was wrong and will always be wrong has evaporated.

What caused them all to suddenly gain so many extra IQ points, almost overnight?  Let’s hope their clarity and understanding don’t disappear as quickly as they appeared.

There is disgust.

Disgust at the disgraceful attempt by the once arrogant and now bumbling, but always callous, Big George Pell to paint himself as the victim here.

And there is pride.

Pride that in this highly flawed country, in this far from perfect world, Australian politicians took the high moral ground to address and eradicate real evil in our midst.

Pride in our own contribution to this outcome, no matter how small.

Pride in those incredible, brave individuals amongst us who made a stand on this issue, no matter the personal cost.

Pride in those who took a terrible beating in the early days, but couldn’t be beaten down. And who made the way easier for those who followed.

The fact that we have announced this Royal Commission is, deservedly, a source of national pride.

Countries around the globe are now looking to us to set a new international standard of child protection.

And, wonderfully, it seems our politicians have given us a real opportunity to achieve just that.

But the fact that wealthy, powerful, politically influential criminals were protected for so long, that brave victims were ignored and abandoned for so many years, that our suffering was increased exponentially, that so many additional children’s lives and potential were derailed, and that far, far too many never lived to see this day, that is, most deservedly, a national disgrace.

Stay safe everyone,

VV