Institutional Abuse is only part of the child sex abuse issue


The Courier – 24 February

I was brought up a Catholic; I went to both Catholic primary and secondary schools. Fortunately, I was never exposed to the apparent widespread level of child sex abuse that was occurring in the Catholic institutions when I was at school in the 1950s and ’60s. I never saw or heard about it, and I am grateful for that.

May I also state that I believe the majority of religious people who entered pastoral care and service were well-intentioned individuals who only wanted to honour their calling to do good by their fellow men and women. I, too, feel some sympathy for the institutions today who have been advised by their lawyers to not admit guilt and avoid paying compensation as much as possible; the institution’s reputation must be protected at all costs.

I am also a gay man. I state that because there are still many in the community who incorrectly equate gay men with paedophilia. However, I am as repulsed as any other person at the thought of sex with a child.

Experts now agree that child sexual abuse has always occurred at all levels and within many different situations in society, which is simply unacceptable.

I genuinely empathise with the victims and their families of child abuse, no matter what the circumstances. They need support, compassion and action .

Whilst the Royal Commission is investigating institutional abuse as it should, what is being done to support the majority of the victims of child abuse, where the perpetrator was a known family member?

My understanding of sexual abuse is that in approximately 10 per cent of cases the abuse occurred in institutions, with the remainder committed in family situations by other family members or friends and acquaintances of the family. In the latter circumstances, approximately 40% of abusers are relatives of the child – most often fathers, brothers, uncles, or cousins; around 50% are other acquaintances, such as “friends” of the family, babysitters, or neighbours; strangers make up approximately 10% of child sexual abuse cases.

Most of this abuse is committed by men. Studies on female child molesters show that women account for 14% to 40% of offenses reported against boys and 6% of offenses reported against girls.

“One in three girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused in some way before the age of 18 years”. (Australian Institute of Criminology, 1993). It is believed that only 10 to 15% of cases are reported to the police.

In 95% of cases, the sexual abuse offender is known to the child; that is they are a relative or trusted friend. Only 5% of child sexual assault cases are “stranger danger”. (Child Protection Council, 1993)

The majority of perpetrators are male (in excess of 95 per cent) against both male and female children. (Bagley, 1995). Sadly, one in five parents who were aware that their child had been sexually abused did not report the abuse. (Smallbone & Wortley, 2000)

We will never know the true level of abuse because many families do not report the abuse and deny that it occurred, which leaves many of the children affected deeply traumatised.

Any victim of child sex abuse must be adequately supported.

What you may not know is that collectively Australians rate petrol prices, public transport and roads as issues of greater concern than child abuse. We must confront and treat child sex abuse as an issue of top priority for the nation as we are now doing with domestic violence.

Eighty-six per cent of Australians believe that the Commonwealth and state and territory governments should invest more money in protecting children from abuse and neglect. (Australian Childhood Foundation, 2010)

We must demand that our governments address this vile exploitation of children. Firstly, by extending the Royal Commission’s purview to include abuse beyond the institutional enquiry currently underway.

Every person deserves protection from this insidious scourge and victims should receive the support, compassion and action they are rightly entitled to.

Child sex abuse is a blight on our society and a massive human rights issue, it demands a national community response.

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This post was written by , posted on May 29, 2016 Sunday at 6:10 pm

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