An abuse victim details the lifetime impact of a predator's abuse and how she went from a bubbly girl to eating glass to avoid going to school.
An abuse victim details the lifetime impact of a predator's abuse and how she went from a bubbly girl to eating glass to avoid going to school.

'My job is to survive every day from his crimes'

I am exceptionally good at writing, yet I do not even know how to write the first line of this piece. How do I put into words for you to understand - the impact of the abuse at the hands of Neville Creen on my whole life?

I was a happy, bright, loving little girl. I loved Irish dancing, softball, music (I was learning the piano). I was a good student who loved school. The impact of Creen's crimes against me was immediate from my childhood, and has permeated every area of my life, and over my lifetime. I could never trust anyone. My childhood was robbed, my innocence destroyed. I viewed the world through different eyes. Everyone was viewed as a predator in my eyes from that point on. No trust.

In Grade 7, when Creen's physical crimes against me started, I gave up everything I loved - Irish dancing, softball. I begged my parents to give up piano. I did not want to go to my friend's house to practise piano as it was a place I was attacked by Creen and I certainly did not want to go to the convent house for lessons because of the fear of the attacks there too. I had my long hair cut off to short hair - I thought it would make me ugly. I developed a dreadful stutter from extreme stress and anxiety, I started to rub my cheek on my left shoulder constantly from nerves. I ate glass to get out of going to school so I didn't see Creen. I went from being a happy, vibrant, bubbly girl to sullen, scared, wanting to be a recluse to stay safe, but never feeling safe in any case. Mum would make me go to church on Sundays and he would 'smile' at me. It was awful.

Nowhere was safe for me, nowhere - church, school, socially, Creen was everywhere.

Going to school should be safe. Going to church should be safe. Going to friends' houses or social events should be safe. Creen was at every school, Creen was at church and church events. Creen was often at events like St Patrick's Day dinner, etc to give the 'blessing'.

Nowhere was safe. Fear.

I left home at 13/14 years of age (in Grade 9), because my mother blamed me, and from the moment I spoke up at 11 years of age Mum was angry at me. Mum said I was a liar, psychiatric (that family label of me started with Mum after I ate the glass to get out of going to school), troublemaker. Mum said Creen was a 'good man, a man of the cloth, a man of God' and he would never have done what I said.

Funny us kids at school were not blinded by faith. Sadly, all too many knew the truth of this man of God, Creen.

I saw Dad look at me with such sadness and pain, it was destroying him. Like most people Dad enjoyed a cold beer after work, but Dad started drinking spirits, he sat at the table every night in silence and drank. Dad became an alcoholic, and my mother blamed me for him becoming an alcoholic.

I blamed myself for telling Dad what had happened to me. No child should have to leave home at 13/14. No child should have to bear the guilt of what was done to me by Creen. That is Creen's guilt, not mine, the child. My father died a broken man within seven years of my telling him what Creen did. Dad died in my arms and my mother told me I put my father into an early grave. Not what happened to me, Dad's child, but I had put him in an early grave. My father felt like he had failed me as my protector. My father was rageful, bitter, angry, and powerless. I miss Dad every day and I still blame myself for his death.

I was going to school, working after school in a fast food takeaway shop, and living on my own. My dad would come see me at my job, give me more money to help me. He told me I could blame him and his drinking for not living at home so people would not have to 'know' what had happened to me. Mum wanted to send me to boarding school and I wanted to go, so I did not have to see Creen anymore or live at home. Dad said no, 'what if there was another Creen at the boarding school and I would be trapped'.

I went to school from Grade 1 with my friends. I loved my friends. In the middle of my secondary education I had to go live with my sister and her husband in Townsville and establish new friendships after a lifetime of growing up with my friends. It had been discovered I was living by myself out of home and authorities said I had to go home. It was arranged I would live with my sister and her husband on Magnetic Island.

I started at the new school and living with my sister and her husband in 1980. After a year I finally felt safe going to school. I had made a couple of friends. I had chosen a career path to study law. I felt like life was going to be better, like it had been five years before. Most importantly, I had 'hope' for the future.

Then, when I was in Grade 11 and into my second year living in Townsville, I walked into school one morning and there was Creen. I cannot describe the fear, the repulsion, the dread, the knowing.

I had to leave school because the predator was now in Townsville.

The attack that occurred and was Creen's sixth charge was the final straw for me and I felt I died.

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Afterwards I left school and went straight back to Mount Isa to live. I lost my education. I lost my peace and happiness. I lost hope. I lost a future. I lost my chance of a career. I was intelligent, but I had to take a job at the Irish Club in the kitchen scrubbing pots and waitressing. I was angry. I lost hope.

I would leave the Irish Club kitchen and go straight to the bar. I was 16 and drinking the pain away. I wanted to be numb. I wanted desperately to be loved. My world lost colour. It was black and white and no room for grey even. I worked, I drank, I looked for love. I was lost. I hated myself. I drank more. I hated myself more. I drank more. It was a vicious cycle of self-destruction. The more I imploded the more it took to numb the pain, the more I drank. All the while I had my mother justifying herself by saying 'see, I told you she is trouble'. I just wanted to die. The wanting to die has been with me every day for the last 44 years. I tried weed and was violently ill. I was offered worse drugs, but I knew if I started, there would be no turning back and I would choose to die. I would overdose. I cannot explain it, but every day I know I must choose to not take my life. I fight to stay alive every day for my children, but it would be easier to die and end the pain than live every day with the video that plays in my head. There is a definite plan of how I would end my life. I wake and the memory video plays of Creen. I cannot sleep at night, when I do sleep, I relive the nightmare of Creen.

To this day I hate on myself for how I behaved from 16-19 years of age. I hate myself for the further hurt I caused my dad in the last two years of his life, as if he had not suffered enough knowing a man had violated his daughter, abused his precious child. Dad had to watch me spiralling into the pits of despair. Dad begged me to stop, but my pain did not stop. The drinking made it numb. The drinking made it fade, never disappear completely, but fade for a few hours. I loathed me and have loathed me for 44 years.

I could not stay in Mount Isa. Everywhere I turned was another memory. I had to drive past the schools where so much pain was inflicted on me. In Mount Isa I had to see people who knew it was happening to me as a child and did nothing to stop it. I felt like I was in a fishbowl with no walls, no escape. I had started to date a gorgeous guy who adored me, but I did not feel worthy. I told him I had to get out of Mount Isa and he did not understand what was wrong with me but said he would follow me to Townsville as soon as he finished his apprenticeship. I left Mount Isa within 48 hours and came back to Townsville. I got a job at the hospital. That gorgeous guy followed me. He asked me to marry him and we got engaged. Nothing made me happy. Nothing in life made me happy. Without warning I ended the engagement. Only last year I saw my former fiance again for the first time. I told him about what had happened to me as a child. He was heartbroken and said I should have told him back then. I did not tell people because I felt like I was the lowest form of a person, because a priest had touched me - therefore a priest obviously thought I was not a good girl, a girl to be loved, honoured and cherished, so why would any man see me any differently. I had told my school principal, a teacher, my parents, even another priest, all of them but my father had blamed me, so I certainly wasn't going to tell people again, because I clearly was to blame.

After my fiance and I broke up, I spiralled further, and the drinking became heavier and heavier. I drank 'til I blanked out every night. I woke. Went to work. Went straight to the pub and drank. I had no serious relationship because I could not allow anyone to love me, yet all the while I was desperate to be loved.

I went to the doctor and learned I was pregnant. I was 19 and pregnant. My father was dead. I was alone. I told my mother I was pregnant and she told me to adopt it as I would make a terrible mother because of how I was, yet in the last year I have learned through counselling and support that my life is textbook for child sex abuse. My oldest sister told me to abort it and make a new start with my life. She did not say this to be nasty to me, but because she wanted me to have an easier time in life than I had had, and she knew having a child on my own would be hard. I was pregnant, scared and alone. I thought this was all my fault because a priest did things to me sexually. The out-of-marriage pregnancy was further shame to my family, and I was just a bigger embarrassment to them.

The father of the baby and I agreed we had no future as there was no love between us to start with. I told the baby's father he did not have to worry, I wanted nothing from him, I would take responsibility. I told my obstetrician I was going to adopt, and he asked why. I said: 'Mum said I would make a terrible mother.' He asked did anything ever happen to me like a rape, and I said 'why?' and he said because of how you react when I examine you. I had tears rolling down my cheeks and said it was all my fault and left the appointment. Throughout the pregnancy the obstetrician was gentle, kind, patient and kept telling me we would make no decision about adoption 'til the baby was born and that I would be an incredibly good mother. My daughter was born, and I fell in love.

I went to the Catholic Church and asked the priest to baptise her and he said no, it was wrong as she was not born in marriage. Apparently my having a child was so wrong but a fellow priest sexually abusing a child was OK? I went to a Deacon who was now living in Townsville (formerly Mount Isa) and he said he most definitely would baptise my daughter and he did.

I had a baby, a house, a full-time administration job and two weekend bar jobs, and rage. I was so angry that I never got my education. I never got my career. Then I would listen to Mum say it was my fault for leaving school in Grade 11. I would listen to her say I should be going to church! I was 21 and went to a psychiatrist to get an answer as to why I was so unhappy. I did not tell him what had happened to me because I had no trust. At 11/12 years of age I knew something was desperately wrong and ate glass, and I kept searching for 'the reason', to find out what was wrong with me, 'til I walked into Stuart police station in March 2019, and over the next year the puzzle pieces came together, my desperate unhappiness was a result of the sexual abuse from Creen. I have been in prison from 11 years of age, 44 years. I got a life sentence. He got three months.

I met my former husband and we started living together. I fell pregnant and miscarried. I then fell pregnant with twins and I was well into the final stage of the pregnancy when I lost the twins and I can remember saying to the doctor: 'This is because I was bad as a child and God is punishing me.' He sat with me and he asked what I meant, but I just sat seeing Creen's face and actions to me in my head and I was not able to speak. I fell pregnant again and again it was twins. I lost one of the twins but this time I went back to the same obstetrician as I had my daughter and he put me straight into hospital and he said: 'Kathleen, I don't know what happened to you as a child, but it is nothing you have personally done to cause the problems you are having carrying babies.' I gave birth to my oldest son and I gave him the name which meant 'gift from God' - I thought God was forgiving me for being a bad child with a priest.

In 2000/01 a Mount Isa detective contacted me and asked would I know what he was calling about and I said 'Father Creen'. He asked questions and I said nothing happened to me and I could not come forward as I was in a bad marriage, but please believe anything that is told to you because it will be true. I contacted Mum and said 'it is all coming out now Mum,' and she told me to leave it be and stay silent. I stayed silent because I feared my husband would also say I deserved what Creen did, or blame me.

I have been back here in Townsville 14 years now and apart from my oldest sister, who I lived with in grade 10 and 11, I have no relationship with the other siblings. My oldest sister died in January 2020 and I lost my only family. There was no pretending or putting on a front, at my sister's funeral, I was totally heartbroken. I am still not able to talk about her without breaking down and, like my dad, I will miss her forever.

One of the hardest parts to endure over the last 44 years was having no family. I became an orphan the day my father died. I have desperately tried to reach out and to have relationships with my family, but I am rejected. This impact has been generational. I had no real or meaningful relationship with my mother after I told her what was happening to me at 11 years of age. In fact, she was toxic to me and her toxicity flowed through my brothers and sisters. They don't even realise they picked up on Mum's attitude towards me.

I learned my daughter was pregnant and due one month before her first child was born, my grandchild. The impact of Creen is now going to go into the next generation as I won't be allowed to have a relationship with my grandchild. The pride I feel that I am a grandmother is overtaken by a tsunami of sadness at the loss of relationship with the next generation. This is four generations impacted by Creen. My parents, my siblings and I, my children, nieces and nephews, and now very sadly my grandchild and future grandchildren that come after this first precious grandchild.

My two sons have suffered as they have had to endure the family ridiculing their mother too.

The crimes of Creen have changed me. I could have had an Oscar for the act I have had to put on in life. I have put on the smiling face to the world and under the surface was a woman who was crying inside. My children have been 'my happy', but the impact of the crimes on me has had a damaging and devastating impact on them, whether they realise it to the full extent or not. I trusted no one around my children. I was not just a helicopter parent, I was the SAS soldier on the helicopter. I stayed at sport trainings, I was at the games, I would do the carpool when I was not on carpool roster, I was at everything and everywhere with them. I had eyes everywhere.

As the years went on the impact of the crimes of Creen was like a cancer, eating away at me, and the rage came out quicker when people did wrong. My children saw an angry woman. I was rageful at the world. Anger is really a representation of a person who is extremely hurt and wounded, who has not been able to express or has had to suppress the pain. Not all wounds heal - some scab and are full of pus. I cannot describe the rage I felt at not being believed and worse still the hurt of being blamed. On the 23 July, 2020 at 1.35pm the DPP advised me Creen was intending to plead guilty on all charges in relation to me. I was released from prison after 44 years. I was believed. My family could not say I was a liar or psychiatric. This was not 12 jurors who liked me more than Creen. This was an admission of guilt. It was then I realised how angry I had been inside for decades as the tears flowed. I wish my children had a mother who was not damaged and scarred. A businessman said to me one hour before the call from the DPP, 'not everyone is out to get you Kathleen Walsh'. He commented I do not trust anyone. Forty-four years of my life changed by Creen's crimes. To this day I only trust my sons, the detective in this case, the medical people and a handful of very close friends - for everyone else I 'stand on guard'.

I am woken by the haunting of flashbacks, nightmares. Being chased, pursued, hunted. I wake shaking, sweating, heart racing, terrified. I often resort to ringing Lifeline just to talk. It often feels safer talking to a stranger. I relive the attacks in my sleep and the video plays in my head in the waking hours too. It is impacting on my health and has been for decades.

I have learned to act happy, but all the while inside a black empty hole is ever present. The noise in my brain is constant. The negative self-talk. The trying to work out what is the best way to deal with situations, 'so I will not be blamed'. Keeping every detail of every event in my brain's filing cabinet in case I am ever blamed about something, anything. People talk about my amazing memory, but it is exhausting to me.

With loss of education comes loss of career, loss of direction, loss of self-worth, loss of achievement, loss of income, loss of potential. Potential is not worth a cup of coffee. I had so much potential. I was intelligent. I do not know how to explain to you why, but it becomes so hard trying to concentrate, to focus, to commit, to see things through to the end. Life is a scattered, scrambled mess. There is always a feeling of failure. I tried to go back to school, firstly night school then even to high school as an adult. I had a child, a mortgage, bills to pay. I am not making excuses for myself, it just made it hard. I obviously wanted my degree because I applied at Notre Dame University in Fremantle. When I got a high distinction my ex-husband told me I had to stop university as I was being unfair on the children with the time for lectures and studying. I saw a degree as a way of getting a good job to be able to pay for a lawyer and get out of this abusive marriage. Mum said to me 'you never complete anything' but I wanted to. My children were given every opportunity that I was not given. They were able to go to school without fear, complete their education, and when they had finished school, were encouraged and supported by me in their career choices.

Last year, when I gave my police statement, I realised how much it angered me that I did not get my education or my career. I paid to go to a career psychologist just to see what I should have done. The psychologist interviewed me and then gave me a series of tests. At the result appointment she said: 'Well, you are right back where you started Kathleen. Your results all showed law as one of your top career outcomes.' I feel so much rage and grief that I did not get to finish my education and go on to university. This has impacted every area of my life because it has impacted on my income my whole life, and my lifestyle and choices in life.

A few months ago, I did the tests, have been accepted to do the study to gain entry to university. When I was accepted, I asked them to check they had the right person. I asked did they know I was 55 years of age. I asked what my results were, and I was totally shocked to learn I had got top marks in all the tests I had done. This year I will start what I should have done in 1983, but for the crimes of Creen stopping me. I would have gone to university free of charge in 1983, now I will incur a debt, but I must do this for myself. I cannot explain why but the impact is too much to not deal with it. I want to help other victims of child sex abuse crimes. I want to make a difference to the world. I have a choice: I can be bitter because of Creen, or I can be a better person than Creen.

I have had many people who have not lived this say I have to forgive him or, after the court case is completed, puff the magic dragon, I can just put it all behind me and get on with life, and all the while I have had a prison sentence imposed on me for committing no crime since I was 11 years old.

It is not my place to forgive Creen; my job has been, and still is, to survive every day from his crimes.

*For 24-hour sexual violence support call the national hotline 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or MensLine on 1800 600 636. 

Originally published as IN HER OWN WORDS: Abuse survivor speaks out


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