The Power of Secrets

July 1998

Shattered Vows

They divide people. They deter new relationships. And they freeze the development on individuals.

By Evan Imber-Black, published July 1, 1998 – last reviewed on June 9, 2016


There’s no question that family secrets are destructive. But it matters mightily when and how you reveal them. Resist the temptation to handle them at transition times such as weddings, graduations, and new beginnings.

As a family therapist, I’m a professional secret-keeper. I’m often ~the very first person with whom someone risks telling a longheld secret. Several decades of guiding people struggling with secrets have taught me that they have an awesome if paradoxical power to unite people–and to divide them.

From government conspiracies to couples having affairs, secrets permeate every level of society. Secrets have existed throughout time, but the nature of secrets has recently changed in our society. Today’s families face special dilemmas about secrecy, privacy, silence, and openness.

We live in a culture whose messages about secrecy are truly confounding. If cultural norms once made shameful secrets out of too many events in human life, we are now struggling with the reverse: the assumption that telling secrets–no matter how, when, or to whom–is morally superior to keeping them and that it is automatically healing. My own experience, however, has shown me that telling secrets in the wrong way or at the wrong time can be remarkably painful–and destructive.

The questions we need to concern ourselves with are: When should I keep a secret? How do I tell a secret without hurting anyone? How do I know the time is right? I’ve learned the answers as I’ve witnessed–sometimes with terror, more often with joy, and always with deep respect–families making the courageous journey from secrecy to openness.

Secrets are kept or opened for many complex motives, from self-serving abuses of power to altruistic protection of others. Understanding the best ways and situations in which to reveal a family secret can help you decide when and how to do so.

HOW SECRETS SABOTAGE

Although we encounter secrets in every area of life, they are perhaps most destructive when kept in the home. Families are support systems; our identity and ability to form close relationships with others depend upon the trust and communication we feel with loved ones. If family members keep secrets from each other–or from the outside world–the emotional fallout can last a lifetime.

There are four main ways that family secrets shape and scar us:

o they can divide family members, permanently estranging them;

o they can discourage individuals from sharing information with anyone outside the family, inhibiting formation of intimate relationships;

o they can freeze development at crucial points in life, preventing the growth of self and identity;

o they can lead to painful miscommunication within a family, causing unnecessary guilt and doubt.

o they can lead to painful miscommunication within a family, causing unnecessary guilt and doubt.

A person who seeks to undo the damage caused by family secrets must accept that revealing a secret is not a betrayal but a necessity Luckily, as you’ll see, it’s never too late to do so.

SHATTERING THE TRIANGLE

Not all secrets are destructive. Many are essential to establishing bonds between two people. When siblings keep secrets from their parents, for example, they attain a sense of independence and a feeling of closeness. But the creation of any secret between two people in a family actually forms a triangle: it always excludes–and therefore involves–another.

When family members suspect that important information is being withheld from them, they may pursue the content of the secret in ways that violate privacy. A mother reads her daughter’s diary. A husband rifles through his wife’s purse. Relationships corrode with suspicion. Conversely, family members may respond to a secret with silence and distance, which affect areas of life that have nothing to do with the secret.

Either way, the secret wedges a boulder between those who know it and those who don’t. To remove this obstacle, families must break the triangle formation.

Molly Bradley first called me during what should have been a joyous time. She had recently given birth. Her happiness, however, was bittersweet. Molly felt a deep need to surround herself with family but hadn’t spoken to her brother, Calvin, in six years. The reason, I discovered, reached back 30 years to a secret made by Molly’s mother.

When Molly, Calvin, and their youngest sister, Annie, were teenagers, their grandmother committed suicide. Molly and Annie were told she died from a heart attack. Only Calvin, the eldest, knew the truth. His mother made him promise not to tell. His sisters sensed a mystery, but if they asked about their grandmother, their mother switched topics.

Making secrets soon became the family’s modus vivendi. Their aunt committed suicide two years after their grandmother’s death. Calvin fathered a child out of wedlock. Each secret was kept from Molly and Annie, amplifying the family pattern of secrecy Calvin grew distant from his sisters, their relationship weakened by mistrust. Eventually, Molly guessed the truth of her grandmother’s death but, in her family’s style, told only Annie. Secrets between Calvin and his mother were matched by those between Molly and Annie, tightening family alliances.

From the outside, the family looked like two close pairs–Calvin and his mother, Molly and Annie. But the pairs were actually triangles; Calvin and his mother distanced themselves from the girls with their secret, forming one triangle, while Molly and Annie, keeping their own secrets from the rest of the family, formed another.

‘DON’T TELL ANYONE OUR BUSINESS’

Molly convinced her two siblings to enter therapy, but each felt that overcoming feelings of alienation was impossible. When I asked Annie if she’d ever considered confiding in Calvin as a child, she told me the thought had never occurred to her. If family members cannot even imagine a different way of interacting, then secrets have truly taken hold of their lives.

In order to bridge the distance between the Bradley children, I asked them to relive their memories of how it felt to keep–and be kept out of—secrets. Molly, Annie, and Calvin each acknowledged that their needs to connect with each other had gone painfully unmet. Calvin explained tearfully that being forced to keep information from his sisters left him unable to relate to them, causing him to withdraw into himself. Molly revealed that watching her infant son each day made her miss Calvin–and the relationship they’d never had more and more.

The siblings finally began to share long-held secrets, realizing that they were bound and supported by their desire for closeness. After the fourth session of therapy, they went to dinner together for the first time in years. “This was so different from any other family event,” Annie reported. “Things felt genuine for the first time.”

As a lifetime of confessions and hopes emerged into the open, the mangle of secrecy was replaced by one-toone relationships. When everyone in a family knows a secret, triangles cannot create barriers between members.

All families have some secrets from the outside world. Yours, no doubt, has shared jokes and stories told only within the family circle. You also have a zone of privacy that demarcates inside from outside, building your family’s sense of identity. But if a dangerous secret–one concerning an individual in immediate physical or emotional jeopardy–is held within your house, the boundaries between family and the rest of the world become rigid and impenetrable. Friends and relatives are not invited in, and family members’ forays out are limited. “Don’t tell anyone ourbusiness” becomes the family motto.

BREAKING FAMILY RULES

Some families create inviolable rules to keep information hidden, making it impossible for members to ask for assistance or to use needed resources in the outside world. Even problems that do not touch on the secret may go unresolved if resolution requires outside help.

When Sara Tompkins, 37, first came to see me, she spoke with great hesitation. “If my family knew I was speaking to you, they’d be very angry,” she confided. She told me about growing up in a family that completely revolved around her mothEr’s addiction to tranquilizers. “My father is a physician. To this day, he writes her prescriptions. No one was supposed to know. The worst part was, we were supposed to act like we didn’t know. Our family invented ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ long before the government ever thought of it.”

Even though Sara hadn’t lived with her family for 15 years, this was the first time she had ever broken the family rule against speaking about the secret. When Sara left home for college, she was surrounded with new and exciting faces, each seeking lifelong friends and stimulating late-night discussions. But Sara found herself unable to open up, ultimately finding few friends and fewer lovers. She found it difficult to reveal anything personal about herself to anyone, and even suspected others of withholding from her.

Secrets were how she had learned to process and handle incoming information. Sara finally sought therapy when she realized that she had never been able to sustain a romantic relationship past the second date.

When a family’s secret is an ongoing condition–such as drug addiction, physical abuse, an illness–then both family relationships and interactions with the outside world are profoundly affected. In families like Sara’s, members must organize their everyday lives around the needs of the secret while performing the breathtaking feat of pretending not to notice anything is out of the ordinary. Conversation is superficial, since what is truly important cannot be discussed. Members become paralyzed, unable to develop relationships with others or to deepen the relationships within the family.

Since individual well-being takes a backseat to group fidelity, being the family member who challenges internal secrets is difficult. Taking the risk of opening a long-held secret to friends and loved ones may seem like an act of betrayal. The anticipated catastrophe of exclusion from the family stops many people–often long after leaving home.

But breaking the rules of family secrecy is necessary to ensure the achievement of freedom and honesty crucial to making and sustaining authentic relation, ships. One of the best ways to ease into revealing long-hidden information is to tell an objective listener, like a therapist.

ROOM FOR REHEARSAL

Only rarely do my clients want their first and final telling to be with me. Making secrets with a professional helper is a double-edged sword. A client’s relationship with a therapist, minister, priest, or rabbi can be an excellent arena to dissolve shame, find acceptance and empathy, and seek new resources for support and strength.

At the same time, sharing secrets only with professionals may negatively affect marriage and other relationships. Important issues may be discussed more in therapy, for example, than at home. Instead of being a dress rehearsal for life, therapy becomes the show. Most often, I find that people want a receptive and erapathetic context in which to unpack a secret initially, room to explore the consequences of telling others, then the help to do it well.

Imagine if your sister made a secret with you on the eve of your wedding and told you that you must not tell your husband. Or you are dragged into a secret about your parents just when you are taking tentative steps into the outside world. If a secret is made at a key point in development, the natural unfolding of self and relationships may be frozen. The shifting of boundaries that ordinarily would occur is suspended, creating a developmental deep freeze.

FROZEN FAMILIES

Every family experiences developmental stages. These are most evident when someone enters the family by marriage or other committed relationship, birth, or adoption, and when someone exits the family by leaving home or through separation, divorce, or death. Such entrances and exits require that a family reinvent itself in order to accommodate new roles. The stages of development are not discrete events but rather processes that take place over time. When that process goes well, complex adjustments occur in every corner of the family. When a secret is made in the midst of this process, adjustment screeches to a halt.

Samuel Wheeler tried to leave home when he was 19, but his discovery of a central family secret pulled him back and short-circuited his young adulthood. When Sam came to see me, he was 34 and still struggling with the aftermath. Aimless, jobless, and depressed, Sam wondered why he had never really found his focus. As we explored his past, I realized that Sam’s life had frozen when his attempts to assert independence were squelched his first year of college.

Early in his first semester, Sam invited his mother to visit. “I was more than surprised when she arrived with a close friend of the family, Duncan,” said Sam. Each morning for three days, Mrs. Wheeler left Sam’s apartment at five A.M. and returned to have breakfast at eight o’clock. When Sam finally asked what was going on, his mother admitted that she and Duncan were having an affair. She also revealed that his younger sister had actually been fathered by Duncan.

“My mother had kept this secret for years,” Sam mused. “Why did she have: to put it in my face at that moment?” The ill-timed revelation kept Sam from proceeding with his new life and developing his own identity. While very bright, Sam did poorly his first year in college, dropped out, and went back home. He had subconsciously returned to play watchdog for the family’s relationships. His sister was only 15, and he was worried that she would discover the secret. He remained home until she left for college.

RESPECTING TRANSITION TIMES

Giving voice to the developmental deep freeze, Sam said, “Knowing these things about my mother’s life has kept me from changing my relationship with her and my dad in ways I would like. I wanted to get closer to my dad, but this secret is like a rock between us.”

Pulling Sam into a secret just as he and his family were moving apart also kept him from asserting independence. While there is no such thing as the perfect moment to open a secret, there are better occasions than a life-cycle ritual, such as a wedding or graduation. Because family relationships are already shifting, rituals may seem a perfect time to open a secret. The excitement of a major life change, however, will prevent resolution of the secret. Either the importance of the secret will be lost in the event, or the secret will diminish the importance of the ritual.

For family members to have the strength to handle a life-altering secret, it should be told during a normal time in everyday life. Otherwise, development linked to a life passage will stop in its tracks.

When secrets are as much a part of families as birthdays, it may seem impossible to extricate them from the daily routine. But I know it can be done. Each time I meet with a new client, I’m moved by the courage people bring to this endeavor, by the human desire to heal and to connect.

From the book The Secret Life of Families by Evan IrabetBlack, Ph.D. Copyright 1998 by Evan Imber-Black. Reprinted by permission of Bantam Books, New York, New York. All rights reserved.

RETRIEVED https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/articles/199807/the-power-secrets on 14 April 2020.

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Meetup closure + Power of Secrets!

Although the MeetUp Group ‘Brisbane Abuse Survivours Network’, now seems to have closed – we’re experiencing larger + wider impacts with this RCbbc Blog. The growth, interaction + time required by these RCbbc Blog pages continue to outweigh any more time + costs taken by running a MeetUp Group as well.

https://www.meetup.com/en-AU/

We’ve now achieved at least 1,124 Subscribers, the ongoing impact + support is filling in a much-needed gap. Particularly direct families continue to be a cause of many surviving-victims not coming forth, I’m now in a position that I’ve recently had a 3rd body start guiding one of my parents through my CSA mess. It’s not a solution, yet it does feel relieving to have an unresolved misunderstanding taken off my shoulders. Please seek help, through a Counsellor!

Secrecy has-does-will have a power over our lives. It always will, yet we each have that same control over it. This is where Predators/Abusers/Facilitators have taken advantage of their assumed targets, typically manipulating their unawareness of their own rights (maturity, trust + secrecy). ‘The Power of Secrets’ in PsychologyToday begins by stating that Secrets can divide people. “They deter relationships. And they freeze development on individuals.”

The Secret life of Families, Evan Imber-Black, Ph.D.

Power of Secrets contains titles of: HOW SECRETS SABOTAGE, SHATTERING THE TRIANGLE, ‘DON’T TELL ANYONE OUR BUSINESS’, BREAKING FAMILY RULES, ROOM FOR REHEARSAL, FROZEN FAMILIES + RESPECTING TRANSITION TIMES. So enthralling are these, I’ll try to repost the entire page ASAP.

From the book The Secret Life of Families by Evan IrabetBlack, Ph.D. Copyright 1998 by Evan Imber-Black. Reprinted by permission of Bantam Books, New York, New York. All rights reserved. Amazon Springer kobo

PHOTO (COLOR): Secrets are kept or opened for many reasons, from self-serving abuses of power to the protection of others. (Unavailable, yet text provided)

PHOTOS (COLOR): Family secrets are destructive and all families have some secrets from the outside world. Resist the temptation to handle them at transition times such as weddings, graduations, and new beginnings. (Unavailable, yet text provided)

BY EVAN IMBER-BLACK

RETRIEVED:

eNews 3 – Revelation, more StKevins +

Adobe’s Document Cloud – https://documentcloud.adobe.com/link/review?uri=urn%3Aaaid%3Ascds%3AUS%3Abe8385f0-5935-44b2-a30d-870667c6af34

Each of these 3 marvellous ABC Documentaries reveal more of the Institutional deceptions of Child Sexual Abuse!
Twitter samples – positive + occasional negative feedback, during 3rd Episode.
Timely image of Gerald Ridsdale, accompanied by George Pell – early Court appearances.

How sick can perverts get?

Having been a BBC Old Boy, who actually went onto experience some of a Teacher’s experiences, during both Revelation (ABC) + after speaking with a Counsellor, I was able to remember a trait/habit of Butch (Buchanan). As part of his strategies (to test, +/or encourage his young boys’ memories), he’d often include some of his ‘suggestions’/strategies/techniques of memory manipulation. Although, I’m unsure if this was a way that he tried to get inside his targets’ minds before trying to get inside other items … , I will be adding this to my Counsellor’s upcoming appt. They indeed seemed pleased, that I was using a agenda-planning habit (alike my regular Psychiatrist APPT).

Rudd house – Boarders

If any of the viewers of this Blog have any of their suggestions, please send through yours. Slowly, the (hidden) culture of Child Abuse is becoming revealed.

Revelation 2/3

Sorry, if this post is shorter than the 1st! Tue nite’s 2nd Revelation hit home a lot harder for me + my weekly Counselling call starts in a few hrs. While I tried to take some notes, of how Catholic patterns were carried on in both school classes + individual attacks-instances. Even while noting these out, my mind feels like it’s returning to a spinning-whirlwind feeling. Predators knew this + took advantage of it.

PAUSE Take a break, from what you’re doing. These moments can be very complex and anyone involved, may be drawn into the trappings. Put your phone, or computer down and clear your mind. You can always return later.

Advice on STRESS-tension

While I was returning, to continue typing (after my break), an advert of the 3/3 Episode of Revelation was playing on TV. Whilst I had been making comments, when I 1st saw it on Tue nite actually watching it directly had a ‘freezing’ effect. Not temperature, but in my movements. I hadn’t felt like that, since after another church incident in 1990. 🧊

ABC’s iView has available online viewings of these Revelation Episodes, which also allow you to watch what you can, pause + replay whenever you’re ready!

https://iview.abc.net.au/show/revelation

Watching Revelation in iview

Revelation 1/3

As of the middle of March2020, our ‘Royal Comm BBC Blog’ has reached 1,000 Subscribers! From something that began to support + share (from a CSA Victim/Survivor’s POV) more of the secrets, (hidden) truths, impacts, strategies + particularly to offer collected HELP, from multiple ‘Old Boys’-families-communities: ‘we’ve now achieved more than a tonne’. As parts of society now accept the facts… In the midst of the ABC’s ‘Revelation’ Documentary, many similarities/reminders/parallels are both answering some unanswered questions and asking many more.

Sarah Ferguson (‪@FergusonNews)

An awaited audience had made breathtaking comments, jaw dropping feedback and startling responses. Those who had endured previous CSA watched on in understanding, proud that more of these (hidden) secrets were becoming shared with our wider public. Through ‘lifting the lid’ on this immoral human nature of both male + female Predators, is not stopping it from occurring, yet shares further the reality of what should + should not be allowed. Our children always deserve to lead their developing lives into adulthood, as unaffected as possible. Child Sexual Abuse is wrong.

Following are some of the responses made, from the 1st Ep:

@abctv: Award-winning reporter @FergusonNews presents #RevelationABC, a ground-breaking three-part documentary series on the criminal priests and brothers of the Catholic Church, their crimes laid bare for the first time in their own words. Starts now.

@fergusonnews And jaw dropping courage from the good guys in this. #RevelationABC part 1/3 tonight 8.30 @ABCTV

@MikeCarlton01 Looking forward to this tonight. I’m told it’s brilliant…jaw dropping

@treacl: Confession was seen as a #GetOutOfJail card … #RevelationABC

Coronavirus COVID-19: Why some people panic-buy and self-isolate while others aren’t worried

ABC Life / By Kellie Scott
We’re being told not to touch our face, but many of you might feel like hiding from the coronavirus.(Pexels: Anna Shvets/ABC Life: Luke Tribe)

Natalie has decided not to see her partner while the spread of the coronavirus in Australia continues.

The Mackay local in her 30s is symptom-free and has not had any known contact with an infected person, but is keeping her daughter home from school. She’s also stocked up on food and other supplies.

“My partner and I have different views … he isn’t taking the coronavirus seriously,” she says.

“We are not leaving the house, and because he is out there exposing himself in many ways, like going to the gym, I have had to make the choice not to have contact with the person I love.”

Natalie works from home, which it makes it easier for her to self-isolate. She’s asked her daughter’s school to provide homework, and plans to reassess the situation in a few weeks’ time.

“It’s putting a little strain on our relationship, but we’re trying to respect each other’s decisions and wait it out.”

As humans we all react to crisis differently, so it’s unlikely we’ll ever be in complete agreeance about an appropriate emotional response to the coronavirus pandemic.

What we can do is be more compassionate about where other people are coming from.

We asked the experts why are some of us stocking up on toilet paper and hand sanitiser, while others scroll social media wondering what the all the fuss is about.

How is coronavirus impacting your relationships with family and friends? Email life@abc.net.au

It begins with how risk-averse you are

People in Australia are generally in a strong position to fight coronavirus due to our population size, health outcomes and good diet.

If you are at greater risk, such as you are over 65 or have pre-existing conditions like heart disease, it’s reasonable to take extra precautions.

Toilet paper panic – On my regular trip to the supermarket yesterday, there was not a single roll of toilet paper to be found.

For most of us, our emotional response will largely come down to how risk-averse we are, explains David Savage, associate professor of behavioural economics at the University of Newcastle.

“On one end you have the people who are absolutely risk-averse; will go out of their way to avoid risk. These people will always have insurance even for the most bizarre things,” he says.

“They are the people panic-buying.

“At the other end you have what I would classify as risk-seeking people, otherwise known as teenage boys.”

What Dr Savage suggests we should all be aiming for is to be risk-neutral. Good at weighing up odds and responding accordingly.

But he acknowledges that can be difficult given how hard-wired risk aversion is for many of us.

“This aversion is not something we switch on and off, it’s part of our innate nature.”

He says telling people to be less risk-averse is like telling someone to stop being anxious.

Avoidance versus chaos

Your personality type will dictate what level of response you have to something like the spread of coronavirus, explains Dr Annie Cantwell-Bart, a psychologist specialising in grief and trauma.

“If, for example, you come from a family where avoidance style is what you’ve been taught, that’s what you will repeat,” she says.

“Or if you come from a fairly chaotic background where your dad has been in jail and mum is an alcoholic, you will hold a high level of anxiety in living anyway.”

She gives the example of her local barista, who is casually employed.

“When I asked how he was feeling, he said he doesn’t think about it, he just gets on with life.”

She says that avoidance style has its advantages and disadvantages.

“They risk not being prepared or cautious enough. He might feel some trauma if the boss of the cafe says we’re closing down for a fortnight, because he hasn’t prepared.”

On the other end of the scale, people might respond chaotically. 

“Like the punch-up in the supermarket. Some people will … get agitated and it’s probably a fear the world will somehow not support them in any way,” Dr Cantwell-Bart says.

We should be more sensitive towards people with this level of anxiety, she says.

“It’s really important not to judge people … they are in a highly aroused anxious state.”

What we’ve been through shapes our response

Coronavirus symptoms explained — what happens when you get COVID-19 and how likely is a full recovery?

Upbringing, cultural background and previous experiences all shape how we respond to difficult situations.

But it doesn’t always play out in ways you’d expect. For example, someone who has survived a similar incident previously may feel a false sense of security, rather than the need to be cautious or prepared.

Your beliefs may also cause you to underprepare.

“If you believe that everything is pre-ordained, and a higher power is directing your life, you may not bother with certain precautions,” Dr Savage says.

Having compassion and understanding

Dr Savage says Australians are living in a society that is becoming more individualist than collectivist.

“Half of us are going ‘that is very anti-social’, while the other half is saying ‘good on you’,” he says in regards to people stocking up on supplies.

Dr Cantwell-Bart says in a time of crisis, it’s important to be respectful and tolerant.

“It’s about being more compassionate. Understanding that people who might be behaving in ways we might not, are doing it for good reason.”

Dr Savage recommends taking a step back to remember we’re all different, and there isn’t always right and wrong.

“Take a little bit more time to say ‘I don’t understand what that person is doing, but is that a problem?'”

RETRIEVED https://www.abc.net.au/life/why-coronavirus-covid19-causes-people-to-react-in-differently/12046602

National Redress Scheme – Update

This newsletter gives an update on the National Redress Scheme. It covers available support, new institutions to join, and recent data on application progress.

Support

This newsletter contains material that could be confronting and stressing. Sometimes words or images can cause sadness or distress or trigger traumatic memories for people, particularly for those people who have experienced past abuse or childhood trauma.
There are free and confidential Redress Support Services to help you. They can provide practical and emotional support before, during and after you apply for redress. Free legal advice and financial counselling are also available. Please visit the National Redress Scheme website at www.nationalredress.gov.au/support for a full list of support service providers. If you need immediate support, 24-hour telephone assistance is available from:

New institutions

The number of institutions participating in the Scheme has more than doubled as more institutions have completed the necessary steps to join the Scheme.

As at 6 February 2020, 162 non-government institutions were participating in the Scheme – up from 67 last year, in addition to the Commonwealth, state and territory governments. 

As at 6 February 2020, the total number of sites, including churches, schools, children’s home and charities across Australia that had joined the Scheme, had increased from 41,900 to 47,600, meaning that more applications that were on hold can be progressed. 

For details of the institutions that have joined, please visit: ministers.dss.gov.au/media-releases/5468 or www.nationalredress.gov.au/institutions.

You can also contact the Scheme on 1800 737 377 from Australia or +61 3 6222 3455 from overseas (Monday to Friday 8am – 5pm local time) if you would like more information about your application. 

Application progress as at 31 January 2020

As of 31 January 2020, the Scheme: 

  • had received 6,077 applications
  • had made 1,367 decisions, including 1,112 payments totalling over $89.3 million
  • had made 255 offers of redress, which applicants have six months to consider
  • was processing 3,851 applications
  • had 897 applications on hold, including 543 because one or more institution named had not yet joined, and about 354 because they required additional information from the applicant.

As of 3 January 2020, 31 per cent of payments had been $50,000 dollars or less. 52 per cent had been between $50,001 and $100,000 dollars and 17 per cent had been $100,001 dollars to $150,000 dollars. 

Find out more

To find out more about the National Redress Scheme, go to www.nationalredress.gov.au or call 1800 737 377 from Australia or +61 3 6222 3455 from overseas (Monday to Friday 8am – 5pm local time).Copyright © 2020 Australian Government, All rights reserved.
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When British Royals Are Pedophiles, It’s Called Peccadilloes

By Shivani Watch the deck being reshuffled over and over again as the “elite” take care of their own. You don’t

When British Royals Are Pedophiles, It’s Called Peccadilloes

Child sex abuse victim says Anglican Church fobbed her off, then offered payout in exchange for silence

Exclusive by Josh Robertson

Updated about 9 hours ago (10 March 2020)

PHOTO: Beth Heinrich reported the abuse to police but a statute of limitations meant the priest could not be prosecuted. (ABC News: Josh Robertson)

Anglican Church officials wrongly told a woman who was sexually abused more than 60 years ago they had to hold off resolving her complaint, then offered a payout and an apology if she agreed to a gag clause.

The church’s Brisbane diocese has admitted to again failing Beth Heinrich over her 1995 complaint, which culminated in then-governor-general Peter Hollingworth publicly blaming her for a priest sexually exploiting her as a 15-year-old.

Its apology for causing her “additional trauma and distress” through “unacceptable delays” came a day after the ABC questioned its latest missteps in the case, which led to Dr Hollingworth’s public downfall but still fuels calls for him to be stripped of millions of dollars of public benefits.

The diocese in January belatedly offered Ms Heinrich up to $30,000 for its mishandling of her complaint, which Dr Hollingworth dismissed repeatedly when he was archbishop of Brisbane.


RELATED STORY: Senator pushes to strip former governor-general Peter Hollingworth of $600k-a-year entitlements

RELATED STORY: Senate motion could strip Peter Hollingworth of $600,000 public benefits

RELATED STORY: Sex abuse victim rejects church’s payout

Key points:


  • Beth Heinrich pressed the Anglican Church in Brisbane for redress after former archbishop Peter Hollingworth stood by the priest who sexually abused her
  • The diocese said it could not resolve her complaint because it would “prejudice” another church investigation of Dr Hollingworth
  • Church investigators denied this and the diocese then offered Ms Heinrich a payout and an apology if she kept it confidential

The offer was a fraction of the $200,000 she sought — a figure she said was increased after independent legal advice and church officials in Melbourne advising that her original request for $50,000 was too little.

The Brisbane diocese also told her in January it was “happy to provide an apology” but this should be kept “confidential” until its Melbourne counterpart ended a separate investigation into whether Dr Hollingworth should be stripped of his Holy Orders.

Its request for secrecy contrasted with Dr Hollingworth’s widely publicised 2002 comments on ABC TV’s Australian Story program that it was “not sex abuse” by priest, and later bishop, Donald Shearman, but “rather the other way round”.

“It was devastating for me at the time [and] I’m still really angry about it because there’s been no ending to it,” Ms Heinrich told the ABC.

“[Dr Hollingworth] knew the true story but he chose to lie about me and victim blame.”

A church spokesman said: “The Brisbane diocese acknowledges there have been unacceptable delays in finalising a redress claim of Ms Beth Heinrich”.

“The diocese apologises that this has caused her additional trauma and distress,” the spokesman said.

headshot-of-smiling-disgraced-former-anglican-bishop-donald-shehttps://www.abc.net.au/headshot of smiling disgraced former anglican bishop donald she

‘Most extraordinary case’

Child protection expert and University of South Australia adjunct professor Chris Goddard said Ms Heinrich’s was “the most extraordinary case of so-called secondary abuse I have ever seen”.

He helped Ms Heinrich prepare her testimony to the royal commission into child sexual abuse, with a 300-page presentation involving about 70 documents.

“To my knowledge [Dr Hollingworth] has never publicly apologised for the public humiliation of Beth,” Professor Goddard said.

Beth Heinrich spoke out for the first time on ABC TV’s  Australian Story in 2005.
https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-03-09/tv-still-australian-story-2005—beth-heinrich-spoke-out-for-th/12039782

In 2005, the Bathurst Anglican diocese paid Ms Heinrich $100,000 over Mr Shearman’s abuse of her while running the church hostel where she was a school boarder in the 1950s.

Ms Heinrich said she decided to press a complaint over Brisbane diocese’s mishandling of the matter, after it advertised in a newspaper for survivors to come forward in the wake of the royal commission into child sex abuse in institutions.

In October 2017, the diocese told her it had “little option but to wait for the findings of the Melbourne investigation before [we] can advance and conclude the consideration of your complaints and claim”.

‘Happy to consider an apology’

It said any examination of her complaint “could not be safely concluded until the findings of the Melbourne committee are known, and may risk prejudicing the Melbourne investigation”.

However, the diocese changed its tune in August 2018 after Ms Heinrich questioned the delay.

It told her that it “might be possible to deal with your claim on a private and confidential basis without waiting for the outcome” from Melbourne.

It said the diocese was “happy to consider an apology” but it would be “better delivered” after Melbourne’s findings.

Any settlement would need to be “private and confidential” so as “not to prejudice” the other investigation, it said.

But Melbourne church officials contradicted this last November.

“I can confirm that any compensation or redress paid to you will not impact the investigation,” Kooyoora Ltd executive director Fiona Boyle said in a letter.


If you or anyone you know needs help:


The Brisbane diocese then offered Ms Heinrich “$25,000 in full and final resolution of your current complaint, plus $5,000 towards counselling”.

It told her it still had no “established redress policy” to deal with mishandling of complaints.

The church spokesman said Ms Heinrich “did not respond” to the 2018 offer but “it was remiss of the diocese not to have followed up with further contact and support”.

He confirmed it had again “reached out to Ms Heinrich to seek to reach a satisfactory settlement”.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-03-10/disgraced-former-anglican-bishop-donald-shearman-standing-on-a/12039934 https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-03-10/disgraced-former-anglican-bishop-donald-shearman-standing-on-a/12039934

‘Privacy, power and secrecy’

Professor Goddard said churches used “privacy, power and secrecy” to intimidate victims.

“As a last resort, they pretend not to have any procedures at all to deal with the complaint,” he said.

Ms Heinrich said the church’s continual “fobbing off” of her complaint was at odds with its pledges to do right by victims after the royal commission.

“I just think they’re sorry that people have got the fortitude to stand up and keep saying they’re not happy with the way they’ve been treated,” she said.

“They want you to run away and hide and take your problems with you — the reason I’m speaking up now is because I feel I’m the last one … I’m standing on my own.”

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-03-10/disgraced-former-anglican-bishop-donald-shearman-sitting-in-a-c/12039798

Ms Heinrich said she first approached the Brisbane diocese thinking “the church is a Christian community”.

“It was just a corporation and all they wanted to do was cover up for their masters and protect them.”

Then-archbishop Hollingworth oversaw the failed 1995 mediation, in which Mr Shearman admitted to grooming Ms Heinrich from the age of 14 and sexually abusing her from 15.

Mr Shearman had continued an extra-marital relationship with Ms Heinrich in adulthood.

Dr Hollingworth did not suspend Mr Shearman, move to defrock him or offer redress to Ms Heinrich.

He wrote to Ms Heinrich that there was “a very wide discrepancy” in her and Mr Shearman’s versions of the abuse and he was a “much-valued” minister.

Ms Heinrich reported the abuse to police but a statute of limitations meant Mr Shearman could not be prosecuted.

She said the church had never acknowledged that Mr Shearman’s conduct was criminal.

“That’s what I’d like,” Ms Heinrich said.

Former GG Peter Hollingworth https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-03-10/former-governor-general-dr-peter-hollingworth-arrives-at-the-ma/12039750

‘Inappropriate and unfair’

In 2001, Ms Heinrich saw Mr Shearman conducting Easter Mass on TV and asked Dr Hollingworth to strip Mr Shearman of his permission to officiate.

Dr Hollingworth refused, telling her Mr Shearman was “now well into his 70s [and] has sought to resolve the matter with you and exercised contrition in a Christian spirit”.

“I am sorry that you cannot accept the efforts that he and we have made which does allow for a new start with a penitent heart,” Dr Hollingworth said.

Ms Heinrich said after the failed mediation, Dr Hollingworth breached diocese protocol by refusing to give her a hearing before its sex abuse complaints committee.

She said a staffer for Dr Hollingworth gave repeated excuses for not providing a copy of the protocol, including that Brisbane weather made people “lethargic”.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-03-10/portrait-orientation-photo-of-disgraced-former-anglican-bishop/12039726

A 2003 Anglican board of inquiry was split on Dr Hollingworth’s support of Mr Shearman.

The chairman found it “reasonable” and another member said he failed to show “proper moral leadership”.

But the inquiry found it was “inappropriate and unfair” of Dr Hollingworth to repeatedly suggest Ms Heinrich was “acting unreasonably in not treating the matter at an end”.

The inquiry condemned Dr Hollingworth for allowing another confessed child sex predator to remain a priest and he quit as governor-general.

In 2004, Mr Shearman was defrocked.

‘We know how traumatic these matters can be’

Ms Heinrich unsuccessfully complained to the Queensland Law Society after a lawyer acting for the Brisbane diocese removed parts of her affidavit for the proceedings.

A federal senator last November introduced a private member’s bill that could strip Dr Hollingworth of millions of dollars in public benefits over his mishandling of sex abuse complaints in the church.

“I feel if he’d had any integrity, he would have said I won’t be accepting the governor-general’s pension,” Ms Heinrich said.

“I think people would have admired him for that, but they certainly don’t now.”

Ms Boyle told the ABC she could not comment on any matter under investigation but that “we know how traumatic these matters can be”.

“The process is often time-consuming and we aim to support people throughout,” Ms Boyle said.

“We offer case management, psychological care and other practical assistance.”

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-03-10/headshot-of-beth-heinrich-standing-in-front-of-a-bookcase.-1/12040418https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-03-10/headshot-of-beth-heinrich-standing-in-front-of-a-bookcase.-1/12040418

Topics: religion-and-beliefs, community-and-society, law-crime-and-justice, anglicans, human-interest, people, sexual-offences,sexual-misconduct, activism-and-lobbying, government-and-politics, brisbane-4000, vic, qld, australia

RETRIEVED https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-03-10/abuse-survivor-beth-heinrich-anglican-church-qld/12039190