Adult survivors of child sexual abuse are receiving rough justice from offending institutions such as churches. At the same time that many churches are celebrating the innocence of childhood this Christmas, they are denying justice to survivors who were innocent children when their lives were damaged and, in some cases destroyed, by institutional sexual abuse.
The national redress scheme for institutional sexual abuse survivors started on 1 July. Some 2,000 people have made applications, but only 20 survivors (1% of the 2,000) have received any form of redress. Many of the applications received relate to institutions that have yet to come on board with the scheme. Most Catholic church dioceses and archdioceses have joined the scheme, but at least 150 Catholic orders have yet to come on board. The Uniting church has yet to join the scheme and the Anglican church has only partly done so. Neither the Catholic or Uniting churches have committed to a timeframe for fully joining the scheme. The majority of Anglican church entities should join the scheme by the middle of 2019.
The survivors who are applying for redress were subjected to institutional betrayal which included facilitating child sexual assaults; punishing those who made complaints about sexual abuse; using obfuscation, denial and hard line legal tactics to hinder efforts to obtain justice as well as moving perpetrators from one institution to another where they were free to re-offend. These betrayals compounded the damage caused by the original sexual assaults. For many, the capacity to form trusting relationships was permanently damaged. This damage runs so deep that some survivors are unable to form intimate relationships or show affection. Frequently survivors use drugs and alcohol to numb their pain and if this fails, commit suicide. Parents, children and loved ones who have to cope with the heartbreak of survivors’ blighted lives are secondary victims as the damage caused by institutional betrayal spans across several generations.