Miranda’s family was Catholic and her home was often visited by nuns and priests. This was particularly the case after Miranda’s father became ill in the 1970s.
‘Dad was in and out of hospital, so the nuns and priests were over all the time to support my parents, and help look after us because Mum was working and spending a lot of time at the hospital with our father.’
During her private session, Miranda recalled that the priest from their parish in Brisbane was the first of several men to abuse her.
‘He’d ask me what my sins were and start touching me while I spoke, and it got to the point where he’d have me under his white robe with his pants undone making me touch his penis and perform oral sex on him while he touched my genitals.’
Miranda was too frightened to report the abuse for fear of further repercussions.
‘When it first started I was six and the priest would point to Jesus on the cross and say, “Did you know little girls can be nailed to the cross?” He then said if I told anyone my dad would die, and I’d go to hell.
‘I turned nine in [the 1980s], and around that time he took me to his home and raped me. It was very painful and I bled a lot afterwards. It happened twice or three times a week after that. My legs were hurting all the time because I was so little, but it was put down to growing pains, so no one worked out what was actually going on.’
The priest soon left the parish, but Miranda remembers being further abused by a De La Salle Brother.
‘At a weekly church bush dance, the kids would often play hide and seek outside while the parents socialised inside the venue. There was a Brother who was quite young compared to the others, maybe in his 30s, and we knew him as the “bush dance Brother”. He’d say to me, “Come and hide with me Miranda, I know a place where nobody will find us”, then we’d go under the hall or down into the bush nearby, and he’d touch me and make me give him oral sex.’
At other times when Miranda waited for her brother to finish sporting practice after school, the Brother would invite her to his place nearby for afternoon tea.
She told the Commissioner, ‘The milk tasted funny and after drinking it I became like a floppy ragdoll, quite dopey, and then he’d have sex with me. I believe now that he was sedating me. He’d say if I went to the police they’d lock me up and throw away the key, and I’d never see my family again. That abuse continued from when I was in Year 4 right up until I went into Year 7, then that Brother moved on’.
She recalled high school as a dark period during which she was sexually assaulted by another parish priest, Father Bennett.
In the late 1980s, she disclosed the abuse to assistant parish priest, Father Richard.
‘I had to walk past my mother who was working for the parish at the time, and when I sat down and told Father Richard what was going on and that I wanted to kill myself, he stood over me and said, “Think about what this would do to your father if he heard you talking like this”. He didn’t want to hear it. Then he basically told me to leave his office.’
In later life Miranda came to understand that an event she’d previously only remembered vaguely was in fact Father Bennett taking her to a doctor for a termination of pregnancy.
A high school principal became the fourth man in just over a decade to abuse Miranda.
‘Through Years 11 and 12 I suffered severe migraines and would take my father’s prescription drugs to numb the pain. Often I’d end up passing out and end up in sick bay where the principal would visit me and touch himself under his white robe. On weekends he’d take me to the Brothers’ house, and he’d lay on top of me without penetrating me but reach orgasm himself.’
After a ‘breakdown’ in the early 2000s, Miranda has remained unable to work. She’d experienced anorexia, panic attacks and suicidal ideation over a period of years, and blames the breakdown of her marriage on an inability to trust men that she says stems from the traumas of her past.
The safety of children remains a concern for Miranda, who believes there are still children at risk.
‘I’ve had to work very hard to no longer be suicidal, and I want my story heard because to my knowledge one of the priests is working with troubled youths, another is working in a refuge for women escaping domestic violence and the doctor who performed the abortion on me is still a practising GP.’
Miranda reported the abuse to police in the early 2010s. She hopes that those she has named will be held accountable for their actions, and that they’ll be denied the opportunity to abuse others.