This Friday, 15 December, the Royal Commission is expected to release its findings and recommendations following 57 public hearings, the evidence of 1200 witnesses, and over 8000 private meetings with survivors of child sexual abuse.
But we must not make the grievous error of viewing this report as a sign that child sexual abuse is no longer a problem in Australia
- we cannot close the door on the issue of child sexual abuse unless we can be sure, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that the abuse of children is not continuing behind closed doors in our homes and in our institutions.
The crime we are dealing with is the violation of a child. Sexual abuse involves a profound and intrusive invasion of a child’s body and mind.
It strips a child of their capacity to trust. It interferes with a child’s developing ability to assess their own value as a human being, their understanding of healthy relationships, and their right to discover their sexuality in their own time and on their own terms.
It is one of the most vile and destructive acts that can be done to a child, causing the protective walls of security that should shield a child’s development to crumble around them. For many children, with the devastating weight of what has been done to them bearing down upon their small shoulders, these walls are impossible to rebuild.
Recalling his experiences of child sexual abuse, survivor AVB told the Royal Commission in 2015, “I don’t want to be marked or blemished by something that was done against me. That’s the problem with sexual assault. It’s robbing something of somebody and robbing their right to control their body and control their life. That can never be restored, no matter how many times you say sorry."
“I feel like my soul has been taken away.”
The responses of different institutions across Australia when confronted with suspicions, allegations and sometimes clear proof of child sexual abuse, have been the same.
Children who were abused were silenced and dismissed. Children who questioned what was happening to them were told that this was normal human behaviour, that sexual abuse was a sign of love and they were special to receive it, or that they deserved what they got. Children were accused of telling lies when they had the courage, well beyond their years, to speak out about the wrongs that were committed against them.