Standing ovation

I was most touched by the following feedback from a fellow survivor called Jamie. Jamie entitled the email “Standing ovation”

“I finished your book last night. I feel like I know you as a sister. It captivated every spare minute of my time and I am so happy for reading it. My wife is going to start reading it now too because it has put into words what I have not yet managed to do. It has helped me so much I can’t describe how proud I feel for you as a fellow survivor.”

“Hey Dad actor accused of sexual abuse” blog comment

I posted this comment this morning on the blog

It relates to a case where allegations of molestation have been made by prior child actress on the set of “Hey Dad”. It would appear to be another case where speaking out against abuse, disclosing it gives others permission to do the same.

Dr. Cathy Kezelman, chairperson ASCA (Adults Surviving Child Abuse) says:

I cannot comment on the specifics of this case but wish to make more general comments.

The facts are that childhood abuse and child sexual abuse are pervasive practices in our society and in all societies and have been through time. Substantiated child abuse and neglect figures continue unabated and are estimated to be at least 5 times official figures. As a result there are by conservative estimates more than 2 million Australian survivors of child abuse.

Collectively we have sought to deny that abuse occurs, certainly on the scale on which it does occur. We have also sought to deny that it happens in homes, families, institutions and in the majority of cases, estimated to be 96%, the perpetrator is known to the child. Most often it is a person in a position of trust, a primary care-giver or someone in a position of power or authority.

Abuse thrives on secrecy and silencing. The child typically is terrified and confused and takes on an inappropriate sense of shame, guilt and self blame. Other fears and threats may contribute to the lack of disclosure and it is not unusual for others to be complicit in keeping the secret.

There has historically been a powerful stigma and taboo around abuse and few people have wanted to think or talk about it. This has contributed to the ongoing silencing of victims. It takes a lot of courage for survivors, either child or adult to speak out especially in a society which often seeks to deny their reality and blame and ostracise them. Studies show that children rarely make false accusations of abuse est. 1-3%

The main issue is that when people do disclose that they are listened to and heard and supported empathically. Betrayed as children survivors struggle to trust and feel safe. It is also important for survivors to not try and deal with these issues in isolation but seek support from friends, family and/or professionally.

As more victims speak out, others will follow. We have seen this happen with abuse within the Church, most recently the Catholic Church. More and more vicitms are coming forward gaining the courage to speak out.

Those disclosing need support and understanding. Receiving it can make all the difference to their health and wellbeing. To find out more go to or call 1300 657 380

Tragic child abuse case

The West Australian

I was asked to make comment on a tragic case of an adolescent sex offender raping a male and female, each 3 years of age. This case is a tragic reminder of the escalating number of sexual assaulted being committed by adolescent sex offenders. These crimes are on the rise and now constitute more than a third of reported crimes. Sadly adolescent sex offenders often go onto become adult sex offenders. It is crucial that they are subjected to the right programs, reassessed on an ongoing basis and for their treatment to enable them to take responsibility for their crimes, understand the impact of their crimes on their victims and that they do have a choice in what they do.

The young children of course will need expert ongoing care and support as will their families to help them find a way to live healthy and connected lives. It was good to see that the media was not only interested in the sensationalist side of the case but the 2 interviews I did on ABC Kimberleys and Mix 94.5 sought to understand the message the sentence was giving the community and the ongoing impacts of there crimes

(c) 2010, West Australian Newspapers Limited

A 16-year-old boy who raped two children after taking them from the yards of their Kununurra homes could be released from detention in October after being sentenced in Perth Children’s Court yesterday.

The boy was 15 and had used alcohol, cannabis and ecstasy when he led the two three-year-olds — a boy and a girl — away from two homes and sexually penetrated them in separate assaults committed within an hour of each other last December.

The court was told the boy, the teenager’s first victim, cried in pain during the attack and suffered an internal injury.

The teenager fled when the second victim’s father found him standing over his naked daughter.

Children’s Court president Denis Reynolds said the offences were so serious there was no option but to impose a total of two years’ detention to send a message to the community that sexual assaults against children would have serious consequences.

Judge Reynolds said that the teenager’s behaviour was “totally unacceptable”.

But Judge Reynolds said he also had to take into account the teenager’s guilty pleas to two counts of aggravated sexually penetration, his co-operation, the absence of sexual offences on his record, his supportive family and his youth.

Judge Reynolds ordered that the teenager become eligible for supervised release within 10 months, which is earlier than the 12 months which would usually apply to his two-year term of detention and the shortest possible minimum term for his sentence.

The sentence was backdated to take account of time spent in custody since his arrest which means he will be eligible for release in October.

Adults Surviving Child Abuse chairwoman Cathy Kezelman said that the sentence appeared to be lenient and it was crucial the teenager undertook programs while in detention because sexual offending as an adolescent could be the start of a pattern which continued into adulthood.

“The sentence does sound light given the potential impact on those two children,” Dr Kezelman said.

“I think the sentence does (also) appear to be light given the message the judge was trying to deliver to the community.”

Time for the church to focus on the victims

Time for the Church to focus on the victims



March 23, 2010 – 6:19AM

Illustration: Robin CowcherIllustration: Robin Cowcher

The Pope’s letter to 15,000 victims of Irish clergy abuse, while expressing his shame and remorse along similar lines to his apology in Australia and US in 2008, falls well short of the mark. While it rebukes Irish bishops and lower ranking officials it makes no mention of any sanctions against them over their “grave errors of judgment” in not responding to sex abuse allegations. He suggests that the church’s own laws, properly applied, should lead to the expulsion of clergy who sexually abuse children. However, the scale of this scandal would suggest otherwise. The church is facing a burgeoning crisis in countries all over Europe, including in the Pope’s native Germany and most recently in Brazil.

This letter also fails to address the role of senior Irish clerics, or most importantly, the Vatican’s own accountability. It would appear that the Church’s policy has helped to protect sex offenders in its midst while failing to prevent further crimes or appropriately care for victims. What appears to be a systematic cover-up of sexual abuse by the highest echelons of the Church is arguably the most morally reprehensible crime of all. The Church has for many lost its moral and sadly, its spiritual authority.

This apology is a long-overdue attempt to unlock the conspiracy of silence and secrecy, which protects perpetrators and perpetuates abuse both inside and outside of the church. However, the church is still not tackling its ultimate responsibility for the horrendous harm suffered by countless victims. It has not demanded the resignations of those spearheading the cover-up or committed to bringing all of the perpetrators to justice through the criminal justice system. The policy of the church has effectively put the lives of scores of children in danger. The scale of the harm generated is only now coming to light. Tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of children’s lives have been impacted and so have those of the adults they have become. As this situation has now reached tipping point, undoubtedly many more victims will now find the courage to speak out.

The impact of abuse does not stop when the abuse stops. The human brain is not fully developed until a person is in their 20s. When a child is abused in those crucial developmental years it affects every aspect of their development, arresting their emotional maturation and their ability to make empowered and informed choices. When the perpetrator of that abuse is a person in position of authority and trust and in this case a spiritual leader the damage is potentially even greater. When a child discloses, or for that matter, an adult, it is crucial for them to be heard, validated and supported. It takes incredible courage to overcome the inappropriate shame and self-blame survivors feel in speaking out, especially when tackling an institution with the power and authority of the Catholic Church. The failure of the Church to embrace its victims and provide a truly pastoral response has further compounded the damage to victims.

It is time for real reform and that must begin at the very top of the Catholic Church, with a review of canon law. Canon law seemingly has failed to establish clear and transparent mechanisms for dealing with sexual abuse within the Church and this failure has allowed those crimes to continue unabated. The Pope again failed to clarify whether the church considers secular law a higher priority than canon law in dealing with sexual abuse within the Church. In past decades, as the number of victims coming forward increased, the church closed ranks seeking to protect the institution and its clergy. It failed to put proper boundaries in place to contain the inappropriate behaviour of offending priests and so protect the innocent in its care. This papal letter has failed to reassure victims and other concerned parties that effective changes will be put in place and will be enforced to fully protect children in the Church’s care.

The Pope’s letter does not call for the resignation of the head of the Church in Ireland, Cardinal Sean Brady, who swore two child victims to oaths of secrecy in 1975, so ensuring their silence. Cardinal Brady has sincerely apologised for his mistakes of the past and asked Irish Catholics for forgiveness. However, he has stated that he will only resign if the Pope asks him to do so. Yet the Pope has not called for his resignation or for that of others at the top of the Church in Ireland.

Three Irish government-ordered investigations published from 2005 to 2009 documented how 15,000 Irish children were raped, molested and suffered systemic abuses at the hands of priests in their parishes and by nuns and brothers in boarding schools and orphanages.

The investigations, undertaken by senior members of the judiciary, ruled that Catholic leaders protected the Church’s reputation from scandal at the expense of children. In fact, Irish bishops did not report a single case to police until their hand was forced in 1996 after victims began to sue the church. The Pope has suggested that the Irish Bishops involved didn’t understand the scale or criminality of child abuse until recent years. However, the investigators found cases in which Catholic officials in the 1960s had reported school employees to police for abusing children, showing they understood even then it was a crime. This further abrogation of responsibility does little to appease the anger of victims or show real commitment to change.

The Pope has stated that priests and religious workers guilty of child abuse must answer for these crimes before properly constituted tribunals. It is not clear whether he means that they must surrender themselves to police and face justice through the channels of the criminal justice system. This needs to be clarified. It is reassuring to see that Germany has taken a stand by saying that all cases of child sexual abuse within the church will now be referred immediately to the police.

Pope Benedict XVI, who served as Archbishop of Munich from 1977 to 1982, has yet to speak about the hundreds of abuse cases emerging in Germany, which are now affecting two-thirds of diocese there. He approved the transfer of a priest accused of child sexual assault for treatment instead of informing German police. This priest was subsequently reinstated and went on to allegedly abuse more children. In 2001, while a cardinal at the Vatican, the now Pope wrote a letter instructing bishops worldwide to report all cases of abuse to his office and keep Church investigations secret under threat of excommunication. The Vatican insists the secrecy rules serve only to protect the integrity of the Church’s investigations, and should not be taken to mean the Church should not tell police of their members’ crimes.

With scandals burgeoning in Italy, Switzerland, Austria, The Netherlands, Poland and Brazil in addition to previous crises in Canada, the US and Australia, it is time for fundamental change. And it is high time the Church’s priority shifts from institutional risk minimisation and protecting sex offenders within the church and focuses on protecting children and dealing with the needs of the victims.

Dr Cathy Kezelman is chairwoman of Adults Surviving Child Abuse.


Launch of Fear Factor Terror Incognito

Susanne and Cathy at Susanne's launch

This afternoon I was delighted to go along to the grand old Hughenden Hotel in Woollahra Sydney to attend the launch of Fear Factor Terror Incognito. The irrepressible Susanne Gervay, one of the 19 contributors to this work  spoke passionately about the desire of all the authors involved to make a statement about humanity and our common bond in the fight against terror. She said that this book is working towards achieving ‘world peace’ and that for a change, those making the statement really mean it! 

With contributions by Salman Rushdie, David Malouf, Thomas Keneally, this book is a serious work. It was the brainchild of Meenakshi Bharat and Shaon Rundle and as Susanne said, the editors were inundated with short story contribtuions. Their drive and dedication has produced an emotive and powerful work.

Your survival is remarkable and profound

I have read your book.  Your survival is remarkable and profound, as is your expose’ expressed in parts.  This shocking story, sickening to the soul, serves to give hope, at least to other survivors embarking on the road to recovery.  I am amazed at your resilience and compulsion to deal with very difficult issues.  Congratulations on articulating this very difficult history.

I wish you continued success on your road to recovery, in finding the life that was robbed of you!

Thank you for sharing it with us.

 From John

A personal message

A book ‘in parts’ is clever and apt.

 I can understand the repression.  I cannot imagine the annihilating isolation of your childhood.  How well we are masked … for who can tell

what goes on beneath the surface.  It is a credit to you that you have come  throught it.  You have always presented as a happy well-adjusted


 Your willingness to share such personally humilating acts against your  person speaks of recovery.  The speeches of your children also bring glory  to your soul – they are impressive.

 How you managed the return of mental devastation for 10 plus years is  amazing.   Nevertheless, you remain the talented, committed, true,

 interesting and pleasant person I first met.  Thanks for sharing with and  trusting others … and yourself.

from Daphne

An inspiring account

Cathy Kezelman’s book is an inspiring account of her quest as an adult to confront and then move past the deep psychic trauma of her sexual abuse as a child.  Remarkably the author illuminates the defence of dissociation and gives voice to the fragmented parts into which, in order to survive, her childish self disintegrated. The book is a testament to a wonderful therapist, a loving husband and the author’s own courage in reclaiming lost parts of herself and integrating them into a whole self for the first time in her adult life. It provides hope that despite childhood trauma a good life can still be achieved.

Dr. Susan Kempler

Book helpful for practitioners

I think the book is very helpful to practitioners. I have finished reading it and I have told my group of counselling studnets at ACAP all about it.

For me it reinforces the idea that therapy is not about a bunch of skills and techniques, it is about the safe, respectful relationship that is created between the counsellor and client.

The book has provided me with another layer of understanding regarding the conflict and confusion for a child when sexually abused by a loved one. The dialogue of the child, which goes between monster daddy and nice daddy is really effective in highlighting the challenges for the child and that sense of responsibility for the well being of the parent.

The discusion relating to dissociation and the fragmentation as well as flashbacks can be very informative for  a practitioner.