Healing broken souls

Sydney Morning Herald

April 3, 2013

Barney Zwartz

The stakes, and the expectations, are high for the royal commission into child sexual abuse, which begins today.

After decades of desperate struggle to have the world take them seriously, survivors of child sexual abuse by clergy are beginning to live, in the words of survivor and advocate Peter Blenkiron, in a fragile ”bubble of hope”.

Blenkiron is the spokesman for a group of about 40 survivors in Ballarat, a city where another 40 or so victims have already taken their own lives. What has given them this cautious sliver of optimism is being heard by people who can change things.

Since November the Victorian government has been running an inquiry that has given many victims a voice. In NSW, one inquiry has recently examined church behaviour about abuse complaints and another will start in May. The most important – the long-sought royal commission – begins in Melbourne on Wednesday.

Although many survivors recover to lead fulfilling lives, many others are walking a tightrope just to get through each day, their potential paralysed and hopes stolen because of events decades earlier, events that were beyond their control. ”The abusers are soul destroyers,” one victim said recently.

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