‘Any time I have doubts about my courage, I think back to that night when I, shaking and terribly distressed, told Father Malloy what Mum had said: “I am too old to go into the bedroom with you”. He did stop that night.’
This advice was the only support Astrid ever received from her mother, after disclosing that Malloy had been molesting her for four years.
‘So I did that myself, but then he came in, had supper, and then Mum and Dad let my two younger sisters go into the bedroom.’ Malloy stopped sexually abusing Astrid, moving on to her sisters instead.
Astrid’s devout Catholic family didn’t have many visitors in the 1960s. They were honoured when Malloy, the priest from their Catholic church, began coming over. Everyone stood up when he entered the house in his long black cassock.
There were special treats prepared, and he brought records to play. He’d kiss Astrid and her sisters when he arrived. ‘They can remember his teeth and his tongue and his saliva in their mouths – as I can.’
Although her grandmother noticed his overly affectionate behaviour – ‘It’s very disturbing to see Astrid being gobbled up in front of us’ – it was never addressed.
Malloy paid Astrid particular attention, making her feel special amongst her large family. ‘It was almost like I had to go through the abuse to have what I so desperately needed.’ He’d take her into the bedroom on the pretence of listening to the radio, and they would lie on the bed.
‘He would immediately either put his hands down my panties or feel my private parts from under the crotch of my panties.’ Sometimes he appeared to be masturbating. ‘He would be slightly moving or making slight little sounds.’
Astrid wanted to tell her parents, but did not expect their support, as they’d failed her when she was previously molested outside the home. She also blamed herself for the abuse. ‘I must be the one who was bad and dirty, because he was a priest – How could he be bad?’
When she was 12 years old, she went to confession on a school camp, and told the priest what Malloy was doing, without disclosing his name. He told her that her sins were forgiven, but she should remind Malloy that ‘he was God’s representative on earth’.
She told her parents about this when she came home from the camp. Her father muttered and walked away, whilst her mother called her a ‘drama queen’ – and gave her that one piece of advice.
The abuse by Malloy, and the lack of response from her parents, had significant impacts. Astrid had wanted to be a nun, ‘but as the abuse continued all thought of that went out of my mind’.
Her education suffered, as she could not concentrate, and she ‘felt intellectually inadequate and stupid’. She felt ‘bad, evil, dirty and unworthy’, and had problems trusting anyone.
Astrid married the first man who asked her, both to escape the family home and also because she feared he may be the only one who wanted her. After their wedding night, she sought confession. ‘I was afraid it was wrong to have such a pleasurable feeling.’
Astrid became addicted to alcohol and prescription drugs, and was admitted to a psychiatric unit. Her husband eventually kicked her out of the house, and she lost access to her kids.
She put herself into sexually abusive situations, thinking ‘I could use my sexuality to get care ... It didn’t matter what other abusive things they did to me, if they had sex with me it meant they loved me’.
Soon after, Astrid began attending Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), and became sober. Her relationship with her adult children remains fractured, and she is still estranged from all but one.
Astrid was alienated from her parents for years, and never fully reconciled with them before they died. Her mental health deteriorated, and she lost her employment, ending up on a disability pension.
In the 1990s, Astrid requested to meet with Malloy and the Melbourne Vicar General, as a therapeutic measure, reading them a statement about the abuse and its impacts. ‘No one had ever stood up for young Astrid. ... I wanted to be the adult that cared enough to do so.’
A canon lawyer attended, as did Astrid’s support people. When asked about the allegations, Malloy claimed he could not remember anything. Afterwards, he told her, ‘I liked you then and I still like you now’. Astrid ‘was floored. Instead of empowerment, I felt annihilated’.
She applied for compensation, but her lawyers ‘messed up’ her victim’s statement. Eventually, she received a moderate amount of money.
Astrid reported the abuse to police. The officer assigned to her matter treated her dismissively. One time, when she asked if he had been in touch with Malloy, ‘he said he was reluctant to keep bothering him, as he “didn’t want him to commit suicide or anything”. I was shocked at that statement and reminded him that I was the victim’.
This officer went on holiday shortly before the matter was in court, and didn’t inform his colleagues. The paperwork couldn’t be located, so Astrid had to prepare it again. Malloy pleaded guilty and was convicted. Astrid was never officially informed of the verdict, and still doesn’t know his sentence.
She has ‘worked hard over the years to get to where I am now’, and has had regular psychiatric appointments for many years. She is on anti-depressant medication, and has moved back to Catholicism ‘on my own terms’.
Astrid met her second husband through AA, and after 20 years together, ‘I feel I’m much more able to love. And that’s terribly important to me’.