Secondary victims deserve understanding

THE revelations of the recently concluded Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse are still reverberating throughout the nation. So much tragedy, so many destroyed lives.

Amidst the many faces of trauma and the Commission’s reported 200 witnesses from 57 formal public hearings and 8000 personal stories are the unknown numbers of secondary victims. These are the people suffering the collateral flow-on effects of damaged children who, in the main, grow up to become tortured and scarred adults.

These ‘secondary victims’ include parents, family members, current and past partners, wives and husbands; many of whom may not have known until recently the unspeakable horror their loved ones endured.

Secondary victims suffer injury and damage as a consequence of what has happened to their loved ones and family members. 

It is well documented that many abuse survivors have histories of substance abuse as they struggle to manage their emotional and mental suffering, post traumatic stress disorder and other conditions. 

Often the difficult behaviour and personalities of the victims as adults understandably reflects their trauma but tragically, bears little resemblance to the people they could have become or the levels they could have achieved. The wasted potential in terms of destroyed lives and relationships, for both the abuse survivors and their families is unquantifiable. Anne Levey and her husband became pawns to the sick and clever manipulations of practised pedophiles.

Anne was unwavering in her faith and her trust in the Church and, left to parent a teenage boy on her own, did the best she could at the time. What she didn’t and couldn’t have known then is the sophisticated, complex and insidious power of “grooming” and how skilled perpetrators become. 

An expert paper commissioned by the Royal Commission in 2017 attempts to define the “range of behaviors that seek to build trust with and increase access to a child, and establish compliance of a child.” 

Grooming and related techniques are extremely difficult to identify and define and often the parents and other family members are manipulated as well.  

There is not a day that Anne doesn’t feel guilty and blame herself. That same recrimination has doubtless been echoed countless times. The reality is that secondary victims also deserve society’s understanding and compassion, and their day in court.