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More by JohnB - Living the final years of the Catholic Cover up

Andrew Collins A survivor reflects on parallels-between-Spotlight-film-and-Ballarat
Bookmark and Share      First published : 2016-01-29 07:32:56    Last updated : 2016-01-29 16:38:26

The truth stands alone. - (a review of the movie Spotlight)

A fellow survivor told me that. The truth might be uncomfortable, it might upset people, but it will always come out.  

What makes the movie Spotlight so compelling is that the truth surrounding the sexual abuse of children within the Catholic Church is coming out. 

For too long we were told that it was just a few bad apples or that it was under control or it didn’t happen.

In our own town we have seen the numbers of victims rise and the numbers of suicides rise. The truth is coming out.

The story of what happened in Boston parallels the story of what happened in Ballarat. In 2001 the Boston Globe did a story on a single priest who had abused children.

An investigation revealed the church had moved the priests from parish to parish and they had kept abusing children. 

More and more victims start to come forward. Investigations show that the church knew, but did nothing. 

The church leaders couldn't recall when asked under oath. 

A Cardinal covers up the truth. 

If this sounds familiar that’s because it is exactly what we have seen and heard in the Royal Commission hearings into child sexual abuse in Ballarat.

The film honestly portrays the life of a journalist. It is gritty and shows the hours of research that goes into a story. 

It portrays the profession as an honourable one that really can change the world. 

But it does not portray them as heroes. 

They do a great job, but they acknowledge their own failings and come to realise that they were even caught up in the lies and the cover up themselves to some extent.

If any teenagers see this movie they may aspire to be journalists and help to expose the truth. 

It’s ironic that in the film it’s not the church that has the highest ethics – it’s the journalists.

At the end of the film there is a list of other places around the world where large scale abuses happened. Ballarat is one of them. 

Ballarat has a reputation for being one of the worst places for the sexual abuse of children in the world.

By the end of the film you will agree that Ballarat is Boston.

It is sometimes too easy to not see or fully comprehend what goes on close to us. 

This film shows that Ballarat is not unique. 

It shows us that the culture of the church protected the priests who were raping children and abandoned the victims.

It shows us that this problem is a worldwide problem and that the church has powerful connections in society and people rarely criticise it.

The Vatican has said that the film is "honest" and "compelling" and said it helped the Church "to accept fully the sin, to admit it publicly, and to pay all the consequences”. 

Unfortunately that implies that it is all over and finalised when the truth is that the struggle is only beginning. 

We have seen in the Royal Commission hearings that the church leaders have trouble admitting the past, and the victims certainly will agree that the church has not paid the consequences.

Pope Francis recently admitted that the church currently has 2 per cent of its priests that are paedophiles.

In Australia, the Church’s Truth, Justice and Healing Council says it is closer to 4 per cent. 

The fact that they are still there says there is a long way to go. In addition, victims are still fighting for fair compensation and ongoing support.

The truth is that children were abused and the church covered it up. 

Anything else that is said to try to justify why it happened only distracts from this message.

This film was very triggering for me. I cried for my fellow victims.

I was angry because the truth was covered up. 

I was upset that it happened all over the world. I could not sleep at all that night. I went from feelings of anger to sadness to frustration to helplessness.  

But I came away with hope. Hope that the truth will prevail and the world will be a better place because of it.

So, should you see it? Yes. The film is rated M and I would encourage parents to take their teenagers to see it. The future adults of tomorrow need to see what has happened in the past.

They need to see that Ballarat was not immune and that because of what happened that there are people who will suffer from problems for the rest of their lives. 

If you are catholic, you should see it. The film is not an attack on the Church. It is a factual account of what happened, and the faithful should be fully aware. 

It will start a discussion that may allow the Church to reform and move forward. If you belong to another religion you should see it. 

The Royal Commission has shown that no church was immune from the abuse of children.

If you are not religious you should see it. We live in a town that has been so badly affected by the sexual assault of children that it has an impact on the entire town. 

There are neighbours, family and friends who have been touched by the abuses and the ripple effects are still being felt today. 

To understand Ballarat you need to understand it’s past. To help victims move forward you need to understand the problem and its global impacts.

If you are affected by the movie, please seek out counselling. 

Then go and tie a ribbon on one of the loud fence sites to show your support for Victims, and have a discussion with your family. Child sexual abuse happens in churches, clubs and families. 

By talking about it openly and honestly we can ensure that it never happens again.  

No more silence. 



Andrew Collins is a clergy sexual abuse survivor and outspoken advocate for victims. 

Lifeline: 13 11 14

Ballarat Centre Against Sexual Assault: 5320 3933 

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A survivor reflects on parallels-between-Spotlight-film-and-Ballarat
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