Quick Exit

Experiences Shared

Charlotte

All names and identifying details have been changed.

Participants have given us permission to share their experiences.

Charlotte grew up in a strict, religious family. From a young age she was sexually abused by her father and other abusers. When she found the courage to report the abuse during confession to a priest, Father Callum, she hoped he would help her.

Instead, Father Callum approached her father and they began sexually abusing her together. Charlotte recalls that the abuse became more brutal after Father Callum became involved.

Charlotte recounts that the abuse would take place regularly in the church itself. Father Callum assaulted her while she was praying and threatened her that she would go to hell and that those close to her would die if she ever told anyone.

Her mother was the only loving person in her life at the time and she was terrified by these threats. She remembers sitting by her mother’s bedside watching her sleeping, to check she was still breathing.

Her abuser also used physical threats to frighten her. She was taken to remote places in the area and threatened with being chained up where the rats would come and eat her. 

Charlotte was terrified by Father Callum's behaviour and threats. She came to believe her soul was evil and mentally tried to disassociate from it to try and cope with what was happening to her.

In her teenage years, she became pregnant after being raped by a group of the abusers. At an advanced stage of her pregnancy, Charlotte was take to a remote place by  her abusers and the birth of her baby was induced and her baby was born prematurely.

Charlotte was terrified that her baby’s soul would go to limbo if they died and she cried out that the baby hadn’t been baptised, begging them to stop.

Charlotte retained her faith, despite all that had happened to her, and as a young teenager she later went away to a convent to become a nun. During one holiday period she had difficulty catching transport home and was invited to stay overnight at the home of someone she thought was a safe person, a female friend she had been introduced to through the convent.

That night, the woman tried to sexually abuse Charlotte, which Charlotte believed was her fault. When she returned to the convent, she confessed about it. At the end of the following term, Charlotte was told she could not return to the convent.

Several years ago, Charlotte says she approached the diocese to obtain financial assistance in paying for the significant cost of the therapy she needed. The diocese agreed to pay some compensation if she had evidence that her allegations were credible.

For this reason, Charlotte reported the abuse to the police, but due to the lasting fear she had of Father Callum, she could only bring herself to disclose limited details about the abuse. He was eventually convicted of sexual offences against others.

Charlotte believes the diocese failed to follow its own safeguarding policies and procedures regarding Father Callum. They undertook an independent review but said that no evidence was found.

She is very angry that the church says publicly how seriously it is taking sexual abuse but her own experiences show this to be entirely untrue.

Because of the abuse, Charlotte says she has suffered physically, psychologically, emotionally, financially and spiritually. She experiences flashbacks, an intense fear of evil, darkness and the devil, and a fear of the death of those close to her.

Charlotte hopes that by sharing her truth with the Inquiry that she may be able to move with her life. Despite all that has happened to her she says ‘I’ve put my life back together and I manage quite well most of the time’.

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