Column

The single word that meant so much


Chris Hogan


25/10/2018 11:05:02 AM

Dr Chris Hogan reflects on this week’s national apology to victims and survivors of institutional child sexual abuse.

A tree sculpture was constructed outside of Parliament House as a memorial to victims and survivors of institutional child sexual abuse. (Image: Lukas Coch)
A tree sculpture was constructed outside of Parliament House as a memorial to victims and survivors of institutional child sexual abuse. (Image: Lukas Coch)

When I was asked about the apology to the victims of institutional childhood sexual abuse, I became intensely emotional.
 
So many images, stories and people flooded into my mind. I was exhausted.
 
Then Winston Churchill’s words rang in my ears: ‘It is not the end or the beginning of the end, but it is at least the end of the beginning.’
 
I could not bear to actually watch the announcement but, even before I read the text of the speech, I knew that there would be a word, a single word that would mean so much: Apology.
 
 At last, at long last, it was finally starting.

Then I saw the faces of those for whom it was too late. The dead and those who feel there are things worse than death and live in a twilight hell.
 
If you would seek the best and bravest of us, look at those who have survived the tortured terror of sensual greed, extreme abuse, exploitation and destruction – and yet live a life.
 
Much has been damaged in their lives: their capacity to trust, their capacity to concentrate, their faith in their ability to love.
 
I feel that calling it childhood sexual abuse is a most inadequate and misleading label. It somehow diverts attention from the extreme sadism they experienced.
 
Hopefully, this apology will make the community finally realise the severity of the survivors’ suffering and how long it has affected them. And how it affects them still.
 
Hopefully, we the community can atone for what we did not do:

  • We did not protect them
  • We did not believe them
  • We did not help them
  • We did not and do not appreciate how hard it was, and is, for them
We were so horrified – or threatened – by even the weakest description of their suffering that we went into denial: ‘It cannot have been that bad’, ‘But the offenders were good people’.

I remember an old schoolmate, a survivor, who once told me, ‘There are too many words. I cannot read them all or cope with them all’.
 
These words – and this apology – are just a start.
 
Actions and deeds are much more convincing.



adult survivors child sexual abuse national apology



Leonie Sheedy   26/10/2018 2:31:51 AM

Thank you for your article on the Apology
Would CLAN be able to reprint it for Care Leavers we are the children who endured the crime of being sexually used , physically & pschologically abused in Australia’s Orphanages, children’s Homes, Missions or foster care
Oldest member is 96
Look forward to hearing from you
Hooroo
Leonie Sheedy
CLAN


Linda Mann   26/10/2018 8:50:52 AM

How can we be sorry and in the same place, perpetrate the same injury on children, by incarcerating them in Nauru.
When does the hypocrisy get its just rewards, in the defeat of a cruel government?


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