Quick Exit

Experiences Shared

Victoria

All names and identifying details have been changed.

Participants have given us permission to share their experiences.

Victoria was in her 30s when her memories surfaced of the sexual abuse she was subjected to as child. The trigger for this was being told by her mother that her uncle had been charged with child sexual abuse.

Previously, she says her only recollection of childhood had been a vision of complete darkness and a large man’s hand. On hearing the news about her uncle, she began to experience flashbacks, seeing clear images of herself in a church and reliving the experience of being sexually abused. 

As the memories returned, she recalled going with her mother to visit her uncle, who lived with her grandparents in another town. Her uncle took her on a day trip with her grandparents, while her mother stayed home. On the way home, he stopped at a church and took Victoria inside, leaving her grandparents in the car. 

Victoria says she did not think this was unusual, because her uncle was a priest. They both knelt at the altar to pray, starting with the Lord’s Prayer then the Hail Mary, and Victoria remembers that her uncle chastised her for not knowing the words. He then took her into a side room where he undressed her and sexually abused her.

Afterwards, he told her to get dressed. Even though she did not understand what had happened, she remembers feeling dirty and confused.

Victoria says she felt unable to tell her mother what had happened to her. Her mother had mental health difficulties that meant she was admitted to hospital for lengthy periods. Sometimes Victoria would be placed in foster care or act as carer for her mother. She saw her role as protecting her vulnerable mother. At home they had no luxuries and Victoria received free school meals.

By contrast, her uncle and Victoria’s grandparents were comfortably off and well respected in their community. She later learned that her mother and her mother’s siblings, including her uncle, had been sexually and physically abused by Victoria’s grandparents. Victoria’s mother told her that due to their authority in the church ‘they were above question’ and seen as upstanding members of the community.

Despite Victoria’s difficult childhood, she studied at college. At the time of recalling the memories of her abuse she had a responsible job that involved working with young people and supporting them with their difficult experiences. Within a few days of the realisation of what had happened to her, she began to drink and and she cut her own arm. She says that looking at those scars reminds her of what they represent.

Victoria says that she is grateful to the man who had the courage to go to court and tell of her uncle’s abuse of him. When her uncle was found not guilty she felt bad that she had not come forward and worried for the welfare of the man who did.

At one point, Victoria says she considered suicide. However, she found a very supportive friend and following the death of her mother she finally feels free to talk about her abuse.

She recommends compulsory chaperoning for children within the church and that the church’s role as a ‘moral compass for society’ is questioned.

Victoria also thinks that the Truth Project should have a permanent role in hearing and recording the experiences of victims and survivors of child sexual abuse.

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