Pacific survivor of sexual abuse shares experiences with Abuse in Care inquiry

​A Pacific survivor of sexual abuse Frances Tagaloa has shared her experiences at the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in Care.

30th November, 2020

Pacific survivor of sexual abuse shares experiences with Abuse in Care inquiry

Frances Tagaloa.

A Pacific survivor of sexual abuse has shared her experiences today at the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in Care.

In moving testimony, Frances Tagaloa described the abuse at the hands of a Marist Brother who taught at a nearby school and the impact it has had on her life.

She told the inquiry that after school hours, she and a friend went to visit Bede Fitton, a Marist Brother who taught at the Marist Brothers Intermediate School in Ponsonby.

“Initially I thought it was fun to play and get to draw on black board and learn something different. I did like that I got some individual attention,” Tagaloa said.

But after a while, started going alone. Reaching out for the hand of her husband Timo, who was sitting beside her, she said: 

“I would visit Brother Bede by myself and that’s when the abuse would occur. 

"Brother Bede would be fondling me, or would want me to take my pants off and stand me up on the table and get me to read books. 

"I was not sure what else he was doing because I was reading books. 

"Another time I was on his knee, and he was fondling around my private parts. This was happening between 5 and 7.”

For many years Tagaloa struggled with impact from that abuse.

"It's difficult to overstate the barriers to disclosure to one's parents and family.

"The following are some barriers that I encountered. Shame. Shame was very relevant. It was quite shameful that I had gone through this terrible trauma and experience. And that it related to sex which is a taboo. Although I've had a blended culture the Samoan culture was dominant in our family. We didn't talk about sex full stop. The taboo around sex is very strong."

Until 2002, she told the court she made a complaint to the Catholic Church.

“I wasn’t too impressed with the outcome. I don’t recall an apology, I don’t recall them trying to explain. I’ve got a letter and I threw it out because I was so upset I don’t recall what the letter said,” she said.

“Following my complaint I was offered compensation, I didn't want it. In 2002, Brother Henry Spence donated $6000 dollars in my name and my husband’s name to our ministry.”

Tagaloa is one of 25 victims of sexual abuse under faith-based care who will give evidence in the weeks to come.

Earlier at the hearing, a member of the Catholic Survivors Network praised the Commission for refusing to give in to requests by the Church to suppress the names of abusers.

Murray Heasley says name suppression would have been outrageous. 

“We commend the commission for denying the church's attempt to silence our victims' survivors once again. Any other outcome would have been outrage,” he says.

Heasley says, “Now the victims get to speak. Silent, no more!”