THE trauma of Warrnambool children abused by the Catholic Church is ongoing and should never be forgotten, according to the boss of the South West Centre Against Sexual Assault.
The comments by centre manager Mary Clapham come after the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Assault released a scathing report which condemned the church’s Ballarat diocese leaders, who were responsible for parishes across the region.
Ms Clapham said the horrific abuse which occurred in Ballarat was also experienced in south-west communities, including Warrnambool and Mortlake
“Those same priests were located here,” she said.
“There wasn’t a boundary divide. Everything that happened there, happened here.
“This area has experienced the same trauma for those children… and the trauma for those children is ongoing.
This area has experienced the same trauma for those children... and the trauma for those children is ongoing.Mary Clapham
“The clergy operated wherever there was opportunity and that wasn’t limited to certain geographical areas.”
Ms Clapham said the Royal Commission provided few surprises and reiterated the way perpetrators operated.
She said the difference with the clergy was that the abusers had an institution that facilitated the abuse and enabled it. She said that meant not only was the abuse able to occur but it was also able to continue.
“(That) just loaded extra emotional harm for the children,” she said. “(It) set up a structure where children weren’t believed. Where children had no other opportunity to escape the violence and abuse.
“When you think about sexual abuse and particularly sexual abuse by clergy it’s not particularly different from any other type. There’s the secrecy and the manipulations to keep people who’ve been assaulted silent.”
Ms Clapham said it was not unusual for people to seek help because of a misplaced sense of responsibility for what had occurred.
“That’s again part of the perpetrator behaviour, to place the responsibility on a child,” she said. “And children carry that into their adulthood and that can become very ingrained – but that doesn’t make it true. The royal commission has just exposed completely for society what has been going on.”