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22

Silenced survivors have been courageous speaking out. Let’s not let them down now.

The testimony given to the royal commission sitting in Ballarat provides further insight into the unconscionable human cost of child sexual abuse. The inquiry has revealed that 12 boys have died, allegedly by suicide from a single class of 33 at St Alipius school and 40 suicides related to child sexual assault have occurred within the Ballarat community. This community has been crushed to its core.

One after another, victims are continuing to come forward courageously breaking their silence. It has been asserted that there were schools in which no child was safe, with periods during which every teacher was an alleged sex offender.

With no safe place or person to tell, these children lived in constant fear of the next assault, powerless and helpless, as those charged with their care abused their power and betrayed them time and again. The possibility of "fight or flight", a normal physiological response to danger was not available. Where was their community of nurture, care and compassion? And why did no one intervene to protect them?

These survivors, now men, have related heartbreaking stories of lives ruined by disability, welfare dependency, mental illness, substance abuse and relationship breakdown. Many of those who have not paid the ultimate price are living a life sentence imposed by the predatory behaviour of paedophile priests and sealed by a system which protected its own at all costs.

The leadership of the Catholic Church in particular, is now under intense scrutiny. The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse is prising open a previously secretive and closed network. The silence is being shattered.

Throughout the royal commission we have seen a series of entrenched systems previously accountable only to their own internal intransigence publicly examined and we as a community have been shocked. That so many once revered systems could so conspire to betray their charges, not once but repeatedly, over decades and across leadership structures, is not acceptable.

The royal commission will release its interim recommendations around redress and civil litigation at the end of June. The recommendations will lay the foundations for a fair and just response for victims, including those now providing testimony in Ballarat. Adults Surviving Child Abuse (ASCA) calls on state and federal governments in Australia to respond proactively. They must immediately move to put in place frameworks and structures to implement the recommendations.

Silenced survivors have shown courage coming forward. They have trusted the commission and its processes as well as the governments that have supported it. To not promptly address their needs would not only be soul-destroying but also life-threatening.

When the recommendations are released, the immediate response should provide optimal possibilities for survivors to access much-needed support and redress. For many it will be too little; let's not make it too late for all. It is time for institutions to be brought to justice and held accountable.

It is also time for true leadership, the sort of leadership seen within the commission, and it needs to come not just from all of the institutions paraded before the commission, but also from governments across Australia.

ASCA President, Dr Cathy Kezelman's opinion piece has been published and can be found at: http://www.smh.com.au/comment/tardy-redress-would-hurt-sex-abuse-victims-further-20150521-gh6hex.html

Comments

Allison ewens
# Allison ewens
Tuesday, 26 May 2015 11:16 AM
100% agreed Cathy and I shall be sharing this article as part of my own belief where there needs changes brought forward by this all today it time that our knowledge be not dumb down or drown out or silenced all over again by what's been exposed though this commission enquirer
I look and wait to hear what outcome does to assist
ASCA
# ASCA
Tuesday, 26 May 2015 11:16 AM
Thank you so much for your comment and for forwarding the article. The more people who speak up for the important changes needed the better
Paul Klotz
# Paul Klotz
Tuesday, 26 May 2015 11:16 AM
Great article Cathy and it is warming to hear people like yourself speak for us, whose voices and pain has been lost for so long. I tried to sue the Church a couple of years ago, though was stopped because of the Statute of Limitations and in settlement received a sum that equated to about I years salary of my previous life. An insult!! Not that money will ever repair or replace the damage done...money unfortunately is needed to survive each day. I have lived on the streets, been in and out of mental wards etc etc...and now am dependent on welfare to survive each day, whilst my predators live well and hidden away by the Church.

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“Blue Knot Foundation has a key role to play in the building of community capacity in care provision to those who have experienced childhood abuse and trauma in any environment.”

NIALL MULLIGAN Manager, Lifeline Northern Rivers

“I think Blue Knot Foundation is a fantastic support organisation for people who have experienced childhood trauma/abuse, for their families/close friends and for professionals who would like to learn how to more effectively work with these people.”

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