In March Anthony Foster, tireless advocate for survivors of institutionalised child sex abuse, gave us what was to be his last interview before suffering a fatal stroke last week. Today he will be buried and honoured with a State funeral.
Anthony and his wife Chrissie Foster sit around the dining table in their home in rural Victoria, the table’s fractured glass design a fitting symbol of their shattered lives.
Around them are familiar bits and pieces; photo frames, a cat’s bed, and piles of books. Through the window it is possible to see the dam their grandson likes to explore; a glimpse into the sanctuary they have created away from their Oakleigh residence from where they have lead their campaign in support of those who have suffered institutionalised abuse.
Anthony’s tall frame bends over as he reaches for the cat, Chrissie is at his side. He gestures to the dull weather outside, saying he is hopeful the sun will return for their weekend barbecue. There is a pause and then a shift in mood.
Emma and Katie Foster, their eldest and middle daughters, were repeatedly sexually abused at the hands of their trusted parish priest, Father Kevin O’Donnell in the late 1980s. Their youngest daughter, Aimee, thankfully escaped his clutches.
At 13, Emma was old enough to understand and remember what O’Donnell did to her when she was only five-years-old. Plagued by disgust, Emma entered a downward spiral of self-destruction that lead to her suicide at 26 years of age.
In 1997, a year after Chrissie and Anthony learnt about O’Donnell’s abuse of Emma, Katie was suddenly overcome by a deep depression. Under her bed in a large shoebox, Chrissie found a suicide note revealing O’Donnell had raped Katie too when she was eight-years-old. Preoccupied by suicidal thoughts, Katie turned to alcohol and while drunk, blindly crossed a road and was struck by a drunk-driver. The injuries so severe Katie now requires 24 hour care.