Shame depends on secrecy to keep it alive.
Shame and secrecy are dangerous; they keep us hidden and fearful.
Abuse victims are told they have secrets that must be kept. These secrets are secrets of violation: abuse, violence, threats, belittlement, intimidation, sexual attacks. Dangerous things, made so much more dangerous by the shame that stops us talking about them.
When we speak out loud about such things, we are saying their secrets are not shameful – not for the victims anyway. We say they do not have to carry secrets; that this is not their shame, not their fault, not their burden to carry and they are not alone.
We say that shame belongs to the perpetrators, the ones who do have to hide what they’ve done. We shine a light on the excuses that try to shift the shame to the victims and show them for what they are – guilt. We say that their abusers hide from guilt by claiming responsibility lies with the victim. We say that this is wrong, that no one can ever be held responsible for the crimes someone else chooses to inflict upon them. We tell perpetrators the shame is theirs alone. And in doing so, we help victims become survivors.
A voice is the most powerful thing any single person has; use it to speak for ourselves and on behalf of others, and when we do that, we change the world.
Voices have been heard in Rome – and it is believed there are many more voices as yet unheard – voices that remain silent due to secrecy and shame. It is believed, and hoped – for the victims benefit – that these voices will become more prevalent given the wave of support that is being shown to the victims who have braved the Royal Commission and Rome. There are also thousands who have been abused outside the institutional system who are now struggling with the constant reminders and may eventually speak out.
All these victims deserve the human right of protection from further abuse in society; abuse in the form of derogatory, demeaning, insulting comments or behaviour that refers to their past. This is where I have found a void. Nowhere in the Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Charter are victims of abuse afforded any protection and I believe it must be exposed. For victims to tell their story for the first – and sometimes even the thousandth time – is horrific and terrifying and they will be afraid to speak out if they still feel they have no protection.
We must search for an amendment to the Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Charter.