Angel's story

When she was six, Angel’s parents separated. She remembers their split being bitter – her father threatened to kidnap her several times. Because of the risk, she had to spend breaks in the school’s office, and always had to be around a staff member.

In the mid 1980s, she was enrolled in a Catholic primary school in Melbourne. She’d had trouble making friends at her old school because she was always under the supervision of an adult. Her new school was no different and she felt lonely. She enjoyed learning but felt extremely vulnerable.

With the benefit of hindsight, Angel believes other teachers knew of her situation. She knew that the parish priests would know of her mother’s troubles, as she attended mass every week with her family. This is how Angel came into contact with Father Murphy, the parish priest.

There was a church and presbytery on the school grounds and she was used to seeing priests walking around, and knew some of them. Angel knew Murphy quite well because of his relationship with her mother, but she disliked him. He was a scary man and Angel ran away from him often, but she didn’t always get away.

When she was seven, Murphy sexually abused her several times. It usually happened in a dark room on the parish grounds and she believes it was in the presbytery. Murphy told her not to say anything to anyone or bad things would happen to her and her family.

‘Mostly it was about my family and me going to hell.’

One lunchtime, she was playing in an empty classroom and Murphy saw her and tried to lock the room. She managed to get away and ran home to her mother, but didn’t tell her about the abuse as she was scared that Murphy would hurt her family.

The abuse stopped when she started Grade 3 and she kept as much distance as she could from Murphy. She was relieved that she had very little contact with him during her remaining years at primary school.

In the late 1980s when she was 10, Angel’s mother remarried. Her stepfather was nice at first, always asking about her day and being involved in her activities. That soon changed. He sexually abused her whenever he was drunk. Her mother had several children with her stepfather, and Angel knows that he abused them too.

Angel started high school in the mid 1980s, but her attitude towards school changed. She withdrew herself from others and often found it hard to concentrate during lessons. She had a breakdown before her 13th birthday and has been on medication ever since.

Angel’s first disclosure of the abuse was to her friend at school when she was 13. She was relieved that her friend believed her and she felt that she could keep going.

When she was 18, she told her mother about the sexual abuse she experienced at the hands of both Murphy and her stepfather. Her mother left Angel’s stepfather soon after being told.

Angel’s mother didn’t report Murphy to the police or tell anyone about the abuse. Angel felt that she couldn’t report him to the police herself because she was frightened and believed that Murphy would track her down and punish her for disclosing.

Since the abuse, Angel has had intimacy and trust issues. There have been long periods when she didn’t want to live any more. She began drinking heavily as a teenager and has found it difficult to control her drinking ever since. She is on a disability support pension and can’t work.

In the late 2000s Angel sought counselling. She blames herself for what happened and believes her children have suffered too. Her half-siblings have made a police report against her stepfather, which she supports. At the time of her private session, she was considering taking legal action against the Catholic Church.

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