Written by BB (a pseudonym) – a survivor of sexual abuse in an Australian religious orphanage in the 1950s.
I have never, until now, been able to express my anger at what my abusers did to me and to so many others. I have been afraid to express it. Afraid that, once started, I would not be able to stop the outpouring. Afraid that it would trip me, as it has done for so many others, across the delicate divide between choosing to live, or choosing no longer to do so.
I have lived my full life deeply pushing down and suppressing the facts of my experiences in a religious orphanage in the 1950s. I could scream in anger to the heavens about it all.
And now we have the Royal Commission, and along with it comes the assurance that it is OK to speak up, it is OK to open up, it is OK to be heard, it is a therapeutic thing to do, it is OK to damn the bastards for their deeds. But expressing my anger verbally is very difficult. My spoken words jumble all which ways, my face grimaces uncontrollably, and the strength of my emotions shakes me. I feel humiliated by the loss of control.
It has taken the input of psychologists and a psychiatrist to get me to this point. Much hard work to rip the scabs off, and there is so much I can no longer leave unsaid. I am putting my anger down on paper, putting the words there, because I can handle that at least.
I am of a cohort of people who were very young at the time of our abuse in the 1950s. We cannot identify our abusers for the simple reason that we were so very young at the time. Most of our abusers are more than likely well dead by now and we will never have the satisfaction of seeing them brought to justice.
Our abuse, and my abuse, happened in a very different era to now: almost 60 years ago. Most of our records have disappeared, or what is becoming increasingly obvious, simply destroyed.
Today there is a great and welcome media and societal focus on exposing and litigating perpetrators. In our era such a focus did not exist. We swallowed our experiences in silence and we just bumbled onwards as best we could.
When many of us were placed into religious orphanages we were already in a state of heightened vulnerability caused by either the death of both of our parents – or the inability of our parents to cope – with the resultant outcome being our designation as State Wards. We entered the institutions in a scared and fractured state, missing our families and the security of our homes – the normal feelings of young children whose worlds had suddenly inverted.
And this is when the predators stepped in. This is when those bastards stepped in. And that is when our, and my, anger started.
The Royal Commission could not possibly have dealt with all of us. If it had tried to it would have ended up running for decades. But our hope, my hope, is that everything it brought to light will help you understand our anger; the anger of people who were abused nearly 60 years ago … the people who have had no outlet of expression until recently.
Our anger is an uncomfortable issue for many because it does not easily go away, and it does not easily abate under the good intentions of truth and reconciliation efforts. Our anger is a very uncomfortable issue for those religious institutions who, rather than protect us, continually sheltered and protected our abusers.
The expression of our anger comes at the end of our lives. It is being expressed when the greater percentage of our lifetimes have passed. It is the anger we have carried every living day. We are in our 60s and 70s now and our self-medication efforts over our lifetimes to suppress and mute the horrors of our experiences will inevitably have a consequence on our lifespans.
If you judge our anger, and my anger – please bear in mind that our abusers were never brought to justice, they got away with it, they were mollycoddled and protected by their church, and they spent their lives happily fed and adoringly venerated by their congregations. It turns my stomach.
This is our, and my, lifetime of anger.
Those orphanage staff, those predators, they were bastards, they were animals, they sensed and were drawn to our vulnerability like moths to a bloody flame. They circled our innocence and crushed it with their sickness.
Those nuns – those supposed administrators of the mercy and love of god – they bashed us, they humiliated us, they subjected us to a regime of extreme mental cruelty, they were bastards, they were animals, it is almost impossible to forgive them.
Those inhuman orphanage clerics, from one side of their face they spewed out the loving words of their god, and from the other side of their face they bore down and committed atrocities upon us and shredded us. They killed our spirits. They were bastards, they were animals, and for many of us it is almost impossible to forgive them.
Our anger at what they did to us, and our hatred of them, is visceral.
We have carried it for our whole lifetimes in silence. We have carried the legacy of the damage they did to us for the whole of our lifetimes in silence. But the Royal Commission has given us the courage, the space, to finally speak out.
No amount of monetary reparation will replace what was beaten out of us, no amount of redress will return to us what we have lost. Nothing will undo our violation. Many of us are all too well aware that we have lived our full lifetimes totally empty of joy, and totally full of the permanence of a depression that never lightens.
Most of us never overtly sought sympathy – no matter how much we yearned for it – for the horrible things that were done to us. We were from an era where things were left unspoken, when one was expected to just soldier on no matter what. So we swallowed the shitful memories.
But those bastards gave us a life sentence. They gave us a life sentence, and that is the wellspring of our anger.
Our abuse occurred in unenlightened times. There is no going back almost 60 years to the start and availing ourselves there of the benefits of supportive psychological therapies. There is no going back to source and repairing the damage close to the time when it occurred.
For many of us, being the victim of child sexual abuse at such a young age, and from such a long ago era, carried an unwanted legacy. Most of us, once we had escaped the predations, turned inwards. We became quiet, we withdrew, we had difficulty associating easily with other people. We lost the ability to trust men, we lost the ability to trust women. We blamed ourselves, thought it was all our own fault, and shame became the mantle that we cloaked ourselves in. We felt that nobody would believe us so we pushed the memory of our experiences as deep as we could push them. We lived our whole lives like that. I certainly did.
The legacy from our abuse experience just kept expanding. It affected our work, our relationships, our children, our friends, the way we saw the very world. Our life sentence was shared by others. We are all still serving it.
And then along came the Royal Commission. And now we can express our feelings. And now we can vent our long muffled anger.
I’ll now speak for myself, and no longer for the many.
In this modern era victims of child sexual abuse are encouraged to seek help, are encouraged to try and forgive, are encouraged to wholeheartedly embrace the process of healing, are encouraged to speak up.
I have no objection – even at this later stage in my life – to placing my feet firmly on the starting line of that journey. But just before I do I’m going to slip the following in – and I reckon I have earned every bloody right to express it. And I am using the most appropriate swear language that I can think of.
I am angry at my abusers. They were vicious brutal predatory scum.
They were bastards, they were predators, they were animals. What they did to me as a young child has affected my whole fucking life. And the vile bastards got away with it.
I am angry at the organisation that protected so many of them.
I gaze at the Catholic Church with a lifetime’s worth of utter hatred, scorn, anger, contempt, and disgust. I turn my back on them, and on everything those arseholes pretended to represent. I curse them with every fibre of my bloody being.
I speak for myself, but I also speak for those who did not survive the predations, those who never got the chance to scream their anger. I honour them with all my heart.