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Joy's story

Joy came from an abusive family and in the 1950s, at the age of six, she was ‘charged with abandonment and neglect’, after her parents sexually abused her and allowed paedophiles to access her and her siblings. Sent to a Sisters of Mercy orphanage in Victoria, Joy was then sexually abused by Father Mansell from the time of her arrival.

Father Mansell’s role in the nearby church wasn’t clear. Though he occupied a flat behind the orphanage, he didn’t say mass and the nuns allowed him free access to the girls. Given the task of cleaning the church, Joy was sexually abused by Mansell throughout her childhood and teenage years.

At 15, she became pregnant though didn’t realise it until informed by a doctor. When she told the nun in charge, Sister Clare, that Mansell was the father, Joy was verbally abused and taken to Mansell to apologise and retract her statement. Alone with Mansell, Joy was beaten by the priest and told that it was ‘common place for girls to just disappear from the home’. She took this to be a threat on her life. That night she was set upon by Sister Clare who also severely beat her for her ‘lies’.

A short time later, Joy was taken by two junior nuns to a suburb in Melbourne and given an abortion. The nuns told her it wasn’t a pregnancy because she wasn’t married. Not long after, Joy’s older brother helped her escape the orphanage and the two children fled Victoria.

Arriving at a Sydney police station, Joy told the officers that she was being sexually abused by the priest at the orphanage. She said they were kind and took her to a milk bar for fish and chips. Upon returning to the station however, they started beating up her brother who’d confessed that he had sexually abused Joy. This was actually true, but ‘they did not believe that a priest could have been an offender’. Returned to the care of the state of Victoria, Joy was sent to a correctional facility where she was then sexually assaulted by older residents.

In the mid-2000s, Joy made a claim for redress through Towards Healing for the nuns’ part in the abuse, and received $10,000. She felt this was a sympathetic process and in particular, one of the men on the panel made her feel good as a person and that she was believed.

Through Towards Healing, Joy accepted an offer of counselling but was taken aback at the invitation to stay in nun’s retreat accommodation ‘as a healing experience’. More distressing still was the approach of their staff who thought it a good idea for Joy to spend time alone in a room with a doll. She told the Commissioner: ‘They came with this stupid baby doll thing as if – “Gosh, it reminds me, it’s good enough to give me a baby doll, but kill my baby”, you know?’

Throughout all the negotiation and investigation processes, no one acknowledged nor took responsibility for Joy’s pregnancy and abortion. ‘No one ever recognised it, no one ever seemed to want to. That was my little baby they killed. Somehow I want them to recognise it, I don’t know, to pay for it … It could have been my little girl that I never had.’

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