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Roxanna's story

Roxanna grew up in South Australia during the 1960s. Her family environment wasn’t very healthy and both her parents had been diagnosed with mental illnesses. They were heavily involved with their local Catholic parish and Roxanna attended the nearby primary school. In Grade 5 she came into contact with Father Barnaby, a priest.

At 10, Roxanna was involved in church masses and sang in the choir. She was interested in playing an instrument as well and was directed to Father Barnaby who offered to teach her after school. After several lessons, Barnaby’s behaviour started to change.

‘He moved my leg to teach me how to use the [instrument] pedals and he put his hand towards my crotch. I then stood up and … said that he shouldn’t be doing that in God’s house.’

Roxanna left the lesson feeling very confused and angry. She stopped attending music lessons and recalls her parents asking her why, but she never told them about the abuse.

She kept her distance from Barnaby after that but she did go back to Barnaby’s premises once more. She remembers waking up on a table with her pants down and Barnaby and a stranger standing in front of her. She has no recollection of what occurred.

In the late 1960s when she was 12, Roxanna left primary school and moved to a Catholic boarding school. When she was 13 years old Sister Jenkins, a teacher at the school, molested her.

Roxanna avoided her for several years and didn’t tell anyone what she’d done. She said she became ‘very rebellious’ and was eventually asked to leave the boarding school. Despite attending a public school, she continued to act out and involve herself in dangerous activities.

Throughout her teens and adulthood, Roxanna never reported her abusers to the police. She became a ‘comfort food eater’ and was often unhappy. She became involved in party scenes and for several years abused alcohol and drugs. She suffers from panic attacks and flashbacks.

‘I took my light out into the world and discovered something new.’

Roxanna said she’d left the Catholic Church in her late 20s. In the late 1990s, she engaged with Towards Healing with a view to receiving compensation, but was offered six counselling sessions instead. She found this disappointing and was thinking about requesting a review of her case.

Roxanna also reported Father Barnaby to the parishioners. She received a letter from the parish, which contained a message of Barnaby’s denial of the abuse.

It wasn’t until recent years that Roxanna reported her abusers to the police. She made her statement and is waiting to hear back. Roxanna wants her story to be believed and she still wants an apology from the Catholic Church.

‘It was very badly handled.’

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