Voiceless Victim

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

Category Archives: Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse

Who is Looking After the Children? Certainly Not the Catholic Church.

Crack paedophile protection team on the job

Crack paedophile protection team on the job

When a normal human being looks at a child they see a fellow human being. A human being who is tiny, innocent, vulnerable, loveable and full of potential. One who deserves our utmost efforts to protect them from harm.

When a narcissist looks at a child they see an object who is easier than most to manipulate into giving them whatever they want. The child is nothing to them but a tool to use to obtain their desired objective.

When a sociopath looks at a child they see an easy mark, one they can dominate much easier than most adults, and one they can train to bend to their will. The child is nothing to them but a target they can derive pleasure or power from, through subjugating and harming the child.

Those who rape children are usually narcissists, sociopaths, or both.

They look at a child and see an object for sexual release, or someone they can enjoy harming through forcing them to submit to abhorrent sexual acts against their will.

Those who sexually abuse children do so because:

  1. They believe they are entitled to sexually prey upon the vulnerable, and that any child who cannot defend themselves or is not protected by the adults around them is fair game
  2. They believe they can get away with it

Religious institutions both produce and attract so many child rapists because of the existence of four crucial conditions conducive to the sexual exploitation of children. These are highly exaggerated entitlement, imbalance of power, sexual dysfunction and lack of accountability.

The catholic church in particular has a problem with its priests raping children in large numbers, in every country where it has a presence. Though catholic officials, dissociated from both reality and humanity, see the problem as one of the victims selfishly and unfairly reporting the crimes committed against them.

Catholic religious, and priests in particular, are trained to believe they are special, above lay persons or normal human beings, and are entitled to special treatment. Many readily accept the proposition that they are more holy, purely by virtue of their position, and therefore far more deserving than ordinary mortals.

As their entitlement grows, so the relative entitlement of lay persons is diminished, particularly low status lay persons such as women, children, the disadvantaged and the disabled.

In dysfunctional individuals this robs any such people they come across of even the core right to refuse an entitled cleric sexual access to their bodies.

This distorted entitlement is dangerous enough by itself. When matched with the ultimate unquestionable, godlike authority demanded for catholic priests by the catholic hierarchy, it becomes doubly dangerous.

But even a highly entitled individual in a position of overwhelming power over children does not automatically desire to rape them. Normal, healthy human sexual development generally results in adults looking for consensual sexual relations with other adults. But no catholic priest is offered the opportunity for normal healthy human sexual development, unless they come to the priesthood as an already normal adult.

Most of the rapist priests causing recent or current problems were not given a choice in the decision to become a priest, whether by compulsion or extraordinary family pressure. Many were locked away in a dysfunctional, often abusive seminary system, some as as young as 11 or 12, well before they were capable of making a lifetime decision about the priesthood and its requirement for celibacy. Most were deliberately denied the support of their families throughout their formative years to ensure their dependence on the church alone.

They were shut away from female company, and as the Royal Commission hearings revealed in December, the entire teachings on sexuality amounted in many cases to “Don’t”.

Many were brutalised, bullied, manipulated and abused, including sexually. Some seminaries operated in such a way that new recruits were simply pounced upon by sexual predators the minute the door shut behind them.

Is it any wonder then that research reveals the majority of priests are psychosexually immature, and a large proportion are sexually dysfunctional?

But even this does not make them child rapists.

Even if these entitled, powerful, sexually dysfunctional individuals existed in an otherwise just or humane environment, child rape would not flourish to reach the epidemic proportions seen in the catholic church.

Unfortunately the catholic church supports and protects the rapists and punishes and undermines their victims. This happens on such a scale that the rapists know without a doubt that the church will ensure they not only get away with their crimes, but are also helped to continue them.

In fact many come to believe they are not just entitled to rape whomever they please, but also entitled to escape responsibility for their crimes.

The catholic church, like the rapists themselves, views children with the eyes of a narcissist.

Children are not considered precious or valuable by the catholic church. They are not vulnerable or deserving of protection. To the callous hierarchs they are either unimportant, beneath notice, sexual prey or collateral damage.

Of course church officials know they need to make occasional deceptive statements about loving and valuing children, if they are not to lose most of their flock. But if children were truly valued in any way, the way human beings value children, the church would surely have acted to protect these innocents from the very real and very well known and understood danger of being raped by entitled clerics.

Much more precious to the narcissist church is la bella figura or pleasing façade. This façade is crucial to the hierarchy’s continued ability to operate profitable tax free commercial enterprises, receive generous government funding, and dictate government policy around the world.

For centuries the catholic hierarchy have been able to behave like criminals and be honoured as saints. This is achieved by maintaining a fanatical obsession with supporting the lie that the church does good works and all priests and religious are holy.

Properly protecting children from rape by priests necessarily involves admitting that priests rape children. Admitting that priests rape children is a far worse outcome in the opinion of the catholic hierarchy than even hundreds of thousands of children being raped.

But why?

Because the catholic system of brainwashing from childhood, controlling throughout their lifetime, and profiting from the billions of lay catholics could not continue without the widely held belief in the holiness and superiority of the poorly paid, often severely dysfunctional priests who shore up the hierarchy’s lives of power and luxury.

This fantasy of specialness, otherworldliness, sacrifice and nobility is supported by the fallacy of clerical celibacy.

Universal mandatory celibacy is unique to the catholic church. It plays an important role in the incidence of child rape in this institution, though it is not a “cause” of child rape.

The cause of child rape is the belief that it is acceptable to rape children, a positive assessment of the relative risk of such behavior, and the decision to act accordingly.

Celibacy in the catholic church is not widely observed. Experts estimate as many as 50% of clerics are not celibate at any time. The number who have never broken their vow of celibacy must indeed be small.

Whether or not a priest is celibate is, frankly, a private matter. But the catholic church has chosen to deceitfully promote their clerics as non sexual, and therefore not just holy but unquestionably safe around children.

Because of this public appearance of celibacy, any sexual liaison by a priest is, at least within the catholic church, illicit, and must remain hidden from general view.

A secret homosexual affair is normal and hardly frowned upon, especially if kept in house, for example with another priest.

Preying upon barely adult vulnerable girls who can be manipulated to blame themselves for the liaison, and can be controlled and exploited for sex without scandal, often for decades, is also common. It is also rape, by the way.

Child rape is common amongst the more disturbed and sexually predatory because children are unlikely to speak out for decades, and even if they do, are unlikely to be believed. Children, because of their size and development, can be easier to dominate and control than fully grown adults, who may be able to resist physically or have an adult understanding of their rights. Children are also easier to frighten into silence and to convince to blame themselves for the priests’ crimes.

Not only are the child rapists more dysfunctional than those raping adults of either sex, they also tend to be more prolific. Adult-oriented predators may be satisfied with a single sexual partner for decades and may amass at most a handful of victims over a lifetime of abuse.

Child rapists by comparison tend much more to have multiple concurrent victims, such as my abuser. The worst cases can get their hands on thousands of primary victims, and destroy many entire communities. Some child rapists are not obsessed with a particular type of victim but rather the power over another. These predators will rape boys, girls and occasionally adults of either sex as well, depending upon opportunity.

Imagine the number of opportunities for being caught, either in the act or at least acting inappropriately, such as having a child overnight in their bedroom, that prolific predators present. How many lay catholics or other religious see things that should result in action to save a child from such a terrible fate, but do nothing?

How many bishops receive reports of such activities or complaints from victims or their families and do absolutely nothing?

The sexual predators see this, and they learn very quickly, that in the catholic church, almost no-one puts the safety of an unimportant child, or even thousands of children, above the reputation of a priest and the church itself. Certainly no-one in a position of power. Anyone in a position of power who tried to protect children rather than the church would not be in power for long.

And so child rape is considered by many priests a soft and relatively low risk option for their illicit sex. The church hierarchy’s lack of an effective response to these crimes solidifies the view that is it acceptable to rape children as long as scandal is avoided.

Interestingly, it is not the rape of thousands of innocent children that will bring to life the catholic church’s considerable ability to control and punish its priests, but something few outside the church would see as harmful.

Normal consensual relations with an adult woman is perhaps the most illicit sex of all for catholic priests. The most frowned upon by the catholic hierarchy.

Marry a woman you love and who loves you, and you will be thrown out of the church immediately in disgrace.

Rape thousands of children, ruin countless lives, including family members of the victims, and cause scores of suicide deaths, and you’ll probably be promoted and honoured as especially holy in life and in death.

You will certainly be forgiven, offered every possible assistance, and protected from publicity and law enforcement throughout your life.

This misuse of the concept of forgiveness by the catholic church is also crucial in exposing more children to rape by priests.

The catholic church, because of the strong desire to coverup these crimes to maintain la bella figura, defines them as mistakes, missteps, slips and unfortunate occurrences.

It readily forgives the rapist and tries to rob the victims of their right to decide whether to forgive, or even to complain. It bullies the families of victims to stay silent, pressuring them that it is unchristian to deny forgiveness, regardless of the fact the criminal has neither admitted his past offences or even stopped offending.

In recent years many documents have come to light revealing a long history of predilection for this appalling crime, detailed knowledge of its seriousness, and edicts outlawing it and recommending the most stringent possible punishments. Such efforts have either been temporary, ineffective or insincere as the problem has continued throughout church history.

Today’s church has turned its back on such attempts and chosen to allow, even positively enable, the rape of children.

More recent documents show an obsession with enforcing secrecy about these crimes, a declaration that something as inoffensive, some would say positive, as the ordination of women should be considered a crime of equal seriousness with child rape, plus official instructions to bishops not to co-operate with local law enforcement in these matters, and to punish victims for speaking out far more stringently than the offender is punished for raping children.

Faced finally with some of the truth of these crimes reaching the public, and no longer able to get away with the traditional approach of point blank denial, the church hierarchy now engage in a PR war to further harm victims and ensure child protection remains inadequate or non existent.

These particularly callous efforts meld insincere apologies, avoidance of responsibility, deflection of blame, focus on the church and its officials as victims not perpetrators, with vague promises that never result in any meaningful change, action or increase in child protection.

When under particular media pressure, church hierarchs will announce the formation of a review body, committee, council, or resource group, or commission research or issue guidelines.

Experience has shown these efforts are cynical, meaningless and possibly dangerous. Mendacious claims include: “we know much better now”; “things have changed”; “we are doing everything possible now”; “the church is the safest place for children”;  “we followed the advice of lawyers/psychologists”; or “we were no worse than society in general”.

Independent inquiries such as in Ireland and Philadelphia have revealed in detail that such claims are baseless, and not just the law but even their own woefully inadequate guidelines are today still not followed.

Many independent experts have resigned in disgust over bishops’ efforts to exert dictatorial control over and effectively hobble the operation of supposedly independent review bodies or research organisations, including members of the National and local Review Boards set up by the US Bishops’ Conference, and the German equivalent of the widely criticized John Jay Study.

German Bishops commissioned “independent research” yet expected to be able to manipulate the research and rewrite the report so that the results reflected their propaganda objectives, rather than the outcome of data analysis. The researchers resigned the commission last year, after first ensuring all other German researchers were aware of the deceitful tactics of the bishops and would not be similarly misled.

German Bishops pumped out industrial quantities of misinformation, refused to accept responsibility for their own actions, and falsely blamed others: the usual strategy when in danger of being seen for what they truly are.

The hierarchy of the catholic church demands respect for religious practices, tax breaks and unquestioned authority and trust when it suits them. But they also claim diplomatic immunity and other benefits as a nation state, even in instances when they are functioning as the headquarters of the criminal catholic church.

The Vatican is rapidly filling with fugitives from local law enforcement eager to benefit from claimed diplomatic immunity or the lack of extradition treaties with the country or countries where their crimes were committed. Many of these fugitives are under investigation for or already proven guilty of child rape or enabling and covering up child rape.

Yet the Vatican arrogantly informs the UN that as there are few children within its tiny borders (apart of course from child prostitutes temporarily shipped in to service the various lusts of these self declared celibates), therefore there are few child protection issues for the Vatican to address.

Thankfully, at the review of the Holy See’s compliance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child on 16 January in Geneva, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, whose purpose is to stand up for children’s rights everywhere, gave zero credence to Vatican attempts to yet again avoid responsibility for its steadfast refusal to protect the countless children deliberately and knowingly exposed to its rapists throughout the world.

The fact that this is a consistent worldwide problem is a result of the consistent worldwide practice of this church, as dictated from the Vatican.

As first world countries become more aware of the problem, instead of shuffling child rapists between parishes or states, the trend is now more frequently to shuffle the criminals between countries, and especially to developing nations, where victims are less likely to be heard or believed.

In every possible way, the culture, structure and operation of the catholic church supports and enables the widespread and systemic rape of children.

Based on which actions by priests and bishops they support and promote, and which they punish and discourage, the conclusion is inevitable that the catholic church hierarchy, based in Vatican city or as they prefer to be known when pretending to be a nation state member of the UN, The Holy See, have no desire or intention to put child protection first. They did not in the past, they do not now and there is no sign of any genuine intention to do so in the future.

Thankfully the UN have put the Vatican on notice that they must make real changes, not just perform another PR display of the appearance of change.

Or risk losing the protection of la bella figura.

Without la bella figura, the whole extremely profitable edifice will come crashing down.

Perhaps the Church of Child Rape and the Paedophile Protector-in-Chief will finally take this issue seriously.

Stay safe everyone.

VV

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

Catholic church opens Commission hearing with a slap in the face for survivors

Last week survivors, many of whom had travelled long distances, crowded into the hearing room for the historic first Royal Commission hearing into how the Catholic Church handles child sexual abuse. Many lasted only until the well paid Church lawyer first opened his mouth. What emerged was so offensive, so deliberately designed to undermine and to harm survivors, that it prompted a mass walkout and a flood of tears in the foyer.

I absolutely agreed with their actions and was equally as offended, but decided to stay to hear what other tricks the trained monkey would pull.

Below is a transcript of that low point of the legal profession in Australia. I have added my translation of each section, for those who do not have the benefit of a lifetime of suffering at the hands of callous and deceitful church officials. The lawyer who uttered these carefully crafted passages was Peter Gray SC.

-o0o-

This is a searing and decisive moment in the history of the Catholic Church in Australia.

Well, we certainly never thought this day would happen, especially after all our efforts to prevent it.

The sacred place of children, their innocence and their trustfulness is central to the Christian tradition and to the Catholic faith.

The punters love this fantasy stuff about innocence and trust. It keeps the focus on what they like about religion, and not on our behaviour.

Many will remember from their own childhoods the ageless words from the Gospel of Mark:

First let me throw in the obligatory quote from the bible – takes the high moral ground immediately and undermines both victims themselves, and the tendency to support them.

Let the little children come to me; do not

stop them; for it is to such of these that

the kingdom of God belongs.

Isn’t that clever of us, taking the very quote seen so often on signs outside this and other hearings and using it against those pesky victims. Though of course we prefer a different translation, to avoid that unfortunate word, “suffer”.

And again from Mark, driving home the point:

Whoever causes one of these little ones who

believe in me to stumble, it would be

better for him if a great millstone were

hung around his neck, and he were cast into

the sea.

Now, if the first verse hasn’t slapped victims hard enough, here’s the second to really undermine them. Plus the millstone bit makes us look like we take this issue seriously.

The Catholic Church comes before this Royal Commission acutely aware of its failures in this fundamental part of its mission.

I guess denial is really no longer an option, is it?

For many Catholics, the realisation that some Catholic priests and religious, of all people, have betrayed the trust of children and their parents by abusing them in sexual ways has been almost unbearable.

Let’s get Catholics thinking about their own suffering and not that of victims.

 The further bleak realisation that such behaviour was sometimes covered up, with wrongdoers protected while victims were disbelieved or treated coldly, has made an already disgraceful situation even worse.

Oh yeah, these days we have to refer to this aspect as well, but we can get away with going pretty soft, because understanding of our cover-up is still limited.

For the vast majority of priests and religious, dedicated and selfless and innocent themselves and truly faithful to their vows and their vocations, the revelations of recent decades have been heartbreaking.

Pow. Two of our most effective excuses. “Good” priests, and non abuser priests as victims. We’re going hard on this because it is so effective at distracting from what happened to victims. And we get it in first to leave many minds less inclined to listen to rubbish about victims.

But for the victims and their families, the effects have obviously been, and continue to be, shattering and devastating. Terrible wrongs have been done to them.  Complex, ongoing damage has been caused, the real extent of which may not, even now, be fully appreciated.

We don’t usually go here because it creates sympathy for victims, not us. But if we want to pull off the “we have changed” con, it is unfortunately necessary to sound a bit better informed than previously on the effects of abuse.

 A great poet and priest, Gerard Manley Hopkins, found words which capture something of this nightmare:

No worst, there is none …

Comforter, where, where is your comforting?

Mary, mother of us, where is your relief?

We position Hopkins as an authority, then use his quote to soften the facts of our criminal coverup, while demonstrating that we get this i.e. no further action needed.

I will say something in a moment about the way in which the church intends to participate in and contribute to the work of the Royal Commission.  But first, let me repeat the unequivocal commitment made by the leaders of the Catholic Church in Australia.  It is on page 1 of our written submission to the Commission.  It is in the following terms:

The leaders of the Catholic Church in Australia recognise and acknowledge the devastating harm caused to people by the crime of child sexual abuse.

Much as it hurts, we are going to have to state the bleeding obvious, which we have studiously managed to avoid doing until now.

We take this opportunity to state:

1.         Sexual abuse of a child by a priest or religious is a crime under Australian law and under canon law.

2.         Sexual abuse of a child by any church personnel, whenever it occurred, was then and is now indefensible.

3.          That such abuse has occurred at all, and the extent to which it has occurred, are facts of which the whole church in Australia is deeply ashamed.

4.         The church fully and unreservedly acknowledges the devastating, deep and ongoing impact of sexual abuse on the lives of the victims and their families.

5.         The church acknowledges that many victims were not believed when they should have been.

6.         The church is also ashamed to acknowledge that, in some cases, those in positions of authority concealed or covered up what they knew of the facts, moved perpetrators to another place, thereby enabling them to offend again, or failed to report matters to the police when they should have.  That behaviour, too, is indefensible.

7.         Too often in the past, it is clear, some church leaders gave too high a priority to protecting the reputation of the church, its priests, religious and other personnel, over the protection of children and their families, and over compassion and concern for those who suffered at the hands of church personnel. That, too, was and is inexcusable.

8.         In such ways, church leaders betrayed the trust of their own people and the expectations of the wider community.

The words stick in our throats, unused as we are to honesty on this topic, but that just shows how damaging and irresponsible those blasted victims really are, selfishly promoting their own interests, no matter the damage it causes the church.

 9.         For all these things the church is deeply sorry.  It apologises to all those who have been harmed and betrayed.  It humbly asks for forgiveness.

We’ve said sorry about this so many times. Once more through gritted teeth changes nothing. They can force us to say it but they can’t force us to mean it.

The leaders of the Catholic Church in Australia commit ourselves to endeavour to repair the wrongs of the past, to listen to and hear victims, to put their needs first, and to do everything we can to ensure a safer future for children.

We commit ourselves to nothing specific, just a lot of PR friendly concepts, all heavily qualified. Naturally, there is no means for anyone to measure success or even track if we actually do anything. The imbeciles fall for this one every time.

When this Royal Commission was announced, the leaders of the church – that is, the bishops and religious leaders from all around Australia – appreciated that this Commission would be, as it is, a watershed in church history and, indeed, in Australian history.  They realised that the issue of abuse within the church is so fundamental and so serious that at least three things needed to happen.

We knew this damn commission would be bad. That’s why we undermined all efforts to hold one for so many years.

First, the church must, wherever possible, speak with one voice at the Commission.

We need to tightly control the message. Individuals could say anything, even, God forbid, the truth.

Second, any of the old ways that still remained, shrouded in secrecy, defensiveness or damage control, must be renounced.

Yeah, the Vatican’s really going to let us break with the long tradition of coverup. I should be a stand up commedian.

Third, the church should seize the opportunity provided by the momentous circuit-breaker of the Royal Commission to renew itself, to look closely at the ways in which it has responded to the issue both in the past and up to the present time, and to do so with humility and openness and generosity of spirit.

If we really have to do this, we are going to bury some smelly old skeletons, and bury them deeeep. They’ll never come back to haunt us.

As to the second and third of these, time will tell, and the community will ultimately be the judge.

As time passes, everyone will forget about any commitments we make now.

As to the first, let me say something about the Truth, Justice and Healing Council.  The council was established in February this year by the peak body of bishops, the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, known as the ACBC, and the peak body of religious, Catholic Religious Australia, known as CRA.  It is the council which will represent and speak for the many dioceses and religious institutes which have authorised it to do so.

The Catholic Church in Australia is not a single discrete entity or thing.  It is made up of people in complex and disparate groupings, the millions of lay people, as well as the priests and bishops and religious. There are some 34 dioceses and over 180 different religious orders and congregations.

Each individual diocese and each individual religious institute is basically autonomous and independent of every other.  For example, no archbishop or bishop has any authority or control over any other bishop.

Not surprisingly, to achieve a consensus amongst so many different and independent people and bodies and groupings has, in the past, often been difficult, but on this issue, that of the tragedy of child sexual abuse, differences of view have been put aside.

Good luck with finding anyone ultimately responsible, or tracing the chain of command. We have centuries of practice in dodging responsibility, amateurs.

The first major demonstration of that approach was the development of a uniform national protocol for responding to complaints of this kind.  I will say something about that shortly.

The second is that the Truth, Justice and Healing Council has been brought into existence.  Every diocese and well over 100 orders and congregations have authorised the ACBC or CRA to represent and act for them in the engagement of the church with the Royal Commission.

The ACBC and CRA have, in turn, delegated that authority to the council.

For practical purposes, therefore, the council will ordinarily speak for the whole church, its dioceses, its religious institutes, its priests and religious in the Royal Commission.  All of them are united in their support for the principles stated in the commitment which I reiterated at the beginning of these remarks.

Talk to the hand.

Let there be no doubt about the attitude and approach of the church to the work of this Royal Commission.  The church, through the council, intends to cooperate with the Commission fully, without reservation.

Of course, co-operation only applies to in front of the cameras. Behind the scenes we’ll fight as hard as ever to prevent the truth getting out.

Tens of thousands of documents have so far been produced from all around the country.  Witnesses have been and will be made available.  Bishops and archbishops and religious leaders will participate as the Commission may require.

We are going to bury you in paperwork and delay this baby till we can convince you that all the current office holders are too old or too dead.

The council’s aim is to do everything in its power to ensure that the Royal Commission has available to it from the church all the material that it needs for the work it seeks to do, so as to ensure that a light is shone on dark places and times and events – in the words of St Augustine nearly 2,000 years ago, to flood the path with light to ensure that nothing is concealed or covered up in respect of what church personnel did or failed to do, and so to give the victims and also the church itself a better chance to heal.  In that way, in the end, something good may be able to emerge from the awfulness and suffering which have occurred.  If it does, it will be the victims and their families who will have brought that about.

Another biblical reference. Another fine sounding but impossible to measure or assess PR objective. Don’t we sound like we are open and honest about this? All without actually having to be open and honest. Brilliant stuff.

Stay safe everyone.

VV

Coming soon: Part 2 – specific comments on the cases to be studied and Chair, Justice Peter McClellan, reprimanding Mr Gray for repeatedly trying to dictate to the Commission what to conclude.

Truth, Justice and Healing comes not from a Council but from a Commission

Survivors in Australia are waking up this week to a different world.

A world where those in positions of authority do not look the other way, shrug their shoulders and callously ignore the fact of the criminal child rape of children, the criminal coverup of those crimes and the ongoing re-abuse of the damaged adult survivors.

For decades or even longer parents, teachers, police, social workers, school principals, priests, bishops, cardinals, prosecutors, lawyers, judges, the media and, most of all, politicians have learnt or known of our suffering and did not care enough to do anything.*

Whether they thought it was not their place, or they would get in trouble for creating a scandal, or they would lose their job or social standing, or it could not be possible, or this issue was not allowed to be spoken about, or someone else would deal with it – they all left children to suffer horribly to save themselves discomfort.

And they got away with this dereliction of their duty of care, just as those who deliberately and cunningly plan and commit their crimes, and those who deliberately enable those crimes to continue, get away with their evil.

For so long we were silenced, no one spoke up for us and no one was held accountable.

Recently more and more survivors are speaking up and are being given more opportunities to do so.

But still we lack decisive, comprehensive action on this issue. The vast majority of these offenders and their protectors still slip through any protective measures with ease and are never stopped and never held accountable.

The criminals know they are still safe. And they act accordingly.

But they are not safe any longer.

Sitting in the hearing room of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in recent months I have been brought to tears many times as the realisation dawns that they are asking the right questions, they are determined to get the answers, and the information gathered will be used to develop truly effective recommendations. The tears are partly joy that the questions are being asked at last, and partly great sorrow at how much unnecessary suffering has been caused by not asking them earlier.

But this week there can no longer be any doubt.

As the smug paedophile protectors of the Catholic Church face the Commission for the first time, their facade of sincerity and their carefully crafted evasions, qualifications, diversions, excuses and misdirection are given the credibility they deserve. Absolutely none.

The CEO of the Untruth, Injustice and Denial of Healing Council, Frances Sullivan, sits smugly in the front row every day, and his lawyer offends most survivors in the room as soon as he opens his mouth. Church representatives, whether in front of TV cameras, in witness box or at bar table, make sure to say a lot of the right things, but we who understand them far better than we ever wanted, know they mean not a word of it. They still regard survivors speaking about our experiences as the problem to be dealt with. They don’t believe they have done anything deserving criticism. They still believe their way of doing things is just fine as it is, if only the biased media would focus on someone else for a change.

This week is the first time logic and brutal honesty has been applied in such strength and forensic detail to these experts in the low arts of obfuscation and mental reservation. And stripped of their protections of undue reverence and undeserved respect, they are revealed as less like moral leaders and much more like the immoral and often criminal cowards they truly are.

Hearing Justice Peter McClellan’s questions this week has brought me to the point where I can finally, for the first time in my life, relax and trust those in authority to do the job they were appointed to do.

I can see a possible future where campaigning for child protection and justice for survivors is not left to the survivors because those in power have neglected this issue so completely.

We are safe in Peter McClellan’s and Gail Furness’s hands, as we never were in the church’s.

We have been given what we asked for with this Royal Commission.

Fearless, committed, intelligent people who are not swayed by anyone’s claim of a special relationship with a supernatural being.

Let’s do all we can to help the Commission do its job.

Stay safe everyone.

VV

* There are notable exceptions, individuals, who did put children first and did take action. But the numbers and power of those determined to silence us, preferably permanently, overwhelmed and stymied their efforts.

Why Aren’t We More Outraged by This Corruption?

Last month it was revealed Catholic church officials were less than honest with police in NSW about the crimes of their carefully protected child sex offender colleagues and friends.

Many would say, so what’s new?

What was new was the release under Freedom of Information of documents requested by David Shoebridge, MLC. These damning documents demonstrate how the Catholic Mafia in the NSW police, a group many of the witnesses before the NSW Special Commission of Inquiry swear do not exist, were helping this coverup in an official capacity.

The non existent mafiosi went so far as to promote the drafting of a document, a Memorandum of Understanding between NSW Police and church officials, which contained a clause stating that the church would, could and should hide crucial evidence from police unless ordered to hand it over by a court.

“Church authorities shall make available the report of an assessment and any other matter relevant to the accused’s account of events only if required to do so by court order.”

Other troublesome clauses effectively give veto over the release of evidence to the police to – can you believe it – the offenders themselves! Or to other parties who commonly experience threats or pressure from church officials not to be honest with police.

Why any police force would draft such clauses undermining our laws and the rights of abused children to access justice simply beggars belief.

But in the hands of the catholic church, with a well documented history of officials taking any such concession and then exploiting it to a ludicrous degree in their efforts to cover up crimes and bury scandal, such a clause is akin to carte blanche for any and all breaches of laws against the cover up of serious crimes.

Surely the NSW public believes and expects that institutions such as the catholic church should obey the laws of NSW, the same as anyone else.  Any document of this nature is clearly an attempt to avoid doing just that. Or to give official support to a long standing corrupt practice.

Thankfully someone in the police force stopped this farce before it became a tragedy.  The document was never signed. And never came into force.

Not that it could, because it is illegal.

In addition to criminally stupid and horrifyingly immoral.

Such an agreement contravenes Section 316 of the Crimes Act.

Of course, survivors and those who work in this area know that consistent Catholic church practice (though church officials will never admit it is policy) is to breach Section 316 of the Crimes Act in every possible way in cases of child sexual assault and other serious crimes.

That is certainly what happened in my case.

But the NSW police refuse to investigate this additional crime, for which there is clear evidence.  And in their 18 months of investigation of the many, many sexual offences against me, they never managed to obtain copies of incriminating documents, whose existence I only learned about afterwards.

So this announcement has added poignancy to me, as it brings me back to the heart-wrenchingly hard task of trying to survive my brutal denial of justice.

It makes me rethink the whole episode.

It was not just a lack of support from senior police for the efforts of my excellent detective. It was not just the absolute obstruction of the police investigation by church officials. It was not just bureaucratic incompetence at pursuing relevant documents. It was not just witnesses and potential whistleblowers intimidated about the personal consequences of revealing the truth. It was not just a lack of cohones from the Director of Public Prosecutions and the truly appalling DPP solicitor ‘managing’ my case. It was not just an ineffective, antiquated, heavily biased and totally inappropriate legal structure for dealing with these cases.

It was all those things.

But it was also corruption.

The mere existence of such an official document is evidence of corruption.

The fact it was never signed is largely irrelevant.

Someone, and the question needs to be asked, who, in the NSW Police force worked on this document with the intention it become policy.

Having read the entire document, there is an approach, a use of language and expressions that lead me to conclude the document was drafted, and I assume initiated, by church officials, not police officials.

That a self serving and corrupt criminal institution should attempt to dictate police policy should raise red flags all over town.

Many of the clauses actually talk about church officials co-operating with legal requirements to report these matters to police and also co-operating with police investigations. Unfortunately church officials do not actually comply with these clauses.  I believe them to be window dressing or a distraction from the illegal clause hiding amongst them and now revealed by David Shoebridge.

What is the reaction of church officials to the public exposure of this secret policy document?

Did they abhor the illegality of its purpose and proposed actions?

Did they deny knowledge of such an evil plot?

Did they claim to be “doing so much better these days” ?

No, they admitted they used (and still use?) this clause as a reason and excuse for their own illegal behaviour. As if somehow, by its very existence, it was able to override the law and make their illegal behaviour magically not illegal.

Could they really be stupid enough to see this MoU as a “Get Out of Jail Free Card”?

“But Your Honour the corrupt police officer working under the Cardinal’s/Bishop’s instructions said it was okay to do it that way, so you really can’t blame me, can you?”

There was certainly no mention of why this detail had so far been kept secret from all official inquiries. You know, the official inquiries they fought so hard to prevent, but now claim to support. Is this ongoing secrecy about corrupt practices their idea of how to be open and transparent and co-operate fully?

This matter must be investigated thoroughly by the Royal Commission. This matter by itself should be enough to trigger a Royal Commission, if we did not already have one.

I wonder if NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell is as keen to investigate this evidence as he was to undermine the claims of Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox about NSW police not fully investigating catholic child sexual assault cases?

Somehow I doubt he will announce another NSW Special Commission of Inquiry.

We should also be asking about the existence of similar illegal arrangements in other Australian states, especially those states whose police forces have been most tightly controlled by the catholic mafia.

But the question I really want to ask is why are the media, politicians and the public not more outraged by this blatant corruption of our police force by a wealthy religious institution engaged in widespread criminality?

This is not the sort of thing that should ever happen in the Australia I want to live in or raise my kids in.

This is the sort of real issue we should be basing our electoral decisions on, rather than the manufactured question of who is prepared to act most inhumanely to stop the boats, re-abuse refugees and impress the xenophobes.

Stay safe everyone.

VV

Read the MoU

Sincere thanks must go to NSW MLC David Shoebridge for obtaining and revealing this crucial document, as he has done with so many others.

While the issue of child protection and justice for victims must always remain outside of party politics, David deserves all credit for being one of only a handful of Australian politicians who have truly fought for the rights of abused children. Unlike so many politicians and others who, when the Royal Commission was announced last year, suddenly took undeserved credit for supporting our efforts while forgetting their own many years of obstructing our pleas for justice, David has long put in tremendous effort, and taken much flak, on behalf of victims.

Will the Royal Commission Use Its Teeth?

There have been a number of times when evidence before the Royal Commission’s public hearings has been conflicting. Confusing. Dodgy even.

But this week’s questioning of YMCA managers has uncovered what only the most naïve would consider to be anything other than direct and deliberate lies to the Commission.

Witnesses flatly contradicted the evidence of other witnesses, or of documents. One witness contradicted her own earlier sworn evidence taken in a private hearing. But in response to attempts to straighten out these inconsistencies and about-faces, they give the same, carefully rehearsed, defensively unco-operative evasive non answers.

Senior Counsel Assisting Gail Furness SC and Commissioner Justice Peter McClellan made it perfectly clear when they were frustrated by witnesses’ pretense of not understanding in order to avoid answering difficult questions. And they simply did not accept nonsensical assertions about how well this matter was handled in the face of clear evidence to the contrary.

The carefully polite questioning occasionally slipped with these witnesses. Justice McClellan in particular showed his quiet anger when anyone arrogantly flaunted their contempt for both the powers of the Commission and the intelligence of those questioning them.

Some of these managers were emotionally shut down and avoidant, with their coldly defensive and self-righteous manner. They brushed aside, both verbally and with their body language, any suggestion they could have done anything in any way wrong.

Wrong things happened, certainly, but despite being in positions of responsibility, little or no responsibility – personally, as a management group, or as an institution – was admitted or accepted.

This attitude was maintained even when managers were questioned directly about their own or others’ lack of adherence to YMCA policies, lack of proper conduct of reference checks, lack of adequate supervision and training, and employees unable to report upwards their concerns about worrying behavior of a colleague.

The more junior YMCA staff witnesses last week were clearly distressed that they did not do more to follow up on feelings of something not right about Jonathan Lord’s interaction with the YMCA’s clients. They understood how they could have acted differently, how the situation could have been managed differently, and that as a result, children may have been saved from suffering. Not so the middle and senior managers, despite their far greater responsibility and ability to take effective action.

Those who have most to answer for in allowing Jonathan Lord unquestioned access to his favourite prey, not only deny there was a management problem, or any responsibility for the problem, but support and even promote each other.

Despite claims from YMCA about how seriously they take the issue of child protection, those responsible for what the Commission and an expert described as a clear failure of management have not analysed any problems with the management of their centres or sought to learn from those failures, and have not been put through intensive external training in management and child protection, but have instead been rewarded with even more senior, influential, strategic and no doubt financially lucrative positions.

Some of these managers have demonstrated such a dedication to protect certain individuals and the institution from the truth and from facing responsibility, such a lack of consideration for victims and neglect of the safety of children, that they could be considered ideally qualified to become Catholic bishops. Except, of course, some are in possession of the wrong set of genitalia.

This forensic examination of these managers’ actions shines a light on individuals who, like most catholic officials, are callous, defensive and self serving in their response to these horrific crimes. We can observe, even if we can’t understand, how they shut down their humanity, shut down any consideration of the innocent child victims and their shocked families, and of anything other than protecting themselves and their institution.

The question that must be asked of the Commissioners is, will there be any consequences for those who lie to the Commission?

Certainly many of the misleading or incorrect assertions made under oath were subjected to a detailed re-examination armed with sharp logic and strong evidence to the contrary, and most eventually resulted in a more truthful admission. But in some cases the witness simply refused to accept the truth.

If such behavior is rewarded by having no consequences, as long as a witness is able to maintain their fiction and refuse to admit to the truth, how will the Commission cope with all the complicit catholic religious and bishops, who have been given official Vatican encouragement to lie through their teeth via the policy of mental reservation, and have sworn an oath to protect the reputation of the catholic church, no matter what?

Especially dangerous are bishops and cardinals, who are expressly required, encouraged and rewarded for putting their loyalty to the church hierarchy in Rome and the pope in particular, above the law of the land. These princes of the church consider themselves to be doing the right thing, and even acting heroically, by thwarting the efforts of local law enforcement and other legal and judicial authorities.

Will the deceit of “I can’t recall”, “I don’t remember”, “to the best of my recollection”, “I was not aware at the time” and others be allowed to block access to the truth?

Or will witnesses be required to actually provide answers, rather than a confection of carefully rehearsed excuses, and legally directed evasive strategies?

November and December promise to be exceedingly interesting months.

Stay safe everyone.

VV

Sexually Abused Kids Don’t Have to Suffer All Their Lives and They Certainly Don’t Have to Die

Evidence about the Jonathan Lord YMCA case continues at Australia’s Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. A number of brave, strong, articulate mothers spoke about discovering their small boys had been abused by Jonathan Lord. Each one is the kind of mother, the kind of Australian, that makes this country great.

If most mothers were more like them, we would never have needed this Royal Commission, because the coverup, the secrecy, the willingness to sacrifice children to protect reputations, and the lax attitudes towards child safety, including jokes but no action about “kiddie fiddlers”, would never have taken hold in our culture.

I spoke privately to one of these inspirational mothers yesterday at the hearings. She talked of a generational change in parenting attitudes. I agree. My mother’s generation were all too willing not to question authority, especially religious authority, not to believe their children’s disclosures, or even the evidence of their own eyes.

Revered, powerful males were unquestionable. Religious of both sexes were untouchable. Children had no rights whatsoever.

Today, not so much.

As a mother of two boys of a similar age to Jonathan Lord’s victims, if I had the slightest suspicion, the tiniest inkling of anything or anyone harming my child, nothing, and I do mean nothing, would stop me from doing whatever it took to protect them. Or to help them recover.

But it’s not enough to rely on that change in attitudes. We need effective and comprehensive systems to ensure our children’s safety.

The courageous witness noted that just because the YMCA does a much better job with child safety than the Catholic Church, does not mean that what the YMCA does is good enough.

Which is why the Royal Commission’s investigation into these issues is desperately needed.

More issues continue to emerge about systemic problems that let our children down and leave them vulnerable to sexual exploitation by determined criminals.

As the numbers of boys disclosing grew, police, DoCS and the YMCA started to treat the later revelations of additional victims and additional offences as less relevant or even annoying.

What these organisations seem to forget is, even if the organisations are not as interested in subsequent information, once several victims had already come forward, to those directly involved as victims or parents of victims, this is the most devastating, critical, traumatic and vitally important element of their lives.

And that these victims and families all deserve the very best of support to help them through such a difficult time and to improve the long term prospects for all involved, particularly the innocent kids.

For example, once the police had enough evidence to proceed to arrest on the basis of a number of victims and a number of crimes, officers weren’t particularly interested to have to stop their other work to interview new victims. But every single victim deserves to have their story heard and to have the offender held responsible specifically for the crimes against them.

This is a common problem, with most of Australia’s prolific repeat offenders only ever brought to trial for a fraction of their victims and a minute fraction of their actual offending. This is one of many reasons for completely inappropriate sentencing decisions for these crimes in Australia. And is even more worrying in light of the fact that less than 1% of child sexual abuse cases even make it as far as  conviction.

Families were also kept in the dark by many organisations, especially the YMCA, about what was going on, severely impacting their ability to properly support the child victims, which should have been the top priority.

Initially, parents were told Jonathan Lord was simply on annual leave, or not told who was the subject of the police investigation, removing parents’ ability to ascertain whether their child was affected by these crimes and thus offer support as soon as possible.

This is appalling.

Even worse, Jonathan Lord, after being arrested then released on bail, kept offending.

The secrecy must have been a factor in allowing this to happen. If the community was informed, parents would have been able to protect their children from serious further harm. This is also not a unique occurrence. Child sex offenders, often well respected and prominent members of the community, are frequently released on bail, despite being a significant flight risk and a significant danger to the community. In so many ways, the reputations and privacy of child sex criminals throughout Australia are vigorously protected at the cost of undermining child safety and inflicting additional suffering on victims.

Hopefully the revelations resulting from this Royal Commission will remind the Commissioners, our politicians, individuals and institutions that every extra offence carves additional severe trauma into a child’s broken heart, even if the child has lost count because of the already large number of sexual assaults they have suffered.

We all need reminding that the constant terror of facing an unending future of additional assaults for years on end irreparably damages a child’s psychological development. And the knowledge that no-one will act to stop the offending, especially if adults are known to be aware of what is going on, exponentially increases this harm.

We all need reminding that every additional victim is a precious life possibly destroyed, another family ripped apart by tragedy, perhaps irrevocably.

The good news is many of Jonathan Lord’s victims have wonderfully supportive parents doing everything possible to help them recover, and for some, their prognosis is hopeful. They have a good chance of reaching their potential, and enjoying a normal life free from the dark shadow of ongoing trauma.

The reason they will likely do so much better than many other victims of child sexual abuse is because they were able to see firm action taken by powerful adults to rescue them from their attacker and hold him accountable for his crimes. And because they are receiving early and, hopefully, ongoing counseling assistance as needed. They will certainly all need watching for the next few decades (not just till the age of 18) to identify if long term impacts of their abuse emerge and to ensure they receive appropriate and timely support.

This encouraging outcome illustrates that sexually abused kids do not have to suffer terribly throughout their lives and die early, unable to stand the pain of living.

This is not an outcome that has ever been an option, and is still not an option, for victims of Catholic clergy sexual predators.

Personally I look forward to the day the Royal Commission understands that not only does the Catholic Church enable and coverup the widespread and systemic sexual abuse of children, not only does it severely re-abuse sexually abused children through a cruelly self serving response to these crimes, but that this dysfunctional institution and the sociopaths who run it are also directly responsible for the tragic deaths of far too many of our doubly abused kids.

And I look forward to the day the Royal Commission recommends the Australian Government takes appropriate action for the first time in history.

Stay safe everyone.

VV

A Tale of Three Inquiries – Part 2 The National Royal Commission

Many hopes are pinned on the National Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse to fill the massive gaps left by the narrow terms of reference of the NSW Special Commission of Inquiry, and the inadequate time and powers of the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry.

This is the comprehensive national inquiry which will scoop up the evidence from the smaller inquiries, and we hope, consolidate and then finish the job.  We hope the Royal Commission will do the job thoroughly.  We hope the Royal Commission will create an effective national framework to hold those guilty of child sex crimes accountable, and deliver recommendations, which it will be up to State and National Governments to implement, to properly protect all of Australia’s children.

There are many who hope to prevent the truth coming out. Many reputations will be justifiably shredded. Many, particularly religious officials, and not just from the catholic church, should be in jail. They have a lot to lose and they will stop at nothing to thwart the efforts of this Royal Commission, despite fallacious statements of an intention to co-operate. It is up to all of us who have had direct experience relevant to this Commission, not just survivors, and are able to speak to the Commission either privately or publicly, to ensure it does not fail for lack of evidence. Both for our own sakes so we are no longer comprehensively and deliberately denied justice and healing, and also for those equally innocent children who come after us, who also do not deserve to suffer as we did and do.

I personally hope the Royal Commission will not stop till it gets to the true reasons why so many adults protect predators and sacrifice children. Why so many undermine our laws, our justice system, and the truth in order to defend the reputations of dangerous criminals, while sentencing thousands of their innocent victims to life, or death, sentences.

We cannot just dismiss this issue as the dark side of human nature, cannot ascribe all blame to the evil monsters who deliberately inflict such horrific crimes on the most vulnerable in society. The buck doesn’t even stop with the equally evil monsters who knowingly enable these crimes, knowingly thwart our laws and knowingly endanger large numbers of children.

These crimes, and so much suffering, could have been prevented if those who turned away and let it happen, who did not speak up, who did not challenge the bullies, who did not put the protection of children before what is expedient for their careers and their social standing, had instead reached inside and found their courage, and had defended the truth, instead of going along with what they knew or suspected were lies.

Organisations which put their own interests before the human rights of those whose lives they impact, and those responsible for implementing, scrutinising or policing their policies and processes, are also very much to blame for so much of the suffering we will hear about over the next few years.

I sincerely hope the Royal Commission finally understands that institutions where children are in the power of adults will inevitably attract those seeking to exploit that power. That we cannot trust anyone to be in unquestioned and unscrutinised authority over children or other vulnerable populations. We must not give anyone the “benefit of the doubt”. We must not enforce the “rights” of powerful adults while denying even the most basic human rights to defenceless children.

I hope the Commissioners will understand how corruption, criminality, undue influence, threats, mismanagement, self interest, political and departmental incompetence, inexperience, laziness and cowardice all betray children, even under well intentioned systems.  And at the other end of the spectrum, I hope they gain insight into how badly children fare under an overtly abusive system, such as those seen in many religious residential institutions, with up to 2,000 years experience of rewarding criminality, abuse of power and corruption, and treating the safety of children as unworthy even of consideration.

This week the Royal Commission began its first public hearing in front of all six Commissioners in its specially built hearing room in one of the most expensive office buildings in the Sydney CBD (or Australia for that matter).

The Commissioners would no doubt argue that their tough job extracting the truth from some very hardened and slippery criminals requires the overt appearance of power and authority. And for many religious criminals money certainly equals power.

However I am sure that most survivors would far prefer the millions spent on this location to have instead been channelled into appropriate and effective (not politically directed) ongoing support for survivors.

This first week is one of a number of case studies, looking at a specific case and touching on a number of organisations and issues. In the crosshairs this week was convicted sex offender Steve Larkins, and his time at Scouts Australia and Hunter Aboriginal Childrens’ Services.

The coverage of those organisations and issues was not comprehensive, and has already opened many new avenues of inquiry, and identified much additional evidence required by the Royal Commission. I hope the Commissioners were as horrified as I was to learn that Larkins had also been given unrestricted access to extremely vulnerable children at the notorious Kendall Grange, run by the paedophile Catholic order St John of God.

Before anyone complains that I cannot describe St John of God as a paedophile order, it is worth remembering a psychologist who worked with the order’s hundreds of child abuse victims  for many years concluded 75% of the order were the subject of child sex abuse allegations. What else do you call such a group? And why have the police and indeed the Royal Commission not made St John of God a number 1 priority for investigation? What sort of society do we live in when such a statistic can be made public knowledge, and no-one in a position of authority is disgusted that this paedophile order is still receiving generous tax breaks, still demands religious reverence and unquestioned authority, and is still making profits from the provision mental health and other services, and yet nothing is done about their many, many crimes, about their not being fit persons to hold the positions they do, and the danger they represent?

In addition to the standard collection of detailed evidence, it was a delight to see Counsel Assisting, Gayle Furness, and Commissioner Justice Peter McClellan ask deadpan and fairly obvious questions of those whose actions or lack of action created the perfect conditions where a dangerous child sex predator could continue to offend and which exposed an unknown number of innocent children to a lifetime of undeserved suffering.

Because so much of the reason why this problem has grown to the extent of a culture of child rape in Australia, is the habit of responsible adults to ignore, dismiss or turn their backs on this issue. To not take these crimes seriously, to not treat them with an appropriate sense of urgency, to not ensure they are addressed and do not fall through the cracks, to not properly investigate any suspicions, to rely on assumptions rather than evidence, and to not care about how damaging these crimes are and how much danger these offenders represent to children.

This week’s evidence showed that in the Hunter/Newcastle/Port Stephens region no-one questioned whether their actions or attitudes were appropriate or adequate responses to these crimes. Most just went along with the general neglect and general cover-up.

This week’s evidence revealed many didn’t act themselves because they relied on the erroneous assumption that the fatally flawed court and child protection systems were actually doing the job they were supposed to do.

This week’s evidence also revealed the tragically common occurrence where the police, courts and child protection did not function as they should. Where they protected offenders, not their victims.

Adults who were in a position to take action that may have protected children in danger, or who could have stopped Larkins from being given continued access to children, decided it was not necessary, often because of the involvement of the police or because a matter had gone to court, or because a background check should have been done. The frequent assumption that if there was something to be concerned about, appropriate action would have been taken, was shown by this week’s evidence to have been a big factor in continuing to expose children to danger.

Statistics from Victoria, analysed by Judy Courtin, lawyer, researcher and PhD candidate, show just how wrong this assumption is in relation to the police and courts. The end result of the combined efforts of Victorian police and courts is that less than 1% of child sex assaults ever result in a conviction. Even less ever result in the only truly effective child protection measure, removing the offender from access to children via incarceration.

From now on, because of this historic Royal Commission, these assumptions will be challenged and the hard, normally unspoken questions will be asked.

It was very emotional to be one of the only survivors in a room full of corporate, government and police witnesses and lawyers, hearing Gayle Furness ask the very questions we have wanted asked all these years, and watch her wait patiently for an acceptable answer.  An answer that never comes.

It brought slow, sad tears to my eyes to hear how every single witness, even to some extent the brave whistleblower, who in the end left the matter in the untrustworthy hands of his superiors and the police, let down all the vulnerable children to whom the predator Larkins had access. How much suffering around the country has been experienced by all the kids similarly betrayed, over the last 100 years in Australia?

Larkins is not the only predator attracted to Scouts Australia, though he was the focus this week. There are some very smelly old skeletons in the Scouting closets, but a policy from 2000 was presented to the Commission which looked to be an attempt to do the right thing. Such an approach is of course eminently sensible for any well managed modern organisation which does not believe it has a god given right to commit as many crimes as it likes without facing any legal or civil consequences or outside scrutiny.

The Scouts child abuse policy published in 2000 is based on three very simple yet effective points.

1. Immediate suspension for anyone about whom there is a child abuse allegation

2. Provision of counselling for all victims and other affected persons (no limits on counselling, and choice of own counsellor)

3. Report to relevant outside body, either police or child protection authorities or preferably both

Clear. Simple. Measurable. Action.

Not complicated. Not difficult. Not impossible. Not hard to identify the best thing to do.

The Royal Commission’s deliberations will determine whether this is a policy on paper only, a façade to reassure stakeholders and supporters, and whether it was or is in fact implemented.

But even if it is just another smokescreen, it is worth comparing these excellent points to the disgraceful Towards Healing and Melbourne Response operated by the Catholic Church in Australia. Or rather by the Catholic Church’s insurers.

Amazingly, despite arrogantly claiming to set world best practice in dealing with child sexual abuse, and deceitfully crowing that their churches are the safest place for children, the Catholic Church chooses not to attempt to do any of the above three simple and effective actions, but instead the complete opposite.

Church leaders don’t even pretend to undertake these three crucial steps. Because their compliance, or rather lack of compliance, with such clear requirements could be easily measured.

And if compliance can be easily measured, someone might expect church officials to actually do what they claim to do, and not just use such claims to sweep aside questions or criticisms.

And no senior church official has demonstrated any intention of doing anything like the three actions in the Scouts policy.

Because that would protect children rather than child sex predators.

Because that would help victims to recover and to be able to speak out about their abuse.

And because that would take these matters out of the hands of church officials, and knowledge about the nature and scale of the widespread criminality inside the catholic church could become public knowledge.

The Royal Commission could take this excellent starting point further in their recommendations. Organisations where abuse has occurred should be required to immediately and without question report any and all knowledge of such incidents. With stringent penalties, including jail time, for non compliance, slow compliance, or warning predators.

A national statutory authority could receive such reports, collect and hold information, with reference to the privacy of victims, and pass matters onto police, child protection or other bodies as appropriate. The statutory body would ensure victims receive counselling and any other support services, paid for by the abusive organisation but never supplied by anyone associated with the organisation. This body would also decide whether immediate employment suspension was warranted, and ensure an investigation takes place. After an appropriate investigation the offender would be charged by police, have a working with children notification, be restricted from access to children, or have their employment reinstated and their reputation cleared.

A single, national statutory body dealing with all reports would easily be able to provide accurate statistics to governments and researchers to measure the success of child protection measures, to inform future policy and legislation, and to track the lifetime offending record of predators attempting to move from state to state or organisation to organisation to avoid detection.

Naturally such an authority would need to be subject to regular independent audits.

It is not that hard to work out how to protect children instead of child sex offenders. The hard part is proving to Australia’s politicians that there really is no viable option but to put the safety of children first.

That is why the evidence submitted to the Royal Commission is so important.

Because even just the first week of evidence before the Royal Commission has shown clearly that children exposed to child sexual offenders in Australia do not just fall through the cracks. The whole system is one huge gaping chasm, with almost nothing to hold onto, and nothing to catch or support us before or after we fall into their clutches.

It is not a well intentioned system that is somehow failing to do its job. The system has been taken over by the predators themselves, such as Steve Larkins running Hunter Aboriginal Children’s Services, doing a Working With Children check on himself, and keeping his staff and even his Board in the dark and too intimidated to ask questions. The system is being steered by those, such as the church officials who developed Towards Healing, who have a vested interest in coverup, denial of healing and obstructing justice. The system is helped by those, who are themselves child sex predators, or who have been bribed, threatened or corrupted by cunning predators, and have worked themselves into strategic positions in the police force, the courts, the education system, mental health, charities and child protection. And from these positions they ensure reports go nowhere, nothing is followed up, evidence is lost or misplaced, procedures are not followed, policies are watered down, and their colleagues are encouraged not to take any breaches seriously.

The current system is actually working perfectly. Because the system is designed to fail children and to sacrifice child safety.

We do not need the Royal Commission to tinker around the edges of this most dysfunctional system.

We need a new system. One the predators and those who enable and coverup for them cannot subvert, cannot divert, and cannot use to harm rather than help Australia’s children.

Stay safe everyone.

V V

The next public hearing of the Royal Commission, into the YMCA and their response to the predator Jonathan Lord, is scheduled for 10.00 am Mon 21 Oct at Hearing Room 1, Level 17, Governor Macquarie Tower, 1 Farrer Place, Sydney