To Prey And To Silence

Reviewed By  Nan van Dissel       January 16, 2017


Author  Joan Katherine Isaacs

Distributor:      Denis Jones
ISBN:                 978-0-9944960-3-4
Publisher:         Short Stop Press
Release Date:   August 2016  

Website:    http:/ 

Perpetrators of child abuse leave their victims with lifelong scars. It is often not until decades after the abuse that the victims are able to discuss this exploitation and seek retribution. However, Joan Isaacs was one such victim, who did disclose the abuse not long after it had occurred, only to discover that many of those who should have supported her, failed to do so; they pretended it hadn’t happened!

Joan Isaacs was born into a predominantly Dutch immigrant family in 1953. Growing up in a loving, devout Catholic family, she attended a Catholic secondary school where she excelled academically.  It was here that she was groomed and abused by the charismatic school chaplain Father Francis Edward Derriman. From this time on Joan’s life changed. No longer a carefree student with the world at her feet, she was filled with despair and riddled with shame; only just qualifying to enter into a teacher training course. Although the abuse was reported to the appropriated authorities, nothing happened – just silence!

‘To Prey and to Silence’ chronicles the author’s journey to obtain justice and to ensure that other victims are treated with greater consideration by the church. It turned into a 40 year battle for truth from a church which preferred to preserve its assets by stonewalling and covering its tracks, rather than to publically support the victims. By articulating the events which marked this journey, the reader is given insight into a church which preaches compassion but in this case delivered none! The author relates her disappointing and unsatisfactory experiences with the Catholic Church’s “Towards Healing” programme which was to deal with sex abuse and support the victims, but in Joan’s case did neither. The faith which had sustained her life was shattered; the Isaac family severed their ties with the Catholic Church.

This time the Church’s life has come under scrutiny by the Royal Commission into the Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse at which Joan gave evidence in 2013. Her objective account of the Church’s reaction to abuse inflicted by members of its clergy was confirmed by this inquest. The reader is also able to verify her account by referring to the detailed Notes at the end of the book.

‘To Prey and to Silence’ is a thought provoking book which gives the reader insight into the author’s dignity, strength and perseverance; her ability to overcome a soul destroying experience to live a fulfilling life. It emphasizes the importance of standing up for what you believe, even if it is at great cost to self and those we love. Having a loving family and good friends helped Joan to write this book and to finally find some peace. What a remarkable woman!