Til It Happens To You


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I  had my hair done yesterday by a professional.  I can’t tell you how decadent it felt to have someone wash and style it. I had previously painted my hair in turquoise and aqua tones with fudge, and cut it myself, much to the amusement of the real hairdresser. She was a beautiful young woman, and confessed that she wants to write. I hope I convinced her that she could; that she had many untold stories begging to be shared. She watched my daughter dancing to the music over the salon’s speakers, and quietly wondered what her children would be like. “It is a delicious surprise,” I smiled. “They will bring more joy than you ever anticipated.” After my hair was done, I bid this angel farewell. I had Lady GaGa’s song, Til it Happens to you in my head. I had watched in awe as she performed this extraordinary song at The Oscars. For over twenty years, I have tried to articulate my experience, and damn, this song said it all. I was rendered speechless after hearing it.

I boarded the bus home, and a news bulletin came on the radio. Cardinal Pell had been speaking in Rome, and essentially proclaimed that children weren’t believed back in ‘those days.’ He wasn’t even sure that he knew it was a crime. He took no responsibility. A lady seated near me called out to the bus driver that she was infuriated by his response. The driver grimly nodded and I stroked my little girl’s hair, silent. I wondered how many on that bus had been abused as children.

13 years of age
13 years of age

I recall the dread I felt when I needed to go to the toilet after being repeatedly raped. I would cry and shriek in pain, my kidneys infected and my ureter bleeding. Still, nobody helped. Everybody knew and the good people that were trying to make it stop, were syphoned far away from me. I was urged to drink more water. Day after day after day of being abused. Death seemed a more attractive option than living at the time.

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I was in the clinic with a decorated photographer. She shot for Vogue amongst other publications, and her mother had a title, by order of the Queen. She handed me a beautiful green journal, and urged me to write. “Song lyrics, words and sources of inspiration,” she advised. “One day you will open it, and see how far you have come.”

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Oh yes, I have come a long way. I don’t quite know how I pulled it off. I was pounced on like I was game and he was the hunter. When I was bloodied and damaged, I was discarded. There will be one indelible image seared into my mind when I recall the Royal Commission of 2015-2016. It will be a spouse’s retort to a columnist who had defended Pell. This is Clare Linane’s eloquent response.

It is always there, waiting to be triggered. I tiptoe through life, roaming the vast, wild coastline, visiting Sydney’s Islands and watching theatre. Perennially searching for beauty. It helps. Everyone who has been alone with the horror of abuse as a child can take comfort at the outrage today. They are being held accountable. At last! At last! It doesn’t take away the pain and anger stemming from the years of silence. I hope that in your search for peace, you stumble upon things of beauty too. We shall never be silenced again.

Tim Minchin, Fund for Healing and the Royal Commission


-Trigger Warning

In Australia, a Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse is taking place. Dates have been set aside for hearings specifically regarding the church authorities in Ballarat. Cardinal Pell (who was Archbishop of Melbourne from 1996-2001), was due to give evidence from the 29th February to 2nd March. He has stated that he is unfit to travel from Rome to answer his critics and face the victims of child sexual abuse (those who survived). Under Pell’s leadership, The Melbourne Response was born. Some victims were offered compensation with a clause recognizing that the church had no liability. It has been heard at the hearings that Pell tried to bribe a victim of abuse in order to prevent the abuse being made public. In 2013, Pell admitted in a Parliamentary inquiry that his church had covered up abuse for fear of scandal; that his predecessor had destroyed records and moved paedophile priests from parish to parish. -Source Wikipedia

A fund has been set up, to give the victims of childhood sexual abuse the opportunity to travel to Rome and confront him. It is a big part of their healing. The master wordsmith, Tim Minchin, has put out the extraordinary song below.

I befriended quite a few students who attended a now-notorious Catholic boy’s school in the 80’s and 90’s. They confided to me the abuse they were suffering. I saw these young boys age from eleven through to fifteen years. They grew taller, though somehow seemed to wither, their shoulders rounded and backs hunched. They ran away, wagged school and drank to blot out the pain. A few turned to drugs. Many eventually committed suicide. I would hold these crying boys in my arms, and assure them that one day, the truth would come out. “People will care what happened to you. Please, just hold on,” I would plead. It has taken a very long time and as I said, many boys aren’t here to take part in the Royal Commission. The survivors need to see Pell take the stand and look them in the eye. People have been putting money into the fund in droves. I pray that the surviving boys have lived to see it. People care, and it is now your time to be heard and validated. Royal Commissions are important to ensure such horror never has the opportunity to take place again.