When she was in Grade 2, Delia was sexually abused by a nun named Sister Moretti. Moretti was one of the Sisters of Charity who ran Delia’s primary school in Melbourne in the 1960s.
The first incident happened one day when Delia felt sick and was excused from class and sent to a nearby room. Once there she started playing with another girl. Sister Moretti entered the room, saw Delia playing and accused her of faking her illness.
‘I said, “I am sick”. And she put me on her knee and started roughly rubbing my leg and she pressed my head into her left breast very forcefully and then she started jabbing at my genitals. I vomited on her, she threw me to the ground and kicked me in the stomach and called me a filthy little animal.’
On another day, Sister Moretti followed Delia into the toilets and digitally penetrated her anus. The resulting damage has caused Delia life-long bowel problems.
Delia didn’t mention either of the two incidents to anyone. The other nuns were brutal, frightening women who often beat the children, so she knew she couldn’t talk to them.
Home was no good either. Delia’s parents were both devoted Catholics. On those few occasions when Delia had mentioned the violence at school, her mum had responded, ‘You can’t say that about good, holy nuns’.
So Delia suffered in silence, counting down the days to when she could escape from primary school. When she finally moved to high school she was thrilled – it was a chance to start afresh. Or so she thought. At high school the students and even some teachers bullied her. She grew rebellious, left school as soon as she could and entered the workforce, becoming the only member of her immediate family not to get a university degree.
Delia discussed the abuse with three or four people over the next few decades but did not take any official action until the early 2010s when she was prompted to step forward after hearing a radio program about child sexual abuse.
‘I just got sick of everyone talking about priests, and I thought, “What about the nuns? They were horrible too”.’
She reported Moretti to the Catholic Church and, after several years of subsequent investigations, became particularly critical of the way the Church failed to communicate with her.
‘The whole process was done on their terms in their time. I still have no knowledge of what the investigations uncovered. Did she admit to what happened or deny it? Was she even asked before she died? Has anyone else made a complaint against her? … I want to know stuff. I’m just so unsatisfied with this one-way street.’
The one good thing to come out of the process, Delia said, is that the Church agreed to pay for her ongoing counselling.
‘A year ago I was about eight kilos heavier, I was a smoker. So with [my counsellor] I’ve transformed my life really … I had my first job interview in years yesterday.’