‘At first you’re in shock. Absolute shock. And nothing computes. It’s like being caught between the lights, on the road, the lights in your eyes. You freeze.’
This was Scot’s reaction when Father Mitchell slipped a hand down his pants. Scot was about seven years old at the time and training as an altar boy at his local Catholic Church in Queensland.
It was the 1950s, a time when priests were revered as God’s representatives on Earth. Scot himself was a very devout little boy who looked up to Father Mitchell. And yet somehow he knew that the priest’s actions were wrong
‘Strangely enough, I never felt guilty about any of it. I never cooperated with him at all. Once I’d got over the original shock and he tried it a few more times, I’d just [tell him] … “Back off”. And so I brought it to a close, if you like. And then I told my mother.’
His mother immediately believed him and went to the church. Sometime later a young priest arrived to interview Scot. He took the complaint seriously, and Scot recalls him shaking his head, horrified and sympathetic. But that was as far as the matter went. No action was taken against Father Mitchell.
This spelled the end of Scot’s faith. ‘To me the Church was a sham. The guy at the front was an evil bastard. He’s probably molesting kids and here he is trying to give a sermon to people.’
As Scot grew older he found that he had trouble trusting people. His relationships suffered. But unlike many survivors of child sexual abuse, he felt no shame.
‘I know some people sort of feel guilt. I don’t feel guilt. I just feel really deeply offended. I don’t feel any shame but I feel, really, anger. And I feel it’s affected me my whole life.’
He recently reported Mitchell to police, only to discover that the priest had died. Now Scot wants to see a large-scale campaign of legal action against the Church.
‘My feeling is you’ve got to punish someone to stop them doing it. With a child, with animals, it’s the same thing. You’ve got to punish them in such a way that they’ll not even think about doing it.
‘And I believe that the Church need to be punished, and not a 20, 30 thousand payout to some poor people who get silenced, but a huge, huge financial penalty.’