GRAPHIC CONTENT: Some readers may find this court report highly disturbing.
When Sam* was 11, all he wanted was love and attention from his father, a respected Christian minister.
But over the next four-and-a-half years, his father sexually abused him before going on to describe the crimes against his own son as “a bit of a belly laugh”.
On Tuesday (20 July), Sam told the ACT Supreme Court his father, who had served as a pastor for decades, began calling him into his bed on a Saturday morning where he would sexually assault him. He would go to church the next day to stand in the pulpit and preach the Gospel.
“You portrayed yourself as a holy saint, an upstanding, honourable, respected clergyman, a cut above,” he told his father, an older man who sat in the courtroom wearing a facemask.
“You made us pretend we were a tight-knit ministry family; happy, well-cared for, upright pastor’s kids, sitting in the front rows of pews for all to see.
“But reality, behind closed doors, was vastly different.”
Sam said he often didn’t respond when his father invited him into the bedroom, but then his mother would also call out to him saying: “[Sam], Dad’s waiting for you”.
“Often, I tried to ignore their calls by pretending I was asleep,” he said.
“Imagine how it felt, to be called in, knowing what was most likely about to happen.
“This was my normal, growing up with [the minister] as my father.”
Sam said his father’s “disgusting” crimes had left him with life-long feelings of shame, guilt, remorse and self-blame.
“I should have been empowered by you, equipped for a bright future, told that I can do anything I set my mind to, helped with a plan,” Sam said.
“But you had no interest in building me up.
“You isolated me, abused me and then left me on my own. Your behaviour destroyed me.”
He told his father he feared for his soul.
“The Bible you preach carries a final judgement where all God’s wrath and eternal terror is poured out on men like you,” he said.
“Should you ever reach the point of truly facing what you have done, the guilt will be crushing.”
Prosecutor Sofia Janackovic told the Supreme Court covert recordings from 2014 showed the minister describing the repeated abuse in mild terms, as he said it was a “joke” and “a bit of a belly laugh”.
“I would feel very offended if, if someone called me an abuser,” he said in the recordings.
He did, however, apologise to Sam in the recordings, saying he had “basically stuffed up” his son’s life, before remarking he knew his crimes would eventually catch up with him.
“Every siren I hear, they’re catching up with me. Oh, oh, it’s only a fire brigade. Oh, it’s only an ambulance, phew, great, yeah,” the minister said.
“But when it’s the cops, I sh-t myself.”
Ms Janackovic said he was being sentenced after pleading guilty to a charge of maintaining a sexual relationship with a young person, which was the “most serious sexual offence” in the ACT, and his crimes were aggravated by the fact he was Sam’s father.
“It is quite difficult to envisage a greater breach of trust,” she said.
She said the first sexual assault, in the late 1990s, happened when Sam’s mother was nearby and she did not do anything to stop the abuse, which would have added to his feelings of powerlessness as neither parent was protecting him.
Ms Janackovic said the minister had also tried to shift blame onto his son for the abuse, as in 2014 when he told another minister he should have said “no” to Sam. Court documents show he also told a member of his congregation he had “sinned by allowing [his son] to behave inappropriately towards” him.
Justice John Burns said jail was inevitable for the minister and revoked his bail, saying he would hand down a sentence later in July.
The hearing finished before the minister was led away by corrective services officers.
*Not the son’s real name.
If this story has raised any concerns for you, 1800RESPECT, the national 24-hour sexual assault, family and domestic violence counselling line, can be contacted on 1800 737 732.