Adeline told the Commissioner, ‘It’s really all about the Jesuits’.
Father Cooper ‘used to come and stay at our home … He was moved a lot … from parish to parish and so he used to come and say mass at our home and he would stay some nights’.
Adeline grew up in Perth in the 1950s and attended a Catholic school, which was where children and their families had breakfast after Adeline’s first communion. It was at this breakfast that Father Cooper sexually abused Adeline for the first time. The abuse only stopped when the priest was sent to another state, and it was some years before Adeline came in contact with him again.
‘I guess that he could have started grooming me when he baptised me. Started grooming me, you know.’ Adeline told the Commissioner that she didn’t tell anyone about the abuse because ‘he would always say it was a secret, just between God, myself and himself, and I was just so terrified, I just … it was awful’.
When Adeline was 14 she attended a school retreat. ‘At the end of it, I was sexually abused by a Jesuit. Once again, there was things that went on.’ When she left the retreat, ‘for months after, I used to scrub my face with Steelo’.
No one asked Adeline what was wrong, but even if they had asked, ‘I didn’t really know. I didn’t understand. And also, the Jesuit that came over was a very handsome man and I was pretty cute then too, and it was like … I sort of fell in love with him, but he knew that, so he took advantage … So I never really told anyone about that, but they knew … the scrubbing of the face with the steel afterwards.’
After finishing school Adeline moved to another state, and because her mother was unaware of the abuse, she told Father Cooper where Adeline was living. ‘He used to come round to my home … and he would sexually abuse me there. In the end I used to hide under my bed if I heard the knock and he always used to say, “Adeline, look after that beautiful body of yours” and he would … it was always in the kitchen, and he would sexually abuse me there.’
Once again Adeline moved to a different state, ‘thinking I could get away from him and then he followed me … he would always find me, and knock on the door. Once again I would hide … but by then I’d committed a few attempts at suicide, even when I was younger I did’.
Adeline first contemplated suicide at about nine or 10. ‘I remember drinking some poison out of a bottle in the shed and I also … there was a fire going at the back of our home and I walked through that, and I had third degree burns. It was like I just … I didn’t fit in … and I just tried to end my life so many times and so it just went on and on and then … [Cooper] would leave letters underneath my doors … He would always follow me everywhere and one day I just told my mother and she didn’t believe me.’ Adeline was about 24 when she told her mother. Adeline’s mother eventually believed her, but because of the family’s strong ties to the Church, her mother was reluctant to do anything about the abuse.
Adeline continued to attempt suicide, and began drinking. ‘I think alcohol got me through, quite a bit.’ After one suicide attempt the police were called. Her parents arrived and ‘it was just a total embarrassment to them. Absolute embarrassment. They never asked why … And then I was sent to a crazy farm for about two or three months. No one ever asked then, either’.
Adeline hasn’t had a partner for 20 years. ‘I had a couple of abortions because I didn’t want … I was always scared that if I had a child maybe I would do the same, or something would happen to them. So although there’ve been some great times in my life, it’s been a very, very difficult life. Very difficult. And I cannot deal with authority. At all. And I have scars over my body and my face from cutting myself … a lot of self-harm abuse.’
Adeline told the Commissioner that trying to get compensation from the Jesuits has been extremely traumatic and frustrating.
‘They just became the mafia. You can’t penetrate the Jesuits. No one can. But I do hear that there are other people … that were sexually abused as well and this is how the Jesuits are treating them. And so … there were so many offers from the Jesuits but then they would renege on them.'
‘I’d like the Jesuits to be looked into … [My] lawyer told me that I’m not the only one and I would like them to be investigated for their behaviour and lack of moral compass, and them to be accountable for what they’ve done over the years … I would just like what’s owed to me. What they’ve promised and reneged. Promised. Reneged. It’s taken a lot out of me.'
‘They think they’re above anyone and everyone. And there’s nothing that you can do to make them satisfy any of the sexually abused children or adults. They will use everything they have to stop any monetary things going out to the person that’s complained.’
Adeline told the Commissioner, ‘Probably quite a few girls and boys have tried to get some justice but in the end, they just give up because there’s just nothing you can do with the Jesuits. But I haven’t given up … I will make as much noise as I can about them … They have to be held accountable for what they’ve done’.