“If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to abuse one.”
The words of clergy sexual abuse victims attorney, Mitch Garabedian, in the film Spotlight are as harrowing as they are true to Ballarat.
The film details a real-life Pulitzer winning investigation by the Boston Globe’s Spotlight team, a group of five investigative journalists, who uncovered widespread sexual abuse of children by scores of the district’s clergy in 2002.
In a gut-wrenchingly familiar pattern, clergy in Boston abuse children for decades but rather than report priests accused of sexual assault to police, the Catholic hierarchy in Boston shuffled offenders from parish to parish and paid victims for their silence.
And, just like in Ballarat the culture of secrecy in Boston spanned further than the clergy, trickling down into the police force who assisted the Catholic Church to hide the abuse.
Documents detailing the abuse were destroyed or hidden and parishioners were pressured into silence by senior clergy.
Last year, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse exposed a widespread conspiracy to conceal child sex abuse by a disgraced priest was orchestrated by leaders of the Catholic Church and Victoria Police.
Former Mildura detective Denis Ryan, 83, told the inquiry how his investigation into numerous child sex abuse allegations against Day was thwarted by senior police officers in the early 1970s.
The men were actively working for the church and against officers investigating rogue priests and Mr Ryan told the inquiry the police officers were known as the “Catholic Mafia.”
A group of men who concealed crimes, tipped off offending priests and allowed them to continue to sexually abuse children in a disturbingly misguided attempt to protect the Catholic Church.
But the truth remains, years before the Spotlight team’s exposé, survivors of Ballarat clergy sexual abuse were already emerging from the darkness and pushing for the truth.
Notorious paedophile priest Gerald Ridsdale has been imprisoned since 1994 for sex crimes against children because victims tirelessly crusaded for the truth to prevail.
The Boston Spotlight investigation finally gave their plight the global platform it long deserved.
Perhaps the most tragic parallel between Ballarat and Boston is the indistinguishable trail of destruction the sexual abuse left behind and the emotional toll it took on survivors, many of who turned to alcohol, drugs or suicide when the pain was too much to bear.
In 2012, Ballarat Detective Kevin Carson directly linked 40 suicides to the sexual abuse perpetrated by a small number of paedophile clergy, including Gerard Ridsdale, Bryan Coffey, Paul Ryan, Robert Best and Edward Dowlan.
A profound message emerges out of the film: It’s not just a Ballarat or Boston issue, it’s a worldwide tragedy with no geographical bounds.
The credits list more than 200 instances of sexual abuse by Catholic priests worldwide, including Ballarat.
A premiere of the film was organised on Thursday night by Loud Fence to raise money to establish a Centre Against Sexual Assault Men Survivors Group in Sunbury for Ballarat diocese abuse survivor Paul Levey.
The sold out event raised more than $2300 in ticket sales and donations.
The money will go directly to funding a support group for Mr Levey and a number of other clergy abuse victims. A lack of funding means there is a four month wait for sex abuse victms seeking help at CASA in Sunbury.
Spotlight is now showing at the Regent Cinema in Ballarat.
Lifeline: 13 11 14.