Trigger warning – this post refers to clerical and other child rape.
I got a call the other day from a producer at a nightly TV news program – they do news differently, wanting me to talk about the alarming number of catholic priests alleged to have committed sexual crimes against children. I wasn’t alarmed but surprised the number was so low.
I have been on the program before, to talk about my experience with clerical rape. For some reason I am starting to find clerical sexual abuse somewhat sanitised. Perhaps like a king hit is a cowards punch, we need to redefine the way we speak about the rape and destruction of children’s lives by adults. We need to maintain the rage – because the judicial system is starting to give less of a fuck. We need to stop sanitising this behaviour and making it sound less than it is. These people are destroying lives… It makes me angry.
I remember being outraged a couple of years ago when a man was sentenced for a significant number of offences against young boys, and when I separated his sentence out, he got just six weeks per boys life he had ruined. Six weeks! If he had raped the same number of women, he would have been put away for life – charged with being the monster he is. For some reason our sentencing system does not reflect the trauma and destruction of a child’s life. I am getting more angry. This is the rape of children.
Then, just last week, we see the judicial system fail again, where a judge determined the sentence of a known paedophile priest should be less because he shouldn’t have to die in jail. What the actual fuck? Of course he should die in jail… Our judicial system is so flawed when they think first of the perpetrator of these crimes, before the victims. Imagine, just for a second, how his victims must feel? I bet you can’t!
But, the more alarming news, and going back to the TV show, was 7% of priests have been been alleged to have committed offences against children in the last 60 years. 4,444 alleged child sexual abuse cases have been recorded in the time frame, just in the catholic church. (The faith, incidentally, nominated by about 50% of our government’s front bench). It equates, when averaged out, to more than one offence per week for 60 years! It is alarming. People have recoiled in shock at this number, but I think it is so much more. I reckon there would be more than 15,000.
I think back to my own childhood and youth – small country towns, kiddy fiddling priests, devout families with not much else but faith. I remember vividly, the suicides of a number of boys in our parish – young men to be more precise. Three or four of them, hanging themselves from trees or shooting themselves. I also remember a number of them were altar boys. I can’t suggest they too, were victims of abuse as I am a survivor but it begs the question. Did these lives end sadly and abruptly because the offences were never talked about or reported. Did these young men die without letting anyone know? In itself, that is a much bigger tragedy.
These 4,444 cases are alleged, rather than confirmed. I think this number is probably a quarter of what actually took place. For every brave boy and girl who managed to be believed when they shared their story, there are probably thousands who knew they would never be believed, nor understood, and so never reported it, but masked their pain and suffering with drugs and alcohol, or took their own life. This is the real tragedy – they wont get to share their story now.
I didn’t talk on the TV because I was on a long road trip and couldn’t have made it to a studio. But I know I would have said these things.
- This number is not reflective of what actually happened – the list will be so much bigger
- We have a serious problem in the judiciary with sentences which don’t reflect the crimes
- There is some sort of cover up if offenders are getting just six weeks per life.
I want to see change. I want the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse to make recommendations around heavier sentencing. We will never know the full number of offences, the number of priests, or the number of children they have raped or fiddled with, but we must start properly punishing those who commit offences of a sexual nature against children. We cannot go on any longer saying it is okay for a sentence to be light because an offender might die in prison. They deserve, like every person who destroys a life, to serve a sentence fitting their crime. Otherwise our justice system is a joke.