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Jayne's story

There are two very different sides to Jayne’s childhood. One is idyllic, with Jayne spending day’s horse riding in the mountains in northern New South Wales. The other is nightmarish, with Jayne being abused by two men who were revered by the local church community.

Church was a compulsory Sunday event for Jayne and her family. Her mother – who had religion ‘ingrained in her’ – worshipped the priests and nuns. Jayne remembers they were like extended family and dropped by the house quite a lot.

When she was about seven, and a pupil at the Catholic school next to the church, two of the priests started to sexually abuse her. Father Mackie forced Jayne to perform oral sex on him in the confessional box and in the presbytery. He sometimes locked two boys in with her to perform sex acts with each other and Jayne, as well as with himself.

Mackie would tell the housekeeper that bible studies were underway and not to disturb him. It was all too easy – the church was deserted, the housekeeper was deeply religious, and the living quarters were on a different floor to where Mackie took the children. Jayne remembers the smell of musty rooms – even now, a musty smell can deeply upset her – and the horror of being trapped. And, overwhelmingly, the yearning to be with her dad.

Father Connolly abused Jayne in the school toilets at lunchtime, and would get her to perform oral sex on him as well. Both men warned her not to tell anyone but Jayne went ahead and told her mum that the priests were ‘touching her down there’.

Her mother didn’t do anything. Jayne thinks the absolute power of the priesthood and the fact her mum had a huge family to look after partially explains why.

‘These people are very skilled at getting in the community and making themselves look really good … They’re grooming everyone in the community to get to children.’

From then on, her mum was nothing and her dad was everything to Jayne. She doesn’t know if he knew about the abuse, but her father became her safety net and she clung to him. Her family had to bribe her with sweets to go to school.

‘I followed him everywhere ... Always wanted to be by his side, because I knew I’d be safe and they wouldn’t get me.’

But sometimes they did get her. Her teacher regularly handed Jayne over to the priests for confession.

‘Because I was difficult. I didn’t know how to learn … and I missed a lot of school, so just going to school was a big thing. And they would take me, find ways of getting me … like prayer, going to bible studies.

'Bible in one hand, which is a pretty precious book, and raping a child in another … and then telling me that I’m like a devil’s child!’

Mackie left the community but Connolly continued to abuse Jayne until she was 11. Her mother died that year and Jayne’s pretty sure it was Connolly who conducted the service. In that same year he stopped his abuse of Jayne.

Jayne took on the household chores, then left school altogether at 14 when her father remarried. She never told the police about the abuse. ‘They said to me not to tell anyone, so that’s what I did.’

But Jayne did get counselling. She’s been seeing a psychiatrist and a psychologist for the past 20 years. ‘It makes all the difference. I’m not alone and they’re fighting for me.’

She has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and bipolar disorder. The shame and self-loathing was there for years and the sexual abuse still affects her ‘in every area’.

But Jayne has come a long way. She knows she’s good at surviving but now she wants to live well. Hearing Cardinal George Pell speak on TV recently was very difficult for her.

‘It triggered my depression. I feel like I hate him. I hate Pell. I hate him for various reasons. But I need to get past that and this is part of being here … I need to keep moving forward.’

Unsurprisingly, Jayne is very cynical about the Church.

‘They’ll go into third world countries where little kids are. And they’ll carry it on there, more than likely. And there’ll be no one for them. There won’t be any Royal Commissions there, probably.’

Jayne strongly believes that offenders should be able to tell someone privately about their problem so that they can get help. Otherwise nothing will change and the cycle of child sexual abuse will keep going.

‘We’re helping little kids … and that’s fantastic. But the problem moves on. All the time.’

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