Two More Victims Allege Abuse at the Hands of Cardinal George Pell
Two more men have come forward to allege that they were abused by Australia’s highest-ranking Catholic official. This story is a reminder of the challenges that survivors face and is a call-to-action for us to address those challenges in order to create a culture that supports survivors instead of demonizing them when they bring claims forward.
The newest allegations against Cardinal George Pell – who is already serving time in prison after being convicted last year of sexually abusing two other boys – add more information and detail to this already high-profile case.
According to ABC News, one of the survivors, Bernie, was contacted by Victoria police in 2016, when he was about 49, and gave them a sworn statement. Now, for the first time, at age 53, he is telling his story to the public. The other survivor, Peter Clarke, was also contacted by the Victoria police in 2016 to aid in their investigation of the cardinal.
We applaud Bernie and Peter for sharing their stories with ABC News now, courageous acts that will hopefully help both of them along their own healing journey while potentially bringing other still-silent victims out of the woodwork.
These stories are being made public at a critical time where Cardinal Pell’s case is being heard on appeal. While that may cause some people to leap to the conclusion that these are false claims, data and research shows that Bernie and Peter are right within the common time frame at which most survivors of childhood sexual abuse make a report.
According to CHILD USA, the median age of an abuse report is 48 and the average age is 52. Whether due to feelings of self-blame, shame, or fear, the vast majority of child sexual abuse victims take decades to come forward. What this means is that crimes from the late 1970's to early 1980's are most likely to be reported this year, last year and next year. This is why we push for legislative changes that takes this reporting lag into account. Our laws and conventions should accommodate the psychological needs of victims and the demonstrated research on how victims report.
We hope that this story will encourage others to learn about the realities of child sexual abuse, the myths and facts about why and when survivors report, and what kind of change they can make locally that will encourage survivors to come forward instead of suffering alone and in silence.