ROYAL COMMSSION: Thompson says he was sexually assaulted twice as a teenager

NEWCASTLE’S Anglican Bishop Greg Thompson has told the Royal Commission he was sexually abused twice as a teenager.

The bishop has previously said he was 19 when a bishop at the time, Ian Shevill, groomed him and tried to force him into sexual activity at the age of 19.

At the commission on Thursday,  Thompson took the witness stand to name another cleric, then canon Eric Barker, as a sexual predator.

He also said that as a teenager in Muswellbrook, he had been sexually assaulted by two two adult boarders his family had taken in.

Thompson had been asked by counsel assisting the commission, Naomi Sharp, to read from his statement to the inquiry.

He described a difficult home life at Muswellbrook as one of eight children, and said the idea of a “vocation” within the church offered a “safe harbour” or a “way forward” in life.

He said that as a young man interested in joining the church, he was invited to dinner with then canon Eric Barker, who got him drunk at a dinner and began “kissing and fondling him” after the other dinner guests had left. He was able to stop Barker’s “advances”.

After going to a movie with Barker on another night, Barker again tried to force himself on Thompson, saying that if he wanted to get into the ministry he would have to have a relationship with him.

He took that to mean a sexual relationship.

“I would be looked after and made a priest if I had a relationship with him,” Bishop Thompson said.

He said he had held the church in high regard and he believed his upbringing – presumably a reference to the boarders – made him “vulnerable to these events”.

He said he was a potential target for grooming and believed that this was what Barker was preying upon.

Thompson had to pause at various stages during this opening section, in which counsel assisting, Naomi Sharp, had asked him to read from paragraphs 7 to 25 from the statement he had lodged with the Royal Commission.

His personal explanation over, the questioning then moved to matters involving the Newcastle diocese.

The commission has heard much about the hostility that Thompson has endured from the so-called Cathedral crowd in the Newcastle diocese, especially once it became clear that he was not minded to reverse the defrockings of Graeme Lawrence and others who his predecessor Brian Farran, had disciplined as a result of the CKH matter.

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