Abuse victim says 'it's time to speak up'

NEWCASTLE man Steven Smith has a simple message for victims of child sexual abuse almost a year to the day since the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse was announced.

‘‘It’s time to speak,’’ he said, as the Anglican Church braces itself for the next round of royal commission public hearings starting on November 18, and the ugly truth about a Hunter priest and the church that protected him.

The royal commission will hear evidence about former ‘‘nightclub entertainer’’/Anglican priest Allan Kitchingman, who was convicted of a ‘‘child sex matter’’ in Newcastle in 1968 and immediately transferred to Grafton diocese where he sexually assaulted a child in 1975 at the church-run North Coast Children’s Home.

The evidence will include the role of the late Newcastle Anglican Bishop James Housden, who organised the Grafton transfer because he was ‘‘anxious to help him [Kitchingman] in every way possible whatever the result of the trial’’.

Kitchingman had ‘‘a real flair for work among young people’’, Bishop Housden wrote in a letter in 1968 after the priest was charged.

The royal commission is also expected to hear evidence that Kitchingman was sentenced to 18 months’ jail in 2002 for the North Coast Children’s Home offences without the court knowing about the 1968 offence.

Mr Kitchingman, 81, is not licensed to work in the region but has not had holy orders deposed. Yesterday, he said it was a ‘‘distressing time’’, but his memory of specific events in the past was unclear.

Mr Smith, 52, agreed to be photographed and interviewed for the first time to encourage all victims of child sexual abuse – and not just victims in institutions like the Anglican Church – to tell people about the abuse.

He gave evidence to the royal commission last week. Mr Smith told the commission he was sexually abused by an Anglican priest as an altar boy, aged 10. The priest was charged decades later but the charges were withdrawn.

In 2010,  then Bishop Brian Farran issued a public apology to Mr Smith and his family, saying they were ‘‘treated inappropriately over an extended period of time by members of the Anglican Church after he reported that he had been sexually abused as a child by a member of the church’’.

Mr Smith said he expected people would be shocked at some of the evidence the royal commission was likely to uncover about the church, but after years of arguing the church had hidden the truth about its knowledge of child sex offenders, he was unlikely to be surprised.

The royal commission had given him courage to be identified in the media for the first time.

‘‘The royal commission has meant a huge mindshift in the community so that people like me don’t feel like we’re just isolated individuals fighting for the truth,’’ he said.

‘‘We’ve already seen in public hearings what has happened here in the Hunter. We’ve seen what’s been happening in the YMCA up until very recently. The royal commission has shown how easily offenders have been able to gain access to children.

‘‘For too long there was institutional acceptance of the sexual abuse of children, and public denials that it occurred. That wasn’t right. People like me knew it. Now, because of the royal commission, everyone knows it.’’

He encouraged anyone with information about Anglican diocese to contact the royal commission.

‘‘No generation should have to cop what my generation and the ones before me had to cop. Anyone with information about the diocese should speak to the commission.

‘‘And no child today has to accept being sexually abused by anyone, including family members, and I encourage them to speak to teachers, friends or the police,’’ he said.

Contact the royal commission:

CHANGE: Steven Smith encourages child sex abuse victims to speak up about the abuse.  Picture: Peter Stoop

CHANGE: Steven Smith encourages child sex abuse victims to speak up about the abuse. Picture: Peter Stoop

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