Child abuse sentence and the catholic church.

Trigger warning – this post refers to clerical and other child rape. 

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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!

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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.

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US Election simplified.

I am a bit of a political animal – and have spent many early mornings and late nights watching the result of US Elections.

Its a pretty complicated system, unlike ours in many respects… and I was having a conversation about how hard it is to understand how it works.  So in the interest of community service, here is how it works.

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Firstly, voting is non compulsory in America and thats why there is a massive amount of energy and money expended in these elections – to get people to vote a particular way. In recent years (and forgetting mid term elections), about 60% of the population are bothered enough to vote. Both sides of politics work hard to attract voters to their cause.

Hilary Clinton is a Democrat – a centrist left party,  founded in 1828 and along with Barack Obama, it has boasted Presidents Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, John F Kennedy, Lyndon Bains Johnson, Harry Truman, Woodrow Wilson – and many more right the way back to Andrew Jackson.

Donald Trump, who has never held public office, is a Republican which is often referred to as the GOP – the Grand Old Party.  Oddly enough, although nothing in the US surprises us, the Grand Old Party was first used in the Pennsylvania Agitator to describe the Democratic party in 1856 – not long before the US Civil War.

But I digress – I was supposed to be making it simpler. Sorry.

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Rather than voting directly for a Presidential nominee, electors vote for representatives in their state’s electoral college – its not a real college but a term used to describe the voting groups.  They are usually loyal to a party, and each state’s ‘college’ then award their college votes to one or another of the nominees.

 The number of electoral college votes is determined by the number of people in congress in that state, and those numbers are based on the states population. Are you still with me? Good. 

Many of the states are already kind of locked in – some states traditionally vote red (Republican) or blue (Democrat). So when Americans go to vote on Tuesday, they will vote for a group of electors to make their decision.  One nominee for President has to get 270 of the 538 available electoral college votes to be inaugurated as President.

There was a tie once, and there is an interesting situation at play in this 2016 election. There is a third nominee – Evan McMullin from Utah, a mormon businessman (Utah has a huge population of Mormons) and a former CIA operative.  He is leading both Clinton and Trump in that state. If neither Trump or Clinton can get enough college electoral votes (less than 270), then the top 3 candidates are required to go to Congress (the kind of equivalent of the House of Reps here) to ask the states to vote for them.

Each state has one vote in this situation – and Evan McMullin could potentially become the 45th President of the United States. If he can gather enough support from some of the other swing states who don’t want either Clinton or Trump as President, he could earn enough votes to win.  This could be a bit of a Stephen Bradbury moment (remember the Aussie speed skater who won gold at the Winter Olympics by coming from last?)

The Republicans have won Utah since 1964 – so if McMullin wins in Utah, the 6 electoral college votes they have won’t count for either Trump or Clinton – and could very well provide one of the most fascinating outcomes in a US election in many years.

So in short – one candidate must win 270 votes  The first to do so will be inaugurated as the 45th President of the US.

If neither candidate makes it to 270, then Utah comes in to play.

If congress decides they don’t want either Hilary Clinton or Donald Trump, then the Utah independent could become President.

My prediction – Hilary Clinton will make the 270 vote quota and win with a narrow margin and Utah wont come in to play.

AFL Player comes out

I was given another ‘hot’ lead last night, from a very reliable source of course, that we will hear from an AFL player this week who has chosen to declare his homosexuality. The headlines on the daily papers will blast “Insert Name Here comes out” “Football fraternity tickled pink” or something equally as riveting and insulting.

I want to pen a note to that football player, or indeed, those football players.  A few of them might just need to do it together if they are to survive the insane media onslaught that will come. This is not just the mainstream media – there are some rainbow coloured seagulls circling this issue like its a bag of hot chips left unattended.  These are people I know, part of the LGBT media who love to jump on a story that we can legitimately claim. Then there will be the unnecessary and potentially damaging media circus, where this person will be the talking head within the sport for every issue that pertains to the community. Thats too much pressure for one person.

I’d love a tenner for every time I have hard that an AFL player is on the cusp – this is my third very reliable source in the past month. Rumour has abounded since someone first strapped on a pair of boots. As old as our game is, so are the rumours.

 

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The note reads: 

Dear (insert name here).  The step you have taken today is both brave and courageous and, at the same time, maybe foolhardy.  There are few things in football left to be the first at, and today you have claimed one of the last seats on the pew of AFL firsts. You have shown that you trust yourself, and your playing fraternity to manage this situation with respect. I congratulate that trust.

I want to apologise in advance for the behaviour of both the mainstream media and the LGBT community, among the many people who will offend you during the next few weeks and months. The mainstream media will pry into your past and ask why you dated this woman, or brought that young lady to the Brownlow. And then they’ll ask who the beau will be on your arm at this years medal count.

They will ask inappropriate questions, and although they mean well, there is no doubt they will cock something up.  Not all of them will – some will think they are being respectful and helping you declare your honesty, but, rest assured, they will cock up.  Some ratbag on commercial radio will say something so insensitively stupid, and you will feel hurt after that – it will pass. You will be okay.

Our own community will try and gobble you up in so many ways that you won’t know which way to turn.  They are ruthless.  I look back to when Daniel Kowalski, Matthew Mitcham, Ian Thorpe and Magda Szubanski came out.  My media and my community were so desperate to have a scoop, and are so ravenously searching for relevance, that they will be more insensitive than most. Many lack integrity or journalistic ethics, regardless of how self important they seem. Please rest assured that it is more about them than you. And not be scared to say no.

Surround yourself with good people. People who you trust and respect – who will have your back, who will shield you and protect from those most ravenous. Chat with a gay friend or family member – we all have one somewhere.  They can be the most important ally you can have.

Don’t read the newspapers for a few days Thankfully, the news cycle is very short and there will be someone else on the front page tomorrow. Be patient – it will pass and life becomes all rather normal very quickly. Talk to others about your mental health – humans are fragile and sometimes when we expect we will be most resilient, we are not.

Always, always remember what you have achieved – before the public demanded to know of your most intimate life.  Thousands of young men and women dream every year of making it to the big stage and many of them don’t.  Be proud – not of your sexuality but of who you are and what you have done to date. You did make it, you earned your spot in the AFL probably under more difficult circumstances than others.

Be private as much as possible. Your personal life will be under scrutiny and media from all corners will try and undermine that. There are ways to maintain privacy when it comes to your sex life.. be guarded. Be wary of star fuckers.. there lurk behind every grinder profile or offer of a drink at the bar.  There are plenty who will want your name written in to the notch on their bedpost – you will become just another conquest and offer some bragging rites. They are like vultures waiting for an animal to die so they can start on the process of devouring the carcass. Trust your instincts,

Finally, be proud. Applaud your bravery and courage but also respect your own integrity.  What is to come is going to be difficult for a short while.  In the end, who you love and how you love them is a matter that belongs entirely, selflessly and ferociously your own.  Now is the time to guard that more than ever.

Sincerely,

Pete

 

I want to talk about Soltarny

I went to a party last night – a 40th birthday for some twin brothers.  We spent money on booze and food, and on an Uber ride home.  This Uber ride had a profound effect on me and I can’t stop thinking abut it.

I want to talk about Soltarny.

He was my Uber driver, and after dropping some other partygoers off, I did what I normally do, and had a chat to the driver. I asked him where he was from and the story he told me had me weeping, racking with sobs, as I listened to what this man had been through to find freedom, and maybe hope.  When we got to my house, I sat in the car and continued listening to this man; I held his hands as I wept and watched tears roll down that world weary face as he shared what can only be described as an horrific life.  I was moved in a way that I don’t know how to describe.  It was visceral, it was challenging and I continue to think about it today, and I am sure I will a lot more from here.

Soltarny is from Kabul in Afghanistan and came to Australia, in the end, on a leaky old boat from Indonesia.  He wondered if he would survive… But lets take a few steps back.  His face is world-weary – he looks old, and although he is not yet 30, he could pass for fifty.  There is profound sadness in his eyes, and a constant sound of fear in his voice. He feels safe, for now, but after living a life that none of us could even imagine, these physical attributes are not a surprise.  He is a Muslim, a Shia, who have been waging a sectarian war in the Middle East with the Sunni, the dominant sect of Islam, for centuries.

The Taliban, mostly made up of Pashtun tribesman, are Sunni Muslims, and so anyone who was not Sunni and was successful in Afghanistan, was targeted.  Soltarny’s father was a moderately wealthy businessman in Kabul and he was Shia. One afternoon, he watched the Taliban cut off his father’s head. He witnessed the Taliban execute his father in the most brutal way, and knew it would not be long before he would be targeted.  I don’t know if I could even think about seeing anyone killed in such a hideous manner.  I can barely watch the killing of an animal that has been bred for food – the thought of seeing another human executed so viciously, with such inhumanity, is a staggering thought.  Imagining that was my father – I cannot think about that at all.

Soltarny managed to gather some money of his father’s and he found someone to help smuggle him out of Afghanistan.  Everything he had known for all of his life, every day that had led to this one, was about to be changed irreparably. All because Soltarny and his family practised a different kind of Islam – the tenets are the same, the five essential pillars of Islam are the same – but somehow, they are different.  He went first in to Pakistan, and eventually, he made his way to Malaysia. He spent time in a refugee camp there – part of his odyssey to make it to Australia where he thought he might find safety and protection – and perhaps some hope. Malaysia has not signed the UNHCR refugee convention, and as all refugees in Malaysia do, Soltarny had to find illegal work to support himself.

Soltarny was in limbo – he had no place to call home and he was not safe in Malaysia. It was this sense of helplessness and desperation that led him to contemplate the treacherous journey by boat to Australia, but first, he had to get to Indonesia. He somehow managed to make his way there, having paid another people smuggler – in all, $US14,000 – a princely sum of money. Soltarny managed to find a boat and spent weeks worrying for his life as he watched others perish, starve and die of thirst. There was sickness on that boat and it was overcrowded – a more horrible situation you probably cannot imagine.

 

refugee boat

He survived that journey on nothing more than desperate hope and as he says, some prayers. He prayed to Allah, his God, that he would find sanctuary in Australia. On Christmas Island, what he saw was equally, if not more challenging, than all he had seen until then. Remember, he was a young man at this time. He watched people’s hope disintegrate – he watched them remove blunt razers that had been used time and again to shave faces and harm them selves in an attempt to take their own life. Soltarny watched people stop praying, stop eating, stop thinking and stop wanting to be alive. It is at this time I see the first of his many tears roll down his prematurely old face.

He almost starved, he almost took his own life. That idea of finding protection and safety, or perhaps some hope was ebbing away hour by lonely hour. There was no happiness on Christmas Island – nobody was pleased to be in Australia – this is not the place they imagined our country to be. Soltarny was eventually provided with a refugee visa and was released in to the community, and he made his way to Melbourne. He knew someone that had emigrated here from Kabul many years before and he is still yet to find them. he has done it all alone.

This Uber journey was not a long one but to hear this story and share in the abject sorrow in his voice struck a chord. He is now married, and has children, as well as having a brother here. He has to support all of them as he is the only one who can work. He drives 80 hours a week- 10-12 hours a day – to make enough money to try and provide some sort of life for his growing and extended family.

I want to help Soltarny, and I made a promise to him before I left his car – that I would share his story, and try and do something to help him and his family. He gave me an email address and his phone number. I want to provide something for them, some money or some clothes. He is a small man and he thinks of himself last – he makes sure his wife, his children, his brother and his extended family are looked after. His English is poor, but he understood enough to answer my questions.

I want you to think about this too – we hear from those who don’t know better about the Muslims being terrorists and that they are not wiling to assimilate; that they from ghettos and wont learn English; that all the problems in the world are their fault. It is certainly not cool to be a Muslim in Australia. Yet the reason he is here is because of his religion, because the kind of Islam he follows is somehow different to that of the Sunnis. He worships the same God, subscribes to the same five essential pillars of Islam, and yet his own people wanted to kill him as they killed his father. It is something that I don’t think I can ever understand. Its like catholics killing anglicans all in the name of their particular kind of christianity – the absurdity of it all is playing on my mind.

If you think you might want to help me help Soltarny, please get in touch… email me petedoesstuff@gmail.com and let me know how you want to help. If this man deserves anything, it is to find that little bit of hope, that safety and protection, and to reclaim the dignity that he deserves as a human being. Maybe you can spare just a few dollars… to him, that is a blessing that we simply do not understand. I want to talk more about Soltarny.

 

 

This is what Marriage Equality really means.

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I have been thinking about what Marriage Equality will mean when it happens in Australia – maybe this year, maybe next. I know people understand that its a great step forward for human rights, but to those of you who are not lesbian, gay bi or trans, I would love you to know what it means – on a deep, visceral level – to us. What it will mean to us, not just in our lives but also in our minds, our hearts and our souls.

Lets start with what it means on a psychological level. You need to understand what it was like growing up knowing you were different, and the trauma that was endured in school, in the playground, in the street and at home. If, like me, you suffered considerable bullying, taunts and teasing from a young age, where people would point a finger, laugh at your voice, beat you up, make fun of the way you walked or ran or throw food at you on a bus to footy training when you were trying so desperately to fit in and be normal, then you know the pain. That pain was vile, it was deep and it went right to the very heart of who you were.

Where little remarks made in the house that were barely heard by anyone else, cut deeply and critically in to your heart. They stayed there too, and those in your family that made them, had absolutely no idea. They didn’t understand that what they said was hurtful, how it stung you. This was from people who suspected who you were before you knew or understood who you were.

There was one hateful thing after another as you grew up; terrified of puberty, terrified of being around others for fear that you might be found out, terrified of making a close bond with a member of the same gender for fear that you would develop a crush or fall in love. It was so much easier to hang around with the others where that danger was far less likely, and where you felt like less of a freak.

While you were holding hands with a girl or boy of the opposite sex, sneaking a pash near the bike racks, the shelter sheds or anywhere you might have found some space, going on dates and hanging out after school at the shops, we were alone, at home, crying, hurting and feeling alone, left out and shunned. We were not sure why, but we were. We tried to play the game, lied to you and ourselves, but always wary that the feelings we had were going to accidentally get out. We were terrified and we closed down, adopting a mask that we could wear when we were among friends. In doing this we were inadvertently hurting other people by pretending to be like you, pretending to want to go out with someone, just to be like you. You made us feel that very acutely.

And there was the constant and probably the most awful hurt when we did develop a crush, fall in love and yearn to be able to tell someone, anyone, that we understood what love was, that we had felt it and we had to bury it. The deep and powerful longing to touch that person, in any way, the desire to be always near them, but never too close! That was one of the most awful things we went through.  We were in pain from being in love when it was supposed to be the most joyful and exciting thing that we would ever know. It was nothing but pure, unending torture.

On a spiritual level, especially for those of you who believe or have a faith – you never had to think about whether your faith and your god accepted you. You didn’t have to think about lying all of the time in the church and what that meant to you inside to always be dishonest. You didn’t have to panic that somehow, your god knew and was punishing you in other ways – with pimples, with weight, with always coming second in the swimming race, with always having to live up to a brother or sister who did things better than you. Thats how we felt – we were being punished by our god, if we had one. We didn’t understand that the verses and readings we heard in the church, the synagogue or the temple were meant for us – they were meant for the other members of the congregation who didn’t have this filthy secret. How could our god love us when it seemed nobody else did.

Physically, you are lucky if you were never made to constantly doubt yourself or feel incredibly ugly to the point you still live in fear of being seen as ugly – because you felt that those feelings inside that you couldn’t speak of, that manifested themselves in other ways. That you were afraid to exercise or play sport because of the way you walked, ran, threw, hit or kicked. This meant that other things became your solace, and for so many, it was food. There, in the corner with some food, we could hide and feel good for a little while and nobody would taunt us. That way you could taunt us about our weight and not who we were inside.

Then there were our minds – and how your stinging verbal barbs played with our minds. The many times we thought about how disappointed our parents, our siblings, our friends and our peer groups would be if we admitted to our difference. It was sometimes very dark and we thought about making the darkness permanent. There are many who still do because of that fear. There was the lack of intimacy in our lives because we closed ourselves off. We were your best friends, no doubt about that, but we were the loneliest people you knew. We were always the person you wanted at a party, because we would come in our mask – as the joker, the entertainer, the fun one who isn’t interested in hooking up with anyone there, so we become the clown. Behind those masks were rivers of tears that we had to shed alone and quietly.

AIDS terrified us and the nasty things that it made you say. You couldn’t share a cup or hold the hand of someone you assumed was gay because you would catch it and die. It was the gay disease and if there was as much as a whiff of something different about anyone, they were a poofter, a lezzo, a faggot, a dyke, a pansy. You weren’t going to put yourself at risk of death by being nice.

We deserved to be loved because we knew your secrets, we held your trust, you respected the fact that when you told us something, it would stay with us. We knew what it would be like if your secrets came out, because ours were bigger, darker and so much scarier. We became the person you came to because you needed to offload emotionally, knowing we could never do the same. Not only were we carrying our own baggage, but we were stowing yours as well.

So what does marriage equality mean, when it happens? It means that we are the same, equal, on par with you. It means we don’t have to feel different any more. It means that you can’t tease and taunt us because of our secret, because we are like you, it doesn’t have to be a secret any more. It means that kids everywhere will feel a part of something – something so enormous and something so terribly normal that everyone is doing it. It means that we no longer have to hide how we feel and kids no longer have to fear being different. Watch the suicide rates fall – in young men, in youth and especially in regional areas.

It means that we don’t have to put up with your bullshit anymore. You aren’t superior to us because your normal is no longer different to ours. We all deserve to be loved and to love in return. We all need intimacy and physical comfort. We all need sex. And we all need to feel we are not shunned because of those needs. Having full equality means we are the same as you and we can aspire to fall in love and get married, just like you.

Marriage Equality is a lot more than a rainbow patch on your profile picture. We know now that you love and accept us, we know now that you didn’t mean to be cruel, hateful and hurt us. Some of you will never get past that teenage stuff because you haven’t matured. We wont judge you for that and we will still be your friends, but it is you now who needs us to support you.

Reach out to those you know and tell them you understand what marriage equality means. That you get how horrible it must have been as a child, as a teenager, to endure that emotional loneliness. It’s more than a pride sticker on your profile. Go and march in a rally to show your support rather than talking about it how good it will be when it happens. Track down someone you went to school with and say sorry, that now you understand a little better what being equal means. Reach out to your child, your sibling, your relative or someone else you knew and say sorry. It could be the most powerful two words you ever utter – ‘I’m sorry!’ That’s what marriage equality means. It’s not about a big, fabulous wedding event and a boost to the economy.

Its not about politics or religion – its about humanity and finally being loved as an equal, without having to hide, to think of other ways to introduce your partner or to scurry from the room when aging aunts talk of marriage and children. Those around you who are gay or lesbian or bi or queer or trans or different are still here because of their strength, their tenacity and their faith in themselves. They have made a life for themselves, etched out a space and found their niche not in spite of you but because of you. You are more than lucky to have them in your life.

For some of you, marriage equality wont change the deep seated homophobia and hatred you feel – and that’s more about you now. That’s your arrogance, narcissism, ignorance or perhaps your fear that you are not as straight as you might like others to think. That’s your baggage now and we are no longer going to carry it for you. Its time you did the heavy lifting.

Marriage Equality means all of these things and so much more. When you say you stand for what is right and good and loving, then this is what you stand for. We know, we feel it in our heart when your honesty is evident. This is what Marriage Equality means to us.

Mothers Day is not a happy day for us.

I watched today as people posted messages and photos to their Mums, Step Mums, Grand Mums and Foster Mums, and recognised the people that inspired them to be better. I was one of those and I talked briefly about my Mum being my hero. She was and will be my hero forever.

I feel for those whose mother is no longer here, and for those Mothers who have to endure this day without the children that they gave birth to.

But Mothers Day is a sad day for my family in so many ways. Mum is still here but our mother has dementia and is at the point where I don’t think she has any quality of life.  The old, frail woman who I saw yesterday, who can’t communicate and can’t feed herself, is not the Mum I knew. She is not the Mum who could listen to us and advise us when problems came along hug us when we felt sad or in need of comfort. Almost all of life’s other menial tasks that we take for granted have been taken away from our mother by the disease that will take her life.  We don’t know when that will be – how soon or how long it will take for Mum to lose the ability that she has to breathe, to swallow, to be.

Dementia is cruel beyond words and so many of our loved ones are forgotten when dementia takes control.  Its hard to visit – its bloody hard to walk into a room and see a parent who was once robust, strong and determined reduced to someone that you can barely recognise. Its emotionally exhausting for family members to watch and be a part of. I know it is for my family and I find it harder each time I visit to hold myself together emotionally. Nothing would have made me happier yesterday that to take Mum out for brunch, a walk or a cup of tea.

I told my Mum yesterday that she doesn’t have to hang on if she is too tired. I told my Mum she can go when she is ready. I don’t know if she is and she can’t tell me that she is – she must be exhausted too – she must feel so terribly tired trying to make people understand her, to make her wishes understood and heard (which she can’t) and to keep going on when its a continued struggle. I want her to know that perhaps we are ready to start the long journey to goodbye.

Mum before dementia took its toll on her.

Mum before dementia took its toll on her.

I see so many people in that place where Mum is who are in the same boat – its not a happy place to visit and I know how I feel when I do – I imagine my sister in particular, who feeds her and is her most frequent visitor, must feel the same. We all show it in different ways and I admire my sister so much for all that she has done and continues to do – so much of her life has been paused so that she can do what she does for our mother.

I don’t want Mum to die, but I also don’t want her to continue living like this.  Its not the person she was or is. She was a child through the second world war, she buried a daughter at a few months of age from SIDS, along with my father she struggled and worked harder than any one I know to raise my 8 siblings and I. There was never an easy street for our Mum. She has never had a privileged life in monetary terms but has had a wonderful life filled with memories that we can hold close to us when she does go. Dementia has made her journey even tougher and she has dealt with it for 20 years.

Mothers Day is a sad day for us – and a day we all think about what comes next and how prepared we are for Mum to stop fighting, to leave us. I like to think we have been grieving in our own way for some years but I am sure I am not prepared for the eventuality of her no longer being here with us.

I am so proud of all that Vesta has done and we will all treasure beautiful memories of Mum when she is gone. We will cherish those times we and with her, with our kids and our loved ones. And when each Mothers Day comes around we will constantly be reminded of all that she gave us. I hope one day I can have a Mothers Day where I am not sad any more.

 

Will a Royal Commission change things?

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.

 

rosary

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.