In 2012, Julia Gillard, then Prime Minister of Australia, announced the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and continued the pursuit despite successive prime ministers dismissing its importance.
In 2013, the commission was established in Australia to examine the history of abuse in allegedly-respectful institutions including schools, religious groups and state institutions and others after Peter Fox wrote about victims of historical abuse coming forth.
In December 2017, the Commission's report was finalised and made public.The committee found a variety of troubling facts, including:
Contrary to popular belief, two-thirds of the abuse survivors are actually males. Of almost 8,000 abuse survivors, 21 percent of them have faced abuse in more than one institution.
Most of these abuse cases happened in home-based cares and residential institutions (41.6 percent), followed by 31.8 percent of them occurring in educational institutions and 14.5 percent in churches or other religious activities.
Out of all the victims abused in churches, 61.8 percent of the abuse survivors were in Catholic churches.
Another 14.7 percent of the accused churches were based on an Anglican belief, while another 7.3 percent were in the Salvation Army.
The Royal Commission found that most of the adult perpetrators in institutional settings had their actions driven by opportunistic scenarios rather than due to their own innate perverse sexuality.
Children are rarely listened to in institutions. Combine that with the tendency of our society to eroticise the relationship between a socially powerful person and a minor, and you have yourself an international issue.
Based upon the percentage of abuse cases happening in churches, it is not too surprising that most of the adult perpetrators – 2,113 of them, to be exact – held positions of power in the religious ministry.
The abuse survivors also reported 1,378 of their perpetrators were teachers, followed by 902 residential care workers. It is believed that the compulsory celibacy sworn by the religious ministry and clericalism plays a major role in promoting child sexual abuse.
Since the problem lies within the institutions, and individuals higher up the hierarchy within these institutions are usually the perpetrators, the Royal Commission recommended independent oversight bodies to monitor, enforce and delegate the responsibilities for Child Safe Standards in each Australian state and territory.
As for priests and clergies in churches, their training geared towards ethical child protection and relationships will be a crucial early-intervention point, and suggestions to place more women in church leadership positions could better help protect children.
However, the latter recommendation will require a reform on a much larger scale to deal with the aftermath.
The Royal Commission further recommended that children cared for in residential institutions and other out-of-home care systems be given more opportunities to participate and make some decisions to disrupt the power dynamics in these places.
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