Anne Levey is racked with guilt.
Once a devout Catholic, the Albury woman still has faith in God — but she can’t bring herself to step inside a Catholic Church.
She doesn’t accept dogma from any church, not since her son Paul was sexually abused at the hands of disgraced paedophile priest Gerald Ridsdale.
“I blame myself, every day I blame myself,” she says. “I can’t help it.
“You go to bed and you’re thinking about it. You wake up and you’re thinking about it, but you just have to keep going. You live with it every day, the guilt, regret and the shame.”
Ms Levey is one of many secondary victims of the child sexual abuse scandal caught up in a cycle of entrenched pain.
Brought up to worship the Catholic Church, Ms Levey, 74, would get down on her knees and prayed the rosary daily. Up until last year, she attended church every Sunday. But after she gave evidence to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, Ms Levey couldn’t go into a church without breaking down.
“It’s taken that away from me and it was a big part of my life,” she says.
Paul was 14 when he was sent to live with Ridsdale by his father after he struggled to cope with his parents’ separation in 1982. In a harrowing submission to child abuse inquiry in 2015, Paul revealed he was "sexually abused all the time, just about every day".
Paul says it was common knowledge he was living there and that he was being sexually abused by Ridsdale. When Paul comes to stay at her house in Albury, Ms Levey hears him crying out in the middle of the night.
“He tries to keep the impact of it all to himself, but I hear him screaming out half the night and my heart breaks,” she says.
It was during a parish camping trip to White Cliffs, in far-western NSW in the early 1980s, that Ms Levey first met Ridsdale.
She remembers him as an arrogant, aloof man who took a instant liking to Paul.
When they returned home to Melbourne, Ridsdale would turn up unexpectedly offering to take Paul on outings to the football or the zoo.
“I thought it was fabulous to begin with that Gerry (Ridsdale) had taken an interest in Paul and was doing all these things with him that I couldn’t afford,” she says.
But it was her mother’s instinct that told her something was wrong when Paul was sent to live in Mortlake.
She repeatedly called then Bishop Ronald Mulkearns pleading with him to intervene but was told her ex-husband had given his permission. After problems with truancy in high school, he attempted to end his life in his late teens. It was not until years later Paul disclosed his abuse to his mum.
“Those priest and clergy would have no idea the impact it’s had on these boys or their families,” she says. “There is pattern of destruction that runs through lives of all of these victims and their families. I’d like to live long enough to see proper public acknowledgment from the Catholic Church of the devastating impact this whole thing has had on people.”
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