The Royal Commission Into Institutional Child Abuse And What It Means For Survivors

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I am a survivor. I survived fourteen years of child abuse as a child and teenager in Ireland as the hands of men as part of a paedophile ring. Many of them were politicians, priests, farmers, leaders of the community, friends of my parents. My parents were the organisers of the ring. That is the hardest pill to swallow. The hardest betrayal. The biggest betrayal trauma. Betrayal traumas occur when someone who we depend on and are significantly attached to – a spouse, parent, lover, business partner, or friend – betrays our trust and lets us down in a critical way. I was let down in the most brutal way possible.

Next to that priests were some of the abusers. They are supposedly among the most trusted people in our community and I was unashamedly violated, raped and abused by many priests for years in many ways. It hurt. It hurts. It shames me. I feel violent guilt daily. I blame myself so expert was their grooming. I was doing it for God they told me. I would go to heaven for the gifts I was giving them yet I knew it was wrong and that was at the age of five. I knew instinctively it was wrong. I knew nothing else except this abuse from the age of three yet I knew somehow that it was wrong and it didn’t stop until I was seventeen and was kicked out of home as I was too old for the paedophiles. I was thrown out to live on the streets of Dublin with the other street kids until I was taken in by the Salvation Army after eight months. They were my saviour.

I told them my story and they decided it was not safe for me to stay in Ireland and organised for me to migrate to Australia. Here I have lived for thirty-three years. All my past remained dormant in my conscious until the Royal Commission in Child Sexual Abuse was announced in 2012 and hearing the victims testimony reawakened my horrors and my flashbacks started and my living hell of Complex PTSD and Dissociative Identity Disorder started. The last five years have been constant self-harm and repeated suicide attempts as I try to grapple with what happened to me. I have a gifted psychotherapist who practices EMDR and together with are processing my past slowly.

Yesterday the Commission handed down its recommendations and I felt a huge sense of relief. I felt validated that we had been believed and that the Church had been brought to account. A copy of the Recommendation and Report was handed to the Governor General to be held in the National Library. Here are examples of witnesses testimonies and messages.

Some major recommendations are of the Royal Commission:

  • The ministry of all religious churches should not be exempt from reporting information discovered in religious confession
  • The Australian Catholic Church should request permission from the Vatican to introduce voluntary celibacy for diocesan clergy
  • State and territory governments should introduce legislation to create a criminal offence of failure to protect a child from risk of abuse within an institution
  • A national strategy to prevent child abuse
  • Candidates for religious ministry should undergo external psychological testing, including psycho-sexual assessment, for the purposes of determining their suitability to be a person in religious ministry and to undertake work involving children
  • Each religious organisation should consider establishing a national register which records information to assist affiliated institutions identify and respond to any risks to children that may be posed by people in religious or pastoral ministry
  • Any person in religious ministry who is the subject of a complaint of child sexual abuse which is substantiated or who is convicted of an offence relating to child sexual abuse, should be permanently removed from ministry

“There is no simple explanation for why child sexual abuse has occurred in a multitude of institutions,” the final report says.

2 comments

  1. My experience with the Salvation Army is very different then yours. The Salvation Army Camp of Jackson’s Point in Ontario, Canada choreographed a play when I was 12 years old, allowing me to strip in front of staff and other children. It was called “you have something we want” Stay strong and glad your hear with me!

    • Thanks for your comment. I am so sorry to hear of your experience. Shocking to have gone through that. The Salvation Army were investigated during the Royal Commission here and found to have committed many heinous crimes against children just like many catholic and anglican priests had. I was just lucky to have found some good people. Not all the apples in the orchard are rotten.

I would love to hear from you so please leave a comment. All feedback is much appreciated. Thank you. Erin