Survivors are now heard and recognised for the abuse they went through as a vulnerable child, and are able to seek comfort from the other survivors’ stories.
By Kirsta Cheung
Children were taken to Sunday morning church services by devoted religious parents who’d entrust priests to care for them, during the 1950s. Father John Perez was one that had won the hearts of many children as “he was a very funny, charismatic type of person. The kids naturally gravitated towards him. And I did too, there’s no doubt about that.”Tim said.
He recalls being plied with alcohol and cigarettes and being part of group games where he and other boys would get naked.
“I hated it… I can remember sometimes after it had happened that I’d walk home…. Hating myself for what happened. And I really blamed myself. And that’s the hardest thing.” Tim said.
After battling the church to seek a response, he finally receives a monetary compensation, however he feels as if there is an emotional apology that is lacking from the church as they continued to deflect any personal responsibility.
The child sexual abuse allegations towards Catholic Church institutions make a huge proportion of people who came to the Royal Commission.
This year in July, the National Redress Scheme would be implemented to address the issues of child sexual abuse in institutions and provide support to people who are seeking compensation for being sexually abused as children while in the care of institutions.
Prue Gregory, the principal lawyer of Knowmore: a free legal service that offers service on issues of institutionalised sexual abuse agrees with the Redress Scheme as “The scheme is a first internationally- it’s the only scheme around the world….this is covering all institutions”
The Redress Scheme provides psychological counselling, apology from responsible institutions and monetary payment.
“However monetary repayment will never replace the life that has been lost.” Prue said. “Redress Scheme is only an acknowledgement.”
However Anne Cossin, the UNSW law and Criminology Professor, agreed with the reforms of the Royal Commission and that its report is thorough and that it has covered everything about child sexual abuse. However due to scheme not being implemented nationally until July therefore she believes that “it’s too early to comment on the Redress Scheme’s effectiveness”.
Although Anne thinks the Royal Commission had covered most of the child sexual abuse but claims there are “gaps in the Royal Commission report as child sexual abuse didn’t only occur in institutions but also in families” hence separate research should been done extensively to cover all aspects of child sexual abuse.
Narratives from the Royal Commission have kept the survivors anonymity, allowing them to protect their own identity whilst revealing the public figures of the institutions to hold them accountable.
Sadly, this is the reality of most of the survivors of child sexual abuse where their allegations of sexual abuse were not heard and ultimately affects them and they then turn to drugs and alcohol in their adulthood.
Kaden, one of the survivors of sexual abuse at the hands of a number of children’s homes and juvenile justice centres in NSW in the 1980s speak of his injustice.
“I’ve been a heroin addict since, suppressed things that happened to me. When I weren’t stoned it was just playing on my mind”
He spoke of how his family were not able to understand what he had went through or show affection towards him even after he “told his dad things that happened to me as a child and he tried to comfort me and I pushed him away” Kaden said.
The impacts of sexual abuse are long term and continue to have an effect on the survivors and their families.
Like many survivors, Kaden find it difficult to tell their stories hence the Royal Commission established private sessions to allow survivors to share their stories.
“My family think I’m heartless and they don’t understand, like the effects that it had on me as a child, because I don’t speak about what happened to me.”
Nothing was done about the institutions that continue to abuse children so Kaden has received help from Knowmore to help get closure. He then came to the Royal Commission to share his story.
Royal Commission hearings revealed the stories of abuse and how children were often ignored, punished, and with their sexual abuse allegations often not investigated.
The final report from the Royal Commission after reviewing the institutional abuse, aims to ensure wrongdoings done to children in the past won’t happen again.
“I think we are going to be horrified with the thousands of people that will come forward and that will tell its own story.”Prue said “It’s a sad and distressing part of our history. As a society we let these people down”
The anonymity of the survivors’ gives them a voice that they never had to share stories and seek support from the online community.
Prue speaks of one of her clients being “really, really distressed” as she can’t find her narrative because it was anonymous.
Royal Commission’s final report proved its effectiveness through creating the anonymity of the narratives as it allowed survivors to seek support.
According to statistics, across all institutions NSW in the 1960s had the highest proportion of shared experiences with 321 responses, 193 of those being male. However in 2000s, the graph shows a clear decline of reported incidents of abuse.
Royal Commission’s finding shows that 64.3% of the survivors were predominantly male and that they were under the age of 14 when they were first abused.
The Redress Scheme is designed for relevant organisations to take responsibility for sexual abuse that happened to the children they were looking after as a child’s relationship when young may affect their perception of people in later life.
In a bid to prevent further sexual abuse on children, the Royal Commission is not only focusing on compensation such as with monetary payments, counselling and acknowledging them.but for early intervention in improving the way sexual abuse are handled.