Voiceless Victim

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

Tag Archives: National Royal Commission sex abuse Australia

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.

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Victims Heard at Last

Statement issued by survivors of Catholic child sexual abuse, their families and supporters on the first day of Royal Commission hearings into the catholic Church’s response to child sexual abuse:

The children of Australia have long been denied our basic human right to safety.

In order to protect the reputation and assets of wealthy institutions and those who control them, we have been knowingly exposed to terrible danger.  We have suffered unbearable pain, and many of us have not survived.

When we begged for help or for justice our voices were ignored.

Those in a position to help us left those responsible for inflicting this harm to “deal with” the crimes committed aginst us.

In doing so they neglected their duty of care to us and to tens of thousands of children of this country over a long period of time.

But now, thanks to the bravery of survivors, insiders in various organisations and the media, speaking out about this issue when no-one wanted to listen, we are here, at last, to witness the truth being told by a few heroic individuals.

As you listen to their experiences, we hope you will gain a greater understanding of the real impact of these crimes, and we ask you to remember also all the others, heard and unheard, who have been through similar pain.

Our stories are hard to hear, but they are even harder to live, and immensely difficult to tell.

We tell them so that future children will not be callously exposed to danger, as we were.

We ask you to open your hearts and your minds to the suffering of so many Australian children, and in doing so secure the right to safety for future generations of children.

We ask that those responsible be held responsible. We ask that those accountable be held to account.

We ask for laws that protect children rather than predators, and we ask that they be enforced uniformly, that no person or institution be considered above the law.

We ask that all children be offered the same protection, no matter where they live, who their parents are, or what they believe.

We ask you not to be swayed by comforting but meaningless promises of change by institutions proven to continually lie about this issue.

We call on all State and Federal Governments to express support for and move towards implementing the recommendations of the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry. We ask that this become the bedrock of child protection and justice for survivors in Australia, a solid foundation upon which the Royal Commission, with its more extensive investigations and recommendations, can build.

But most of all, we who know first hand what it is to be abused, abandoned and to live in constant fear, beg the Royal Commission, the media, our politicians, and the public to remember this is not about point scoring, or reputations, or power. It is most definitely not about religion. Or politics.

This is about living in a safe and just society.

This is about protecting children.

Stay safe everyone.

VV

RIP Father Kevin Lee – a disobedient priest and a good man, punished for his honesty

The sad news is filtering through about the death of Father Kevin Lee in last week’s massive typhoon in the Philippines.

This was no doubt a very great tragedy for his friends and especially his young family, with whom he had spent so little time.

Kevin saw his daughter Michelle born in late September, knew her for a few short weeks, and will never see her grow up. But he was satisfied and happy, writing prophetically in his blog,

“I am watching you Michelle and I never want to feel regret that I did not love you enough. I want to know that whatever happens, I am grateful to God and Josefina for giving me the best treasure in my life. I don’t know what the future holds. I don’t know how long I have with you. But.. every day…grateful … that you are my daughter…”

This terrible tragedy will also touch survivors around the country, as Father Lee was one of an extraordinarily rare breed. A catholic, and a priest, who eventually found the courage to put truth and justice before personal expediency and protecting the crimes and the criminals of his institution.

Father Kevin Lee was an Australian catholic priest who was in a loving and committed relationship with a woman.

It is not unusual for catholic priests to have sex with adult women. At least amongst those priests who are not gay or who don’t find it acceptable, convenient or exciting to rape children. What was unusual about this relationship was that it was consensual and loving, not abusive and exploitative.

If he had preyed upon a vulnerable young woman like so many of his colleagues, and forced her into both a sexual relationship and the secrecy made necessary by the catholic church’s celibacy requirement, he would have been in less trouble with the catholic hierarchy.

The point of the nonsensical celibacy rule is that, like in Orwell’s 1984, it is designed to be broken. Priests are human beings, very very far from divine and certainly not asexual. But once the celibacy rule is broken and the hierarchy or fellow priests have knowledge or evidence of it, they suddenly posses leverage, power and, most importantly, control over those who lapse in this way.

Consequences are threatened but rarely eventuate.

This blackmail, often mutual, is the oil which greases the many cogs of the Vatican machine.

You don’t tell my secrets and I won’t tell yours

It makes for some very strange bedfellows.

But Kevin went further. He committed what was, in the eyes of the hierarchy, a very great crime. A far more serious crime in their twisted thinking than raping thousands of children or vulnerable women and leaving behind a trail of immense suffering and death.

His heinous crime?

He married a woman.  While still a priest.

Strangely enough, the earth didn’t open up and swallow him.

He got on with his role as a priest and did some good for his community. For a whole year. And no one noticed the difference.

Now to remain a “good priest” and a “good catholic”, all he had to do was to keep up the lie. As long as the deceit and the fiction is maintained, no one has a problem.

But Kevin chose to be a moral and authentic human being instead, and told the truth.

Only he didn’t stop at the fact he had been married for a year and it hadn’t interfered with his ability to perform his duties as a priest.

He also told the truth about the widespread criminal coverup of systemic child rape within the catholic church.

Any up to date, reasonable, responsible, well managed organisation would welcome the information provided by Kevin, assess what it meant and revise their policies and procedures accordingly.

But no one except the seriously deluded has ever accused the catholic church of being up to date, reasonable, responsible or well managed.

Instead church officials refused to listen to Kevin and kicked him to the curb.

Now they had every right to do that.

What he did was not wrong, evil or unlawful in any way. Quite the opposite.

But he broke their stupid, senseless rules and they grabbed at the opportunity to terminate him.

What makes this so sinister is the comparison with the fact that thousands of other priests serially, systemically, routinely break the law by raping, in many cases, stupendous numbers of defenceless children, ruining hundreds or even thousands of innocent lives each, but they suffer little or no consequences, and in some cases are promoted.

And this is still the case.

Australia has now provided numerous examples of priests being swiftly (for anyone, not just the glacially slow church machinery) evicted from their ministry and the church altogether for what amounts to, if we stick with the Orwellian 1984 theme, thoughtcrime.

Hold the wrong opinion, or even worse express it publicly, and a priest can expect the most stringent penalty in the canon law arsenal enacted with lightning speed.

We are not talking cruel, discriminatory, vicious opinions here. Rather we are talking about not supporting the Vatican’s political and power seeking agenda, the fantasy of papal infallibility, and the cruel, discriminatory, vicious dictates insisting on blind, mindless obedience to the immoral, harmful, impoverishing and perversely intrusive sexual, marital and reproductive policies of these out of touch, obscenely wealthy, dysfunctional, childless old singletons.

By comparison, if a priest destroys the lives of thousands of innocent children, including the murder of those who suicide from their assaults and subsequent mistreatment by deceitful officials,  every excuse not to act will be rolled out, and every support and assistance provided to hide and protect the criminal and obstruct secular justice.

Look at this situation outside of the distorting effect of religious belief. Is this a world you want to live in, where this is what routinely happens, is widely acknowledged to happen and yet no-one in power does anything to change it, or even thinks they should? Do we really live in a democracy? Do we really have rule of law? Or are we already in a vicious theocracy by stealth?

Kevin Lee was not prepared to live in that world. He tried, using the power of the truth, to change it.

And it has changed. Thanks to Kevin, along with the efforts of so many others, we now have a National Royal Commission investigating the handling of child rape in the catholic church and other institutions.

I certainly hope before he died Kevin had a chance to give his evidence to the Royal Commission. Or perhaps they can question the officials, including Cardinal George Pell, to whom he reported his evidence.

Though what are the chances of Pell actually telling the Royal Commission what Kevin told him?

I can hear another few hundred “I can’t recall” moments coming on.

The battle is not won yet. Those same church officials who ignored Kevin’s evidence will try to hide the truth, undermine the Royal Commission’s efforts, and lobby to ensure no recommendations are implemented.

For those who are, like Kevin was, ministers of the catholic church and have knowledge about the coverup of these very serious crimes, now is the time to honour Kevin, and the victims and survivors, by continuing the fight to let the truth be known by the Royal Commission. To let an understanding of the full truth shape how we deal with this issue in the future.

The strategy, quoted by so many who consider themselves “good” priests or bishops, as a reason for staying put and keeping quiet, to try to “change the system from within” will never work.

Because unless you are part of the hierarchy, unless you are listened to and exert influence in the corridors of Rome, you are not really on the inside.

You are one of a cheap and largely powerless labour force, treated with utter contempt by those with real power, and used to milk as much money as possible from, and usurp the moral authority of, the mindless millions of lay catholics.

You are on the bottom of a pyramid of narcissists and sociopaths, who will never let people less cruelly self absorbed, less damaged or less obsessively ambitious than themselves climb the ladders of influence, nepotism and corruption.

But you are also likely to be a witness to many serious crimes.

You may have been told that to fight the church’s inquisitors and face down criticism for others’ actions is courageous and honest.

But the catholic church does not value courage or honesty. It punishes them.

It perverts them and mislabels them. Calling the cowardly brave and the liar an honest man.

Now is the time to utilise these very real, very human attributes.

Now is the time to rediscover your humanity.

Now is the time to stand up to the bullies and the liars and the criminals.

Now is the  time to tell the truth.

Just like Kevin Lee did.

RIP, and thank you, Kevin.

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

Song of Lying Bishops

To the tune of Song of Joy

Come, hear our lame excuses

We tell to all Inquiries

We don’t care if you believe us

We fool the Catholics on their knees

 

Lie after lie we can tell

And no one will ever

Do a thing

That’s because the Catholic Mafia

Ensure that we’re above your laws

 

Will this be any different?

No one has ever

Got to the truth

We will pull out dirty tricks

The like of which you can’t conceive

 

The suffering of little children

Really doesn’t rate a snap

We’re the ones deserving sympathy

Having to deal with this crap

 

Come, hear our lame excuses

We can keep this up all day

‘Cause we know that no-one acts

No matter what we do or say

 

Come, hear our lame excuses

Lets all pretend that we have changed

Even though its same as same as

Under a new and hurtful name

Feel free to sing to any bishops entering or leaving the inquiry of your choice.

 

Stay safe everyone.

 

VV

Fasten your seat belts, its going to get bumpy

Motivational of Bette Davis

Margo Channing, played by Bette Davis, snarled this famous line before a party brimming with hidden undercurrents, lies, and deception, in the 1950 film, All About Eve.

We are in for a bumpy few years. It’s going to get bumpier come September, when the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry and NSW Special Commission of Inquiry are scheduled to release their reports, and the Royal Commission begins public hearings.

But as we have seen recently, along with the dips come the jumps and lifts as well.

Our spirits were raised by seeing, first Archbishop Denis Hart, then Cardinal George Pell, appear before the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry. They should have been questioned harder, for longer, and about many more issues, but nonetheless it was both exciting and encouraging to see them held accountable in some way for the very first time. It was even better watching the faces of the Committee members asking the questions. How uplifting to see people in positions of authority, not dismissing us, not caving in to pressure from Church officials to bury the truth, but instead standing up for the rights of children not to be raped, and wearing expressions of disgust for the pathetic excuses and deplorable behaviour of these self important princes of the church.

It was also hard to watch, as all such episodes are, as it brings home to us just how badly we have been neglected and abandoned by those who should have asked these questions and done something to stop these crimes decades ago. Because if they had, imagine how much suffering and how many lives could have been saved.

Another bumpy ride is offered by the NSW Special Commission of Inquiry. Sitting in the public gallery of the Newcastle courtroom it is hard not to wonder why so much of the inquiry’s time and effort are focussed on discrediting brave whistleblower Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox, instead of investigating the shocking crimes and cover up he revealed. But Peter is prepared to endure any amount of legal bullying, confident that the full truth will be given a chance to be heard by the Royal Commission. Meanwhile the Special Commission of Inquiry, working within very restrictive terms of reference, has hopefully finished endlessly repeating accusations and insinuations about Peter, and will now finally turn some of its attention to the cover up of child sex crimes by church officials.

Excitement at the prospect of seeing those responsible for so much suffering finally face detailed investigation has been replaced by disappointment much of their evidence will now be heard in camera, hidden from survivors, the public and the media. The consolation is that this is reportedly necessary because of the possibility these crimes will finally make it to court. Judging by what was revealed in the last week, there certainly seems to be reason to expect a raft of prosecutions. If action is taken, these will be the first Australian prosecutions for the cover up of child rape by Catholic officials, despite mountains of evidence, and a cover up occurring in nearly every case. There was an arrest for such a coverup last year, but in common with standard procedure, the only official to be formally charged was near death and so, in the end, like so many others, he escaped justice and never made it to court.

According to Church officials, the only people responsible for this systemic problem are conveniently dead or old enough to use the ever reliable “too old and infirm” con. So it is exhilarating that even this severely hobbled inquiry has brought to the surface documents about the actions of church officials who are a long way from being able to carry off the standard issue sympathy attracting walking stick, wheelchair, ambulance or oxygen mask.

Even the Royal Commission, with broad terms of reference and extensive powers, still has and will continue to provide many bumps for survivors. A senior lay Catholic and a former police commissioner being appointed as Commissioners concerned many survivors, especially as Robert Fitzgerald’s very relevant background was not disclosed. Teething problems with communications have also worried many. The fact that funding promised by the Government has not been put towards the provision of ongoing counselling for those revealing their traumatic past experiences, possibly for the first time, is particularly worrying and disappointing. The single most crucial use of this money is for the lifesaving counselling we have long been denied by church officials and successive governments. Some of the organisations receiving the funding are not putting the money towards services for survivors, and/or have a history of refusing help to clergy abuse survivors, reabusing survivors or secretly accepting money from the abuser institutions.

However the Royal Commission has already helped and given hope to many. I have sat in, as a support person, on a private session and was very impressed with how it was conducted. I have spoken with those in charge of different areas of the Royal Commission’s operations and am similarly impressed and confident this vital task is in good hands. And with every passing day I am more convinced this Royal Commission is a rare and precious opportunity to tell the truth and be heard. An opportunity we should all value, support and not let go to waste.

Survivors in other countries are desperate to be offered a similar opportunity.

We cannot change the past, but we have been given this one chance to change the future.

There are signs church officials are starting to tire of the pretence of co-operation and will soon descend to the vicious and expensive defence of their reputations seen around the world in similar situations. But instead of letting this get us down, we should take heart from the fact we have truth, evidence, courage and public disgust at these cowardly crimes on our side.

Congratulations and best wishes to all those heroic survivors, their families, supporters and whistleblowers who have told or will tell their truth to one or more of Australia’s trinity of inquiries.

Our evidence can help ensure decision makers properly understand the scale and nature of this problem, and make decisions based on reality, instead of being taken in by church officials’ lies and misinformation.

We might not all see our own version of “what justice looks like” become a reality. We will all have a lot of bumps, both up and down, to survive. But between us all, and with the help of the truth revealed at last by these inquiries, we should achieve enough justice and enough change to be confident this problem is finally being properly addressed. And one day we might even be able to sleep peacefully at last, as if this horror never happened to us.

Stay safe everyone.

VV

Julia Gillard’s legacy lives on in historic Royal Commission

Many victims of child sexual abuse are mourning Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s overnight defeat at the hands of the smirking, conniving, grey haired boys club. I suspect she knew all along her time at the top would be short and that she had a limited opportunity to achieve real change before she would be taken down for the crime of being a successful, assertive woman.

Unlike many of our underachieving politicians, Julia did not waste her time in power. She made a genuine, positive difference to so many people’s lives and to our nation’s progress towards being a humane society.

The people she aided were not the ones who would help fund a privileged retirement from politics. Rejecting self interest for social justice, Julia Gillard stood up for the rights of the abused, the neglected, and the deserving. And she did it with grace, with conviction and with calm determination.

It is undeniable Julia is no unblemished model of perfection. Unfortunately Australian politics is a dirty business and the route to the top invariably involves getting excrement on your hands. But instead of burying her face in the trough once there, Julia wiped her hands, rolled up her sleeves and got down to the business of being a true leader.

Blokey, misogynist Australia will never forgive her for that. For showing up their childish, self serving antics as not inevitable, but simply not good enough.

Julia made mistakes aplenty too. An example is her refusal to support heroic Australian citizen Julian Assange and protect him from bullying and possibly murder by the thugs of the US administration. I can only imagine what pressure was brought to bear to obtain such a betrayal.

But when she got it right, Julia got it so very, very right.

She is the only world leader in history to truly stand up to the might of the oppressively powerful Catholic Church hierarchy and insist they be held accountable, nationally, for their crimes.

Even the International Criminal Court in The Hague last week baulked at such a task, and indeed, dodged the responsibility, leaving Julia, and, hopefully, other world leaders who may follow her example, to stand up for the rights of abused children.

This is not her only such achievement, but for me, it is the one that makes so much difference.

I had the privilege to meet Julia at Kirribilli House in January, and discuss one on one her intentions for the Royal Commission. I saw a genuine desire to right this grave wrong, to uncover the truth, and to deliver some justice to those denied it so cruelly.

I have also seen first hand the workings of this Royal Commission, and met with those entrusted with this difficult and delicate task, and have full confidence this legacy has been left in good hands. There will be many who attempt to undermine the intentions of the Royal Commission, but I believe those at the very top are smart enough, talented enough, determined enough and empowered enough to get to enough of the truth that child rapists in priests clothing will never again feel so completely protected from Australian law as they have until now.

What does the future hold for the Royal Commission and those affected by its work? Will Kevin Rudd or Tony Abbott gut the Royal Commission or hobble its ability to undertake this vital investigation?

If they attempt to do so they can be sure survivors and the media will be watching closely. And if we do see corrupt attempts to once again protect powerful criminals and once again betray Australia’s children we will certainly not sit back and let it happen. We will not be silenced. We will never again be voiceless victims.

Stay safe everyone.

VV

Child Rape, Truth and Politics

Regular readers will know Voiceless Victim was chosen to represent victims at a morning tea with the Australian Prime Minster, Julia Gillard, at her gorgeous official Sydney residence, Kirribilli House, the day after the announcement of the terms of reference for our long awaited Royal Commission.

Since you could not all be there, the least I can do is share with you what I learned, and what I experienced.

We gathered at a nearby hotel to fill in consent forms and wait till the official party were ready to receive us.

Here was my first and only disappointment of this momentous day.

Some of those who most deserved to be there were not invited.

The list of those who should have been there is very long. I understand they could not invite everyone. But not inviting Chrissie and Anthony Foster, and their two surviving daughters Katie and Aimee, shows that those putting together the invitation list still have a lot to learn about who are the real contributors to this issue.

Some were invited who had no right to be there, who have worked in this area, but whose actions actively harm victims, and whose motives are less than pure. These self serving vultures were preening themselves smugly at being included in “the few” and sneering at “the many” who did not make the cut. Their salivating at the prospect of influence, media attention and generous funding to come their way was nauseating.

I have heard much about such opportunistic frauds and the harm they have done in Ireland from the amazing Irish defender of victims’ rights, Hanora Brennan.

It is very sad to see them rear their ugly heads in Australia even before our hard won Royal Commission has begun. But it is inevitable.

We must accept such creatures will appear, no matter what we do, and should we slay the current dragons they would simply make way for more of the same, inevitably attracted to the government gravy on offer, pushing the needs of victims aside in their desperate scramble to fill the gaping emotional holes in themselves.

But genuine victims and those genuinely working to help victims can take action to keep the focus on the needs of victims. I will address this topic specifically in a future post.

Back at Kirribilli House we were joined by representatives of the Forgotten Australians and the Stolen Generations. It was interesting to note that while some of us discussed our hopes for the success of the Royal Commission, Aboriginal representatives were slow to hope and wary of trusting government promises.

I don’t blame them.

Whatever we have suffered, they have suffered ten times worse. However much we have been lied to and betrayed by those in power, they have endured ten times the lies and betrayals. We must all remember they are our brothers and sisters in suffering, and especially deserving of truth, justice and healing. The real stuff, not the Catholic smokescreen, PR stunt, meaningless words with no action type.

After a security check we lined up to do the official greeting with Julia Gillard, and Jenny Macklin, Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs. We shook hands first with Jenny, then if she knew us she introduced us to Julia, or if she didn’t, we introduced ourselves.

Say your name, smile, shake hands, move on for the next person to take your place. Simple.

Unfortunately I couldn’t get my name out. I burst into tears, right in front of the waiting, and now delighted, media.

As I struggled to compose myself enough to croak out my name, I could see the media trying not to celebrate too obviously at the prospect of a “crying victim” shot with Julia.

Julia was gracious, patient and understanding.

I’m not sure if she could hear my name, but I think she heard the “thank you” that followed it.

I have done enough healing not to beat myself up about bursting into tears on meeting the Prime Minister. Or to let the prospect of photos of my distress being splattered around the media disturb me. I can shut those unhelpful emotions out.

What overwhelmed me was that after decades of our abuse being allowed to continue unhindered by those supposed to protect little children, and ignored by the whole country, suddenly the most powerful politician in Australia was putting investigating and taking action to stop the crimes against us right at the top of our national priorities, where it belongs.

As I explained when I emerged into the stunning harbourside gardens, they were good tears. Good because finally we were going to get the help we had always deserved. But being treated well upsets me. Never having experienced it, I don’t know how to handle it. I can handle being abused, dismissed, ignored, or treated as worthless, insignificant, beneath notice or a liar.

But to be treated as an innocent grievously harmed by cunning criminals, worthy of an investigation of the truth, of healing and of law reform to prevent similar crimes – well, like all of us, that is something I have been ruthlessly denied.

Something the Catholic church works tirelessly to prevent happening.

Something I find overwhelming.

It is something we are all going to have to get used to in 2013.

Julia spoke briefly to us as a group. She spoke without notes and her staff informed me it was unscripted, and her own words.

It was compassionate and well considered like her two terrific speeches to announce the Royal Commission itself and its Terms of Reference.

I spoke to many of the staffers and advisers surrounding Julia and Jenny and found them as a group to be enthusiastic and knowledgeable about this issue, with a genuine commitment to delivering justice to victims and implementing real changes.

Jenny Macklin has a solid background of working in this area and was greeted with delight as an old friend by many of the Forgotten Australians and Stolen Australians. That is very encouraging.

I spoke to our Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, one on one for some minutes, and spoke at length to her staffers. As far as is possible to gauge from such a short acquaintance, I feel confident Julia has a genuine commitment to and understanding of this issue, not just a political commitment.

I don’t have a lot of respect for politicians as a breed and politics as a whole. It attracts so many self seekers and influence peddlars, so many whose opinions and morals (or lack of them) are for sale that most aspirants with a genuine desire to improve our society fall away in disgust at what a dirty, filthy game it is, or are punished for not playing power games well enough.

But in recent months Julia has been starting to earn my respect. She gave the smirking royalist former seminarian mysogynist Tony (some of my best friends are women) Abbott what for and gave all Australian women hope that we can change the blokey, jokey, don’t get your knickers in a twist, vicious mysogyny that infects our culture.

Julia has also taken action on climate change, on making greedy mining companies contribute rather than just steal, on care of our disabled, on mental health and so many other issues. I don’t agree with everything she has done, and her tenuous hold on power means compromise, serious compromise is inevitable.

But unlike many of her predecessors and her opponent in this years’ election, she has tried to to take on important issues. Issues that could make this country a great place to raise children. Issues that are deserving of attention, not just attractive to voters.

One of the issues I raised with Julia at the morning tea was the need to overcome legal professional privilege, as this is one of the most likely scams catholic officials will use to hide the truth from the Royal Commission. Along with shredding documents and sending them to the Vatican.

Julia assured me that despite the ability to overcome legal professional privilege not being conferred automatically by the Royal Commissions Act, this Royal Commission would be able to use such power, if the Commissioners ask for it.

We need to ensure the Commissioners ask for this power, and for many other things.

Because the Royal Commission is now out of the hands of the politicians. I feel comfortable that the politicians, led by Julia Gillard, have done the best possible job under the circumstances.

Who would have thought that in the space of a few months we would have been given the Royal Commission we were told so many times would never happen, and it has been established as a genuine attempt to succeed in its stated aims.

But in this it is almost unique.

We are accustomed to those inquiries that are allowed to proceed suffering in their ability to uncover the truth as a result of the corrupt influence of catholic church officials and other powerful protectors of those who prey on children.

This is the first such inquiry not designed from the beginning to fail.

But it still can fail.

The Commissioners are now the ones who can deliver us justice or prevent its delivery.

It is up to all of us who have knowledge and experience of these terrible crimes to help them and to advise them in the delivery of truth, justice and healing, and the fight against the vested interests who will use all their wealth, power and influence to hide the truth, evade justice and deny us healing.

But even if the corrupt and the guilty snatch the truth from us, and the self serving steal the assistance meant for victims, they can never take away the fact that we were here.

A Royal Commission, a genuine desire for change, and victims honoured guests of the Prime Minister.

We have already, all of us, achieved great things, and we should all smile to ourselves and think, “They tried to stop this ever happening, and they failed.”

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