VICTIM IMPACT STATEMENT by DAMIEN SHERIDAN read in court by ZAKARIE SHERIDAN
I would like to say thank you for reading this and allowing me to present a brief statement of how being sexually abused and mentally tortured with exorcism performed by the accused, Fr. Brian Spillane while I was attending boarding school at St Stanislaus College, Bathurst.
My life was changed in 1985 when I began attending boarding school.
I was a shy, good looking and well-mannered young boy from a small country town of Forbes with very little wisdom in the ways of how the world works. I was raised a Catholic with strict catholic morals, although no one ever told me to be aware that there are wolves dressed as sheep out there; though it was said in Mathew 7:15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” little did I know at the age of 13.
The affect that this blatant abuse; mentally, emotionally and physically, has had on my life has been indescribably, extremely and utterly devastating and not a life that I would ever wish to my worst enemy. My life has been the living embodiment of hell and I’ve lived through 30 years of it. After the sexual abuse and exorcism I became unimaginably angry, to the point where I was uncontrollable. My mind was gone and for me, it was all about self-protection and nothing and no-one else mattered to me.
At that age of development of a child’s brain is extremely important for growth and for the neurons that are connected in a regular person’s brain to connect, although I didn’t get that because I developed majorly different neuron pathways for protection; in other words my brain developed for fight or flight only. I was angry and became aggressive and violent; I abused alcohol and drugs for many years as a form of escaping and had no control other than to protect myself from harm because I knew that the worst thing that could ever happen to a person is possible, as it happened to me. I realised quickly that there were monsters in this world and I didn’t know who to trust, so I trusted no one.
I drifted through life knowing that I’m intelligent, although am not able to collect myself mentally to succeed in life due to the abuse I suffered. I’ve never been able to hold down a full-time job and have only ever been able to be self-employed, despite the qualifications I was able to put under my belt, such as a Trade in French Polishing and a Diploma in IT (Distinction). I have always been so angry with myself because I know that I have the potential to succeed and do well in my life, although I couldn’t do it because of the constant battle with what had happened to me, my inner demons and the CPTSD (Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) that I suffer from every single day of my life, although not only this, there is social anxiety based disorders directly related as a result of the abuse I suffered at the hands of Fr. Spillane. I still have extremely horrific nightmares; I do not sleep with ease, I rarely remain asleep and am always tired. I’ve come to the point that I sleep when I get to sleep and that’s it. No more.
I have been in counselling for years now and every one of the counsellors has ended at the point that the way I currently am, is the best that I will ever be, with no more room for improvement. This is extremely sad to say as I do have a lot to offer society, but the mental disability I suffer does not allow me to do the things that most people consider normal. Due to this, I have been told and made aware that I will never be able to have a relationship unless it is with someone who truly understands what I have dealt; although that will cause major conflict problems no matter what and will ultimately end up being destructive and will cause more problems for me than I already have to deal with. I have had to subdue my anger and frustration at this and just accept the fact that I will never be able to have a relationship, so I have a cat, Misty, which is my companion. It is sad, I know, but after years of trying in life, I just need to accept the fact that the damage is done and I’ll never be able to fully recover and heal from it.
I’m tired, I have nothing left. I’m dead inside and I look forward to the day that I die; the day that I will finally find peace from this hell I have been living through on Earth. I’ve not been able to get past it. I’m angry, hurt and in many ways I still and always will blame myself for what happened and will always question why me, why didn’t I do anything to stop it, why did I freeze, why, just why? I cannot and will not be able to ever get over it. I don’t know why; I know some people have done so, but I also know how hard it is for some to live with and a lot have taken their own lives. I’ve also been down the path of self-destruction and numerous attempts on my own life (none of which worked, much to my displeasure). I always wondered why I survived the attempts and I suppose I realised that the answer was that I’m here to right a wrong. I was a result of this ten year process and reliving it all over and over again has taken that much of a toll on my life that I lost my business, went bankrupt and from then on was never able to hold down even a self-employed job. Financially, it has been indescribably and unimaginably hard because my only income is the Disability Support Pension I’m given by Centrelink because I’m just unable to be around society and/or if anything happens and my CPTSD flares up, I can’t have myself lashing out people.
I’ve been reliving this over and over and over again and there has been no escape until the end and I hope, I seriously hope, that this is the end and it finishes now. This process has taken everything I have and everything I can give. I’ve lost all of my family and all of my friends, as they just walked away because no one understood what I go through on a day to day basis and no one understood the CPTSD I suffer from, nor did anyone give me the time to try and understand me; other than my eldest son Zak. He has stuck with my through thick and thin, through hell and back and has never left my side and has always, and I can trust, will always be there for me. I don’t have friends and I don’t have family. I just still don’t trust anyone. I can’t and I doubt I ever will.
I would like to thank the Detectives and the DPP involved in this process. I know I am not the easiest person to deal with but please understand I am doing the best I can and I know it does not stand up to societies ways but it’s the only way I have found I could survive. It is about protecting me and sometimes I just have to shut society out for self-protection. My deepest gratitude and thanks to everyone.
Finally, I would like to thank my son, Zak, you have gone way and beyond and seen things you should never have to be expose to, the last thing I ever imagined is you supporting me and getting me through this process, you never left and never wanted too as hard as it has been in every way possibly known.
I hope this Victim Impact Statement has given you some insight into what I deal with and go through still on a day to day basis. No matter what way you look at it I am the one that has been given the life sentence.
The church helped the pedophile priest Brian Spillane in his life of crime
The Catholic Church in Australia harbored the pedophile priest Brian Joseph Spillane throughout his career, giving him easy access to children. Father Spillane's victims were mostly boys who were assaulted while he ministered at St Stanislaus College — a Catholic day and boarding secondary school for boys, in Bathurst, New South Wales. And he assaulted girls in parishes elsewhere. Spillane (now aged 73) recently completed a series of criminal trials, resulting in multiple convictions. The courts heard the girls cases first, and Spillane is already in jail (after his first trial) for assaulting three girls. On 3 February 2017 he faced a per-sentence hearing for his most recent trials regarding 18 boys, and a formal sentencing will be held on a later date.
NOTE FROM ZAKARIE SHERIDAN
Tuesday 14th March was the day my father returned to St Stanislaus College, Bathurst, after countless years of staying away from both Bathurst and St Stanislaus College. We were there for the forum that night. We arrived at the gates of the College because I wanted to see what it looked like, seeing as though I've heard so much about it; everything heard being bad that is.
The first thing Dad noticed was that there were barely any students in comparison to what the College once was and in comparison to the sheer overwhelming size of the College.
We left the car and went for a walk so I could be shown the places where the events of that night happened and other common areas. I was shown the Yr 7 Dorm as well, although I was only pointed to where to go by Dad because he didn't want to go back through the school. I'll never forget the feeling walking through St Stanislaus College. The feeling was intense, it was scary and there was the immediate urge and feeling deep inside you to run away as far as you can and never look back.
You can feel the horror, the terror, the sadness, the helplessness and the downright evil that has tainted St Stanislaus. The feeling was worse than walking through an abandoned hospital, a graveyard at night; whatever the most horrific and evil feeling you could think of, intensify that feeling, double it and that's what it felt like to walk through the halls and courtyard of St Stanislaus College.
Not only was the feeling of walking throughout the College immensely vulgar and terrifying, the College doesn't seem as if it has seen a fresh coat of paint or a very good clean for a few decades. Admittedly, there was nothing I found good about that College. As I was walking down stairs, to add salt to the wound, the College has many staircase handrails that are broken, which just makes the place feel even worse and less safe than what it already felt like. I walked into the quadrangle and the amount of children that weren't there was astounding in comparison to the size of the College. It almost seemed as if the students that were actually there and in the quadrangle could fill up one, maybe two buses and that would equal the amount of people I saw.
St Stanislaus College even has a scary feel to it when you look at it from a few metres away from the outer gates. It is just a creepy, old, tainted and immensely evil.
Little was I aware that there were people fighting the fight against the child abuse at St Stanislaus college, Bathurst.
I met Terry at the forum in Bathurst on the 14th March 2017. Terry gave me the letters that he has written to the school with no real response. Thank you Terry for fighting when we were silenced with suppression orders;
These are the letters.
LETTER 1 FROM TERRY JONES
February 1, 2017.
St Stanislaus' College,
Head of School,
Dr Anne Wenham.
Dear Dr Wenham,
Thank you for your thoughtful, considerate and sympathetic telephone reply to me on the afternoon of Monday, 9th January, 2017 in response to my hand-delivered letter to you that day, seeking a significant 150th Sesqui-Centenary Anniversary of St Stanislaus' College response, to acknowledge and consider holding a ((healing" and ((truth" public event in honour of student victims of institutional sexual abuse at the college.
Your prompt telephone call was appreciated as well as your assurance that St Stanislaus' and the Oceania Province of the Community of the Mission (Vincentians) would plan an appropriate, formal apology to all former students who have suffered, as well as their families and friends because of the actions of a few. You have foreshadowed a public outreach in the spirit of reconciliation.
I cannot imagine that I was the only one of thousands of college ex-students (day student 1956) to contact you out of concern for the victims of sexual abuses. Further that I may have been the first to request a public acknowledgment from St Stanislaus' and the Vincentians in Bathurst.
As a working journalist (retired 2012 after 56-years) I covered the earliest local court cases after Bathurst Local Area Command Task Force Heador and then Belle laid charges against former lay teachers, brothers and priests at the college about 2008.
It was then I discovered the 12-year-old son of a close friend of my wife Irene and I and familyincluding a son of mine who attended Stannies (1986-1989)-heard his friend had been one of upwards of 40 boys violated while in college care. That there were about a dozen teachers involved and they would face over 300 charges dating back about 30-years 1974-1991.
I observed Stannies Old Boy's Association rally Stannies' Parents and Friends to support the charged Vincentian priests and brothers outside the Bathurst Court House saying "we don't believe any of these charges" and "they are innocents", private cars were arranged to enable the accused, leaving through back doors to escape scrutiny.
It was about then I first observed the legal system perhaps used and abused, with the request to a now deceased, honourable Local Court Magistrate, Tom Hodgson, asked to disqualify himself from hearings of charges in Catholic Bathurst where the church was all powerful. Mr Hodgson stood aside from the bench for the first time in 25-years in his Local Court career, all of the charges laid were adjourned out of Bathurst to Sydney. Cases where suppression orders were imposed, no transparency.
Even Bathurst police doing their jobs were harassed for daring to charge the St Stanislaus' president, assistant-president, chaplain, bursar, master of discipline, housemasters etc. It was not easy being a
ex-student policeman; a journalist or a photographer doing a job, working for a newspaper
published in Bathurst.
When I first approached Stannies unsuccessfully on 6th January for an interview with you, I first
spoke to the local newspaper editor and former colleagues to sound them out. They posed the
question as to what should be the appropriate response to satisfy everyone.
I did not have an answer then, but now believe public reconciliation must not be volumes of words
or prayers. Those charged, generally pleaded not guilty, fought through every legal loophole. Put on
trial, convicted, jailed there was no thought by them of justice for victims with lives ruined.
The starting point is recognition that St Stanislaus' College is the oldest college in Australia
celebrating a 150th Anniversary sincerely wanting to offer an unconditional, heartfelt apology to
victims of institutional abuses by the Catholic Church in New South Wales and Australia.
Former Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, established the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Institutional
Abuse of Children. The Australian Catholic Bishops' Conference established in 2012 a Truth, Justice
and Healing Council to assist the Commission.
Unfortunately, the Commission sitting since 2013, has due to the ongoing delays in Stannies court
cases (eight years), will be holding no Commission Public Hearings into the Vincentians, St
Stanislaus or Bathurst-described in one court case as a "paedophile paradise". Keeping in mind
Stannies, All Saints and The Scots colleges have all had teachers charged, convicted and sentenced
St Stanislaus' as it was at the epicentre of New South Wales school abuses, could offer the key to the
Catholic Church in the State and perhaps Australia, by making an approach to the Catholic Bishops'
Conference to approve the Truth, Justice and Healing Council's dedication of the St Stanislaus'
Great Marble Hall as the wider Church's Memorial or Shrine of Reconciliation in Truth, Justice and
Just as the college held a first anniversary event (Saturday, 21st January) to open a historical display it
could invite the Royal Commission chief, Justice McClelland, or former Prime Minister Gillard to
present the Commission Reports up to December 2017, to be exhibited in the Hall of Reconciliation
and Healing. The Commission sits finally to hear from the Catholic Church, February 6,2017.
Stannies could implement Reconciliation Day as an annual date on the school calendar beyond 2017.
Healing by apology, seeing justice served could be perpetuated with Royal Commission preliminary
reports, case studies and the final report itself permanently displayed for research by students and
scholars. Mindful Bathurst is a major centre of education in NSW and Australia.
You have indicated that St Stanislaus' intends issuing a public invitation to victims who may wish to
be part of the planning process to make contact so their thoughts and suggestions can be
considered. Justice and healing can only occur by involving every victim, respecting their wishes.
St Stanislaus', Vincentian's and Bathurst have so far escaped public mention in about 150 Royal
Commission Preliminary Reports or Case Studies listed on-line. The excuse being, due to ongoing
court cases-this is not an excuse that can be accepted. St Stanislaus has the moral duty, to lead the
Catholic Church in ~SW and Australia to establish the Marble Hall Reconciliation Memorial.
LETTER 2 FROM TERRY JONES
Bathurst, NSW 2790.
January 9, 2017.
St Stanislaus' College,
Head of School,
Dr Anne Wenham.
Dear Dr Wenham,
I visited the college on Friday 6th January, as a former student at Stannies, after speaking to Old Boy's Association chairman Lachlan Sullivan, having seen the 150th Sesquicente nary Anniversary banner erected in William Street, Bathurst.
I discussed with Lachlan the planned re-unions after 150-years of Stannies, concerned that there should be a suitable public recognition of the plight of between 40-50 past victims of abuses by former lay staff, brothers and priests-that appear to have occurred as early as 1974 and as recent as 1991.
Lachlan said I was not the first ex-student to raise this issue with him. He advised the Old Boys were not organisers of anniversary events. He gave me the email contact details of Very Reverend Father
Michael Walsh of the Vincentian Order.
But having discovered the Vincentians are not involved, I attended Stannies hoping to speak to you personally about the events that are being organised, it seems by you as Head of School. I left my business card with the College Accountant to give to you, expecting a phone call on late Friday.
I attended Stannies in 1956 and was given the presidential blessing for Fr Macdonald as "a student of high ethical and moral character" to take up a journalistic career in Bathurst in 1957 aged just 14 Yz and continued as a reporter, journalist and newspaper editor for 56-years until retirement in 2012.
As an editor and journalist in Griffith I sent my son to Stannies. At that time a very good friend sent his son to the college. This was the era of Brother who became Father Peter Dwyer.
As a journalist but specifically a court reporter back in Bathurst during 2008, I was the one who wrote locally about the arrests of a former lay teacher, former brother and priests who were charged with in round figures 150 offences against boys in school care.
Charges not proven at that time, but very concerning when I discovered the name of my friend's son listed on a charge sheet. I contacted my friend to be told his son and others had tried to commit suicide or become drug addicted drop-outs in society. Stannies victims had found one another to offer support.
They were among parents just like us, who had sent their boys to Stannies to receive a good education. Not to be faced with suicide and life sentences of future drug addiction, mental illnesses, long term rehabilitation. You can see where I'm coming from.
I assisted the noted journalist and author David Marr identify the positions of responsibility the teachers charged had held at Stannies when he wrote for "Ths Sydney Morning Herald" on 9th January, 2010.
It is now that very same 10th January date in 2017 that ex-students are being asked to book to attend lS0th Sesquicentenary events at the college.
Prior to retiring in 2012, I reported extensively on the passage of charge matters in the local and District Courts involving the ex-staff of the college. The then headmaster John Edwards opened his door on every occasion to respond to media requests for interviews-he made public statements-he wanted transparency.
More recently the Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse invited community responses. The best I could do was bundle up my extensive working file used to compile stories for "The Western Advocate" and forward it to Sydney.
The names of between 30-40 boys allegedly abused while attending Stannies were listed, as I read and privately noted them from, the official charge sheets before the court. Also the back copies of Echo's of Stannies, to show the significant roles played in college by the alleged perpetrators of sexual abuses.
Marr made the comment to me that he could not believe that most everyone in a senior position in Australia's oldest catholic college, if not proved to have been involved, should surely have known and done something.
The file also included a horrendous case of teacher abuses at All Saints'. I assisted the victim by publishing his graphic story and impact it had upon his later life. There was another abuses matter from The Scots just after I retired.
The Commission sent me a letter Hin confidence" and said the matters would be investigated. The question can now be asked did they, and how did they?
, next turn to a public meeting the Royal Commission convened in Bathurst, late 2016-which media was not permitted to attend-I went as an ex-student ofStannies who had assisted them with my file, to hear what had been done, thinking the "closed meeting" was to pave the way for a public hearing in Bathurst.
Not on your life, the Stannies episodes were subjected to police charges, the Commission representatives said Bathurst schools would "adopt recommendations of protocols". We in the audience of about lS0 people, heard there would be "no open, public inquiry into any of the sexual abuses at Stannies, Saints or Scots."
I persisted asking why, Bathurst was different to Geelong, Sydney and Newcastle where the Commission had as Prime Minister Julia Gillard intended publicly exposed the institutions, perpetrators and some of the courageous victims had come forward.
I stood in the Bathurst meeting and accused the organisers of "cover-up" ifthere was no transparency in Bathurst and looked around and could not visibly see or identify any Stannies, Saints or Scots faces in the crowd. The audience included mostly counsellors, the members of the community involved picking up the pieces of broken lives.
Then. After it seems three years of at least one trial of a former Stannies priest, the lid was lifted on suppression orders on Sth December in the ongoing scandal. The court permitted publication in December of a jury verdict finding 11 sexual abuse incidences proved at Stannies between 1974 and 1988. I may have missed it, but do not recall seeing or hearing of any responses from Stannies.
However, it would appear everyone was very busy planning to sing the praises of the college in its IS0th Sesquicentenary Anniversary of Catholic and Vincentian education in Bathurst.
Since Friday I have tried to contact my friends, parents ofthe former 12-year-old whose name was on the charge sheets alleging sexual abuse and indecent assaults that occurred at Stannies.
I sought to meet you last week, to impress upon the College and wider community the need to invite Stannie's parents and victims to suggest an appropriate "ANNIVERSARY RESPONSE" to acknowledge "PUBLICLY" and consider holding a significant "HEALING" and "TRUTH "event to honour them in 2017.
I have written this letter in the event it is not possible to arrange a face-to-face interview today. I will be leaving Bathurst on 10th January, the date for replies to your anniversary event invitations and not return for a week to 10 days.
This is the email that I sent to the Royal Commission on the 13.05.2013 while I was in hospital. I got the typical, basically automated response say they will submit the letter and that is the last I heard until recent when I sent another email. I am still waiting for a response.
Att: Hon. Justice Peter McClellan AM
Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse
You cannot tell me no one knew about this at this time in this school, from the President of the school down. Look at the Vincentian fatherhood: Brian Spillane, for one example, was moved about around from school to school.
You cannot tell me they didn’t know. The school - St Stanislaus College - made an undisclosed payout to a victim and a non-disclosure agreement was signed.
I am personally a burden on my family emotionally and financially. I will never have a life that I could have had, and that is just a fact I have to try and accept. I do have some understanding of why I feel the way I do and of my behaviour. I have been diagnosed with severe anxiety and depression, and complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD.)
It is good to have a Royal Commission into child sexual abuse and into institutions like the Catholic Church; it is no longer a “what if:” but a fact that they sexually abused children of both sexes. It is just a matter of the numbers and length of time this has been going on and accepted in the church - and it has been covered up by other institutions such as the NSW Police force.
When I was a child the priest had a higher standing in the community than the Police, the Police deferred to the Priest, and it was that simple.
I am pleased all this has come to the surface, and the Catholic Church does have a lot to answer for - but what happens to their victims, the abused children?
I know in my case I cannot hold down full-time employment. I have had alcohol and drug abuse in my late teens and twenties, and currently I suffer from severe depression and anxiety and PTSD is a major problem. I have a history of lashing out and violence in my late teens and twenties, and the way I see the world is far different than others - but what happens is that an abused child is thrown into society and expected to engage as a ‘normal’ citizen. The worst part is that I am intelligent, I have an IQ of 127 (and I missed a page of the test!), a Trade Certificate, and a Diploma in IT. But these virtues and achievements are unuseable, because I see the world differently. As a 14 year-old who was abused, my neuro pathways developed as fight and flight, instead of dispersing and developing as they should. This was my brain/body’s way of keeping me safe.
I am writing this to you while I am in hospital, in the Northside Clinic, trying to sort something out so I can have some sort of life. But where I will fit into today’s society is virtually impossible to envisage. With the help of long-term psychotherapy and medication I may be able to cope within myself, but who pays for this? Not the richest institution in the world, the Catholic Church - they take a ‘no blame’ stance. The priests got their rocks off, and sent us away and waited for the next victim. Where do I go to get help for PTSD? There is nowhere. If it wasn’t for my mother and stepfather it would be impossible for me to be here in this hospital.
I do not see light, I live in the pit of darkness, I do not see an end, just coping hour by hour, day by day. I cannot have a relationship due to PTSD. It is not fair on me and especially my immediate family to continually pick me up when I crash into the depths of despair.
They took our innocence away; they took our lives away. And now we have to try to fit in, and are ostracised because we cannot and we fail. Unfortunately there is no place in society for people like me, and this gives you some insight why individuals take their own lives. The feeling of despair is not like one of just depression: it goes deeper, darker than you could ever imagine.
Below is a list of Vincentian Fathers at the College who have been charged with, or convicted of child sexual assault. This was not a one-off activity by individuals - this was a systemic culture, with the moving around of the members to different parishes to hide their crimes. It is time the Church took responsibility for crimes on these children at the time.
In conclusion, it is good to have a Royal Commission into child sexual abuse, but the Commission’s deliberations must lead to decisive action to support those whose lives have been so seriously damaged by these activities, and this support should be provided by those institutions which have been responsible.
These paedophiles betrayed the trust placed in them by society, and violated children, some to the point of suicide, and leaving others with no hope of fitting into society and finding themselves in trouble personally, physically, mentally and emotionally. These people deserve full support.
As investigators dive deeper and deeper into the child sexual abuse that appears to be endemic throughout NSW and our country, (not to mention the rest of the world), NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell (a devoted Catholic) stands by and, now that their voice is being heard, basically says 'Stuff you' to victims whose abuse goes back over many years. Would he take this position if his children had been victims?