Stop the Silence: Terry Skippen, Victim, Survivor of Paedophile Brother Romauld

By Joanne Mccarthy
Newcastle Herald
June 18, 2015

TERRY Skippen was 13 in 1960 when he was sexually abused in his classroom by Hunter Marist Brother Romuald, and 65 in 2012 when he became the first of Romuald's victims to make a statement to police.

He told a judge last week he wanted to be identified to send a message to other victims of child sexual abuse - whether decades ago in institutions like the Catholic Church, or now, by a family member.

"I'm speaking to the media to plead with people who are victims of abuse not to live in silence," Mr Skippen said.

"Please come forward, speak to someone, for the sake of yourself to get peace of mind and your families who have to live with the consequences of the abuse."

Mr Skippen worked for Maitland-Newcastle diocese for decades, as a St Vincent de Paul Society finance committee member, parish administrative associate and diocesan finance committee member.

He feels betrayed by the church and the Marist Brothers, and has no time for those with sympathy for Francis Cable, formerly Brother Romuald, because of his age.

"He sexually abused me more than 50 years ago and I've had to live with that for most of my life. He's been able to live his life without anyone knowing what he did. He probably thought that at 82, 'I'm fine. I'll get away with this', but that's not right.

"Child sexual abuse has a devastating impact on your life. It doesn't matter how old you are, or how old they are, the silence that allowed this to happen has to end."

The few years that Mr Skippen was a Hunter Marist Brothers student were terrifying, because of Brother Romuald. The terror was amplified because Mr Skippen's father died suddenly during the period of the abuse.

"The absolute fear was not knowing when it was going to happen again," he said.

His mother, a devout Catholic, started working as a domestic helper for Hunter priests after her husband's death, and continued in that role for 25 years.

"There's no way in the world I could have gone to my mother. She wouldn't believe me," he said.

He kept the secret after leaving the school at 16 to work at a bank, but left the church in the late 1960s and did not return until 1989, to a Hunter parish where his priest was Jim Fletcher, who became a friend. Fletcher's conviction on child sex offences in 2004 "broke me".

"Here's a guy like me who'd left the church because of sexual abuse, who'd come back trying to renew my faith, and I've got a parish priest who turns out to be a paedophile," he said.

Mr Skippen has folders of Newcastle Herald clippings documenting child sexual abuse in the Hunter.

He turned to two Hunter priests for guidance and support in about 2010, "and none was provided", he said.

It was a nun, Sister Carmel Moore, who took him to Maureen O'Hearn at Zimmerman Services in late 2012 when the stress of keeping his silence for decades had taken a toll on his health and put enormous pressure on his wife, Lynne.

He made a statement to Strike Force Georgiana Detective Sergeant Kristi Faber only three weeks after major heart surgery.

Paedophile remorseless

FRANCIS William Cable, 83, shuffled off to jail on Thursday without saying a word, leaning heavily on a cane and with a face like a stone.

He had no remorse for his crimes, the court was told.

He entered the dock in a lower ground courtroom where Hunter paedophile priest John Sidney Denham was once sentenced, and smiled and chatted to his lawyers.

He looked across to his victims and maintained eye contact for some time.

‘‘He’s as evil now as he was 50 years ago,’’ said one of his victims.

Cable – named Brother Romuald – remains an enigma. He did not give evidence at his trial or a sentencing hearing last week.

‘‘The offender has expressed no remorse for his conduct, and has no insight,’’ said Judge Peter Whitford.

Cable had a ‘‘relatively unremarkable upbringing in a loving home in Queensland’’, the court heard.

He went to a Marist Brothers school and was identified early as a future Marist Brother. He left the order in 1978.

His victims shouted when Judge Whitford read excerpts from references for Cable that described him as a ‘‘highly professional, hard working and humble man of integrity’’, who was ‘‘sometimes somewhat naive about the ways of the world’’.

His victims did not even try to hide their anger.








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