Statement from Bishop Bill Wright on after effects of child sexual abuse

This morning The Newcastle Herald ran several articles proposing to establish a connection between the incidence of suicide and child sexual abuse.


The questions posed by Bob O’Toole are important and I agree that these issues should be scientifically and rigorously explored. 


We already know that people who were sexually assaulted as children can suffer serious adverse effects that last into adulthood, even their whole lives. I sit with and listen to these truths all too frequently. I also sit and listen to people who have found ways of drawing strength from their personal history and are living lives of hope and meaning. 


As Bishop of Maitland-Newcastle I support an independent, rigorous, scientific research project into these issues. Any study that gives us new insights into the terrible issues of child sexual assault and its aftermath is worthwhile. 


The Diocese had already begun to discuss how to propose such a study to the Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse and how the Diocese could best support such a study. Had The Newcastle Herald contacted either the Diocese or myself for comment on this prior to publishing these several articles today, I would have been able to comment on this further within context. Unfortunately now as the articles have been published, this statement comes in the form of reply.


- Bishop Bill Wright, Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle



Excerpt from email to Bob O’Toole, sent 15th December 2014


Following quotes attributed to Bishop Bill Wright in the Newcastle Herald on Tuesday 13th January 2015, read excerpts from the original email sent by Bishop Bill Wright – in response to a request from Bob O’Toole sent on 15th December 2014.


Statistics are as useful as they are accurate.


We receive reports of suicides. (However)...the causes of sudden deaths are contentious, even in families. Some believe a death was suicide, others refuse to do so. Most deaths of young men are sudden anyway, either suicide or accident. The interpretation of many such deaths is problematic.


When someone suicides years after being at school, how much weight should be put on their school experience compared to, say, more immediate things like a relationship breakdown, job loss etc, business failure, etc? People do suicide, or die suddenly, for other reasons. Or in other words, every life story is different. 


I have no problem with your saying, or anyone else saying, ‘We know of...(so many sudden deaths)’. As long as that’s accurate, it is a known fact. It may be a disturbing fact. God knows, the rate of youth suicide in Australia is a disturbing fact in itself.


I would, of course, be interested in the results of your research.