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Grace's story

When Grace travelled to a Catholic college in Victoria in the early 1980s to undertake religious studies, she took her seven-year-old son, Benedict with her. Very soon after they arrived, Father Blayney offered to look after Benedict while Grace was unpacking. That night Benedict told his mother that Father Blayney had kissed him on the mouth, touched his genitals and made Benedict touch his genitals.

Grace reported the abuse to the college director who told her he’d follow the matter up with Blayney. In a subsequent conversation, the director told Grace that he had spoken to Blayney who admitted the abuse. Grace told the Commissioner that Blayney had acknowledged that he had a problem and said he was dealing with it.

‘[The director] was a very sort of advanced mature person and I have to say a good man. But with hindsight, we were all misled, we were gullible and trusting. He was never going to bring it up with the perpetrator.’

The matter continued to concern Grace and she had wanted to go to Victoria Police but was dissuaded first by the director, and later by Benedict who didn’t want to talk about it. In the intervening years Benedict had become very unsettled. Although talented, academically and in sport, he found it hard to focus and had never lived up to his abilities.

In his early 20s, Benedict became depressed and suicidal and struggled with alcohol abuse. One evening he asked Grace if she remembered the incident with Blayney. ‘I asked him did he feel ready to now take it to the court, take it further, and he just broke down crying and sobbing deeply, gut-wrenching sobbing. He was actually sitting on the floor, I was working in the kitchen, and deep sobbing.’ Benedict told his mother that he couldn’t go to police, that that would be ‘too much’.

Sometime later, Grace saw some stories in the media about child sexual abuse and decided to report Blayney to Victoria Police. Blayney was already serving a prison sentence for other sexual assaults on children and was seeking parole.

Benedict made a statement to police that coincided with over a dozen others coming forward with details of abuse by Blayney. When the allegations were put to Blayney, he admitted them all and was sentenced to several more years in jail. Grace thought it was Blayney’s strategy to serve the sentences concurrently rather than sequentially.

Grace said she’d maintained her faith in the Catholic Church, and this has caused considerable strain in her relationship with Benedict.

‘He has said to me, “Mum, how can you be involved with a system that has been so destructive?”, and I have to say, “Because the ones I have encountered who work there are far more good, generous, honest giving their lives, the big hospitals and the big schools”. Where you’ve got humans, you’ve got corruption, but there is an awful lot of goodness.’

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