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Universal barriers

1 June, 2010

Last night I watched ‘4 Corners: South Africa’s Lost Innocence.’ As I listened to a young girl explain what difficulties she had to overcome to report being raped to her mother (let alone the authorities) I was confronted with two things.

Firstly, the familiarity of her words. I have heard them before. That is, the barriers a child must overcome to report sexual abuse.

Secondly, while the child was in another country, speaking a language I could not understand and living in conditions I could not relate to, it was easy (or even natural) to think how truly awful it must for victims of rape and child sexual abuse ‘over there’ in South Africa.

And it is, but let us not be blind to the same sexual abuse that occurs in this country. When child sexual abuse is not reported, it may continue to be inflicted physically or leave a child without help, trying to deal with the abuse mentally.

Be it in Australia or South Africa, child sexual abuse is a highly under-reported crime. As a society we find the act abhorrent and are repulsed by individuals who have sexually abused a child. With such widespread agreement it is difficult to understand why child sexual abuse still occurs at such a rate in Australia or any other country. Anyone reading this now is likely to have either been the victim of child sexual abuse or know a family member or friend who has. If so, think back: did you or that other person report the sexual abuse?

I believe reporting is an important key to reducing the rate of child sexual abuse. Watching these tragic stories and reflecting on previous research highlighted that the barriers to reporting child sexual abuse, while they may be influenced locally, are essentially universal. It also clearly demonstrated the more complicated barriers that victims of intra-familial sexual abuse must overcome to report. For me this begs the question: does our individual and collective abhorrence of child sexual abuse and those who commit it present further barriers for victims to report it?

2 Comments leave one →
  1. fairgo permalink
    3 June, 2010 8:13 pm

    While watching 4 Corners’ South Africa’s Lost Innocence on child sexual abuse made one feel helpless about people far away.

    Ileum, you have brought the reality back home to our own back yard to challenge our ‘abhorrence of child sexual abuse’ that shuts down our reporting it.

  2. 14 June, 2010 6:38 pm

    In answer to your last questions, yes, the barrier is there and it’s strong. We’re in denial when it comes to any form of abuse, and child abuse one form of abuse that’s locked tightly away in the closet. I work in community development and see governments, agencies and families in collective denial everyday. It’s the last thing any of us want to face, to prove or to support someone through so we file it under “Shame” and throw the key away. Until open and honest dialogue occurs at a national, state and local level, this attitude won’t change.

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