On the evening of August 26th at Oakleigh in Melbourne, Chrissie Foster and her co-author Paul Kennedy launched their book, “Hell on the way to Heaven”
“Chrissie and Anthony Foster were like any other young family, raising their three daughters in suburban Melbourne with what they hoped were the right values. Chrissie could not have known that the stranger-danger she feared actually lurked in the presbytery attached to the girls’ Catholic primary school. Father Kevin O’Donnell, a long-term paedophile, lived and worked there.
Two of their young daughters became victims of O’Donnell. And once the truth was revealed, the Fosters began a battle to find out how this could have happened. The Church offered silence, lies, denials and threats. Meanwhile, their daughters tried to piece together their fractured lives.
This is the chilling true story that made national and international headlines. Chrissie Foster’s heartbreaking account of her family’s suffering, and their determination to stand up for themselves against the might of the Catholic Church, is testament to the strength of a mother’s love, and the resilience of the human spirit.”
The launch event was an emotional moving evening of reflection, yet also celebration. Anthony Foster was the MC for what was a very poignant night. Present were well over 200 people – family and friends as well as other survivors of the paedophile priest, Father O’Donnell.
I attended with my husband, Dan as well as Nikki Wells, founder of SCAA (Survivors of Clergy Abuse Australia) had flown from Sydney to be there. Also present were representatives from Broken Rites, Childwise and Professor Chris Goddard, Director Child Abuse Research Australia.
Chrissie spoke with strength, conviction and resolve, and several people read passages from the book to a hushed crowd. Another victim of O’Donnell, John, the person who had first gone to the police to speak out about the crimes committed against him by the paedophile priest spoke and shared his poetry with us. As Anthony pointed out, had he not had the courage to report the crimes against him, this story many never have been told and the reasons for Emma and Katie’s troubles may never have been understood.
Sadly Emma did not survive her demons and Katie lives with the legacy of her abuse daily, having been severely disabled when she walked in front of a car, having become a binge-drinker to help her cope. Chrissie and Anthony have steadfastly stood up and spoken out against the crimes perpetrated on their daughters and about the devastating responses, or lack thereof from the Catholic Church.
This book is a must read as it exposes not only the devastation of child sexual assault but the damage which can be reaped when victims are not supported, such crimes are ignored and perpetrators are not brought to justice.