Child sexual abuse: "I know because I survived."

Child sexual abuse







*Trigger warning: This post is about child sexual abuse and may cause distress for some readers.


So Joe Hockey doesn’t think a Royal Commission will help survivors of clerical sexual abuse? I, for one, disagree.

For decades, thousands of Australians have suffered immeasurable mental, emotional and psychological trauma because of rape and abuse committed by members of the Catholic clergy. For decades, the church has covered up, hushed up and hidden those abusers. The survivors, or victims, if they had not taken their own life or suffered through incredible amounts of mental anguish have been mostly forgotten and forced to pick up the pieces on their own. The perpetrators were allowed to move on and be hidden by the organisation that should have been protecting its flock.

If this was another organisation, like the Boy Scouts for example, there would have been a Royal Commission well before now.  There would be thousands of these criminals imprisoned rather than simply being moved on to another parish where they can continue to abuse other children, or collude or cover up with their colleagues, the abuse of women and children in the church.

I know because I survived.

I was an 8-9 year old when I was sexually abused by a member of the Catholic Church.  I was an altar boy at a small parish in regional Victoria, and I was forced to commit acts that I did not understand.  I had no idea what I was being forced to do.  All I knew was that I knew it was wrong, I knew it did not make me feel special like the priest said it would.  I did know that I was being told not to tell anyone, for fear of getting in trouble, that no one would believe me if I told them and that I was bad.


Oddly, this was during the time I was also dealign with my sexuality – or more to the point, my homosexuality.  I had spent a great many years not being able to be myself because I thought it was my fault.  I carried a great burden of guilt that I never should have been forced to carry. I was just a little boy and in the years that have passed, I have been forced to mourn the loss of that innocent little boy.

I have contemplated taking the church’s hush money, but no amount will ever give me back my childhood.  My father died when I was in my early 20’s and my father never properly knew his youngest son. I could never tell my father who I was, because of what happened to me as a child.  When I told my mother, she broke down and cried. I am the second youngest of ten kids and my parents clung very firmly to their faith, it was one of the few things that they had. I made a decision not to tell them what had happened when I was a boy. My mother wished that she could have helped me through, and realised that much of what I told her made sense – she had seen the change in me from that age but never quite knew why.


Its fine for Joe Hockey to suggest that he has friends who would be traumatised by a Royal Commission, but what Mr Hockey can never understand is that we are traumatised every day. Mr Hockey does not understand how we FEEL. I hope that governments at both State and Federal level can see past religion and think of the tens of thousands of people who have been damaged by the church.


It is not just the victims or survivors. It is those that have to help pick up the pieces, those that have to ask the questions when the abused take their own lives or descend in to substance abuse to block out the pain that they are experiencing. It is the partners of those who still cry and scream in their sleep that have to wonder why.

If Joe Hockey and Tony Abbott and all of those other Catholic members of parliament want to continue to allow their church to get away with what they have done, then they can continue to forget people like me and bury their heads in the sand. Or they can show some fortitude and stand up and demand that the church finally answers to all of us. Only when that happens can we truly begin to heal.  Only then can we find some closure and see some of those perpetrators punished for what they have done.

I am one of the lucky ones – I say lucky because I was able to navigate my way through the hurt and trouble – I almost didn’t make but I am here and I am blessed to have an amazing partner who understands, a wonderful family who support me and a circle of friends who love me regardless.

I only wish that so many others were as lucky as me.

Pete Dillon owns a marketing, media, events and communications agency in Melbourne, Tusq. He is a social commentator and a lover of a healthy political discussion and you can read his blog at  When he is not getting on his high horse about something, you can find him indulging his passion for good food and fine wine.