*The below is a chapter summary only of the Interim Report. You can download the chapter in full at the bottom of the page.

What we are learning about responding to child sexual abuse

As Chapter 4 noted, there are four key areas we must consider in our work:

Prevention How to better protect children against sexual abuse.
Identification and reporting

How to ensure:

  • children, staff, parents and the community can
    identify abuse
  • children disclose abuse quickly
  • people and institutions report allegations, incidents or
    risks of abuse.
Response How to eliminate or reduce obstacles so institutions respond effectively to reports of abuse.
Justice for victims How to address or alleviate the impact of abuse and ensure justice for victims.

This chapter looks at identification and reporting, response and justice for victims.

Key points

Identification, disclosure and reporting

  • Child sexual abuse in institutions is widely under-reported, despite legal obligations.
  • Individuals and institutions often fail to identify children who have been abused.
  • Many survivors delay disclosure for years and even decades.
  • Mandatory reporting laws exist across Australia but they are inconsistent and many people are unaware of their responsibilities under those laws.

Institutional responses

  • There is always a risk that child sexual abuse will occur, and it is essential that institutions respond effectively when it does.
  • Institutions must respond effectively to reports or information about allegations, incidents or risks of child sexual abuse. Effective responses can help to stop abuse, keep victims safe, ensure accountability and prevent future abuse.
  • Ineffective responses, meanwhile, can allow abuse to continue, compound the harm of the abuse, impede justice and undermine abuse prevention.
  • Many institutions treat their duty to respond to reports of abuse seriously and have improved their responses over time. However, the evidence emerging of institutional failures to respond will shock the Australian community, both in their scale and seriousness.

Justice for victims

  • Justice for victims of abuse is crucial, but emerging evidence shows that victims have often been denied justice by criminal or civil systems or redress schemes.
  • We are consulting widely to understand how these measures can be improved.

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