Child sexual abuse survivor says $1.4m settlement gives him strength to fight for other victim-survivors

Australian Broadcasting Corporation - ABC [Sydney, Australia]

May 2, 2023

By Loretta Lohberger

Lyon* doesn’t mince words when he talks about the impact of being sexually abused when he was a child, saying “it has destroyed my life”.

Key points:

  • A Tasmanian man who alleged he was sexually abused as a child by three Anglican priests and a teacher has had his civil claim settled out of court for $1.4 million
  • The man says the settlement has given him strength to fight for other victim-survivors
  • The Anglican Church in Tasmania says it has paid out a total of $6.5 million since 2017 to 16 survivors who have made civil claims

WARNING: This story contains details of child sexual abuse and themes of self-harm.

“I haven’t been existing properly for 50-whatever years. You do things on auto-pilot, you take risks, you do crazy shit … you try to kill yourself,” he said.

Lyon said he drew on his strength to make his claim against the Anglican Diocese of Tasmania and his former school.

“I refuse to let these people get away with the disgusting behaviour,” he said.

“I forgive them but I don’t forget what happened … and I never will. I will keep fighting for victims until I go down. I will walk strong and I will face the sun and my shadows will fall behind me.”

Lyon’s claim against the diocese and Hutchins School settled out of court in April for $1.4 million.

“The settlement reached is a recognition of the harm and the wrongs done to [Lyon] and the impact that it has had on him throughout his life,” Shine Lawyers special counsel Thomas Wallace-Pannell said.

Lyon said the settlement was important acknowledgement, but it also strengthened his resolve.

“It makes me stronger and makes me want to fight harder for victims, it makes me want to work and keep going and do things for victims, survivors. I want to stop this happening.”

In his statement of claim filed with the Supreme Court in Hobart, Lyon alleged he was abused by three Anglican priests of the diocese, and by a teacher at Hutchins.

The abuse is alleged to have happened in the 1970s and 1980s, when Lyon was a student at Hutchins and also attended the Brighton parish.

He was aged about 11 to 15 years during the period.

Lyon alleged he was sexually abused by then-Father Louis Daniels and another priest while staying over at an Anglican rectory, and that he was sexually abused by a third priest, when Lyon was in year 7 or 8.

Lyon further alleged he was sexually abused by a teacher at the school when he was in year 10. He alleged the teacher cornered him on the school hockey ground where he tackled Lyon and then sexually abused him.

He alleged the diocese appointed the four men when it knew, or ought to have known they posed a risk of sexually abusing children, and failed to adequately supervise them.

In a further document filed with the court, Lyon’s lawyers said that as a result of the physical and sexual assaults, Lyon had suffered physical harm and psychiatric injury including post-traumatic stress disorder, type II bipolar disorder, and psychological “sequelae” (a residual effect of a previous disease).

It also documents Lyon’s work history, which shows he changed jobs frequently and had periods where he was unable to work because of his psychiatric injuries. Since 2015, he has received a disability support pension.

“But for the abuse, it is alleged that [Lyon] would have completed year 12 … with good academic results,” Mr Wallace-Pannell wrote.

He said Lyon would have qualified in his chosen field and been able to work until he reached retirement age.

Speaking after the settlement was reached, Mr Wallace-Pannell said the abuse had a “significant impact” on Lyon.

“That impact affected him for his entire life and completely changed, in our view, his life trajectory as a result. It impacted him both economically in his ability to work, and it affected him in all aspects of his life.”

Lyon, also speaking after the settlement was reached, said the impact of the abuse affected his family life and the raising of children.

“All I wanted was the best for my kids and me, and I wanted the marriage to work.”

He said he “never really talked about” the abuse with his ex-wife, but, although she did not understand what he was dealing with, “she had my back”.

Lyon said ‘hope’ was his favourite word, and that he hoped other victims got “some degree of relief” in their own quests for justice.

“I really do because they deserve it,” he said.

“And we will remember them [as well as] the victims who didn’t survive, the victims who are hunkered down in dark rooms trying to stay alive.”

President of the Blue Knot Foundation — which supports people affected by complex trauma — Cathy Kezelman, said the toll of child sexual abuse could be “so enormous that it’s impossible to quantify”.

“The $1.4 million settlement seems like a large sum of money, and by many measures it is, and it does acknowledge the harm done and its impacts,” Dr Kezelman said.

“However, by the measure of a lost opportunity for a life well lived, nothing can give a person back their childhood innocence, their health, their education, their career, their relationships, or their sense of themselves in a safe world.”

Church has settled 16 civil claims since 2017

Anglican Vicar-General of Tasmania, Bishop Chris Jones, said the diocese was “deeply committed to justice for survivors of abuse”.

Dr Jones said that since 2017, the diocese had paid out $6.5 million to 16 survivors of child sexual abuse who have made civil claims.

“Abuse is always wrong, and we grieve with those who have experienced it at the hands of clergy and lay people in the Anglican Church. We are committed to not minimising the severity of the harm caused by this deep betrayal,” he said.

“I want to encourage any person who suffered abuse in the Anglican Church in the past to come forward.

“We take all claims very seriously and applaud the courage of those who share their story.”

Louis Daniels was a focus of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, which looked at the Church of England Boys Society, with which Daniels held leadership positions.

The commission also heard that by 2016, the Tasmanian diocese had reached financial settlements with 13 victim-survivors in relation to Daniels.

Since resigning from the Tasmanian Anglican Diocese in the 1990s, Daniels has been convicted of more than a dozen child sexual abuse crimes, and has served two jail terms for those crimes.

In March, Daniels pleaded guilty to two counts of persistent sexual abuse of a child or young person, and is due to be sentenced for those crimes on May 12.

*Name has been changed.