George Pell sentenced: Wodonga sexual abuse survivor Rhonda Janetzki outside Melbourne court

Rhonda Janetzki (right) and members of the public listen to the live sentencing of George Pell. Picture: JASON SOUTH
Rhonda Janetzki (right) and members of the public listen to the live sentencing of George Pell. Picture: JASON SOUTH

"Children, from the moment they are sexually abused, have a life sentence," says child sexual abuse survivor Rhonda ­Janetzki, of Wodonga. 

And that's what she believes George Pell should have received. 

Mrs Janetzki, who suffered sexual abuse as a child in a Border Catholic institution run by the Sisters of Mercy, travelled to Melbourne on Wednesday to watch Pell sentenced to a non-parole period of three years and eight months in jail. 

But a couple of years - or six years if Pell serves the maximum term imposed - is nothing compared to the lifetime of suffering his victims have lived with, she said.

"A lot of people who these [institutional sexual abuse] crimes were committed against couldn’t live with the shame, the pain and heartache -  they’re not here," she said.

"He lived such a privileged life and because of his privilege he was confident he could get away with abusing children and helping other people cover it up.

"Six years, or three years and eight months, compared to a lifetime of trauma, sickness…I would have liked to have seen him get more time."

Wodonga's Rhonda Janetzki outside the court for George Pell's sentencing. Picture: Daniel Pockett

Wodonga's Rhonda Janetzki outside the court for George Pell's sentencing. Picture: Daniel Pockett

Outside the courtroom, many survivors relived their own childhood traumas, Mrs Janetzki said. 

"It brought back a lot of feelings," she said. "There was a fear he would get off with a slap on the wrist. 

"I'm glad he has jail time and will be on the public record as a paedophile."

Mrs Janetzki hopes the jailing of a cardinal will help change laws to keep children safe and show that no one was above the law.

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She said the verdict showed victims were finally being believed, something which often did not occur when they first spoke up.

"The Catholic nuns brainwashed us into thinking everything happened to us was our fault,she said.

"If it was women who tempted a man to sin then it must be your fault, it’s your shame, it's your crime and you have to live with it."

Mrs Janetzki said for many the National Redress Scheme an 'excruciating' experience and she was still waiting to hear about her claim. 

"You have to go back into those dark caves you never wanted to go back in again," she said.

"You spend a lifetime trying to lock them up and forget but you could never forget. It's in your nightmares and dreams and in every aspect of your life, all the time.

"Your darkest memories were... handed over to those who perpetrated those crimes against you and you had to go into every aspect of your life and tell the scheme how it affected you in everything you did. 

"Then someone you never met will dictate how severe these crimes were - sexual assault on child is a life-altering and life-destroying crime."

Rhonda Janetzki (right) and members of the public listen to the live sentencing of George Pell. Picture: JASON SOUTH

Rhonda Janetzki (right) and members of the public listen to the live sentencing of George Pell. Picture: JASON SOUTH

Mrs Janetzki said Albury and Wodonga was filled with care leavers who "went to the country to hide from what happened to them". 

She said the government needed to put its foot down and make it clear to the Catholic church that everyone is answerable to the country's law and that church law is not above Australian law. 

"It is every persons responsibility to make sure every child in Australia is safe and someone who knows this is happening to a child and doesn’t speak up and doesn’t defend a child is as guilty as the person who committed that crime," she said.

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