It will take all of us, working together, to stop child sexual abuse in Australia – we must not look away

Statement from CEO, Dr Leanne Beagley

Child sexual abuse is a crime and the extent of the horrific alleged crimes detailed through Operation Tenterfield yesterday could not fail to leave us shocked. Those who have been directly affected – the children themselves, the families, the childcare professionals and their employing organisations will be dealing with the confronting and damaging trauma that we know is part of the impact of child sexual abuse. We know that perpetrators of sexual abuse are extremely cunning and that they defy systems put in place to protect children.

We are reminded again how vulnerable children are and how critical it is that we as adults work together to protect them. Despite feeling blindsided, betrayed and damaged, we all now need to work together to keep child sexual abuse prevention at the heart of all we do.

For the one in three girls/women and one in five boys/men in Australia who live with the long-term effects of their own experience of child sexual abuse this news is likely to create strong emotional triggers. I urge you to take care of yourself as you navigate these memories and to reach out if you need support. For those directly affected, we know that the impact of child sexual abuse can be very damaging across the lifespan. Believing children and responding to them early and compassionately to provide safety and support is critical to ensure that despite the violation they have experienced they can live the full life they so richly deserve.

The National Centre for Action on Child Sexual Abuse was set up following a recommendation of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. It was one of many recommendations and there has been solid action for a number of years across all governments to respond to the systemic gaps importantly identified through that Royal Commission. All our work together is critical and important, and it needs to be sustained and responsive as new gaps emerge.

But what the events of Operation Tenterfield remind us is that having some of the best prevention systems in the world in place will not prevent children being harmed. The National Centre’s vision is for a community where children are safe and victims and survivors are supported to heal and recover, free of stigma and shame – a future without child sexual abuse. This vision is achievable. We reaffirm our commitment that despite what we know and have been reminded of this week, we can do this together.

It will take community vigilance.
It will take us all seeking to understand the underlying drivers of child sexual abuse and how to interrupt trajectories.
It will take coordination across jurisdictions, and ongoing investment by governments.
It will take commitment from all organisations to higher levels of child safe practices.
It will take listening genuinely to the experiences of those who live with the impact of child sexual abuse so that we don’t repeat past mistakes.
It is hard to hear, but we cannot look away.

Children deserve to be safe.


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