Abuse ‘disproportionate’

Dunedin victims of church abuse were likely to number even more than those shown in national figures released on Tuesday, a survivor’s advocate has said.

The Catholic Church had released the figures which showed 1122 survivors had laid almost 1700 complaints naming almost 600 perpetrators of abuse.

Male Survivors Otago manager Michael Chamberlain said the scale of the abuse did not reflect what had happened locally, with victims likely at a higher percentage than the national figures.

"In Dunedin it’s disproportionate, because of the number of institutions and the number of people that have registered their abuse."

While Tuesday’s figures had been released by the Catholic Church itself, Mr Chamberlain was unconvinced that represented a shift in approach from the church in response to the abuse issue.

The only reason the church had compiled the figures was because of a request from the royal commission, and they would have become part of the public record in due course anyway.

"They’ve been challenged many, many times recently about how they do respond to things, or the lack of response to things would be a better way of putting it.

"It’s them trying to use a situation to their advantage to show them in a good light."

Bishop of Dunedin Michael Dooley said he thought it was "quite significant" that the church had put the figures out off its own bat rather than being forced to.

The figures were "shocking" and showed that the work the church was doing to face the abuse crisis needed to continue.

"Locally we’re trying to do that, which is things like greater safeguarding measures, and then with the royal commission continuing to engage."

An investigation continued into whether former Bishop John Kavanagh took proper action when he received complaints of sexual abuse during his tenure, 1957-85, and Bishop Dooley expected the results would be available "very shortly".

The investigation could also have ramifications for Kavanagh College, the Dunedin high school that bears his name.

Survivor support groups have called on the church to rename the school.

-- andrew.marshall@odt.co.nz

 

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