Enid May's story

‘I’m sick of knocking on a perspex wall … That feeling of being utterly unheard.’

Enid grew up in rural Victoria in the 1950s. Her parents were ‘at war’ with each other and her father was often away from home. They were a religious family and Father Peter Wilson, from the Missionaries of the Sacred He

art order, was a family friend. He would come to visit them, usually when Enid’s dad was away. His sister and Enid’s mother were also great friends.

Her mother often left Father Wilson to sit with eight-year-old Enid in the lounge room. He’d flip through art books filled with pictures of nudes and statues. Much to Enid’s acute embarrassment, Father Wilson would discuss them in detail. This went on for a long time.

‘I couldn’t tell you how many years he would make me sit there. The door would be closed.’ She learned to disappear somewhere else. ‘In the end I couldn’t hear him, I switched off.’

Wilson, who was ‘pompous and erudite’, developed a strange sense of ownership over Enid. Her mother thought he made a good father substitute and so he spent more and more time alone with her, taking her for many drives through the countryside.

Enid thinks her father often didn’t know about these jaunts. ‘I got carted everywhere with him for days on end … I don’t know why.’

Things came to a head one night when Enid was 11 and staying in Father Wilson’s guestroom. He came into her bedroom and lay on top of her. He held her down by putting a doona across her neck and kissed her repeatedly. A different expression came over his face, Enid told the Commissioner. After this incident she never trusted anybody again and didn’t talk about it to anyone.

‘I know now that as children you must say if you’re being abused or shouted at or whatever. But you haven’t got the words for it. You just think this is what everybody’s life is like … You have nothing to draw upon to paint a picture … It’s stupid to say, “Tell the teacher or tell the counsellor or tell somebody if you’re being abused at home”. There’s no way I would have used that word, or could have thought of that word or anything.’

When Father Wilson moved overseas to work he sent Enid passionate letters and postcards to her workplace – three or four a week. They were signed with kisses, and always started ‘Cara mia’. It was embarrassing ‘and it went on for years’.

When Enid told Father Wilson she was getting married he was very angry.

Now, 40 years later, Enid’s children have grown up and she is divorced from her husband. She raised her children alone, with no support from him. Enid and her children were ostracised by her husband’s family after she learned some distressing facts about his childhood.

Enid waited until her children were older before she talked about Father Wilson, just in case she fell apart. She then decided to talk to her local priest, Father Sinclair. His reaction was to kiss her and declare his love for her.

Deeply distressed, Enid told Father Sinclair he could either ‘dob’ himself in for what he’d done, or she would do it. ‘And I did.’

She met with one of the Church’s lead investigators, Ian Connolly, about Sinclair’s conduct. It was then that she felt like she was knocking against the perspex wall. Connolly had a personal conflict of interest that, in Enid’s book, made him the wrong person for her to see.

Connolly sent her for an assessment with a psychiatrist and a worker from Carelink, the Catholic counselling service for sexual abuse survivors. They put Enid through hell.

‘They tore me to pieces for about an hour and a half.’ She was reduced to tears. She asked them why. They told her, ‘We have to break you down so we know you’re telling the truth’.

The only good thing Connolly did for Enid was refer her to a good counsellor.

Enid has not taken any legal action against the Church about Father Wilson. She wasn’t aware that she could do so.

She recommended that lifelong celibacy for priests should be limited to 10 years. ‘Anybody that asks a 12-year-old or a 20-year-old to be celibate for the rest of their life is just a joke.’

Enid still has very strong faith. Her faith is her mainstay, but it doesn’t need the Church. ‘It doesn’t need all the bells and whistles, the frocks and smocks, it doesn’t need all that. Just move on, people.’

Enid’s support person at her session with the Commission has been working professionally with sexual abuse survivors. He is not optimistic about the future. He believes that the Church has been using what it’s learned from the Commission about victim vulnerabilities to further abuse them rather than support them.

‘What they’re prepared to do in order to cover their own backsides is becoming out of control … The response has been hostility and aggression … And these people are in catastrophic need.’

Enid summed it up. ‘There’s a hole in the perspex, guys. Please hear me and take responsibility.’

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