Delilah grew up in Melbourne in a devout Catholic family. Her parents were very involved with the church near her home. It felt like they were always there.
Father Jason Reading was a close family friend. Delilah’s parents adored Reading and often invited him over for dinner, or they’d be invited to his house. Reading also baptised Delilah and her siblings.
‘He was always there in our lives … He would have baptised and married cousins. So the extended family as well, he was very much a part of.’
In the 1990s, when Delilah was 13, Reading touched her breasts when she answered the door to let him in for dinner. Delilah believed it was an accident that Reading didn’t mean to do it, so she didn’t comment on his touch.
Delilah sat down next to Reading at the dinner table. She froze when he stroked her inner thigh as they ate. Delilah said nothing, she didn’t want to draw attention to it. After dinner, she saw Reading tickle her sister to the point where he grabbed her breasts.
‘We all have different memories of that night. We complained to Mum when Dad was saying goodbye to him. [We] said, “Look Mum, he’s touching us” … Mum rang him in the following week and said, “Look, don’t touch my kids again” but still invited him for dinner.’
She thought that her mother told her father what happened, but she soon discovered that he didn’t know. Delilah’s father invited Reading over every week. She remembers refusing to come to dinner several times because Reading was going to be there.
Delilah and her siblings weren’t always able to avoid these dinners. She was shocked that Reading continued to corner her at home. Whenever Reading tried to talk to her, he edged his way closer.
‘He’s just really in your personal space … [He] would try and catch you ... I guess once that incident happened, you’re … acutely aware of your personal space with a person like him.’
Delilah never told anyone what happened that night. She brushed it off and was thankful that she was never touched by Reading again. Delilah made sure to avoid him and told her siblings to do the same.
When Delilah was 21, she was working at a community centre while she studied. The Catholic Brothers organised a retreat for the staff, which she attended. The first night, she was asked to go into a Brother’s room.
‘Maybe I was just really naive … I never thought that he would be out to hurt me. He raped me that night and I didn’t understand it.’
Delilah didn’t know that she had been raped and blamed herself for what happened. It took her at least two years to realise that it was wrong. In her mid-20s, she reported the rape to the police and the Catholic institution.
The police were reluctant for Delilah to give a full statement, but the institution was very kind. She worked with them for two years, advising on how to improve their systems. Delilah was awarded $56,000 in compensation.
‘I had a lot of control in it … I had a whole list of dot points of things I wanted them to do. [I said], “I’m not going to take any of [their] money … until you agree to do all these” … I felt that I was listened to.’
In the mid-2000s Delilah reported Reading to the police. After a three-year investigation, he wasn’t charged. She was disappointed that her parents refused to be interviewed.
Delilah was diagnosed with depression. She has found it difficult to bond with her children, which has created a divide in her household. Delilah is estranged from her family because she reported Reading.
‘I went onto antidepressants … [My kids] went into child care five days a week and I just tried to get better … It was really hard.’
Delilah and her family no longer go to church. However, her children attend Catholic schools. She visited the Catholic Education Office for a discussion a few years prior to her coming to the Royal Commission. Delilah was astonished that one of the workers defended Reading’s behaviour.
‘She said, “Look, my husband is sort of that age and men that age just look at women differently and say lewd things sometimes”.’