No amount of time or institutional muscle can match the power of the truth.
With the impending release of a Victorian parliamentary inquiry report, it appears the truth of institutional responses to child abuse is about to come out.
Abuse survivors have high hopes for the report’s findings, which come after an arduous 12 months of hearings around the state, involving often graphic and harrowing stories of sexual and physical abuse.
Judy Courtin, who is doing a PhD on sexual abuse and the Catholic Church, said the release of the report was hugely significant for victims.
“I think it will be a huge day for the victims and their families,” she said.
“They’ve opened up their hearts and souls to give evidence, which is always traumatic for them, and they will be hoping that there will be equal respect, if you like, coming back in the report.”
Among the testimony was the startling accusation from police that the Catholic Church destroyed evidence, shielded pedophile clergy members and put its own image ahead of the needs of victims.
In its response, the church acknowledged past failures but said it was not aware of a single example of a clergy authority not cooperating with police.
The church says it stands by its Melbourne Response and Towards Healing processes for handling abuse complaints.
But Father Kevin Dillon, who has spent two decades working with survivors, says Towards Healing and the Melbourne Response need an overhaul.
“The church has been maintaining what is seen by many victims as an adversarial approach and a lot of damage has been done,” he said.
“To my knowledge, no great successes have been brought forward of people saying they were dealt with quickly and with compassion.
“I would like to see that all those victims are free to seek support, help and, as necessary, financial support from the church.”
Stephen Woods, who was abused by a pedophile priest, says the strength of the report is a litmus test for the parliament.
“I want to see people being held accountable,” he told AAP.
“This is a time in Australia’s history when politicians, when people in power of all areas, will be put to the test.”
Dr Vivian Waller, a lawyer who represents several victims, says the report should be a vindication for those who had until now suffered in silence.
“There are plenty of people who believe in the quiet power of the truth,” she said.
“We may not have the might and the muscle and the wealth of the Catholic Church, but speaking the truth has its own power and its own authenticity.”
The committee’s work was a catalyst for the federal government’s decision a year ago to hold a royal commission to investigate responses of religious, state and community groups to child sexual abuse.
The commission, which could take several years to finish, is expected to use the findings of the Victorian report.
Anthony Foster’s two daughters were abused by a priest and one later committed suicide. He said the Victorian report could do very little for his family.
“It’s not going to restore the lives of my children,” he said.
“What we’re looking for out of it is to see other victims benefit.
“I’ll be pleased to see it on the table and I look forward to seeing what is actually done about it.”
The committee is due to hand its report to the Victorian parliament by November 15.