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“Those Clerics – the bastards – they abused us, they gave us a life sentence”

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.


37 comments

  1. Michael Taylor

    Breaking news: Pell has been charged with sexual assault.

  2. Shevill Mathers

    Appalling and sickening what those people did under the cloak of their various churches and organisations. They were /are not ‘animals’, that demeans animals – let us call them sub human, evil, whatever, but I would prefer an animal as a friend to any of those religious hypocrites. I see that at last, George Pell is to be charged-long overdue of course and we all know why he fled to Rome. I do hope that in his case, justice is served and he lives long enough to reflect on his former years, and what he ignored and allowed to happen under his watch.

  3. Julie

    The Pope must compel him to return and face the charges, if he doesn’t he will be seen to be as complicit as Pell.

  4. Jaquix

    BB You have written so well about the horrors inflicted on you by those monsters. I hope you can start healing, and so glad the RC is uncovering their duplicity and disgraceful inhuman treatment of yourself and so many others. If Michaels info is correct, seeing George Pell charged with sexual assault, is good news. I do hope you can enjoy your last year’s a lot better than they have been. Best of luck to you – and keep writing!

  5. helvityni

    WOW, Pell has been charged with sexual assault, I never believed I’d hear such good news, even though I was always convinced that he was guilty…

  6. Michael Taylor

    Though I should be focusing on the suffering of BB, with the news that Pell has been arrested I turn my anger to those who have either publicly defended him or questioned the honesty of the victims. People like Tony Abbott, Andrew Bolt and Miranda Devine.

  7. Carol Taylor

    Australia has no extradition treaty with the Vatican, so let’s hope that the Pope convinces Pell to return. This news I hope can be of some comfort to the victims of paeodphile priests, many of whom Pell has denigrated in his attempts to cover for his own crimes.

  8. mustchange

    BB my heart breaks for you and I can relate so well to your prose. I am in my 60’s and my whole life has been ruined by these scum. I am only here because I have children, though grown, and I couldn’t bear to leave them with the legacy of me taking my own life. I feel no joy in life, I have become a hermit as, like you, my anger overwhelms me. A family member told me to just get over it, it happened a long time ago. What do you say to someone like that? It wasn’t just one time, it happened over and over again. I stupidly told a nun what was happening to me and then endured years of abuse, being called the most horrific names, belted often if I was upset and accused of being a child of the devil. So is it any wonder that we grew up damaged. I wait for the release of no longer being here because it is just too hard. I have tried and tried to turn my life around, years with a psychiatrist, psychiatric admissions, but the words still come back to haunt me that I am damaged, not worthy and deserve nothing. Like you I will be forever grateful to Julia Gillard for the Royal Commission and am also grateful that people’s opinions of the catholic church are now altered.

    I wish you well.

  9. wam

    The power of confession, contrition and forgiveness.
    The crime of sanctity.
    The shame in history.
    The luck of avoidance.
    The innocence of indoctrination.
    The savagery behind the blessing

  10. Syb

    BB I am so so sorry for the horrors you had to endure when you were a child and then for the rest of your life. Thank you for writing this article and expressing your feelings, I am so glad you were able to do this, although I know it is never going to change what has been done to you. I hate the church and these vile bastards so much! I hope they will rot in hell, although I don’t believe there is a hell or a heaven. But when they are on their deathbeds they will know they did wrong and the last thought will be that they will go to hell and burn forever.

  11. Vikingduk

    Yes, BB, afraid to start screaming, afraid to speak out, I know your experiences well, afraid to start that scream in case you can’t stop. This morning I held a dying man in my arms, slowly eased to the ground, in the f*cking gutter, must be a day of reflection, of sadness and joy, all that time lost to anger and resentment and now opening up to love and joy.

    Value every moment, live every moment completely, it may be your last. Go well, BB, may you reclaim your life, my saviour is an extraordinarily good woman who has spent an eternity teaching me about love, may you find a way through. Nature is my saviour as well, worth a try, BB.

    And fck the Catholic Church, fck pell, f*ck the lot of them. Like most of my posts, this is a little disjointed as well, love to you BB, am crying now, later dude.

  12. Florence nee Fedup

    Seems Andrew Bolt last person to sit down with Pell. Tells us all, Bolt reckons impossible for him to get fair trial. Pell wants to come home but needs to check with doctors. Well enough to fly to London & back.

  13. john ocallaghan

    All i can offer BB and everyone who has suffered at the hands of these monsters are my best positive wishes i can muster,and may you live out the remainder of your lives in a way i cant begin to imagine.
    I have a pretty strong opinion of what may happen to Pell over these allegations,and i have to call them allegations, and i also have a strong opinion on his guilt or otherwise,but now is not the time or place to express those opinions for obvious reasons!

  14. Kathy

    I want to hold you guys tight and ease your ache. I am so sorry you had to endure what you did. You were only little boys who needed love, comfort and protecting. It was your right to have that but instead evil adults destroyed you.
    Hang in there, to see karma do her thing. Xxx

  15. Ben Calibri

    I GRIEVE FOR YOU. THANK YOU FOR SHARING YOUR STORIES.

    LET’S ALSO NOT FORGET CHIEF INSPECTOR PETER FOX FOR HIS UNTIRING WORK TO BRING THESE CHARGES ABOUT AND JULIA GILLARD FOR ACTING ON WHAT HE SAID AND BRINGING ABOUT THE ROYAL COMMISSION.

    NO PUNISHMENT IS ENOUGH. NO COMPENSATION ENOUGH FOR THE RUINED LIVES AND HORRIBLE SUFFERING OF THE VICTIMS OF THIS VICIOUS SYSTEM.

  16. Kaye Lee

    I too am crying. There are no words that can make it better. The shame is ours as a society and I am so sorry that we all let you down so badly. But know this – your courage has made a huge difference. We still have a long way to go but, by sharing your pain, you have saved others. You are changing the world, one small step at a time. Forgive yourself your anger. Thank you for your strength.

  17. Ian Ellis

    If a corporation behaved anywhere close to the depravity of the Catholic Church, it would long ago have been forced out of business. Pell, on being interviewed about the formal accusation re his personal involvement in sexual abuse, was so revoltingly patronising that I almost threw up. If this church was forced to close, as others have been, there would be shrieks of outrage.

    Punishment, however, rarely proves to be a real antidote to the harm these disgusting ‘men of God’ have done them.

  18. diannaart

    Thank you BB for expressing your experience.

    You, like many, are a survivor, you have survived to tell the world what happened, what should never happen to anyone, let alone children.

    But it did happen and such experience cannot be forgotten – nor do I believe it can be forgiven as we are often told to do. Victims can learn to live with the experience, acknowledge that it happened and ignore the idiots who tell you to, “Just pull yourself together “. There is no “pulling oneself together”, there is healing and sometimes a form of justice even if this justice is only for the few victims rather than the many.

    I too heard, the announcement of Pell’s charges this morning – I do hope the police have a very well prepared case – Pell is a man who could’ve been pope!!! The entire Catholic church must take responsibility.

    If Pell is diagnosed as too ill to fly, he can bloody take a cruise to face his accusers for they have waited a long time and they can wait a little bit longer.

    Whitlam once told us to “maintain the rage” – this can be a positive force to keep going, it does not have to be a rage which consumes us, but a rage which gives us power.

  19. Vince O'Grady

    BB My heart goes out to you. I am so sorry that you were treated in such a shabby way. I would feel the same about these animals cloaked in the aura of respectability. They are Scum.

  20. Vikingduk

    Yes, Kaye Lee, “forgive yourself your anger” and the resentment, the losses, usually caused by our actions, that have been experienced on the way. But I must add, fck all those adults that turned a blind eye, that knew what was happening and did nothing. You fckers are as complicit are as guilty, perhaps even more so. You knew and did nothing.

    Our role as responsible adults demands that we must do our best to protect the young, the weak, the aged. And, ultimately responsible for ourselves, to search for healing and joy, to not let these f*cking scum and their actions hound us to the grave.

    Whether you have been sexually abused or any other form of abuse, stand up on your hind legs and be determined that those f*ckers won’t win in the end.

    Nature can assist in the healing quite beautifully, for free, no judgements, she just is, waiting for us to see her beauty and caring ways. A good hound is another help, but for me the love of a good woman, surfing, the lovely hound, realising all my anger and resentment was poisoning everything good in my life, Tai Chi, Eckhart Tolle books, Guilia Enders book, Gut, and a compulsion to be a completely responsible adult. Though self medication takes the edge off, I don’t drink alcohol since January and a complete change of diet have cleared the head to a certain extent.

    Good fortune, BB, may you find a way back to life.

    The dying man’s name, Bob, a Scotsman in his 80’s, wife at home, unwell, Bob been coming to Tai Chi for several years. That experience and then reading BB, time for a f*cking joint.

  21. MikeW

    You may not post this because of expletives I am about to use, which will be the first time on any blog.
    I am not only crying I am shaking with effing rage. That these inhuman bastards have been able to get away with their sick ways in the name of God for so long beggars belief. Whether Pell is guilty or not we may find out, regardless there are so many other sick fckers in the name of God abusing innocent kids. Thank goodness (not God) I never sent my kids to a Catholic school.
    As for that effwit Andrew Bolt who has been defending Pell through all of this, this morning he writes a piece where comments posted mostly against the Catholic church and Pell are suddenly deleted, no comments allowed.
    Andrew Bolt not only a f
    ckwit but the Worlds biggest f*cking hypocrite.
    Apologies for expletives off for a double scotch to calm me down.

  22. Keitha Granville

    There is nothing anyone can say to assuage the pain or heal the suffering – it’s too late for that, All we can do now is to maintain the rage, follow those perpetrators who are still alive to the end of the earth and ensure they are prosecuted. Their future suffering will be no comparison that that which they inflicted, more’s the pity.
    Forgive ? there can be no forgiveness without contrition – isn’t that the church’s teaching ? Confess your sins and you will be forgiven. How does that work for all those wicked people all those years who went to confession every week – did they confess and were forgiven ? I thought you had to promise not to sin again.
    I find it impossible to believe in a supreme being who allows vile acts against children to occur – why doesn’t this god stop it ?

    I have nothing for you BB except heartfelt empathy and love, may you live the remaining years of your life in the knowledge that now, we KNOW, we HEAR, we are trying to do something.

  23. Zoltan Balint

    BB to you and others that have suffered, personally I advise to keep your anger as long as the situation is not changed eliminated and 100% corrected. Without your anger none of it will be done. When the situation no longer exists only then can you drop it if YOU wish. For Abbott Bolt and Devine – if you do not believe in the evidence you condone and thus you are complicit. If you are complicit you can also be held responsible and also charged under the law (it’s called to facilitate).

  24. Maeve Carney

    I find it incomprehensible that adults could have had it in them to systematically abuse vulnerable and frightened children. I cannot imagine the mindset behind it. I also find it difficult to wrap my brain around the notion that there were adults who didn’t abuse the children but did nothing to help them them either. I truly hope that the victims can find some sort of peace in spite of it all because I doubt very much that they will ever get the justice they deserve.

  25. diannaart

    Maeve

    I have difficulty, at times, distinguishing the guilt between the actual perpetrators or those who turned a blind eye, permitted the abuse to continue and transferred abusers to other parishes. I had always thought Pell was one of the latter, whose actions or lack thereof, continued the horror.

    That Victoria Police have found evidence Pell may be guilty of abuse as well as permitting abuse…words fail… words fail me that anyone adult could do such harm to children.

    Pell will need all the protection he can get – whether he participated or simply chose to ignore what was happening even though it was “a sad story” and he wasn’t “interested”. I imagine Pell is very interested right now.

  26. Kyran

    I can only express sorrow for the pain you, and others, have had to endure, at the hand of these monsters. As you say, what recompense could (or would) ever be adequate?
    For what it is worth, by virtue of the fact that you are speaking now, 60 years later, makes you a ‘survivor’, as opposed to a ‘victim’. That you have had to be a victim for 60 years to qualify as a survivor is an indictment, most recently realised through the RC, on society.
    Of little consolation, in any event.
    For what it is worth, anger and hatred have, in my experience, more often destroyed the ‘host’ of the anger and hatred, rather than those who perpetrated the abuse in the first place.
    Of little consolation, in any event.
    For what it is worth, you have reminded me of two weeks in a Catholic orphanage in Camberwell. And a year of vicious brutal physical abuse in a school in Richmond. Also Catholic.
    Of little consolation, in any event.
    For what it is worth, write another piece. Your pen may well prove more powerful than the sword you were put to.
    For what it is worth, take care.
    “I look at the world and I notice it’s turning
    While my guitar gently weeps
    With every mistake we must surely be learning
    Still my guitar gently weeps”
    Thank you BB.

  27. Jaquix

    The Pope needs to review the fact that they have “diplomatic immunity”. The Church stands to be damned forever more if it uses that to harbour criminals (or alleged criminals). He should certainly convince Pell to return to Australia to face the music. Otherwise Catholics should go on strike and not go to church in protest.

  28. lawrencewinder

    A moving piece.

    Perhaps Pell-Pot and Kathy Jackson can have adjoining cells so that Rabid-the-Hun can visit them more efficiently.

  29. stephentardrew

    Thank you with all my heart for telling your story. I will listen and support so they can be held truly accountable. Catholic apologists there is no excuse. Drop the magical mythical hypocrisy and come home to a rational science based reality in which you stop hiding behind a lie. Love is what you are it is not the belief system you wrap around your fragile egos.

  30. Deanna Jones

    Thank you BB, so brave of you to share. Your anger is so justified.

  31. LOVO

    Societies ‘worst’ hiding behind the veneer of religion, ‘faith’ and ‘care’…😠
    BB, thanks for sharing…

  32. Kirsty Pastoor

    I cannot even begin to understand your pain. I passed through the catholic education system in the 60’s and 70’s. The cane the strap and the feather duster were regular forms of punishment for things as innocuous as talking in class, the boys mouths washed out with Persil laundry powder for swearing by the nuns, nothing compared to your experiences but an indication that the viciousness of the nuns was ongoing. I felt the sting of a violin bow across the knuckles the first lesson and walked out. I was held to ridicule in front of the whole school for being ungrateful. I chose not to send my children to a catholic school refusing to pay money to an organisation that was responsible for so much pain and humiliation. Go well into your future BB I hope you find some peace. If George Pell can’t fly he needs to be transported like the true criminal he is on a cargo ship with few amenities, whether he partook, ignored or was complicit in the cover up he is guilty of the most heinous crime.

  33. silkworm

    There can be no forgiveness for such crimes. Anger and hatred of the church is totally justified.

  34. Christine Farmer

    There can be no forgiveness for such crimes. They are a threefold betrayal of young people by those in loco parentis. Christianity purports to be a religion of love, yet individuals of the clergy can so destroy lives. Then those who have the professional oversight of the abusers don’t bring them to account, but often shunt them off to another parish to continue their behaviour. And often parents apparently have not believed reports from their children of such behaviour. Considering the importance of the church in their lives, it may well be something the parents cannot bear to contemplate. A ghastly mess.

  35. Freetasman

    News from the Vatican : Monsignor Luigi “Cocaine” Capozzi admitted to police he brought a bag of cocaine to the Vatican palace for use during homosexual activity with other churchmen.
    The monsignor was brought to the Roman clinic Pio XI in order to be detoxified. He is now in a monastery in Italy. His apartment was not destined for simple monsignors. He also drove an exclusive car with Vatican license plates, which are reserved for higher Vatican dignitaries.

    Catholic Father Andrea Contin, a parish priest in the northern city of Padua in Veneto, is under police investigation on suspicion of living off immoral earnings and psychological violence.
    A variety of sex toys and videos, purportedly showing orgies taking place on the San Lazzaro church premises, have been seized after complaints from three female parishioners.

    Said no more

  36. zOLTAN bALINT

    so what is new, it is and individual going about their MORTAL needs. Nothing to do with the higher powers to be above him. Prove it or be ready to be prosecuted for slander. You have a lot of details but show the money. At best they will say they have not been aware of any of this. If your only proof is what you have googled you are in trouble. The police is investigating HIM. Monsignor is a title given to a worker within the church and it does not carry any responisility or an authority within the Church. That is what they will say. The Pell defence, it was not what I was responsible for and as such was not interested in, the actions of an individual. It is the job of someone else. Yes I agree with you there is s#@t on the footpath and there is only one dog walking ahead of us but unless you can prove it did it, just realise WE have to pick it up.

  37. Pingback: Getting angry (or not) about abuse, injustice, illness • 2020 Social Justice :: 2020 Social Justice

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