On Sunday 25 May 2003, I happened to be listening to the radio and heard a Monsignor of Saint Mary’s Cathedral being interviewed on talk back radio.
The topic for the evening happened to be referring to sexual abuses that had occurred in the Catholic churches as well as other denominations and how such cases were being dealt with.
Finally, I took my courage in both hands and phoned the radio using a different name. Let me say, I was absolutely shaking in my boots. For, it was not a subject I would have dreamt of talking to anyone on open air. I asked the Monsignor what steps I need to take in order to lodge a complaint in reference to abuses which took place when I was still a child. After having obtain the information, I thought about it for a few days before making the necessary phone calls that would change my life before I lost my nerve.
I pause here to give you the reader a brief sketch of my childhood. I came to Australia at the age of 5 to see if doctors could restore to me my eyesight. This however was not successful. However, I lead a normal life with the help of technology and good friends – though not in that order of course.
In my case, I had been both physically and sexually abused by a nun whilst still attending school. This went on for two years. I am not saying she was the cause of my misery but I felt she contributed to it. As it so often happens in such cases, I could not tell anyone at the time. As the reader knows, I am adopted and have no natural family to whom I could count on or turn to. What made it doubly worse I feel was there was no one in authority to whom I could trust. So, I just pretended the whole thing never happened. How I wised it had been a nightmare!
When I did reveal it many years later to several counsellors, I was asked why I had not gotten over it which made it worse. If I could not tell an accredited counsellor, what was left for me but to keep it silent once again.
It was not until I decided to embark in a Diploma of Massage therapy that once again sexual abuse reared its ugly head. Each time we practiced giving massages on each other, memories would come flooding back. I tried to pretend it was all my imagination but the feeling of fear would not leave me. If anything, it became worse until one day I could not stand the strain any longer. I approached my head teacher about my difficulties. It was thanks to her taking me to see the counsellor at TAFE and thanks to him that I finally was able to find a good therapist to help me address the issue of abuse.
As the reader can probably understand – bringing up such issues is both difficult – mentally as well as physically. However, I knew that if I did not deal with the issues, I would never be free. During the process however, I came to know and understand myself so much better. And, that in itself was a freeing thing. All this, my first journey back to Vietnam, meeting other adoptees and writing the book The Colour of Difference has helped me so much. And I thank the people who have gone before me to address their complaints of their abuses which gave me the courage to also lodge my complaints with the authorities.
It was on Monday 1 June 2003 that I went to Center Care and spoke to someone in reference to putting forth a statement of complaint of sexual abuse against a nun – she had been my teacher at the blind school which I attended. After the first letter had been reviewed, I was required to write a further letter outlining my grievances. Between the first and second letter, I did seek legal advice from the legal center. They gave me a number of options I could choose as to how I could proceed with my statement should the perpetrator deny any responsibility.
One of the options was to report it to the police. However, I was warned of the risks involved. Another option was to take the issue to the civil courts which was also risky. The other option was to take it to the Victim’s Compensation Tribunal whereby I could lodge an application for a statement to be made.
This meant that the perpetrator would not be involved, and depending on the outcome – the compensation claim would be payed by the order to whom the nun belonged. It was suggested I wait to hear what the order had to offer first.
Now I need to explain to the reader that these were the steps I took. It will not be the same for everyone. However at the same time, I want to encourage those adoptees out there not to give up hope. There are avenues for you to look at, options to explore.
After waiting for about 6 weeks, the Head of the Professional Standards Office phoned to inform me that the nun admitted to having committed sexual abuse against me. Those words game me so much freedom. There are still a couple of more steps to go before I tie up the loose ends. But I felt I needed to write this to let adoptees know that not all is lost. There is hope out there and I encourage you in the fullness of your own time to explore your options.
Should anyone wish to talk to me, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Monday 8 November 2003.
Since my last report on my JOURNEY TO FREEDOM, things have progressed.
I had my second meeting with both the people from the professional standards office, the head order from the Dominican Sisters and the offender. We managed to get the business end of the settlement finalized before meeting with the offender.
My settlement is very reasonable in the light of the situation. For me, I needed to be both realistic and practical. No amount of money would give me back the years of confidence I’d lost as a result of my abuse. So, all considered, we settled on a nice figure – more than I ever expected to get. So I’m very happy with the outcome. I am awaiting for the paperwork to be finalized. Then, I will go ahead with the debriefing which the Dominican sisters have agreed to also pay for.
My meeting with the person who committed the abuse while I was still at school was both a relief and an emotional churn as you will understand. There was a lot I needed to both explain and ask. This I have managed to do. I have no regrets in saying what I needed to say. It was important that she hear it as well as read my story. The person was most apologetic for what she had done and she asked that I forgive her. I told her truthfully that I could not forgive her then and there. Forgiveness is a journey. I said that in time I will come to do so but not right now. This she accepted.
Before closing, I wish to give my heart felt thanks to ICASN and the people of PARC for their support through this journey. To ICASN for giving me the freedom to write this and to PARC for providing the support I needed to undertake the journey.
I must also acknowledge the people from the Profession Standards Office of the Catholic church and the head order of the Dominican Sisters for giving me a fair hearing.
Thank you too Lynelle for giving me this opportunity to write my reports on my process to freedom.
I wish everyone of you the best of Xmas and the happiest New Year. This year for me has been a successful one though emotionally draining but it has all been worthwhile.