The Royal Commission Into Child Sexual Abuse Says It Needs An Extra Two Years To Complete Its Investigations

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Australia’s Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has asked for an extra two years and another $100 million to complete its work.

The commission said today the average age of victims in its investigations was nine for boys and 10 for girls.

The commission says it will be able to have only 40 public hearings by the current due date of December 2015, when at least 70 are needed to fulfil the terms of reference.

“We need another two years to complete the process of consulting with experts, stakeholders and the community, which is essential to ensure our recommendations are practical and respond to contemporary issues in the protection of children,” the commissioners say in an interim report released today.

This would extend the inquiry to December 2017 and cost an estimated $104 million extra. Its current budget is $281.13 million.

An extension would also allow the commission to require key institutions to report publicly on what they have done to prevent and better respond to the sexual abuse of children in their care since the start of the Royal Commission.

The commission’s interim report says:

“If the Royal Commission is not extended we will not be able to hold a private session for any person who contacts us after September this year. This will deny many survivors of the opportunity to share their experiences with us, in particular those from vulnerable or hard-to-reach groups.”

To allow survivors and others affected by abuse to speak confidentially, the commission also held private sessions and received written accounts to learn the impact of abuse upon individuals and how the response of an institution affects survivors over their lifetimes.

The commission has so far held 1,677 private sessions and received 1,632 written accounts. By the end of 2015, 4,000 private sessions will have been held.

Significant delays in reporting, high levels of under-reporting and a lack of consistent data are some of the significant challenges researchers face when investigating child sexual abuse in Australian institutions.

However, the royal commission has analysed the information obtained in private sessions so far. This reveals:

  • 90% of perpetrators were male
  • on average, female victims were nine years old and male victims 10 years old when the abuse started
  • on average it took victims 22 years to disclose the abuse, men longer than women.

“We do not yet know how prevalent abuse has been or continues to be within institutions,” the commission says.

“In an attempt to understand the prevalence of abuse our research program is compiling data from the police, child protection agencies, education departments and other bodies.

“Although many instances of abuse reported to us occurred some years ago, the information we have gathered and the public hearings we have conducted confirm that abuse remains a contemporary issue.

“We understand that although many people have come forward to the Royal Commission, it is likely that they represent only a minority of those abused.

“Many others are yet to disclose their abuse or, for various reasons, feel unable to come forward at this time.”

The commission gave a sample of comments from those who were abused:

“The pain doesn’t go away and now that I’m older, it’s worse because I have more time to think about it.”

“I have thought about this every single day of my life since it happened.”

“I didn’t plan to be 35, destitute, and living in jail by that age, divorced, businesses sort of broken down, mental illness, bipolar.”

Since the commission was formed in January 2013, it now has 250 staff and has held 13 public hearings in Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Perth and Sydney.

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