The sister of a man who alleges he was also sexually abused by George Pell says the family is not dismayed the Cardinal's second trial is not going ahead, as they feel a sense of justice has been served.
They also hope Pell's conviction will spur other victims of sexual assault to come forward and seek support.
Karen Monument said she was compelled to speak out on behalf of her family, particularly her brother Lyndon who has been left overwhelmed by the week's events, after seeing two former Australian prime ministers, Tony Abbott and John Howard as well as News Corp columnist Andrew Bolt publicly defend Pell in the wake of his conviction.
Jesuit priest Frank Brennan also moved to cast doubt on the guilty verdict suggesting that the jury discarded the defence’s compelling arguments.
"All of you have had something to say that has affected me – now it’s my turn," Ms Monument said.
Lyndon Monument alleges he was sexually assaulted by Pell at Eureka Pool in the 1970s. He was due to give evidence in the cardinal's second trial.
That trial, dubbed the 'swimmer's trial,' is no longer going ahead due to issues with evidence.
In a statement provided to The Age, Ms Monument also praised the work of the jury who found Pell guilty.
"In all of this noise, their message comes through quietly, powerfully and is directed to those who have not yet come forward and sadly to those who are yet to have their experience – you are safe, we believe you," she said.
Mr Monument was among the first to come forward with allegations he had been sexually abused by Pell, whom he claims put his hands down the front of his bathers during a game in the water at the Eureka Pool.
"The impact of child sexual abuse inflicted by members of the Catholic Church began reverberating in my family home almost 40 years ago and culminated in the loss of a brother to suicide just over 10 years ago," Ms Monument said.
That brother is understood to have been sexually abused by a different clergy member.
"I did not think that my family could ever experience a pain and a darkness like that ever again. But I was wrong."
The decision to come forward with allegations against George Pell, almost four years ago, set my brother, myself and my family on a journey that has had equally dark times and inflicted stress that I did not, at times, think we would survive."
Pell, 77, is in prison waiting to be sentenced after being found guilty of sexually assaulting two 13-year-old choirboys at St Patrick's Cathedral in East Melbourne in the 1990s, when he was Archbishop of Melbourne.
Lyndon's close friend, Damian Dignan, also accused Pell of sexually abusing him in the pool as a child.
He died from terminal cancer just months before court proceedings began.
Ms Monument also deplored Pell's barrister, Robert Richter, QC, for his remarks during a sentencing submission in which he described Pell's offending as "no more than a plain vanilla sexual penetration case".
"The words spoken by Robert Richter in court ... have gone round and round in my mind since I first read them," she said. "They will impact survivors for days, weeks and for months."
The prominent Melbourne-based barrister was heavily criticised after he made the comments and apologised on Thursday night for any distress they caused describing it as a "terrible choice of phrase” for which he was "profusely" sorry.
I am the sister of a complainant (and myself a witness) in the now abandoned ‘swimmers trial’ against George Pell – the reasons for which I fully understand and am comfortable with.
I want to be clear the purpose of this letter is not to rage against the abandonment of that trial but a response to comments made by and the actions of a few particular men in the public eye over recent days.
All of you have had something to say that has affected me – now it’s my turn.
The impact of child sexual abuse inflicted by members of the Catholic Church began reverberating in my family home almost 40 years ago and culminated in the loss of a brother to suicide just over 10 years ago.
I did not think that my family could ever experience a pain and a darkness like that ever again. But I was wrong.
The decision to come forward with allegations against George Pell, almost four years ago, set my brother, myself and my family on a journey that has had equally dark times and inflicted stress that I did not, at times, think we would survive.
The words spoken by Robert Richter in court on Wednesday (I will not repeat them) have gone round and round in my mind since I first read them.
The impact those words had on survivors is well documented across social media platforms, they will impact survivors for days, weeks and for some months.
I am sorry you had to endure such disrespect and further harm.
I hope that you have the support and care that you need right now.
What I also observe is the impact those words had on ‘us’ who are not victims.
Why? Because they gave us an incomprehensible taste of what survivors face and endure through the various systems they navigate for both justice and compensation.
It was unimaginable to the ordinary person that such an abhorrent experience could be referred to in such a callous way, in an effort to extract leniency. I also lost sleep.
Social media has facilitated an overwhelming negative public response to the decision by John Howard for providing a character reference.
Andrew Bolt's continued tirades depict the victims as unreliable and worse, always with his trademark air of arrogance and judgement.
Father Frank Brennan used his position and the media, to demonstrate the ‘innocence’ of his friend because it ‘simply wasn’t possible’, providing details about time here and there as well as garments supposedly secured.
Thousands of victims who told their stories to the royal commission recounted how acts of abuse could occur in the most brazen and ‘impossible’ ways – predators strike when you least expect it, with speed and precision and if well-practised in the slightest of opportune moments.
What dampens my rage and instead restores my faith in being human is how the public has sent the strongest of messages to these men of white privilege and power.
You no longer rule our world.
As they scramble to hold on to their perceived entitlement, they continue to personify what enabled a system of abuse against children for all to see.
The well-deserved public backlash that has been directed at these men has been both eloquent and raw and completely united in its message – you are no longer of much interest to us.
For they have been conquered by 12 ordinary people, installed on a jury and tasked with listening to ‘all’ the evidence and to return a verdict beyond reasonable doubt – they were unanimous – guilty.
It can’t have been easy, will have taken courage and conviction, caused sleepless nights and returned them to their families changed from their experience.
In all of this noise, their message comes through quietly, powerfully and is directed to those who have not yet come forward and sadly to those who are yet to have their experience – you are safe, we believe you.
Thank you, to the 12, for inspiring me to use my voice and my right to free speech.
If you or anyone you know needs support, you can contact the National Sexual Assault, Domestic and Family Violence Counselling Service on 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732), Lifeline 131 114, or beyondblue 1300 224 636. Blue Knot Foundation 1300 657 380
- The Age
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