Prime Minister Julia Gillard has announced the appointment of six royal commissioners and the terms of reference for the inquiry into child sex abuse. See all the details here. Below, Cathy Kezelman gives us her analysis.
“Child sexual abuse is an evil crime. Anyone who has ever suffered child abuse deserves to have their voices heard and their claims investigated.
“The Royal Commission will inquire into how institutions with a responsibility for children have managed and responded to allegations and instances of child sexual abuse and related matters.” These were the words of the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, on announcing the terms of reference for a national Royal Commission into institutional responses into allegations of child sexual abuse today.
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When I saw Prime Minister Julia Gillard on television announcing there would be a Royal Commission into child abuse in churches and other institutions I was overwhelmed. I wept uncontrollably. I became breathless. I walked the floor struggling to breathe, trying to comprehend what I had heard.
It was later I realised it was about time the truth was revealed - perhaps it was time for hope and happiness, not sadness. My sister and I lived in the Church of England North Coast Children’s Home in Lismore for more than 22 years - from 1949 to 1964. I was there for 14 years, my sister eight.
Most of those years were full of hatred, bloody brutal flogging, bashing, starvation and sexual abuse. It was a home of hell and fury.
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I’ve only ever been to confession twice, both times when I was a young child. The first time I couldn’t think of anything to confess to so I made up some sins and was rewarded with penance of two Hail Marys.
In hindsight the Hail Marys were probably for lying to God. Our parish priest was a good man who would have known when an 8-year-old was talking it up.
But even then it felt very weird to me that children would be expected to enter a dark little box on their own and open up the conversation with: “Forgive me Father for I have sinned”.
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The English rule against pattern evidence (similar facts) has made it difficult to convict organised criminals and serial sex offenders for 118 years.
People in law enforcement have asked Australian governments to introduce a US exception to the rule for 29 years, without success. Charges laid against a former Catholic priest in NSW on October 18 prompted me to send the following to Premier Barry O’Farrell, Police Minister Mike Gallacher, and Justice Minister Greg Smith on October 23.
I received letters thanking me for my interest, but I will be pleasantly surprsied if the law is changed. This is what I wrote:
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There is a textbook study in how not to handle allegations of systematic child sexual abuse and it was written by the retired Anglican bishop Peter Hollingworth. The mistakes made by Hollingworth cost him his job as Governor-General. They are now being repeated, arguably to an even graver and more offensive degree, by Catholic Archbishop George Pell.
Hollingworth’s biggest misjudgement in the scandal surrounding his knowledge of and response to child abuse in his church was to go on Australian Story and declare that a young female victim of abuse had actually instigated the sexual contact herself.
George Pell had his own Hollingworth moment on Sunday when he declared that he wants the NSW Police to wade through the total number of child abuse cases on their books so that the public can get a sense of what proportion of such cases involve the Catholic Church.
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It is a truth universally acknowledged that a man at the helm of arguably the biggest freedom movement of our generation couldn’t possibly have a problem with women.
At least that’s what we’re lead to believe by ABC’s Four Corners last night during their exposé of the sexual assault charges against Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. In reality, the only thing their investigation highlighted was just how pervasive rape myths still are and how the concept of ‘consent’ isn’t as clearly understood as we all hoped. So let’s go through the story and clarify a few things.
Four Corners said:
Assange was staying at Ardin’s flat. They’d slept together the previous night. Later she would tell a friend she had a “wild weekend” with Assange. Sofia Wilen was enthralled by the Assange phenomena - she texted during his talk, “He looked at me!”
Firstly, sexual assault can happen even if two people have had consensual sex before.In fact 70% of sexual assaults are perpetrated by someone that the victim already knows. Secondly, perpetrators of sexual assault can be perfectly charming and come from all walks of life. Therefore, the fact that the women previously had sex with Julian Assange and were excited to meet him does not mean that their allegations aren’t valid.
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The best assessment Cardinal George Pell could offer this week on the Catholic Church’s handling of the decades of irreparable damage caused by paedophile priests was the Church had “an adequate story to tell.”
Even if that were true, “adequate” is, well, inadequate. The worst thing about the episode of 4 Corners that aired on Monday night was that it was just a handful of stories among many.
The young men whose lives were destroyed, their parents, siblings, friends and children permanently damaged, and the priests who appear to have been completely let off the hook, are not alone.
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