Citizen Journalism

Nancy Cato’s hopes for the Royal Commission into Institutional sexual abuse of children

In Nancy Cato on April 29, 2013 at 11:52 AM
Royal Commission
Created by Alan Moir
By Nancy Cato
April 29, 2013
This is my final attempt to face my demons, or at least some of them. It’s only taken 37 years.
In 1976 as a young mother with a newborn babe – my third child – I read a story of a shocking case of Child Abuse; it told of a father shaking his baby and throwing her against a wall after molesting her.
It traumatised me – still does – my hands are shaking as I recount this story. I‘ve been in denial for many years and because I wish to make a positive contribution to the scourge of  Child Abuse that’s in out midst (as I tried to do in my early television days) I must face it.
My catalyst is the recently appointed Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse. At its first hearing on 3 April 2013 Justice McClellan AM, the chair for the Royal Commission, acknowledged that there had been harm committed against children that has caused lasting damage.
It’s a start.
I will admit that I’ve been further stung into action by the recent suggestion from a well-known radio broadcaster that a young girl may have herself  provoked the sexual attack she suffered.
This piece is dedicated to victims of Child Abuse wherever you may be, no matter your age or circumstances. It was not easy to write, albeit fantasised and is probably less easy to read – and for that I do apologise. I hope some of you will persevere to the end.
It is not aimed at any one Institution, person, place or thing… but rather, we ourselves; this society that would seem to want to protect its borders more fiercely than its children.

Sometimes, when opening up my eyes – not always from the deep of sleep, but still more like the realm of reality than waking time incurs – I see things that I ought not see, disturbing scenes such as the one before me now.
My hands are guided to these keys and yet I cannot write. The screen – clouded with a mist of grey – has mesmerised my eyes but in the distance I make out a group of children playing in a park. The images draw near and then to my distress I see that what I thought was play is nothing of the kind. Each child avoids another’s gaze and stands alone as if in haunted states of disarray. They’re all in grey attire, mostly rags – toddlers, others every age to nearing teens and one with a baby in her arms. A closer look shows why there is no tumbling fun, no shrieks of laughter reaching out to catch a friend; for in each face, the eyes have lost the shine of children’s play – replaced by hopelessness itself.
A young girl comes into view. She’s not in rags but dressed incongruously in a pink confection of party dress; brand new yet stained and torn. She looks distressed and shuffles awkwardly towards me.  Reaching out – she can’t be more than six years old – her fingers touch the screen and with her small face quite close to mine, whispers, “Can you help us?”
“What’s the matter?” I reply, forgetting I’m addressing someone on a screen.
“It’ll be here soon. It keeps on….” and then she stops, looking around fearfully.
“What is it? What are you afraid of? What keeps…..”
“Come with me,” she says, cutting me off with such urgency I somehow find myself in the mist, following her. She leads me to a small lane where several cottages sit awkwardly as though embarrassed by their neglect. We enter one and she throws open the door to a small room and I draw back as I see a man with a tiny baby.
“He can’t see you’, says the girl and I shudder as I see the man shake the baby violently,  screaming at it. To my shame – knowing what’s going to happen next – I turn and run out the door through the mist. I run as hard as I can but seem to make no progress, then, remembering the girl I turn back and see her huddled on the ground. It’s the same girl but now as though Time has steered off course, she appears to be only two or three years old. She starts to whimper then gives way to throated cries that rock her little body back and forth. “Don’t let him Mummy…please…no dress.”
I reach out to comfort her but the grey mist darkens and something is pulling me backwards. Petrified I shall not reach my own Time Zone again I scream out to her: “Tell someone; tell someone what is happening” – and the screen then turns to black.
I cannot get this image from my mind and try to press the button OFF – but destiny will not allow and takes me to another scene.
A Market Square.
It’s bright and colourful – full of crowds of happy, eager folk searching for that bargain they must have; stall-holders are hustling their tricks of trade that make the bargains look ‘just so’ – and dogs and youngsters on the ground share spoils of lovers’ inattention to their meals. Many of the adults (eclectic, ethnic mix and each from every state and stage of being) have children in their care; some ‘mewling and puking’ in their mothers’ arms and others looking joyfully from shoulders high at siblings pulled along by brawny hands.
It’s one such child that breaks free now – dancing vivaciously towards me, twirling with the energy that only childhood brings. She looks straight at me behind the glass…so sweet of smile and nimble of limb I am beguiled, till with a jolt I recognise the dress and see her as the one that only moments ago, it seems, was pleading for my help.
“My name’s Douglas,” she giggles without pause. “Daddy thought I’d be a boy.”
“Is everything all right?” I whisper, the earlier scenes still vivid in my mind. “Where are the others?”
“Daddy’s taking me to buy a dress,” she offers as if she hasn’t heard, but something catches in her eyes and she adds, “I try to be good”. Her attention is suddenly drawn to a sound behind her and she whirls around with startled cry as a man pushes through the crowd to reach her, his face contorted, angry, yelling “Get back here Douglas” He grabs her roughly, pulling her arm as she tries to reach out to me, her little body shakes with fear – and I scream “tell somebody”. But the now familiar dark grey mist comes down and Douglas disappears.
Unnerved and weeping unashamedly, I see the Market Place erupt as ugliness descends and children run in all directions through the stalls. They hide their eyes whilst elders brawl; they hear attacks of every kind with kicks and punches flying blind upon the weak; they hear their sisters’ cries; and when an altar boy comes crashing down a priest resplendent in his robes enjoys the feast. They hear some men and women – both in drunken rage or lustful ecstasy from pill or juicy potion – wield their pickets and their glass until they find their children to assault; the children cannot watch the glint of unsheathed knives whilst knowing other weapons will appear, and as they run they see all adult reason cease – trampled to the ground wherein lies dignity in tears.
I search for Douglas in the crowd ashamed I’ve somehow let her down, and wonder from which year it is. Or is it time gone by…or not yet past?
I try to slam the lid on this distressing scene, and only cease as suddenlya hush precedes a violent, crashing sound that opens panic’s doors on this the open Market Place, and people try to flee the solid walls that now surround.
“Order!” screams a voice so full of power the masses freeze and fall down where they are and look about with fearful dread. As well they might: They’re in a Court of Law.
“All stand!” the voice commands, and as the people rise – tentative, dazed – a Judge appears and takes his lofty chair. I see this is no usual Court of Law. There is no gown or wig, yet on this Judge’s head an outsized hat resides with faded tag assuring there is Justice. The Prosecutor, to the right, stands tall – Opinion, flamboyant on his gown and yet another word I partly see, lies hidden ‘tween the folds. He nods approval to the crowd, acknowledging its sudden recognition and support. There’s no Attorney for Accused although a robe with no apparent label idly lies across a table to the left.
“Bring in the Prisoner!”
I expect to see a member of the rabble from outside brought in to justice – but no, a tiny child is roughly handed up then pushed into the dock. She is but six years old, so slight of limb and wide of eye, one thinks of frightened horses in a crowd. With sickening jolt I see her clear. Tis Douglas, self-same child in party dress of pink-now-turned-to-grey; the one who turned to me for help. A tut of disapproval struts around within the room and further murmurings take hold – erupting as a shrieking chorus to the tune “Again?”
Judge: Silence! What is the charge against this child?
Opinion: Provocation, Your Honour! The charge is Provocation!
Judge: Proceed with Opening Remarks.
Opinion: My Lord! The accused, this wretched child, will masquerade as virtue if set free. It will amount to nought but falsely bring my clients – all great men apart from one or two – to shame. “He did me wrong,” she squeals in girlish way; “…he put his hand and other parts that hurt, inside of me…” What vicious lies are these that pour out from her mouth? She has no status or no right to be parading thus, pretending virtue as her meme when all along she is intent with guile. Look upon her face; so well she knows what she is at; her very countenance betrays the protests of her type. See how she thrusts her tender breasts towards us now; see her hold her genitals just so…provoking with each stroke? Her doe-like eyes say “I’m the Victim here, please look on me”. My God, Your Honour, please be clear on who the Victims are in this sad case. Within my clients’ hearts, that’s where the suffering truly lies. A few good men that needs must give up worldly freedom and reveal their whereabouts for life, ridiculed and reviled and labelled paedophiles no less, when all they did was give her what she craved. My clients all are ordinary folk and Dignitaries and VIPs; Charities and men beholden to the Church. ‘Twas she who let it happen truth be told, provoked them, led them on. I shall display good cause to prove this charge of Provocation right; that she and all her ilk should be incarcerated till they grow – in true humility – befitting of their sex.
Until such time, deserve they nought but fullness of contempt.
Horrified and outraged by this speech, I yell out… but the Courtroom fades to black.
I imagine this will bring my nightmare to a close…but no…it is the wretched park again. As though the children see me now, they slowly shuffle forward one by one. There isn’t one you could call whole. Faces gaunt, expressionless, they’re hungry, cold, neglected and forlorn. The beatings and the blame have done their work, their labels clearly marked ‘Clumsy’ ‘Hopeless’ ‘Wicked’ and the like. The trauma’s clear. They give no indication that they know what Love could be, and only then I realize that I see the future of mankind.
They stand in line before me now, silent, waiting, as if they know I wish to speak yet know not what to say.
A lad of very tender years approaches and I see he has a stick to hold him steady as he stands. “Douglas told us what you said,” he falters, “She’s gone to tell – but some of us have no one…”
Against the power of instinct – as though the Pipes of Pan are tuning in to childhood’s needs and forcing me to face their pain, I shut my eyes and hold my breath and whisper, “Then tell…me.” And as the horror tales take shape with stumbling words and stutterings, the colour comes to cheeks and life to limb, the whispers turn to rushing sounds that shout down fears of those who have no voice; they tell me all and finding each a brother/sisterhood they turn and form a circle all together that no force will ever break.
Judge: Is there no one here to help defend this child?
I note the unclaimed robe no longer lies upon the table to the left. A figure stands before the judge and though it’s hidden by the hood – with sinking heart and fearful dread – I recognise the face to be my own.
Judge: Are you representing this child? What are your credentials?
Procrastination: Credentials I have none Your Honour! I’m here to put my silence to an end and beg your leave to stand this child down from the dock. She’s not the guilty one.
Opinion: Objection! She has no idea…
Judge: Overruled! You speak on this young child’s behalf – on whose authority?
Procrastination: It is the Voice of Childhood spurs me on.
Judge: You may proceed.
Procrastination: Your Honour! It’s famous voices on the air, and ones that moan and toll the Bell who say that children are to blame. Outdated, boorish, sexist yet, they give no reason for the charge except to save the souls of wealthy friends on high.
Opinion: Objection! There is no…
Judge: Let her speak.
Procrastination: It is the child who is the Victim here. Abused and yet Accused? ‘Tis many should be standing in that Dock for crimes against the children. It will come.
Voice from crowd: You’re a Liar. All lies. Opinion tells it how it is.
Judge: Order! No intervention from the courtroom is allowed. It seems contempt is freely here today.
Procrastination: Opinion, were it not for your most blinkered sense of what is right – this child and children would now stand free as equals, midst the sphere of Innocence.
A babe is born and from that second on perfection starts its swift decline, but till such time the child should take responsibility in full we must support its care. Who dares to blame the children for perversion gone astray when mindless cruelty or lust lie hidden in a robe?
This child, just six years from the womb is held here to be trialled – no reason for her guilt. Look at her! Her innocence is clear. There is no understanding yet of man-made guile to lure the passion of desire or stir up anger in the adult breast. This child no more knows this than why the flowers bloom or puppies chew. She yearns for Love that will be bludgeoned shortly from her heart – or nurtured to embrace the joy of life. You do not know the harm you wreak upon the child. While bruises heal and bones will mend, her life will be a constant, joyless dread.
Responsibility for this lies deep within your Court. I beg you hear the children’s plea.
Opinion: Enough of this preamble…I call on Witnesses Contempt!
Judge: Witnesses? Plural do you say? Good sir, you call but one.
Opinion: I beg indulgence of the Court: so many hold this child in deep contempt we thought it best to show en masse, the error of her ways. I call them ALL before you now.
Procrastination: Objection Your Honour. He cannot bring a crowd of people to the stand. ‘Tis HE who shows contempt.
Judge: Order! Order!
Procrastination: Children! Bring in the Guilty One!
Judge: Be seated, all of you. ORDER! ORDER!
But look! It is too late. Confusion reigns as witnesses advance towards the Stand and hurl abusive words towards the child. Some lunge as if to do her harm and she recoils as though she knows them well. Then suddenly a thunderous noise fills all the space and lights go out. A hush descends and from outside, the children’s voices can be heard – all loud and clear and strong.
A spread of light pervades the Court as doors fling open and the Children from the Park advance and sing “The Guilty One is here”. They’re in procession-form and Douglas rushes from the Dock to meet them at the head. Before them is a heaving, glutinous mass, like jelly from a mould, that – rolled by eager hands – is pushed into the Dock. The mist that once was grey – diluted now – still hovers, just above.
Opinion’s witnesses retreat and whimper to their seats to fearfully look on as this same mass begins to shake and wail its innocence to all. Transparent, one can see inside: in shapes of promises and threats and disempowering neglect, a blubbering mess of children’s dreams floats helplessly around; the running sores and scalding burns slide freely down the broken limbs and verbal curses roll around amongst cut lips and fresh-bruised flesh.
It moans, this mass that once was free; but captive now it roars its predatorial song and tries to reach the children, lurching forth – forgetting that with Love’s restraint – it can no longer feed the appetite that never seemed to end.
Procrastination: You see before you now this treacherous fool devoid of all disguise. Deprived of meals depravity prepares…it cannot live to prey upon the young. Let’s keep it so. For in the children’s hands the Future lies as surely as our own demise Lies hovering in the wind.
As if a camera films the room in motion slow, the mist and light recede and people try to be upright and look about. The heaving mass has disappeared and in its place the children all stand free. Small adult groups approach with open arms while others view the scene – a look of shameful horror on their brows, their heads bowed low, aware of this their final chance.
Some priests are on their knees: while others seek to be above the shame and sneak out with a crowd of likewise guilty folk that do not wish to face the blame. Their turn will come!
But will enlightenment hold sway should Child Abuse come knocking just once more?
The Judge departs; the Prosecutor throws his robes upon the bench and shakes his head in disbelief as clients walk away. I see his second label clearly now peep slyly from the folds. I trust you see it too.
The Voice of Childhood calls and leads the laughing children to the door. But Douglas turns and takes me by the hand. We run together through the park and down the little lane, and as we turn into the gate, the cottage in such disrepair before is showing signs of pride and care. The little bedroom door is open wide and tears fall as I see Douglas, woman now, attending to her babe with crooning song.
The whole screen fades to black and I can feel retreating demons. Warmth returns to fingers keen to write, of what?
Ah! Yes!
My gratitude for the beauty, grace and innocence of the Child.

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Dear Mr Woolies...from Nancy

Sunday 14 April 2013

Dear Mr Woolies,

Yes -  I know that’s not your real name but mine isn’t Lissen either – and that’s what your Manager kept calling me when he bawled me out recently.

“Lissen” he hissed…and he hissed it quite a few times which is pretty funny when you think about it – him trying to determine if I really WERE a deaf (and dear) little old lady – and all.

But I digress…

A few days ago one of your stores disgraced itself (for the first time? I have to ask.) It refused entry to a woman who obviously needed (and had) a properly-vested Assistance Dog with her. That’s illegal.

To salve your conscience and make her humiliation go away (Haha!) you threw to a Charity, a few of the dollars you make… (Aussie family businesses spring to mind.) And then it’s HiHo! and off we go to play on our very own Pokies and do WooliesWheelies on our considerable pieces of land and even better - see how much more cheap milk we can squeeze out of the teats of the few cows that remain in this country. Have I got it right?

But I digress…again!

The thing is, Mr Woolies…I got so angry I threw a tweet out on Friday night to the Twitter Cyber Space – you know, that 5th Estate called Social Media?


I may just as well have thrown my nifty little iPhone right into one of your BBQ'd chickens. Talk about MeltDown. Boy! If I hadn’t felt loved before, I certainly do now. Because, Mr Woolies…the 5th Estate is all about reaching out to people – REAL people…you know the ones? The ones that CARE about other people; the ones that by and large are not purple in the face from gobbling and stashing too many dollars under their tongues. (Heavens are you friends with Rupe and…gulp…Gina?)

Anyways! My tweet simply pointed out that you had kicked me and my dog out of a store also.

Thousands of people have read that Tweet now, Mr Woolies and I haven’t yet identified one that isn’t angry, shocked and ashamed of you. One, Andrew Elder, a wondrously intelligent blogger I’m cheeky enough to call a friend, suggested I write to you and invoke my little Granddaughters’ wrath upon your head. But somehow I think, on this one, I have to stand up for myself and all of the dear souls who cope with disability each and every day of their lives.

Here are the facts:

1.      Deaf since birth, aged 73 and living alone, I rely heavily on my Assistance Dog, Gilly who is worth MILLIONS (to me)
2.     I trained Gilly myself because I really do understand - after 73 years of owning and training  dogs and being deaf - what it is I need
3.     We’ve just moved to a new location by the sea
4.    One of your stores is walking distance from us
5.     Recently I went to this store
6.     I’ve always known that it’s required by law for Assistance Dogs to be identified by a vest that says ‘Trained by….’ or some such so I’ve NEVER tried to take Gilly inside a store. He doesn’t have such a vest
7.     However as this was my first trip to your store and I’m acutely conscious that Gilly is an extremely attractive little dog and has already survived one kidnap event, I tied him up as close to the entrance as possible
8.     Then I approached one of your staff whose job it is to stand at the entrance to direct people
9.     I asked her if she would mind just keeping an eye on Gilly now and then as I’m extremely dependent upon him and it’s pretty easy to slip a dog lead – if you’re of a mind to do that
10.  Well…talk about Mother Teresa…without hesitation she said, “Look if he’s an Assistance Dog, take him inside”
11.     I said “Are you sure?  I trained him myself and he doesn’t have a vest”
12.   “No, that’s fine” she said. “Take him in”
13.   So I did
14.  We had a great time
15.   Gilly didn’t pee on anything or molest the meat in the deli and certainly didn’t bite anyone on the bum
16.   Mind you…he did lead me to the Dog Biscuits…just like a kid knows where the Lollies are
17.   Anyway…I’d filled up my basket (No cheap milk though)… when this man came rushing up…right into my face (Latham’s handshake comes to mind)
18.   “Lissen” he said. “I don’t know that you’re deaf. You can’t have that dog in here. You’ll have to get out”
19.   “But…but” I protested. “Your staff INVITED us in”
20. “Then they were WRONG” he hissed. “You’re talking normally…how am I supposed to know if you’re deaf or not?”
21.   Now by this time, a crowd had gathered
22.  I can lip-read
23.  “Oerr” they said. Has she been caught shop-lifting?”
24. “Lissen” said the man who I now realized was the Manager. “Go and get a vest from the Lions” and he took out his phone as if to ring them on the spot.
25.  “Oerr” said the crowd. “He’s ringing the cops.”
26.  I’d had enough so I told the Manager I was leaving
27.  “Lissen” he said. “You can take take your goods…just pay for them on the way out
28.  He did NOT like the fact that I tipped everything out on to the counter and left, humiliated but with dignity intact
30. I must point out that the female staff were also much distressed
29.  I shall never return

The thing is, Mr Woolies, that you have every right to take the letter of the law into your own hands …but you have NO right to try to take a person’s dignity away.

I DID ring the Lions and they said they couldn’t provide me with a vest for Gilly because they didn’t train him. I understand. It’d be just terrible for the Lions if my Spoodle (Poodle/Cocker Spaniel X) Gilly started acting like a trained-to-kill mastiff of some kind.

And yes, I know that I could get some legal dog-trainer-company-whatever to assess him and provide a vest. But hey! I’m old and Gilly’s 6 and in his middle years. How do I get them to understand that THESE are the things my dog does for me?

·      When my alarm goes off he puts his paw on my face…until I tell him to sod off (nicely)
·      When the milkman comes from AussieFarmersDirect around midnight, he runs back and forth to let me know that the lovely man with the light on his head has put my goods on my doorstep
·      He tells me if someone I haven’t noticed, is trying to speak to me
·      If a cyclist rushes up behind me, he pulls me off the path
·      He tells me when an email has arrived and when the postman comes
·      He identifies the ambulance and the firetrucks and sings along with them too
·      In fact he knows each and every sound I NEED TO KNOW ABOUT
·      But he also reminds me that I must appreciate I have my sight and there are beautiful things to see, like bark on the trees and the sand blowing in the wind and the moon and rock pools teeming with innocent life
·      He helps me forget that you reminded me that when I was a child I was bullied by boys with sticks as the ‘little kid who cannot hear’
·      He licks my hand when I get a bit sad…over…people like you. The ones that foster this bullying and greed in an ever-growing, uncaring climate-change of cruelty and inhumanity to fellow man.

No, Mr Woolies, I won’t be coming back to give you a second chance. My forebears started a grocery chain called Moran & Cato many years ago. It was built on sound business principles of quality and turnover and nothing over 2/6d. But most importantly of all, it was built on Customer Service and compassion for those in need.

The irony is, Mr Woolies that the true wealth in this country is in its people - like those who flew to my defence.

You would be well served to start looking after them…  as well as you look after yourself.