FOR every person who is sexually abused as a child, there is a ripple effect of others impacted by that abuse.
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse laid bare the devastating impacts of abuse on survivors, and in its final sessions it explored the impacts on family members.
The children of abuse victims spoke of lives spent with fathers or mothers who were angry, fearful, obsessive, secretive or burdened by addictions to alcohol, drugs or gambling. They spoke of being distanced from parents and struggling to understand years of family dysfunction.
But the impact of abuse goes much further than families and friends to workplaces which often bear the economic and psychological burden of employees trying to cope with issues from their past that are often kept secret.
This week we have seen another impact – the politician devastated by the death of an abuse victim more than 20 years after the two men first had contact.
Retiring NSW Police Minister Troy Grant has made no secret of the impact of his direct dealings with 30 child sex victims in the 1990s while he investigated allegations against Maitland-Newcastle Catholic priest Vince Ryan.
In an interview with the Newcastle Herald in July, 2012, months before the royal commission was established, Mr Grant talked about the legacy of that investigation and his on-going contact with Ryan’s victims.
He also talked about one of the most troubling aspects of the investigation – how police wanted to charge senior Maitland-Newcastle Monsignor Patrick Cotter with concealing the priest’s crimes, but the Director of Public Prosecutions rejected the police recommendation, in part because of Cotter’s age.
It was the legacy of his police years that caused him the most heartache. His harsh comments about the sentencing of Archbishop Philip Wilson for failing to report child sex allegations against another Hunter priest should be seen in that light.
Maitland-Newcastle diocese’s statement implying the Hunter victim might have taken his own life, before the cause of death is determined, is unfortunate. But after years of silence from the church its willingness to speak on this subject should be acknowledged.