This post deals with child abuse and might be triggering for some readers.
I’m the lawyer of the deceased choirboy’s father in the Pell case: Tuesday was my toughest day.
I have worked with survivors of abuse for many years. I have listened to horrendous stories of how people’s life trajectories have been turned upside down and into the darkest depths because of what happened to them as children.
Lisa Flynn discusses her client’s feelings about the High Court decision. Post continues below.
What was perpetrated against them by opportunistic, horrifying people – taking advantage of their positions of power to inflict incomprehensible pain and suffering. I hear our clients recount their experiences – of when they were young kids, terrified, who were hurt in such a way that many of us cannot comprehend or even imagine.
I am fortunate. I can usually hear these stories, find out what I need to do to support these survivors and advance their case to obtain a sense of justice for them. I have enormous empathy for our clients. I have significant distrust and disgust for the people who caused the pain that they suffer. I have a passion that fuels what I do. I do what I can to make things better every day. However, once I have done all I can do for a day, I leave the office. I turn the lights out and I go home.
I go home to my husband and three beautiful kids and I shut off what the work day has been for me. My kids have no idea what I do as a lawyer. All they know is that I try to help people. I make a conscious effort never to bring my work home. I try never to bring the pain and the sadness of work home to my family – a space where my kids deserve to grow up free from understanding what child sexual abuse is.
I do a pretty good job of this most days.
At my recent 20-year work anniversary there were speeches. My work colleagues spoke of my good work. My gorgeous husband was so appreciative and proud of my ability to be a good mum without being affected by my job.
Tonight I may have let him down. Tonight I came home and cried in front of my kids and husband. I was just really tired and sad and I couldn’t hold it in any more. My kids were scared and I hated it. They asked what was wrong and I couldn’t tell them. I couldn’t quite describe it. I have had worse days. But the combination of factors led to this for me.
I was sad about the outcome of the Pell case. I was brought to tears having to explain the outcome to our client – the father of the deceased choir boy involved in the case. Our client believes his son was sexually abused, which caused him significant turmoil and sparked the downward spiral that led to his death when he was only 30 years old.
I was devastated about the impact that this decision has had on our client and on many hundreds of thousands of survivors and victims of child sexual abuse.
I was angry with the commentary from influential yet biased commentators whose wrongful claims that this High Court decision proves that George Pell is innocent and that his accusers are liars. Because it does not.
I felt pressure to ensure that victims and survivors felt that, despite the verdict in this case, they should come forward to tell their truth.
I felt overwhelmed with gratitude for the messages of support that I kept receiving throughout the day:
“Please pass on to your client in the Pell case that… this technical legal decision does not mean that he was wrong to come forward. Whether Pell is in prison or not we now all know what the institution of the Catholic church has done… Please pass on my thanks to him from the bottom of my heart.”
“I am one of your ongoing clients in Historical Child Abuse Cases and am shocked by the news about the George Pell case today. I understand this is an enormous day for you but just wanted to thank you for ALL the WONDERFUL work you have done and continue to do for hundreds of us!!! Saddened and angry about the outcome, I’ll use this energy to carry on in my search for justice. Our thoughts and prayers are with you Lisa, and for the victims and their families.”
For me, the emotion and the tears that I could not stop come from the kindness and the love and the goodness that exudes from all victims and survivors of abuse that I have had the absolute privilege of acting for over the past 20 years.
I am in awe of the courage of these survivors – as they come forward at often great expense to themselves – to make things better for our children, for future generations, for a safer society.
I am privileged to stand beside them in their quest for justice.
I may cry, but I will not give up in that fight.
Lisa Flynn is the National Practice Manager for Shine Lawyers and she represents the deceased choirboy’s father in his civil legal case. Despite the outcome of George Pell’s criminal trial, she will continue to fight for compensation for her client because a civil case isn’t treated the same as a criminal case in that there are different standards of proof and one is not reliant on the other.
Editors’ legal note: Mamamia makes no suggestion that Pell is guilty, only that the High Court was not required to and did not make a positive finding that he is innocent.
If this post brings up any issues for you, you can contact Bravehearts (an organisation providing support to victims of child abuse) here.
If you are concerned about the welfare of a child you can get advice from the Child Abuse Protection Hotline by calling 1800 688 009, or visiting their website. You can also call the 24-hour Child Abuse Report Line (131 478).
Feature image: Getty.