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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Child sexual abuse in the context of religious institutions

Victims and survivors suggestions for change

Participants made a number of suggestions to improve child protection and assist victims and survivors of child sexual abuse in future.

Structurally, it was suggested that there needed to be better counselling and support provision and that child protection education and support in religious institutions should be delivered by external agencies who are specially approved. Financially, participants thought there should be an end to deadlines impacting on the ability of victims and survivors to receive compensation. Culturally, participants stated that the secrecy that comes from the sanctity of religious institutions and the assumption of the automatic morality of those involved in them had to be addressed. Politically and professionally, it was suggested that victims and survivors needed to be at the centre of all concerns, actions and support relating to sexual abuse. Religious institutions and their leaders needed to take responsibility for abuse that has happened, come together to effect required change and ensure child protection policies and procedures were fully implemented in the best interests of the child.

Overall, the research findings detailed in this report share many similarities with previous research into sexual abuse in the Anglican and Catholic Churches (see Dreßing et al., 2018), including the Research Team’s Child sexual abuse within the Catholic and Anglican Churches: A rapid evidence assessment (IICSA Research Team, 2017) and the Australian Royal Commission’s findings relating to experiences of abuse in religious institutions (Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, 2017a, 2017b, 2017c).

Consistent with our research findings here, these reports found that a central factor in the child sexual abuse in religious contexts was the particularly high regard and trust placed in religious institutions and those associated with them (often referred to as ‘clericalism’ in the Catholic Church) (IICSA Research Team, 2017; Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, 2017a, 2017b, 2017c). This status has both enabled abuse in religious contexts and hindered appropriate responses to it.


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