Home truths about child sexual abuse : a reader

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Catharine Arnold. Fergusson and Mullen suggest that treatment is complicated by the fact that child sexual assault is not a disorder, but rather an assumed cause of disorder, making it difficult to determine treatment objectives, methods, and assessments. Furthermore, a gendered understanding of childhood sexual assault has not been widely incorporated into mainstream thinking in this area, and myths surrounding childhood sexual assault prevail within society and often impact on the delivery of services to survivors Rokvic In , Women's Health Statewide in South Australia conducted a research project that explored the current service needs of adults subjected to sexual assault during childhood, resulting in the report It's Still Not My Shame.

Findings of this report Holden 21 highlighted the issues and needs for adult survivors and workers as follows:. Holden 22 notes that without such an agency there remains a continuing lack of coordination around service delivery, training and community education, resulting in:.

While there is a small number of organisations around Australia that provide counselling support for childhood sexual assault survivors, broadly speaking, the service needs of adult survivors are overlooked. Those seeking help from specialist sexual assault services are likely to be faced with long waiting periods before a counsellor is able to see them, or in some circumstances, may be advised that the service is unable to extend to victims of past assaults.

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This is largely due the nature of service agreements that restrict the core funding of services to areas that predominantly address the needs of recent victims of sexual assault, where crisis-care including forensic care and shortterm counselling models are prioritised. The information, to be reported through a later publication, will be sought via a survey to sexual assault, community and health services, building on state-based research such as It's Still Not My Shame Holden We look forward to being in contact with many of you over the coming months.

Fleming's survey found that only 10 per cent of such experiences were ever reported to the police, a doctor or a helping agency for example, community organisations, such as sexual assault services.

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They also note the pervasive fear that if survivors do tell, they will not be believed Neame and Heenan Evidence suggests the closer the relationship between an abused child and a perpetrator, the less likely it is that the abuse will be formally reported Wallis For many of the above reasons, official reports of rape and other sexual assault to police reflect a minority of all those victimised ABS ; ABS However, Neame and Heenan note that reporting trends for victims of past sexual assault have increased considerably in the last eight years.

According to the Victorian Law Reform Commission, for offences such as incest and other penetrative offences against children, almost one-third of reports Most victims of incest and other penetrative offences who are involved in court proceedings are now adults, or nearing adulthood VLRC An increase in rape prosecutions involving close family members was noted by Heenan and McKelvie in , though the proportion of cases resulting in prosecution remained low.

Almost one-fifth of the incidents they examined in case files involved immediate family members as offenders, including fathers and stepfathers Heenan and McKelvie The fact that only a small proportion of childhood sexual assault cases will ever result in prosecution has been blamed, at least partially, on structures within law that continue to prejudice the outcomes of sexual offence cases Mack ; Taylor Neame and Heenan note that proponents of law reform have particularly criticised: 'the continued use of corroboration warnings, where judges routinely caution juries against convicting unless other evidence can independently support the victim's version of events.

This substantially impacts on cases involving adult survivors who in recounting. In other criminal proceedings where the prosecution must establish the accused's guilt through the oral evidence of a single witness, corroboration warnings are nevertheless usually considered unnecessary in the face of the high standard of proof 'beyond reasonable doubt' , and the standards of testing the evidence through cross-examination. Feminist legal scholars and other advocates of abolishing the corroboration warning have suggested that judges' use of the warning in childhood sexual assault cases is a reflection of the systemic prejudice that 'women and children, especially girl-children, possess a seemingly natural propensity to lie about sexual abuse and to fabricate allegations' Taylor 5.

Taylor also highlights what she perceives as the failure of the criminal justice system to understand delayed disclosure of sexual assault and its association with so-called victim acquiescence - 'especially in long-term sexual abuse cases, these responses occur as a consequence of the offender's conduct and trauma-induced suffering of the victim.

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Very often complex and perhaps counter-intuitive behaviours manifested by traumatised children are simply interpreted as evidence of the falsity of the alleged charge s ' Taylor There is also an urgent need for evaluations of the therapeutic responses to the abuse for both children and adults so that appropriate services can be developed. These fears are linked to pervasive social myths about sexual assault, especially that women and children often lie about rape, and that their right to live free from such abuse can be sacrificed for the sake of 'keeping the family together'.

As Easteal 1 notes: 'One of the only means available to reduce sexual assault and to enhance the probability that its victims will report it to authorities is through knocking down the false images of rape that act to perpetuate it in society. According to feminist legal theorists, not only do these myths act as barriers to disclosure, they are likely to be perpetuated by criminal justice responses following the reporting of childhood sexual assault Taylor Many fear disclosing the abuse out of fear they will not be believed, and, of those who do disclose, many report disbelief on the part of family and friends Easteal Those who somehow find the courage to seek help from services are unlikely to receive the long-term support they need because of discriminatory funding guidelines.

Over the coming year, ACSSA will be mapping existing service provision in this area throughout the country, with the aim of identifying good practice, along with the difficulties services face and the consequent gaps in current levels of provision.

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  4. Copyright information. Paper aims to provide an overview of complex trauma as a concept for classifying a varying range of symptomatology. Reviews the emergence of trauma-informed care in Australia and overseas and how it is being implemented in practice. This report identifies and maps family support work with women, children and men within both the statutory and voluntary sectors throughout the UK; identifies innovative work throughout the country in relation to domestic violence and family support; explores specific cases of good practice in relation to work with women, children.

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