'Nobody wants to know about nuns raping girls. Blokes want to hear about blokes being raped by blokes because that upsets them and they get really angry about that. But the idea of the damage that it would do, to be done over by a woman like that is not in their comprehension … The general public, they don't comprehend it.'
Belinda went to a Catholic school in Melbourne. At the age of 13, in the mid-1960s, she was abused and raped by her class teacher, Sister Roberta, during detentions. This occurred two to three times a week for a school year.
'The woman was mad. She was completely psychotic, you know. She was completely mad. She would just … she'd belt the furniture and the furniture was everywhere. She would not stop until I was crying. She said "I will not stop until you cry" and I would try not to cry but I knew I had to cry for her to stop.
‘I would be on the floor in a huddle just crying and she's still standing up and belting me, but she would stop at that point. Then she would start putting the furniture together and get cross with me, telling me to get up and pull myself together and help her tidy the furniture up, you know? And that was after sexually carrying on.'
Belinda found the abuse terrifying. The nun used to tell Belinda she had the devil in her. That was confusing for Belinda as her mother, in moments when she was cross with her, used to say the same thing.
Sister Roberta groomed Belinda's parents by saying Belinda did numerous things for which she needed to be punished. Belinda would deny many of these allegations. 'Dad would belt me, saying "She's a nun, she wouldn't lie. You did do it" … So it created this environment of me not telling the truth and being a problem.'
At the time, it felt like there was no one Belinda could tell. However, around the age of 15, Belinda disclosed the abuse to her father who believed her. Very angry, he went straight to the school but the outcome was that he told Belinda not to speak of it again and not to tell her mother. The nuns had told him that they couldn't take any legal action as Sister Roberta had cancer and would be dead in six months. However, she lived for a number of years after that.
Belinda never went to the police, partly because she believed Sister Roberta was dead.
In the 2000s she went through the Towards Healing process. She described her experience in the written statement she gave the Royal Commission.
'The extraordinarily re-abusive nature of the way they run the "process"/ inquisitions. They seem to have no comprehension of the lifelong damage and pain caused, and just see it as a damage control process on behalf of Catholic Insurance. To the Church, the victim is the Church and they have a siege mentality of damage control — keeping up the image.'
During the inquiry, two nuns, one of whom Belinda believes must have known about the abuse, gave inaccurate accounts of events. Belinda believes this was to protect the Church.
Eventually Belinda received $80,000 before costs. Her father is dead but her mother, Alice, received a written apology from the provincial leader of the Catholic order of nuns that Sister Roberta belonged to. This was after Alice had written to them, expressing her frustration and disappointment in getting no adequate responses from various members of the Church.
Belinda has spent considerable time trying to get justice and researching the failings of the redress process. She said it has become her life. She is passionately interested in human rights. She specifically would like to see members of the Catholic clergy being brought to account.
She tried counselling, with a number of different practitioners, but hasn't done so for many years now. She found nothing worked for her.
'But I'm pretty damaged. The thing is with something like Sister Roberta it hits you at some stage in every day of your life. There's something that just throws you into that, and then you just have to pull yourself back out. And lack of self-esteem. I should have done a lot more in my life than I have.'