Between 1981 and 1984 I was sexually abused whilst a student at St Paul’s School, Bald Hills.
I reported the first phase of my abuse to the School Chaplain – Father Tom Treherne, although he sure as hell ain’t mine – shortly after Easter 1983. Treherne reported it to the Principal, Gilbert Case, a man who not too many years later employed his long time close friend the notorious serial pedophile Kevin Lynch as a Counsellor to troubled kids at the school.
When Case learnt of the revelations that I had made to the Chaplain he threatened with the loss of my fee-remission scholarship to the school if I dared breathe another word about what happened.
Not wanting to upset my parents, I shut my mouth and kept is closed until last year, only opening it again when the desperate desire to explain my errant later teenage behavior to my dying Mum before she was gone overwhelmed the feelings of massive guilt and shame that had been eating me alive from the inside out for the previous 3 decades and more.
When I finally broke down and told her, my Mum was bewildered, and asked out aloud “But why would Mr Case do such a thing?”
Working-class parents back in those days respected and trusted authority figures, and found it extraordinarily difficult to even imagine that they could possibly do wrong. How foolish they were.
It affected our relationship until the day she died.
Poor Dad too. How do men from Geebung talk openly about homosexual rape, given the prisons of the past that locked away good people’s common sense? Did he fail me as a father by not innately knowing the reason for my sudden behavioral decline? Did I fail him as a son by not telling him why?
Dad’s sick now, really sick, and I reckon this issue bears a hell of a lot of the blame, because it festers still and eats him away bit by bit each day.
It affects me still.
The words below were spoken in December 1983 by the Attorney-General of Queensland to a conference packed full of the people who were supposed to have protected me and all the other kids who were being abused. Neville Harper was the politicians name, and his audience included some of the most senior police, priests, public servants, prison officers, school principals, psychologists, social workers, lawyers and judges in the State, including the now-disgraced Police Commissioner Terry Lewis.
Read what the most powerful lawman in the land north of the Tweed River had to say in the year that my brutalisation at the hands of a criminal offender escalated to unimaginable horrors and ask yourself just a single question:
Did kids like me ever really have a chance?
Whether it be physical or emotional, child abuse is obviously distasteful to all of us and certainly I believe to most members of the community. In fact, I believe that in all probability most of those people who perpetrate the crime which we refer to as child abuse themselves in their more rational moments would agree that it is most distasteful.
….. child abuse is often not the result of rational thinking. In many cases it arises from events quite outside the control of the people involved, or at the very best is the end product of a very long build-up of frustrations or pressures…..often these pressures create a situation that can be solved by outside help, by counselling, and my Government, through our Department of Welfare Service and Ethnic Affairs, not only legislates to help both the parents and the children but also supplies experienced counsellors who are usually able to help both parties while at the same time endeavouring to, and in very many cases being successful in, preventing the break-up of the family.
When one seeks to confront the problems of child abuse there are of course conflicting issues which require to be balanced!
Where the parent inflicts abuse upon the child the question has to be asked as to why such abuse was inflicted and whether the enforcement of the Criminal Law is necessarily the appropriate response by those of us who are charged with the protection of society, the protection of all members of society.
If the full weight of the Criminal Law is brought to bear in the case of child abuse, obviously this will often lead to a weakening and perhaps even a severing of the relationship between the parent and the child.
In many cases I believe, and I am sure you would agree with me, that this would be highly desirable, but then it would seem that there are other cases where such a severing, such a breaking of that link, may very well have an adverse effect both on the victim — and of course it is for the victim that we must have most concern — but it could also have an adverse effect on the culprit…….
And of course the problem that you and I and my Ministerial colleagues are faced with when considering this question of child abuse is the one of how to determine the most appropriate response to the particular abuse. We must ask ourselves is it a case for bringing the full weight of the law to bear, leading to the punishment and perhaps the jailing of the parent concerned, and I guess that’s the role of my portfolio where I’m responsible for our court system and that question is one that has to be posed in that area.
There are some obvious cases where I would respond in saying certainly that the full weight of the law must be brought to bear, and would hope that the judge at whatever level would see the need to jail the parent. Perhaps the most obvious example of that to my mind would be the one of incest and quite frequently I have matters brought before me and they come to me after they have been into the court system and it’s quite horrifying to me to review some of the decisions that have been taken, some of the judgements that have been made.
We have then of course in other cases to consider whether the severing of the relationship between the parent and the child will allow some other crisis to develop. It might be something quite separate from the parent/child relationship.
How can we go about resolving the questions that will arise as a result of such a severing?
Is it a case for perseverance with the parent/child relationship, to provide aid, counselling and assistance to the parents as well as to the child in order to overcome that problem which has caused, which has led to, the abuse of one degree or another taking place?
You would know better than I that there is no easy solution to the problem…..nor is there a magic formula to be found in legislation, whether it be legislation by governments or whether it be in theories of academics. There is no magic formula that will provide instant solutions to these problems, many of which are undoubtedly as old as human civilisation and many of which spring from the fact that we are all human and we do have wide ranges of emotions, wants, needs, fears and desires.
The Queensland Government …..has sought to provide a mechanism for attempting to balance the many interests which must be considered once child abuse has been identified. We believe that we have taken positive action in this field. Our previous initiative was in establishing the Juvenile Aid Bureau within the Queensland Police Force of which Mr Lewis is I believe very proudly our Commissioner and he has a personal involvement in that bureau.
The establishment of that Juvenile Aid Bureau in order to ensure that the criminal investigation process was not merely concerned with prosecuting but rather with helping, as I indicated before. There is a tremendous need to look at each case individually, and with the aid of our Juvenile Aid Bureau we have this facility and it has demonstrated the long-term commitment to this particular area. …..
The Government recognises that removing a child from his or her family and taking court action should be the last resort….emphasis is placed on the provision of services to families when appropriate and the seeking of parents to voluntarily co-operate in an investigation by submitting the child for medical examination. The voluntary co-operation of parents who are faced with this problem is probably one of the major areas that can lead to a satisfactory result for both victim and culprit….
I would urge any of you ….who feel that they have something to Contribute towards the final form of our Family Community Development Act, to forward submissions to Geoff Muntz, the Minister for Welfare Services and Ethnic Affairs, before the end of this calendar month, July.
I don’t have to tell you, you wouldn’t be here today if you weren’t aware of the very serious problem which child abuse is, nor do I have to tell you how keen my government is to provide the best possible protection and counselling for both parents and children.
The full text of Mr Harper’s scarcely believable speech can be accessed by clicking here