Australia’s monumental child sex abuse royal commission concluded on Friday with the final report handed to the Governor-General and released to the public.
The significance of this can’t be overstated.
It’s a momentous occasion for all child sexual abuse survivors who suffered at the hands of those in institutions who were meant to care for them. The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse was globally the first of its kind and is the largest royal commission in Australia’s history.
In the almost five years since the first sitting in April 2013, thousands of victims have shared their stories of abuse, as hundreds of institutions – and the staff within them – were scrutinised on their complacency and complicity in acts of sexual abuse, in their willingness to protect perpetrators, while ignoring and neglecting victims.
Today’s report is just one of several that have come out throughout this process, and it details horrific accounts of abuse and equally horrific responses to it, as well as – importantly – a comprehensive list of recommendations for allowing justice for victims and ensuring future children are protected.
Numbers you need to know.
More than 15,000 survivors or their relatives contacted the commission in its five years of operation, pointing to alleged abuse in an estimated more than 4000 institutions.
However, the true number of victims of institutional child sexual abuse cannot be known. It’s thought as many as 60 per cent of victims never disclose the abuse, while it takes those that do on average 20 years to tell someone.
Listen: “This idea is not coming from a bad place. It’s coming from a scared place.” says Mia Freedman. (Post continues.)
There were 8013 private sessions with those abused, plus more than 1300 written accounts from survivors. There were also 2559 referrals to police, with hundreds of matters under investigation and, so far, 230 prosecutions commenced. Many alleged perpetrators have died and are unable to pay for their crimes.
Throughout the commission’s 57 public hearings over 444 days, it heard thousands of accounts from victims and other witnesses.
These men and women told of shocking abuse and it was impossible not to recognise a pattern between unrelated cases, where perpetrators would bully, coerce and manipulate their victims into keeping the abuse a secret.
They also spoke of the implications of the abuse that followed them long into adulthood, where again a pattern emerged. Denied a happy and safe childhood and instead subjected to horrific sexual acts, these people were left traumatised, in many cases resulting in adult afflictions such as trouble forming relationships and various mental health issues. Some chose to take their own lives.