QLD-based Joan Katherine Isaacs is a wife, mother and doting grandmother. Born in 1953 into a Catholic family, Joan was the middle child of migrant parents. But at the age of fifteen Joan's normal and happy life changed irreparably when the chaplain at her school groomed her for his own sexual gratification.
Despite the trauma of her teenage years, Joan became a teacher, initially working in primary schools and later focusing on children with special needs and learning difficulties.
Silenced by her abuser and later by the Catholic Church through their Towards Healing program, Joan was finally able to speak in 2013 when she gave evidence at the Royal Commission into the Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
In the forthcoming autobiography, To Prey and to Silence, Joan shares the powerful account of her battle to be heard, and to finally get the justice that she, and so many others like her, greatly deserved.
To Prey and to Silence
Short Stop Press
Author: Joan Katherine Isaacs
Question: What inspired you to write "To Prey and to Silence"?
Joan Katherine Isaacs: After my abuser was jailed in 1998, I wanted to write a book as I had found the experience in the justice system very traumatic. I thought that if I wrote a book about my experience it would be good for the everyday person to know just how difficult it can be for a child abuse survivor.
When I entered Towards Healing soon after, I expected it to be what the Church said it would and I thought it would bring me healing. However, at the end of a gruelling two and a half years, I emerged from the process a broken, very damaged and disillusioned woman. I was silenced from ever speaking to anyone about my abuse again. My treating psychologist wrote to Archbishop Bathersby, pleading for him not to silence me as it would be detrimental to my treatment and my health. This was ignored.
I carried my anger and my pain for years until the Royal Commission set me free from my silencing. I needed to write the book as the last step in setting myself free.
Question: Was it difficult reliving certain aspects of my life when writing "To Prey and to Silence"?
Joan Katherine Isaacs: It was extremely difficult. There were lots and lots of tears along the way. There were recurring nightmares as I relived the details of my abuse and the threat of litigation by the Church should I ever speak out. I felt traumatised every time I saw the Archbishop on the television or in the newspaper. I felt traumatised every time I heard the representatives of the Church speak about their Towards program.
I have found the writing of my book, "To Prey and To Silence" to be a cathartic process. I am able to speak the truth about my experiences and I feel that by putting the words down on paper, I am no longer carrying the burden of it all on my own.
Question: What do you hope other readers take from "To Prey and to Silence"?
Joan Katherine Isaacs: I would like the people who read my book to have some idea of the impact of child sexual abuse on victims. From the moment of their abuse, their lives take on a whole new direction. It affects everything about their lives from then on... Their education, their life potential, their emotional and sexual development , their trust, their relationships...
I would also like reader to fully understand the duplicity of the Catholic Church who through their Towards Healing program brought more pain and suffering to victims. I am not alone in being silenced and not alone in the way I was treated in Towards Healing .
Most of all... I would like to be a voice for other victims who have suffered similar traumas. I would like to encourage other victims to share their experiences and not carry their pain alone. Australia is a different place now since the Royal Commission. The Royal Commission has exposed so much that would never have believed in the past. Victims need hope and they need to be able to speak about their experiences to be able to heal. It is my greatest wish that my book brings some hope to other victims of child sexual abuse.
Interview by Brooke Hunter