I am sitting in my home office working today, and listening to an interesting discussion on radio about suicide, and the darkness and despair that so many find themselves in before they take their lives.
It’s interesting to me because on the same day, Cardinal George Pell is appearing before the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse. There is a link here – stick with me.
When I first started agitating for this Royal Commission, and telling my story of sexual abuse at the hands of a Catholic priest from the age of 8, I had Pell in my sights. I had waited more than 22 years to speak about what happened to me and how my childhood, my teen years and a great deal of trust were damaged, in some senses beyond repair, because of what I survived. I wanted Pell to sit down in front of the thousands of survivors and victims, and their families, and state that they accepted responsibility. Pell was, at the time, The Archbishop of Melbourne, and another man who has refused to appear before the Royal Commission- Ronald Mulkearns, was the Bishop of Ballarat. I blamed them, I still do.
I had contemplated suicide a couple of times in my life… especially when I knew I was hurting people. I was not trying to hurt people, it almost seemed like I was doing it to keep them from being too close, while at the same time, I was desperate for someone to just love me for who I was. I had so much hurt, so much darkness, and I felt I had to still play my role as a clown. That was always my role in my world – not everyone else’s but certainly mine. I had to put on a brave face and remain the joker. But behind all of this, was a very sad, damaged and hurt little boy.
So its interesting listening to this discussion on ABC Local Radio – trying to work out the feelings I have, while the twitterverse is alive with comment about Cardinal Pell and the ignorance, or lack of empathy being show to these who were affected by the abuse from those in power inside the Catholic Church.
I want to tell my story – I want to shout it from the rooftops that my life was affected so greatly, by those that my parents invested their faith in. When I was eight years old, the sexual abuse started, and continued for about 18 months, when it stopped as suddenly as it started. My suicidal thoughts were not just directed at my own turmoil, but I wondered about who was the next victim that this priest chose, and what could I have done to change that. Was my inability to speak about it the cause of someone else suffering similar torment and abuse?
When I found a therapist who helped me navigate the darkness I was so lucky. He steered me away from the path of damage I was on… and I started to live. From the age of 29 when I was able to admit to my sexuality, I allowed myself a bit of forgiveness. I also started to address the guilt and shame that I felt.
I think, in the long run, I am going to be okay. I have a partner and stepchildren who keep a light on in my life that won’t be extinguished. My family are amazing, my work colleagues care for me, my friends are incredible in their support. I think often about those who did not survive the abuse or what followed, and the questions that their families must have answered Royal Commission. I hope that they can find what they need to help prevent more suicides by survivors and victims of sexual abuse who have not had the good fortune and support that I have.
Please, if you are feeling alone, in dark place or are despairing, ask for help. Speak with someone. Call Lifeline 13 11 14 or Sane Australia on 1800 187 263