The victims subjected to Cardinal George Pell’s acts of sexual abuse can breathe a sigh of relief as their abuser has finally faced justice and been sentenced for his acts of child sexual abuse whilst acting under the Catholic Church.
As a lawyer having represented victims of institutional sexual abuse for many years, I have seen the devastating impact of these crimes on the victims. These victims have been silenced for many years and have had to carry this burden with them throughout their entire adult lives. Some have managed to suppress these events, however others have continued to relive the abuse they suffered as a child without any means of closure or justice.
However, the silence is no more.
In Queensland, 2016 saw history made as the Limitation of Actions and Other Legislation (Institutional Child Sexual Abuse) Amendment Bill 2016 was enacted to abolish any limitation period for Institutional child sexual abuse claims. The effect is that victims can now pursue a claim against the perpetrator regardless of the time that has passed since the offence was committed.
The recent legislative changes in Queensland means that although their perpetrators may not be convicted in the criminal law system, the victims can pursue civil compensation and their stories can be heard and acknowledged. Whilst nothing can take away from what has happened to them as children, they now have the right to seek some form compensation for what they have endured and will no doubt continue to endure for the remainder of their lives.
It has been my experience that many victims of Institutional Child Abuse want justice for their perpetrators, not necessarily financial redress. Their time to speak and have their voices heard is now, and I feel very humbled to be able to assist my client’s in doing this.
It is the hope that Pell’s conviction will pave the way for Queensland to not only acknowledge these acts by compensating victims for the psychological impact the abuse has caused, but to bring their perpetrators to justice in the eyes of the legal system so that survivors of historical abuse will finally have their stories not only heard, but acknowledged and believed.