Until she started having flashbacks later in life, Faye said she didn’t realise that from the early 1960s, when she was a teenager, she’d been sexually abused by a parish priest in her Sydney suburb.
Faye said that when she was in her early teens, a Catholic priest targeted her for abuse and made himself part of her family, even joining them on holidays.
‘No one suspected anything. The priest was God. I remember while we were away, everyone else was asleep and Father Smith came and got me out of bed. He took his penis out and then I’ve gone blank.
'Another time in his parents’ home when I was about 17, I remember one minute being on the floor, and next thing his semen was on my stomach, so there are a lot of bits missing that have been suppressed.’
Faye recalled Smith putting his hand up her dress in the school office and pushing up against her. At other times, she told the Commissioner, he would park on the street and wait for her to finish school.
‘If I was with him and others came, he’d hide me. If we were in the car, I had to get on the floor, or at his home I had to hide in the wardrobe if anyone came to the door. If we did anything, he’d tell me to go to confession, then he’d want to know what the priest said to me. He’d tell me I made him a better priest doing all this.’
The abuse only stopped when Faye entered a convent in her late teens. Years later she discovered Smith had sexually abused her younger sister as well, and in the 1990s, she decided to report the abuse to a bishop.
‘They confronted him and he admitted the abuse, but said I was the only one. They told him we said he’d abused my sister as well, and he said, “Well, if that’s what’s been said, it must be true”. He was shifted from parish to parish, and probably lost track of those he’d abused.’
Following the priest’s confession, Faye said he was given the option to retire and no longer perform duties as a priest, and said he accepted the option.
‘After that, I had a breakdown and went into intensive counselling every week for a year which cost $11,000. The bishop said the Church would pay for the sessions, but I later found out they’d made Father Smith pay – that didn’t make me feel good.’
Faye left the order after 40 years of service, but continued to work within the Church. The following year, she and her sister provided Towards Healing with detailed statements outlining the sexual abuse they had suffered. Faye told the Commissioner that she felt that the Church had not been honest and transparent in the Towards Healing process.
‘We asked for an apology from the Church, and that Father Smith never perform the duties of a priest again. It took 17 weeks to get a response. In return for signing a confidentiality agreement, we received a sum of money and they agreed to pay for counselling as part of the settlement. We did receive an apology from the bishop in person and in writing, but Father Smith wasn’t defrocked. He’s not allowed to perform mass but I know he’s still around.’
Faye said she’d suffered ill health over the years, and believed it to be linked to the abuse she suffered as a child.
‘I’ve tried to put it behind me. I landed in hospital recently with stress; I was taken in an ambulance. It’s happened before. You could get a million dollars, you could live in a mansion, it doesn’t matter – nothing takes the memories away. It happened 53 years ago and it’s still affecting me.’