WARNING: This post deals with issues that may cause some trauma.
TRIGGER ALERT – child sexual abuse, bagging of church and government and occasional coarse language.
For a long time, I never disclosed what happened to me as a child. I wasn’t sure I quite knew what had happened, but I know how it made me feel. Ashamed, embarrassed, guilty and really fucking confused. I was sexually abused at the hands of a catholic priest in a small town in North West Victoria for about 2 years between the ages of 8-10.
I never told anyone and carried the secret hidden very deep within my soul and I relived the vile actions of a priest for a really long time.
Last week, I sat before a member of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and I talked about my childhood, and more often than not, my teenage years. It left me with some more questions than answers but I am really happy I got the chance to talk about what it meant to my life.
I lost 15 years of my life. From the age of about 14 through to when I was 30 and finally told someone what had happened, I did some really shitty things – things that were dishonest, and hurtful. Things that were illegal or immoral and things that were simply heartbreaking and soul destroying.
I thought about suicide more than once, and yet, stubborn man that I am, I never thought I had a mental health problem – I was just a bit fucked up inside because of what happened to me as a youngster. In reality I probably was suffering from a post traumatic depersonalisation condition that caused me to dissociate my every day life and reality with what was going on in my mind and in the world around me.
When I think back to my life from the onset of puberty at age 13 or 14, and the actuality of reliving in my mind what had happened to me, I started to live in a dream like state. I would act and behave, speak and talk, but inside there was a differing reality. I knew I was lying or that my behaviour was not as it should have been, but there seemed an inability to control that. I was sleeping with women but attracted to men. I would do things that I am now incredibly sorry and ashamed about.
I am 46 and the years are going by faster than I want them to and soon I will be a fat old bastard relying on someone else to wipe my arse and feed me. If that ever happens, by the way, be sure that I euthanised prior to it being necessary. I can’t have back those 15 or 16 years that I lost. I don’t have any memories of them really, or certainly not many good ones. I travelled and worked in some pretty cool places but I didn’t achieve what I should have, because I didn’t know who I was. I was absolutely and utterly terrified of being exposed for who I was. I saw my siblings fall in love and marry, and I saw things happen in the world around me that I now can’t seem to recall.
So, has appearing at the Royal Commission changed things? I don’t have the answer there. I feel better that I went and spoke about what had happened to my life. I feel better that I was able to share that with someone who can affect change. I am very glad that I was able to articulate how I felt for that very long time.
But will it change things? I don’t know. I am now starting to advocate for governments at state and federal level to sign up to a financial compensation system. In my mind, that system has two purposes – to assist in providing funds for survivors and victims of abuse to seek out counsellors and psychologists of their own choosing, to start their healing journey. The second part is to provide an amount of money in compensation. Many survivors and victims of child sexual abuse are broken, some beyond repair. Many have taken their own life or are so drug and alcohol affected that they have no idea where to start.
I am going to continue to advocate on behalf of those people – those with no voice – to ensure that there is a national system, funded by federal and state governments, and those institutions where child rapists, sexual deviants and kiddy fiddlers were allowed to get away with it. Those organisations and institutions are some of the wealthiest in the world – they own property and riches that are immeasurable, and they have insurance policies that can disburse billions of dollars. I intend to advocate on behalf of others to make that pot of a money a reality.
No amount of money can buy back what I, and so many others have lost. But it certainly can buy a better form of misery to live with. Will the Royal Commission change things – maybe, maybe not but what it has done is renewed my energy to advocate, agitate and get right up the fucking craw of those who are not willing to compensate people for what happened. The Royal Commission has gotten me a bit angry again and thats a good thing. I have had my time to be emotional and sad, I have had my own time to be reflective, to think about things in a measured way. Now its time to make some serious fucking noise.