Juliet Maree's story

‘I always hated the man and I didn’t realise why and then the little door opens up.’

Juliet had put aside many of her memories of being sexually abused by Father Barry Carlisle in the 1960s, but when news of his offending became public decades later ‘you realise that something’s happened to you’.

Father Carlisle was related to Juliet’s family and often visited their home and took Juliet and her siblings on outings to the beach and on holidays. Both Juliet and her sister were sexually abused by Carlisle though neither spoke of it at the time.

The abuse went on for years and stopped when Juliet was about 11 or 12. She thought this was because ‘he didn’t like girls that were older’.

She’d known the abuse ‘wasn’t right’ but felt ‘there was nothing I could do about it’, and didn’t think of telling her parents.

After the abuse stopped, Juliet continued to see Carlisle at various family gatherings and their contact was always ‘matter of fact’. Although she ‘hated him with a vengeance’, he performed her marriage celebration and baptised her children. This was partly because she’d blocked her memories of the abuse; it was also because he remained closely involved with the family, and in particular Juliet’s mother.

When she’d thought about the effects of the abuse on her life, Juliet reflected that she’d always ‘lacked confidence’ and liked ‘to sit in the background’. She described having low self-esteem and had been diagnosed with depression, the symptoms of which worsened in the 1990s as she began to remember more about the abuse.

‘I always think that the real me died the first time Carlisle put his hands on me. That’s how I feel; the real me, the happy-go-lucky little girl died that first time.’

After news of Carlisle’s considerable offending became public, Juliet spoke with her sister who confirmed that she too had been abused and they ‘supported each other through it’.

Juliet also disclosed to her mother who at first didn’t believe her.

‘And then eventually when she did believe it, she said to me, “Well why didn’t you say something to me?” And I said, “Would you have believed me?” And she said, “No”. ‘Cause this man was on a pedestal.’

Juliet didn’t think of going to NSW Police at the time nor later, chiefly because she wanted to protect her mother.

Juliet and her sister reported Carlisle to the vicar-general of the diocese who took written statements from them both. Although Carlisle had by that stage been charged with child sexual abuse, the bishop didn’t recommend that they contact police.

‘Then we heard nothing for 13 years’, Juliet said. ‘Nothing. And I didn’t have a copy, no nothing, till 13 years later I got a copy of my statement.’

Juliet disclosed the abuse to her husband in the 1990s and he was ‘horrified’. She’d also told her children.

‘My son was devastated, absolutely devastated. My girls, they were very upset, but I’m just grateful that for some reason deep down inside I never let my children go away you know, with Carlisle or anything like that.’

Juliet didn’t feel the need for counselling ‘because I’ve got a good support network of friends and my husband’s wonderful’.

In the 2000s, Juliet participated in Towards Healing and received $50,000. She didn’t consider the accompanying apology from the bishop ‘a genuine one’ and told him as much.

‘He called me back again for another one. Another waste of time.’

Juliet thought he should have apologised for not doing anything in the intervening decade. ‘I [had] sent some emails, some phone calls and they had a few little naughty words in them, and he sent me back a couple of letters and was not interested in seeing me.’

At the end of it all she felt disappointed in the Catholic Church and its representatives and the way they’d responded to the abuse. She’d recently spoken to a lawyer about having her claim reviewed.

‘I hope to get some more compensation because, yeah, they really let me down. They’ve just treated me like they don’t care about me. It’s like, “It’s happened years ago, it’s historical, go away”, that’s it.’

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