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No money? No justice for Survivors!

Pell’s right to appeal has been upheld by the High Court of Australia. I have no problem with that. Any Australian citizen has the right to appeal to a higher secular power … in this case our legal system and its variety of ascending higher-level courts.

That’s called a reasonable statement.

My statement, however, is only momentarily polite on such matters as the rights of citizens to appeal, to seek redress, and to seek justice, and to seek fairness.

George Pell has the right to appeal. Survivors of childhood sexual abuse in Religious Institutions also have the right to appeal.

And here’s where the absolute bloody bullshit of equitable appeal for justice for all here in Australia starts to kick in.

Whatever the source of those dollars, the fact is George Pell’s appeal has been buttressed and supported by a well-heeled appeal fund. Engaging high-flying barristers and solicitors are not cheap.

I, and many other Survivors of the heinous crimes that have been committed against us, would love to have our cases, and our stories, and our quests for justice, heard in the highest court in this land. Of course, we have a snowball’s chance in hell of that ever happening.

The majority of the Survivors of childhood sexual abuse are mired in poverty. They are beaten down not only by their punishing experiences, they are also gutted by years, decades, and in many cases, lifetimes swamped by the negative legacies of depression, and PTSD.

Of course, the defenders of the clergy, legal and otherwise, would point out that Survivors have equal right of access to the legal system. There are probably people out there in our society who believe such nonsense.

Here are some legal realities for Survivors of childhood sexual abuse when they embark on a path for justice.

Many Survivors, when they initiate a claim against an Institution for historical instances of childhood sexual abuse, are mired in poverty and cannot afford psychologically or financially to hang on long enough for their cases to receive a fair hearing in Court. It often takes years for the cases to be heard.

Institutions such as the Catholic Church etc are well aware of this fact and they put the pressure on Survivors to accept unsatisfactory Settlements via the mediation process.

I know what I am talking about because that was my direct experience in dealing with the Church. They knew I was mired in poverty as a result of enduring a lifetime of effects from my abuse, and they utilised that fact to pressure me into accepting a compensation figure that was woefully lower than what would have reasonably been awarded by a Court.

I can understand that most people simply do not understand the process that Survivors have to go through to seek justice. The system, via Gag Orders etc, is designed to keep us quiet, and the techniques and methods used by the Churches to minimise or defeat claims are rarely aired in the public arena. They need to be aired.

I was, and am, very unhappy with the Settlement terms I was offered. The compensation figure was low and it did not compensate me for a lifetime lost, there was no apology offered, no remorse shown, and no offer of remedial therapy was included. I felt brow-beaten into accepting their ‘offer’, and I felt pushed aside and treated as an annoyance who needed to be quickly silenced.

Well, I am not an annoyance. I am a human being. I have a voice. And, where possible in a legal sense, I intend to use my voice to highlight the methods used by Churches etc to suppress legitimate claims.

Some will say that ‘nobody forced you to sign the thing’. My response to such nonsense is that my impoverished state, and the unending pressure from the Church, did indeed force me to sign the bloody thing.

There is a partial legal Gag Order placed on me, as it is on many other Survivors, but that gag order does not stop me from speaking my mind.

The majority of Survivors are not rich people, they are poor people, they cannot afford to hire a Legal Team to stand against the bevy of Lawyers and Barristers used by the Churches and other Institutions to fritter down and negate justified claims.

Survivors are caught in a bind because of poverty, they have to rely on the ‘umbrella’ afforded by No Win No Fee law firms, and unless those firms are very sure that the case will be won they have to utilise common sense and decline to take the case on. Which leaves some Survivors with a justified claim that they cannot afford to pursue on their own.

Survivors in that position are forced to rely on the National Redress Scheme. I’m not surprised that a lot of Churches and Institutions have signed up to that Scheme, because if any sort of compensation is paid out to an individual under that Scheme it is going to be an awful lot less than what a Court would reasonably award. In my opinion only, the Scheme unintentionally favours the Churches etc and disadvantages the Survivors. The Scheme has unintended consequences attached. Religious politicians, religious institutions, not the best of combinations where redress is concerned.

Many Survivors are riddled with depression and PTSD, and I am one of them. And our condition often precludes us from taking on behemoth institutions like the Catholic Church.

It is important to note that I believe that most religious people are decent folk, and that any action I have taken, or will take, is against the Institution that made no effort whatsoever to protect my younger self from incessant abuse.

To initiate another round of legal action is not an easy thing for me to do, or for any other Survivor to do or countenance. It would be far easier to stay hidden away in the background.

Many people might not realise that when you initiate a claim, in order for a medico-legal report to be produced, your whole life and being is subject to a rigorous forensic examination by Psychiatrists appearing for either side of the case. Sometimes that examination is empathetic, and sometimes it is acidly adversarial.

Either way, you are forced over a number of years to continually live and recall the instances of your abuse in full never-ending detail simply to prove that your claim is justified. No wonder the process so completely demolishes so many people.

Churches etc drag out claims for as long as possible and subject the Survivor, who is in a very vulnerable position, to begin with, to a long period of sustained pressure. My initial experience with my claim against the Church drove me to the edge, and I learnt a lot from that. They will not do that to me again.

I will not be silent.

People out there, those of a well-meaning mindset or otherwise, need to understand that when Survivors approach the legal system to attain justice, they are hamstrung from the get-go because they simply do not have the dollars to hire a high-flying legal team. The Churches do.

It has taken me over 60 years to get to the point where I can say the following. Today’s High Court decision in favour of George Pell is the trigger.

I cannot speak for other Survivors but I can at least guess about what many of us might be feeling. The anger at how we have been treated is starting to appear. The anger is real. It comes from a deep well-spring of imposed traumatic experiences, and from the way we have been demeaned, sidelined, denied fair justice, and pushed aside by Religious Institutions over the course of our lifetimes.

It is a well-justified anger.

 

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12 comments

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  1. Jack Cade

    So juries make mistakes, and panels of judges make mistakes. All you can do is pump your untaxed funds into as many appeals as you can until a panel of judges like Trump would appoint is selected.
    A panel of Barwicks.
    I absolutely despise churches in general, and as a christened Catholic, the Church of Rome in particular.

  2. New England Cocky

    @Jack Cade: Barwick was demonstrably one of the most unconstitutional judges of the HCA. Check out the case about 2 Parliamentary representatives for each of the territories.

    Perhaps the only thing that will curb priestly pederasty is removing the no taxation status of all churches that have had convictions of their staff against kids or others. The claim is that churches are a social good, but the evidence contradicts that in too many cases. So, have the churches also pay local government rates and state government taxes plus any and every other tax that can be applied.

    Historical records show that, except under the convict period when church attendance allowed an hour of respite from horrendous living conditions, Australians have about a 35% regular attendance rate, hardly convincing evidence of wide spread acceptance of religious teaching.

  3. Frances

    Very sad for survivors of abuse. Maybe former GG Peter Hollingworth can set up a fund for survivors with some of the $600,000 a year pension he gets thanks to Australian taxpayers. He didn’t even finish his term. Reminder: Former governor-general Peter Hollingworth conceded he manifestly failed in his response to a sexual abuse claim while he was Anglican Archbishop of Brisbane ..

  4. Phil Pryor

    Do not ever trust a careerist professional executive, The vast majority of crims, crooks, perverts, insane egos and assorted no hopers have always used religious positions, military, police, politics, media (more and more) and business. Orthodox business, e g, Milken, or alternative business, e g, Capone, it’s still business and horrible little adolfs get in and up there, to screw position, money, assets, notice. We the ordinary, have little hope, for the Conquerors and “great murderers and thieves” of heroic tales took it all, alliegance, pussy, gold, obedience, loyalty, then more of it all. My distant cousin Barwick, whom I knew barely and later, was clearly on show, tense, every pore and freckle being assessed, armoured ego ready, perhaps awaiting glowing mentions and fawning praise, but not from me. It’s a world ruined by the fantasy fraud of superstition, the professional lying of advertising, the false and untrustworthy word of leaders, the shittery, murdochery, Joycery, Morrisonery of career liars lying but smiling. Poor George Pell, his wigs will say, a victim, yes, of repression of vital urges in his personal sacrifice for the good of others, Have mercy…

  5. New England Cocky

    @Phil Pryor: The celibate status of priests was instituted in the 17th century to protect the Abbey from being bequeathed by the Abbott to their bastard off-spring, resulting in the possible expulsion of lesser clerics reliant upon the Abbey for shelter, food and work.

    But we are well aware that the Roman Church is slow to take decisions, remember that Galileo was considered a heretic until 1948 when the Church finally accepted his scientific observations that the Earth rotated around the Sun in a heliocentric universe, rather than the Geocentric earth centred universe that emphasised the preferred belief that the social order of lords over serfs mediated by clergy.

    Really happy for you getting all that off your chest.

  6. Keitha Granville

    Gosh, what a surprise he was granted leave to appeal. Money always wins.

    I have no clue how the survivors all over the country whose stories have never been heard must be feeling, how they are even managing to survive.

    But be in no doubt, all of you, any of you, most decent clear thinking people BELIEVE YOU. A jury of decent clear thinking people BELIEVED YOU.

    Whatever happens, that will always be true. And that creature will never have a peaceful night’s sleep for the remainder of his miserable life, no matter what the outcome.

  7. Roger Hawcroft

    What an f’ing travesty. Pell’s non-parole sentence of 3yrs 8mths was far too lenient in itself. Now he get special permission to appeal to the High Court when there is no point of law at issue, the original jury was unanimous in its verdict, and the previous appeal upheld the jury’s verdict.

    This is a clear case of the inordinate power of the Church and the rich and powerful who are associated with it.

    The Scales of Justice are not in balance. If you have wealth, power, status &/or influence you will receive far different treatment from the police, from lawyers, and from the courts than will Mr Smith, Mrs Bloggs or Joe Blough.

    Our whole legal system needs a shake up. A major change is needed in the methodology of investigating crime, from our current accusatorial approach (where we identify a suspect and then amass as much evidence as we can to convict him or her) to an inquisitorial approach where the focus is on discovering what actually happened, how it was able to happen and who may have contributed to it.

    The accusatorial system skews police thinking quite significantly towards a particular suspect and this easily leads to investigators missing other clues, events or potential suspects, or failing to give them appropriate weight. At the same time, it means that perfectly innocent actions, materials, objects or connections are virtually automatically considered to. be tainted.

    In our courts we have far too many anachronistic and obsolescent practices. These extend from retaining a bible oath, (yes I know that you can make an affirmation but, if you do, you immediately cast doubt on your honest in the minds of many), to the physical arrangement of the court and the way in which clever (and even not so clever) lawyers can manipulate a witnesses evidence. The dubious enforcement of yes/no answers a point in example. such answers almost always prevent the voicing of other relevant evidence and are used to paint a particular picture of the character or motive of the defendant.

    Then, of course there are the pre-dispostions, attitudes, prejudices and character of those sitting in judgment. In an interview situation research has shown that the panelists make up their minds about an applicant within the first minute or so of them entering the room. It is unlikely that members of juries, lawyers, magistrates, or judges are any different. Of course, it will be argued that they are trained to be objective and keep personal feelings and bias from their deliberations and judgments. How many of them are capable of doing so, is debatable but I would suggest that it is a ridiculous expectation. This bias, whether positive or negative, will then carry over into procedural matters, questioning, responses by judges to requests from the defence or prosecution and so on.

    If Pell’s appeal to the High Court is successful then it will be yet another sad day for justice in our nation and also make a mockery of those elements of our judicial system that are supposed to provide the checks and balance to ensure an equitable hearing for an accused person.

    There is only one reason that Pell received such a short sentence and has been allowed yet another appeal, and that is that clergymen, let alone senior ones such as Archbishops, are endowed by society with a false respectability and moral and ethical nature that is beyond reproach. Unfortunately, history shows this to be an unreliable assessment of such people.

    Few, if any, Australians consider the sexual abuse and/or rape of children to be moral, ethical, or acceptable. That someone who adopts and is held in such a sanctimonious state has been found to have committed those acts is even more outrageous than if some simpleton or ill-educated, poor and unkempt homeless person had committed them. Such a person would probably have received 20 years and had no chance of even one appeal, let alone two.

    Whichever way the High Court decides, the Catholic Church should be required to pay all of the cost associated with this farce.

  8. Andreas

    NEC, sorry to have to correct you, but celibacy in the priesthood, according to my source, was installed by Pope Gregory VII (a.D. 1073-1085).

  9. Jaquix

    So sorry Keith. Youre absolutely right. There is no justice in this world. The Vatican declined to pay a cent towards Pell’s legal costs, to their credit. The IPA (Institute of Public Affairs) obligingly called for donations to cover it. I suspect when Pell became a member, way back when, it was just to get the protection he may have needed in the future. The Coalition government is riddled with IPA members too, so Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch can pull lots of strings. Not only do they have IPA embedded in the govt, but also the might of their media empire, to pursue the case. Look after yourself as best you can, and dont think they are the majority, theyre not. Good to know he is still locked up, and will be until this case is over. Lets hope the grounds are slim. No ordinary person could pursue this so far, they couldnt afford it, as you rightly point out.

  10. kalock

    Pell was rescued by the Vatican when he was originally charged by giving him a role in the Vatican.

  11. Jonathan

    Digusting vile man. I feel terribly sorry for the victims who still can’t rest easy while this ‘process’ goes on. I hope they can take some comfort knowing that whatever happens, this awful human is doing untold damage to the status of the church and the religion that is protecting him.

  12. Keith Davis

    Surviving Sexual Abuse is not an easy task, believe me. I so appreciate the comments this article attracted. I am but one, and there are many, an untold legion of many, who are experiencing everything that I write about.

    We submit our claims for justice to a legal system, and a redress system, that appears to overtly favour the Institutions, the Churches etc, who turned a blind eye to what was going on under their very noses.They knew about it, they transferred the Perpetrators elsewhere, and in my case, they did not even offer an apology for the damage they allowed to happen.

    Supposedly, under the Law, we Survivors have a right of appeal against Unfair Settlements. Guess what? When you, as a Survivor, pursue that path, when you appeal, you soon find out that the Legal Profession, and the Churches etc … are so very quick to ignore you, and push you away. The legal profession wants your easy claim dollars, and there are no easy claim dollars in the appeal situation, and as for the Churches etc, they rest easy under the notion that they have so bound you up with their Deeds of Settlement that they feel protected, immune, from any ‘second look’ at what they have actually done.

    I will not give up in my pursuit for justice.

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