Abuse Survivor Reflects on Royal Commission's Damning Findings into Newcastle's Anglican Diocese

By Robert Virtue and Paul Turton
ABC Newcastle
December 10, 2017

A survivor of child sexual abuse at the hands of the Anglican Church in the 1960s is calling for the Federal Government to fully implement the final findings of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

The call comes in the wake of the royal commission delivering a damning assessment of the Newcastle Anglican Diocese's responses to abuse cases, when it handed down its findings last week.

The commission found there had been a "distinct lack of leadership" from bishops Alfred Holland and Roger Herft, and a "cumulative effect of systemic issues was that a group of perpetrators was allowed to operate within the diocese for at least 30 years".

Paul Gray said he had been abused by a number of perpetrators when he was aged 10 to 14, including Father Peter Rushton, who died in 2007 without being charged.

Mr Gray said lawmakers needed to act to ensure children were kept safe.

"How about we make sure we get consensus in the Parliament to instigate the findings of the royal commission and keep our children safe?" he said.

"This is something that is out there in our society, and the children need protecting."

Death rates of abuse victims difficult to calculate

Child protection charity Bravehearts reported in 2015 the suicide rate among young people who had experienced sexual abuse was 10.7 to 13 times higher than national suicide rates.

It also said the risk of adults dying by suicide increased up to 12-fold if they had been abused in their childhood.

But Bernard Barrett, a researcher with Broken Rites Australia, a support group for Catholic clergy abuse victims, said it was difficult to put an exact figure on the death rate of abuse victims.

"Most church sexual assault victims remain silent, to avoid upsetting their families and because they think they won't be believed," he said.

"We can't say how many church abuse victims end up dying prematurely, because there are no such figures kept anywhere.

"Often you don't know that the person who died prematurely was a church victim or not.

"It's very difficult to bring the perpetrator to justice for somebody else's premature death. It's very hard to prove anything, and I think it wouldn't [be] likely to be successful."

PHOTO: Altar books given to child sexual abuse survivor Paul Gray by his abuser Father Peter Rushton. (ABC Newcastle: Anthony Scully)

Abuse survivor wants action

Mr Gray said covering up abuse allegations needed to be escalated to a major crime.

"Think of all the children that have been abused. They're children, they're not adults," he said.

"They have no rights, they have no power. Everything is taken from them.

"And yet these people, supposedly in positions of authority, can stand up and say 'Well, it really wasn't that bad'. Well I tell you, it was that bad.

"[The Newcastle Anglican bishop's apology] really means nothing.

"How can we believe them now? We couldn't believe them then. They actually ruined our lives.

"I say this to the bishop: Go to the members of Parliament, speak to them, and say you want people that cover up paedophilia to be treated as criminals, and to make it a serious offence to cover up paedophilia.

"Get into action. Don't sit there apologising to me or to the others, because that's not what we want.

"We want you to do something. We want you to show leadership."

Despite giving evidence at the royal commission and having read the findings into the Newcastle Anglican Diocese case study, Mr Gray said closure remained elusive.

"I have done a lot of healing and a lot of work on trying to live a life that belongs to me, instead of the one that was given to me by my abusers," he said.

"You never have closure. It just doesn't happen. You can live with it, you're aware of it, but closure doesn't happen."








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