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Royal commission report makes preventing institutional sexual abuse a national responsibility

Michael Salter writes in The Conversation (15.12.17) about the release of the final report from the Royal Commission into institutional responses to child abuse, noting that the commission has made the prevention and identification of child sex offending a collective responsibility.

‘The study and discussion of child sex offending is replete with stereotypes of predators and molesters who prey on children. These stereotypes are often used to characterise child sexual abuse as the problem of a deviant minority, and so the only available response is to identify and incarcerate those responsible.

‘In contrast, in its final report, released today, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse presented a socially and historically contextualised understanding of child sexual abuse. While accepting that some institutional abusers are “fixated, persistent” paedophiles, the commission found the majority are not.

‘Instead, it concluded that most institutional offenders are opportunistic or situational – that is, most offenders are not driven to abuse children by mental illness or perverse sexuality. Instead, institutional sexual abuse arises through an interaction of personal, situational, institutional and social factors.

‘These interactions have been shaped by the historical period and the circumstances in which children and adults find themselves. By placing institutional abuse within its larger context, the commission has made the prevention and identification of child sex offending a collective responsibility.

‘… At the commission’s close, it is clear that child protection is not just the responsibility of underfunded and stretched statutory services, and child abuse is not just caused by a small group of deviant offenders. We all have a role to play in child safety. And as the royal commission finishes, this work has only just begun.’

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