Witnesses at the Abuse in Care Royal Commission have recounted gruelling memories of being abused while in the care of churches.

During the week and next week, the Commission is hearing from 25 survivors.

The witnesses have agreed to go public with their stories of abuse and how they sought redress from churches.

The focus during the week has been on the Catholic Church. Next week it is the turn of the Anglican Church and the Salvation Army.

Published in Radio New Zealand

Anne Hill, 58, was sexually abused by a priest between the ages of four and 12.

She said her abuse revolved around a pattern common to many survivors.

”A vulnerable family in need of ministry would, if you like, become a target and while ministering he was also abusing children in the family.”

Hill wants the church to do more to put survivors first instead of protecting its priests and its reputation.

She said they need to take a lead from how New Zealand has dealt with Covid-19 by stopping and then containing it, followed by care.

She believes the church is completely out of touch.

”They don’t understand what their own culture is doing, what’s happened or who it has happened to. They have no understanding about trauma and sexual abuse, which makes me wonder how they can possibly understand things like the crucifixion.”

She has struggled her entire life as a result of the abuse and suffers from complex post traumatic stress disorder.

”It affects my memory, concentration, especially my ability to work and to make successful friendships and relationships.”

Hill also suffers from a number of medical conditions.

Gloria Ramsay was sexually abused by a priest at her school in the late 1950s when she was aged between 7 and 9.

Both boys and girls in her class were regularly called to go to the presbytery to see the priest.

”I can’t find the words to explain or to express the insanity of what that man did, It’s just beyond me.”

She told the Royal Commission the priest would often relate the story of one particular saint.

”Maria Goretti, the 12-year-old girl who forgave her rapist, even though we had no idea as little children of 7 and 8 of what rape was. He also reinforced in us the view that victims were always to blame.”

Ramsay said attitudes to child abuse in all of society must change.

”Our churches should be the leaders and instead they are dragging their heels at the bottom of the road.”

She also wants canon (church) law to be changed to recognise sexual abuse as a criminal offence.

”The celibacy myth needs to be exposed for what it is, a myth that creates dysfunctional attitudes about sexuality, resulting in deviant sexual behaviour.”

”It has been doing this now for at least 1000 years,” she said.

Mary Marshall, 61, lives in Sydney and spoke to the Commission via video link.

She was abused by nuns at two Auckland schools.

She describes it as physical, psychological and sadomasochistic, which crushed her spirit.

”They knew how to hurt you so that your school gym covered it. I did not receive and significant injuries to my face and I do not recall my face being attacked. It was your upper torso, arms, legs, buttocks. This was calculated abuse.”

Marshall said the betrayal by the church destroyed her life.

Where to get help:

Need to Talk? Free call or text 1737 any time to speak to a trained counsellor, for any reason.

Lifeline: 0800 543 354 or text HELP to 4357

Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 / 0508 TAUTOKO (24/7). This is a service for people who may be thinking about suicide, or those who are concerned about family or friends.

NZ Police

Victim Support 0800 842 846

Rape Crisis 0800 88 33 00

Rape Prevention Education

HELP Call 24/7 (Auckland): 09 623 1700, (Wellington): be 04 801 6655 – 0

Safe to talk: a 24/7 confidential helpline for survivors, support people and those with harmful sexual behaviour: 0800044334.

Mosaic – Tiaki Tangata Peer support for males who have experienced trauma and sexual abuse: 0800 94 22 94

By Andrew McRae
Published in Radio New Zealand
4 Dec 2020