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Fight, flight, freeze

By Amanda Gearing - posted Monday, 1 September 2008

To the casual observer, noting yet another mass sexual abuse scandal in a church boarding school, one might wonder why the story has taken more than 20 years to hit the newspapers.

To discover this we have to look at the scheming minds of the offenders who orchestrated for themselves at St Stanislaus, a way to be able to commit crimes against children without ever being reported to authorities.

Far from their offences being lapses or mistakes, these types of offenders are conscious schemers who know the depth of depravity in which they are engaging.


Their offending typically begins early in their life - usually mid-teenage.

So they know as young men that they need to work in an organisation which will trust them to be with children unsupervised by parents or other responsible adults.

They also need an organisation which will trust them more than any child who might accidentally or purposely ever report their crimes.

The church’s philosophy of holding priests on a pedestal and the church’s teaching that everyone must “forgive” another who wrongs them so that their sins may in turn be forgiven by God, is an ideal environment.

There is also a bonus for offenders working in church schools: if a child reports, their parents will be placed in the difficult position of having to chose between believing their child or believing their spiritual leaders.

For the child entering a boarding school, the power structure is very evident.


Teachers tell students what to do and when to do it.

Students know they must obey and they will be legitimately punished if they don’t do as they are told.

Parents reinforce to the child the importance of doing as they are told by their teachers.

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About the Author

Dr Amanda Gearing graduated with a Masters' Degree from QUT in 2012 and a PhD in Global investigative journalism in 2016. Amanda was The Courier-Mail's reporter in Toowoomba for ten years until 2007 and received several awards for her work including Best news Report (All Media) in 2002. She has written in Australia and the UK for national and state newspapers and has produced documentaries for ABC Radio National. In 2012 she won a Walkley Award for Best radio documentary for The day that changed Grantham. She also won a Clarion Award for her radio documentary A living sacrifice in 2013. Her non-fiction book The Torrent was published in 2012 and an updated edition will be published in February 2017.

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