WHEN Gary walks into the Ballarat Centre Against Sexual Assault, he feels like he leaves an alien world behind.
“I feel like I’m in a trusted environment. I don’t have to watch my back all the time,” Gary said.
Gary, who didn’t want his last name used, was a victim of clergy sexual abuse and spent many years in his shell.
But when he heard a news bulletin announcing the perpetrator had been sentenced to 14 years’ jail, he was literally shocked into action.
“I nearly had a heart attack. I got the shock of my life.
“I ended up finding the solicitor involved and they said it sounds like you need counselling and recommended CASA.
“I did it all within a day.”
Gary said as soon as he attended CASA counselling sessions and then group therapy, he finally realised he wasn’t alone.
“It was like an awakening. If people out there are reading this and recognise the similarities, they need to push themselves and contact somebody.
“They need to do it. They can’t not do it. It will be the best decision of their life.
“It’s given me a chance of a happier future.”
Gary said the group, which had about 10 members, was laid back and members could talk about anything they wanted to, not just the abuse.
“We talk about problems we might be having and try to work things out together. It’s a very trusting environment.”
The CASA group includes people affected by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, with CASA support provided in preparing and presenting submissions, attending the hearings and ongoing therapeutic counselling.
Ballarat CASA manager Shireen Gunn said there was some confusion about federal funding for the Royal Commission, which has been given to Relationships Australia.
“Some clients have assumed they can no longer access our service. This is not true. It is business as usual for us,” Ms Gunn said.
“The Victorian CASAs are funded by the Victorian Department of Human Services and have continued to be funded to provide support to anyone affected by the issues related to the Royal Commission.”
The group meets fortnightly on a Tuesday from 5.30pm for a couple of hours and includes a pizza tea.
Anyone wishing to join the group or access individual counselling and support can contact CASA on 5320 3933 or free call 1800 806 292.