NAUSEA pulses through her body; her face and hands drip with sweat.
The mere prospect of returning to the region where it happened provokes an intensely visceral response.
Gina Swannell’s transformation from guileless young girl to broken woman is a study in what you get when you run from yourself.
Fifty years ago, Ms Swannell’s idyllic existence in Wagga was shattered by the family’s decision to send her to Urana’s St Francis Xavier boarding school.
Raised a devout Catholic, the six-year-old was placed in the trust of nuns and priests.
That trust, she claims, was ripped away when Father Charles Holdsworth repeatedly sexually abused her in the confessional box of the church.
The “filthy, toxic secret”, as she describes it, has gnawed at her soul for half a century, giving her an avowed, lifelong hatred of authority, deep trust issues and tipping her life out of control.
In 2013, as the nation confronted the issue of institutionalised abuse like never before, she shared her secret at a Royal Commission. The healing had begun.
But where there’s no justice, there can never be true healing.
While Ms Swannell is slowly coming to terms with how the abuse has defined her, she still harbours resentment towards the Catholic Church.
Church leaders, she claims, have wilfully ignored the plight of abuse victims.
At the Royal Commission, the church hierarchy vowed to “recognise and acknowledge the crimes of the past and the devastating harm caused by child sexual abuse".
Yet Ms Swannell does not feel recognised or acknowledged. She claims to have exposed a glaring double standard in the church – the public statements supporting abuse victims versus the private actions ignoring them.
Ms Swannell wants an apology. She wants restitution. She wants justice. It appears they might have to be court ordered.
Despite hopes of face-to-face mediation with church leaders, she claims Wagga Diocese has closed the book on the case, setting up a date at the NSW Supreme Court in October.
And so she must face another perversion of justice.
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