Breaking the silence

The Courier

Melissa Cunningham
May 30, 2016

When Maureen Hatcher tied a ribbon to the gates of the old St Alipius Christian Brothers Boys School a year ago, she never could have imagined how much her simple gesture would grow.

The single red ribbon was tied in honour of her friend’s brother. He’d taken his own life following years of torment after he was sexually abused by Catholic clergy as child. Ms Hatcher said a black cloud was left hanging over Ballarat during the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse hearings as years of pain were brought to the surface.

But as the darkness emerged out of the abuse inquiry something profound unfolded. Ribbons began being tied outside institutions as an overt response to traumas long held silent and a symbol of solidarity with sexual abuse victims.

“At the crux of this whole disaster is that children weren’t listened to,” Ms Hatcher said. “As a community we needed to open up conversations about child sexual abuse and get rid of the stigma and fear surrounding it.”

It became known as Loud Fence. A grass roots movement depicting Ballarat fearlessly facing up to its harrowing past. It was also catalyst for change which saw public support continue to mount for survivors leading them on a plight for truth in Rome.

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