By Tracy Bowden
David Ridsdale, a high-profile survivor of child abuse who travelled to Rome to watch Cardinal George Pell give evidence to the royal commission, has been accused of not being transparent about his own past as an abuser.
Mr Ridsdale had endured four years of sexual abuse at the hands of his uncle, Catholic priest Gerald Ridsdale, but in 1995 was himself charged with two counts of indecently assaulting a young victim.
He pleaded guilty and was placed on a 12-month good behaviour bond, with the magistrate noting that the behaviour was influenced by the treatment he had suffered at the hands of his uncle.
David Ridsdale’s victim was Corey Artz, who has broken his silence after 30 years, joining the hundreds of others who have told their harrowing stories to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
And he wants the man who abused him to be equally open about what happened.
“I am just surprised he gets up there and speaks as he does when he knows of his past, he knows he has done wrong,” Mr Artz told 7.30.
Now 43, Mr Artz puts on a brave face as he talks about what happened to him in Ballarat in Victoria in 1984.
He was 12 years old when Mr Ridsdale, then a leader at the local YMCA, befriended his family.
“When you’ve got a lad 18 years old come into your life, they’re almost like a hero to you,” Mr Artz said.
Mr Artz was intrigued when Mr Ridsdale offered to teach him magic one night on the way home from the video store.
“David pulled the car over and proceeded to pull his pants down and pulled out his penis and started to masturbate and told me I had to do the same thing as well,” he said.
“I vividly remember him grabbing my penis and I had to grab his and it just didn’t feel cool. I hated it.”
Confused and scared, Mr Artz was instructed not to tell anyone.
“Afterward was the threats of ‘The devil will kill your mum and dad if you ever say anything to anyone’,” he said.
Mr Artz says the abuse happened three times, then his family moved interstate.
It would be 10 years before he reported what had happened to the Ballarat police.
“I was more hoping he would have been punished in a way child abusers should be punished,” Mr Artz said.
“I certainly feel sorry for David. I don’t think any child should have to go through it.
“But I don’t believe abusers abuse.
“There is no excuse for child abuse.”
Ballarat survivors who travelled to Rome with Mr Ridsdale are stunned and distressed by Mr Artz’s revelations.
They say Mr Ridsdale misled them about the extent of the abuse when they first learnt about it and raised it with him several months ago.
Abuse survivor Andrew Collins from the Ballarat Survivors Group said Mr Ridsdale downplayed what happened.
“[He said] there was a small age difference between the two, he told me 17 and 16, he said he had just flashed at the person and that was it,” Mr Collins told 7.30.
“[It’s] the deception that is the hardest part.
“As survivors you have trust issues, and when you put your trust in somebody and they betray that trust it is akin to being abused all over again.
“Some survivors I have spoken to are devastated, there has been tears, there has been a lot of anger and a lot of disbelief.”
Over the years, Mr Artz has tried to get on with his life and forget about what happened.
But last year when Mr Ridsdale gave evidence to the royal commission, with extensive media coverage, it all became too much.
He contemplated suicide.
His wife, Wendy, took her husband to hospital where he was admitted to the psychiatric ward.
‘Most abused children do not become abusers’: Bravehearts founder
Mr Artz then made contact with the support group Bravehearts and its founder Hetty Johnson.
“Most children abused do not become offenders themselves,” she told 7.30.
“And it’s not an excuse.”
Ms Johnson said David Ridsdale was ignoring the pain that his lack of transparency was causing Mr Artz now.
“In terms of this particular case, David did not acknowledge the pain that he had inflicted on Corey, he hasn’t acknowledged that,” she said.
“He hasn’t said, ‘This is what happened to me, this is the trauma it caused me, it also caused me to commit an offence when I was a young person’.
Mr Artz has made a statement to the royal commission, and hopes that will help him move on.
“I am finally starting to see that bit of light at the end of the tunnel,” he told 7.30.
“I have done what I had to do.”
7.30 made repeated attempts to contact David Ridsdale for comment.
This post originally appeared on ABC News.
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