A woman who was sexually abused at a Catholic school says the church refused to strip her abuser of any honours or remove his name from a school classroom despite evidence he had abused multiple people.
It also never told her to go to police and instead offered her $6000 in compensation - which she rejected.
Frances Tagaloa, 52, gave her evidence before the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in State Care this morning, as hearings began on abuse in faith-based institutions.
Tagaloa, who is of Samoan and Irish descent, is just the second Pacific witness to speak before the Royal Commission. She spoke of the extra barriers faced by Pacific victims in speaking against the Catholic Church, saying that they feared shaming their families and taking on a hugely powerful institution within their culture.
Tagaloa, who grew up in Grey Lynn, was sexually and emotionally abused as a primary school student in Auckland in 1973 and 1974, when she was aged between 5 and 7 years old.
The abuser was Marist Brother Bede Fitton, also known as Francis Fitton, who taught at the nearby Marist Brothers Intermediate school in Ponsonby. He has since died.
Tagaloa had begun visiting Fitton's classroom after school with a friend because she "thought it would be a fun thing to do", she told commissioners in Auckland today.
"Initially I thought it was fun to get to play and draw on the blackboard. I did like that I got some individual attention.
"After a while I would visit Brother Bede by myself and that's when the abuse would occur."
On one occasion, she also witnessed Fitton abusing another child. She has since learned from the Marist Brothers that there were multiple victims who were regularly abused.
She did not tell anyone about the abuse at the time, and her parents were unaware she was visiting Fitton.
The abuse stopped when she stopped visiting him. But it haunted her as she grew up.
"I grew up as a teenager with very low confidence. I was quiet and reserved and very angry. I hated who I was, my family, and where I had come from.
"I did not like to be around men. I didn't like any male attention."
Tagaloa spoke about the difficulty in admitting the abuse to her parents - especially her father. Sex was taboo in Samoan culture. The abuse occurred within the Catholic Church, which was a way of life for their family.
"The abuse meant that our core belief, our faith, how our family raised our children, the people we trusted and let into our home would all be questioned."
She eventually told her parents about her abuse over dinner in 2001 or 2002 - nearly 30 years after it occurred.
Tagaloa's mother complained to the church, and in 2002 after calling the Society of Mary helpline she had a meeting with a woman from the Marist Brothers Protocol Committee.
She said the person had a list of perpetrators and victims, and there was a "long" section on Brother Bede with "many names" of victims.
Tagaloa said she asked for Fitton's honours to be removed by the school, and for a room which was named after him to be changed.
"I just don't think Brother Bede should be honoured in any way. He was not a good man. He was a paedophile."
The woman instead said she could be paid compensation, and suggested $6000. She rejected the money, but said it could be donated to the Christian ministry she worked for. That donation was later made by the Marist Brothers.
"I was not advised to go to police - otherwise I would have done it," she said.
She received one session of counselling from the church but was not advised to get independent counselling.
"I wasn't too impressed with the outcome, I don't recall an apology, I don't recall them trying to explain what happened. I got a letter and I threw it out because I was so upset. I don't recall what the letter said."
She made a Privacy Act request at the beginning of this year and received two documents from the church's National Office of Professional Standards. They included the letter, which stated that her complaint was upheld.
"I understand now that this was their way of saying they believed me but it did not feel like this at the time."
Tagaloa made a number of recommendations for redress and preventing further abuse within the church.
She said the exclusion of lay people and women may have contributed to the abuse of children, and that including them in the priesthood and leadership could balance out some of the risks.
She wanted more supervision of clergy and training about child safety. And she cited a recommendation from the Australian Commission of Inquiry, which said that Canon law should be changed so that offences of child abuse were reframed as a crime rather than a breach of celibacy or obligations.
She also wanted mandatory reporting of child abuse, and for the church to consider making celibacy voluntary.