Practice Direction 1/2014
Form 2 (July 2014)
INITIAL REPORT - RECOMMENDATION FOR MORE THAN FIVE HOURS OF COUNSELLING Victims of Crime
Instructions to report writer
A report in this format is to be provided to the Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal when the counsellor recommends that the applicant should have more than five hours of counselling. The report must be accompanied by the following documents:
Application for Counselling form signed by the counsellor and applicant (Form 4); and
If expenses have been incurred by the applicant for the report and/or up to five counselling sessions provided to date, a completed Counselling and Report Fee Invoice for those expenses (Form 5). Where an applicant has received more than five hours of counselling without the Tribunal authorising payment of the expenses incurred for that counselling, payment will not usually be made by the Tribunal for the additional counselling.
An electronic copy of this form may be downloaded from the Tribunal's website at www.vocat.vic.gov.au. The text boxes will expand as content is entered by the report writer.
1.1 Applicant's name
John Anthony Brown
1.2 Applicant's date of birth
1.3 Tribunal reference number (if known)
1.4 Tribunal venue (where application lodged)
2.1 Counsellor's name
2.2 Counsellor's occupation / job Senior Social Worker, CASA Counsellor description (e.g., psychologist , social worker)
2.3 Counsellor's address and contact Ballarat Centre Against Sexual Assault details (including ABN and name of business that is recorded against the ABN, address and telephone number)
2.4 Counsellor's qualifications to assess, diagnose and treat the applicant (include full title of relevant qualification/degree, the name, State and country (if outside Australia) of the institution awarding the qualification/degree and the year the qualification/degree was awarded)..
Diploma of Welfare Studies & Community Development. 1986. School of Mines Ballarat, Victoria,.
Bachelor of Arts, Youth Work & Community Development, 1998, Victoria University.
Master of Social Work (professional qualifying) 2011. James Cook University, Qld..
2.5 Counsellor's experience in assessment, diagnosis and treatment, and other relevant experience.
I have been employed at the Ballarat Centre Against Sexual Assault (CASA) since 2001, when I was part of CASA's after hour's crisis care service. In 2005 I was employed as a daytime CASA counsellor/advocate where my role was to provide counselling, advocacy and support for people who have experienced sexual assault. In 2010 I was employed as the senior counsellor at Ballarat CASA. Since 2014 my role focused on supporting people involved in the Victorian Parliamentary Enquiry into child sexual abuse in religious and other organisations, and then the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to child sexual abuse. During this period of time I co-facilitated an ongoing men's support group for men who had experienced sexual assault. I am responsible for clinical supervision of CASA staff members and of coordinating CASA community education and training.
2.6 Counsellor's professional associations and memberships (include registration numbers where applicable).
I am an accredited member of the Victorian Branch of the AASW.
2.7 Detail how the applicant was linked to the treatment provider (e.g., whether the applicant was referred from another person/agency, and the name of the referring person/agency; approached counsellor directly etc.).
John was referred to Ballarat CASA by a Victorian Lawyer Dr Judy Courtin. At that time, he was seeking to make a submission to the Victorian Parliamentary Enquiry. I supported him in this process and as John had experienced difficulties accessing a suitable counselling service in his area of Toowoomba I agreed to provide ongoing telephone counselling/ support to him.
3.1 Briefly outline the alleged act of violence.
John grew up in the Victorian town of Yea and lived opposite the Sacred Heart Church on The Parade in Yea. As a young child between the age of three and five years, John alleges that he was subjected to repeated acts of violence, physical and sexual abuse and threats by the nuns and priests at the convent. These incidents also include John being trapped and almost suffocated on numerous occasions. According to John, he feels he was sexualised at a very early age. He was also given cigarettes by the nuns after the abuse, which has left him with a lifetime smoking habit.
John alleges that this abuse continued at school, as the nun who was his classroom teacher regularly sexually assaulted him at the front of the class, when his face was forced into her crotch. He also alleges he was made to watch a nun and priest have sex in the presbytery.
John alleges that at the age of eight, he was anally raped twice in a car by, Father Kevin O'Donnell who was a visiting priest. John reports that his underpants were soaked with blood after these assaults and he had also injured his foot when he was trying to run away and was pushed back into the car. John continues to experience ongoing pain with this foot.
3.2 List particulars of all material considered in relation to the applicant (e.g. police statements, reports, etc.)..
The writer was provided with a draft copy of the Statement of Witness, to the Queensland Police Service, dated 16/1/2014.
Copy of a letter from Dr RE Phillipson, Consultant Psychiatrist, 22/9/2006.
4.1 Date counselling / treatment commenced
4.2 Number and total duration of sessions provided to applicant by counsellor to date
4.3 Were any of the sessions provided by the counsellor to the applicant to date funded from another source?
If yes, detail the funding source.
4.4 To your knowledge, has the applicant received counselling from any other provider in relation to the act of violence the subject of the application to the Tribunal (including through the Victims Assistance and Counselling Program, Transport Accident Commission, WorkCover, or the Medicare Better Access to Psychiatrists, Psychologists and General Practitioners Benefits Scheme)? If yes, provide details of the provider and the number and duration of sessions provided.
I am aware that John has previously accessed psychological counselling prior to accessing support with the writer. John received counselling for approximately two years, between 2005-2006, that he funded himself. During that time John had made contact with the Melbourne Response, and these sessions were subsequently refunded to him. He was also referred to a psychologist in Toowoomba in 2014. These sessions were funded through the Medicare Better access scheme. In 2016 he accessed further counselling for approximately 15 sessions.
4.5 To your knowledge, is the applicant entitled to access counselling services through the Transport Accident Commission, WorkCover, Medicare Better Access to Psychiatrists, Psychologists and General Practitioners Benefits Scheme? If yes, provide details.
I am aware that john has accessed counselling services through the Medicare Better Healthcare Access scheme, but these were time limited each year. After he had used his allocated sessions, John was required to re-apply through his GP for further sessions. John found that he could not always access support in crisis as his allocated sessions had been utilised. It is my experience that this process is not an appropriate model of support for people who have experienced long term childhood sexual abuse.
4.6 Detail the type of intervention / treatment you have provided to the applicant to date, including details of tests undertaken..
On referral, it was agreed to provide John telephone counselling to support him until he was able to access an appropriate, secular counselling service in his area.
The writer's initial assessment of John was that he had experienced significant childhood trauma and that telephone counselling was not a recommended medium for ongoing trauma processing, so it was agreed that the telephone sessions would focus on providing support and psycho-education about trauma and its impacts.
I have provided John telephone support during his involvement with the Victorian Parliamentary Enquiry and the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual abuse. I have also provided John ongoing telephone counselling to assist him to manage the impacts of the physical and sexual abuse he experienced as a child. During our intervention, John reported that the regular contact and support was providing a relief to his PTSD symptoms and at times during our involvement John was able to reduce his smoking habit. John also accessed crisis support during a very difficult period of time after a breakdown in his employment.
5.1 Briefly outline the applicant's psychological / psychiatric problems, presenting symptoms or issues. Provide details of any tests undertaken.
John has been assessed by psychiatrist, Dr RE Phillipson as suffering from PTSD. (letter dated .22/9/06), Symptoms also described in this letter also include anxiety, flashbacks and sleep disturbance.
John continues to experience these symptoms described.
The writer is also aware that added to these symptoms, he has become more isolated. Since leaving his employment in 2015, John has reported that he limits going out, and has to push himself to go out. He has few friends in his community, and finds it easier and less confronting to have contact with people through the internet. John's main support are his internet contacts and his adult son [REDACTED] who lives in Brisbane. Unfortunately, due to the distance between Brisbane and Toowoomba, and costs of transport, this contact is infrequent.
5.2 Detail any relevant prior psychological / psychiatric history of the applicant, including details of any previous counselling provided to the applicant.
5.3 Explain the link, if any, between the applicant's psychological/psychiatric problems, presenting symptoms or issues and the alleged act of violence the subject of the application to the Tribunal.
It is the writer's opinion that John's experience of ongoing childhood trauma has had long term significant impacts for him, that continue to effect the ways he manages his daily life.
The effects experienced by John are consistent with some of the effects suffered by victims of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), where there has been 'exposure to actual or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violence in one (or more) of the following ways:.
1) Directly experiencing the traumatic event(s)
2) Witnessing, in person, the event(s) as it occurred to others.
3) Learning that the traumatic event(s) occurred to a close family member or close friend. In the cases of actual or threatened death of a family member or friend, the event(s) must have been violent or accidental.
4) Experiencing repeated or extreme exposure to aversive details of the traumatic event(s) (e.g., first responders collecting human remains; police officers repeatedly exposed to details of child abuse).
American Psychiatric Association (2013) "Post Traumatic Stress Disorder", Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, (5th Ed), pp427-429.
John's experiences in childhood are best described within the definitions of Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which is "typically the result of exposure to repeated or prolonged instances or multiple forms of interpersonal trauma, often occurring under circumstances where escape is not possible". (Herman, 1992)
The following are symptoms that John has discussed during his counselling which are consistent with these diagnoses. The diagnoses of Post-Traumatic stress disorder, mild agoraphobia and panic attacks and depression were also noted in Dr Phillipson's 22/9/06 report.
Recurrent and Intrusive Recollections:.
For many years John was employed as a coach driver and reports that he found being busy and working independently helpful to push away the intrusive recollections of the abuse. During the initial period that the writer was supporting John, he was also employed with a large scale landscaping outdoor project in his community. This job finished due to conflict between John and his employer, regarding under payment, and the writer was aware that while John was attempting to assert his rights as an employee, his PTSD symptoms and other somatic symptoms, such as pain in his knees and feet also increased. This included him becoming more isolated and more anxious around other people, this also coincided with the increased media reporting of the Victorian Enquiry and the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to child sexual abuse. The Royal Commission also held a public enquiry in his town, and this was a very difficult period of time due to the intrusive information being reported. And it involved people that he had was related to by marriage..
John has reported ongoing interruptions to his ability to sleep due to ongoing nightmares and intrusive thoughts about the sexual abuse. This re-experiencing the trauma and problematic dreams and nightmares was also note in Dr Phillipson's report (22/9/06)..
John's smoking assists him to reduce his intrusive recollections, due to smoking as a child signalling an end to the violent acts. John's attempt to reduce smoking in turn have led to an increase in anxiety and intrusive recollections.
Persistent avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma and numbing of general responsiveness:.
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child sexual abuse has been prominent in the media for the past four years. John has accessed the Commission and provided a statement but has found this process frustrating, and the repeated stories, particularly around the Catholic church have in turn increased his symptoms of anger, distress and sleeplessness. As John has not been employed for approximately two years, he has very few distractions from these reminders of his trauma and struggles to disconnect from these processes.. .
John has had numerous attempts to cease or reduce his smoking, but these are generally stymied by the long term association for John between the violence and sexual abuse. John's smoking had provided a sense of calm for him in contrast to a sense of terror he experienced during the abuse, despite this habit being a financial burden and having impacts on his physical well-being. John was diagnosed with Stress related Complex Obstructive Pulmonary Disease by his general practitioner. When stressed he struggles to breathe, which the smoking also exacerbates..
John has had periods in his life that he describes as if he is starting to shut down in response to difficulties with relationships, or conflicts with neighbours or work colleagues. When this 'shutting down' occurs, John describes having to work really hard against this feeling, as it frightens him and reminds him of his responses during the abuse as a child..
Persistent symptoms of increased anxiety (not present before the trauma.
John reports that when he was abused by the nuns in the convent wood shed (between 3-5) he was provided cigarettes afterwards. John is aware that there is a connection between smoking and anxiety, but it has also been a detrimental impact on his health and finances. His goals to reduce / cease smoking have been a long term struggle as John reports that when he does not smoke the anxiety increases. This also adds a sense of powerlessness for John who is trying to make positive changes in his life because he continues to feel linked to those traumatic experiences..
As a child John developed severe hives over his body. He recalls that the hives occurred after the abuse started. He also ground his teeth to the point of fracturing them necessitating their removal..
John has experienced ongoing sleep disturbances, describing to the writer that he generally only can nap an hour at a time during the night and generally being awake for five to six hours during the night. He tries to use music to help calm him enough to sleep, but reports that this is something he has to work very hard at.
John continues to experience nightmares. .
John's recent experiences in his workplace provided him some relief from the anxiety as being occupied, particularly with his gardening role, distracted him and helped reduce his stress and smoking. Due to difficulties in the workplace, in particular around conflict with his employer, John's employment ceased which coincided with a significant increase in his symptoms of anxiety, including smoking. Subsequently John has become more isolated, with increasingly infrequent outside contact. As Toowoomba is a small community, John has become hypervigilant around other people as he feels that he is being talked about, particularly as there are people from his workplace who he had disclosed his experiences to. John had previously been deceived into publicly disclosing his abuse in a failed attempt to restrict or minimize the bigotry, oppression and public allegations that he was a willing participant who actively sought to seduce the rapist priest O'Donnell as an 8 year old in his predominantly Christian neighborhood and that he was acting in a fraudulent manner through seeking support and financial compensation from the Catholic Church.
6.1 Detail the specific treatment goals that you and the applicant have set..
John's long term smoking habit commenced from a young age after being provided cigarettes by the nuns after episodes of abuse. As he has aged, he has been experiencing negative health impacts from smoking and financial hardship due to the high costs. The link between the abuse - and the immediate relief when the terrors ceased that smoking signified, has made cessation challenging for John. He reports that when he stops smoking his memories and anxiety increase. He also reports that this adds to his sense of powerlessness as it keeps him connected to the nuns and the abuse. He has attempted prescribed drug treatment for smoking, but has also struggled with severe side effects. In particular, his currently prescribed drug, Champix has the effect of what he describes as plummeting him deep down into depression where he struggles to function each day.
John reports feeling anxious around other people, particularly due to living in a small town and having many people aware of his background. He strives to speak out about the Catholic church abuse to assist in raising awareness, but worries about what people around him are saying about him. My experience with working with male clients is that John's anxiety about other people knowing about his history is also influenced by commonly held societal myths around male sexual assault survivors going on to become abusers themselves. This was exacerbated recently when a neighbour in his block of units took steps to attack John's support via his GP through erroneously claiming that he was a sexual risk to children in the neighbourhood and to children in the school across the road.
Linking into local supports:
Due to the impact of Johns traumatic experience, it was agreed that telephone counselling would be to provide support until John was able to access appropriate trauma therapy. The writer was able to link John into the Melbourne Catholic Diocese for payment for counselling when he was able to find a local counsellor.
The writer is aware that John subsequently accessed face to face counselling for a period of 12 months, and that he was able to explore his traumatic experiences during these sessions and further reduce his smoking. In order for John to continue with his goal of ceasing smoking and managing the impacts of trauma the writer believes that John still requires ongoing face to face counselling.
6.2 Detail treatment approaches and strategies that will be used to achieve the treatment goals.
The writer's assessment is that John responds to face to face counselling with a psychologist/counsellor who has experience with child sexual abuse trauma and works within a trauma informed and evidence based framework - including assistance with helping John to create links with the present PTSD symptoms and past experiences.
6.3 Detail how progress towards the treatment goals will be measured. These will be measured by a reduction in his stress and anxiety, a reduction in Johns cigarette use and an increase in social support and connections
6.4 Provide a recommendation for a specific number of counselling hours to be provided to the applicant, the period of time over which it is proposed that the counselling take place, and the estimated cost of the proposed counselling (reference should be made to the Tribunal's Costs Guideline regarding fees for the preparation of reports and provision of counselling services at www.vocat.vic.gov.au). .
The writer considers that due to the significant ongoing and repeated trauma that John experienced he may require ongoing counselling and support. This trauma has impacted on John's ability to trust and the writer believes that John needs time to establish trust, safety and continuity in that counselling relationship in order for him to engage in the support he needs to process his trauma.
6.5 Provide an assessment of the applicant's treatment prognosis, as well as any extenuating circumstances or barriers that may affect treatment progress (e.g. prior psychological/psychiatric history, substance abuse, etc.).
7.1 Include any other information relevant to the treatment of the applicant (documents may be attached to the report if required).
John has had a difficult and antagonistic marriage breakup, which has caused him ongoing distress. He has very infrequent contact with his siblings, after his mother's death. John's most significant and important relationship is with his adult son [REDACTED], who lives in Brisbane. It is the writer's opinion that John's current isolation in Toowoomba is also adding to his PTSD symptoms and supports his request for assistance to relocate to be closer to his son, particularly as John ages, and will require more support around him.
I understand that the Tribunal has requested my report to assist the Tribunal to make fair and just decisions about financial assistance for the applicant, and that I have an overriding duty to assist the Tribunal impartially. I have made all inquiries that I believe are desirable and appropriate, have brought all relevant matters to the Tribunal's attention and have not omitted matters of significance.
John Brown was born in Yea Victoria 3717 on 27 December, 1948. John grew up in Yea, he went to the Catholic school on The Parade and then a final year at Yea High. He undertook an apprenticeship as a Hand and Machine Compositor/Linotype Mechanic at the local newspaper The Yea Chronicle who recently declined to publish anything on John's story. He left Yea after realising that the proprietor and local policeman Bill Ellisson along with other local Catholics in Yea and surrounds at that time were aware of his abuse and of the rape and abuse of other children in Yea and were aware of the many unreported issues surrounding the murder of Herbert Henry Kemp of The Parade Yea in 1962 ...... read more
Investigation of an unsolved murder in 1962 can no longer be investigated according to police taskforce SANO because a pedophile Catholic clergyman who raped a child at age 8 is now dead. As a result of the dead rapist being unconnected with the murder Victorian police remain clueless.
Later in life John married in Toowoomba only to find that he was related to the then bishop of Toowoomba Bill Morris. Morris was the head of the bishops conference and was the go to person in the country for survivors of childhood sexual abuse by Catholic clergy and yet I was never able to get a time or a conversation with the bishop. I did get conversations or connection with a number of Catholic organisations with varying degrees of weirdness.