Involving children in the research and decisions that will impact their lives is essential to protect them from being abused within institutions, a symposium has been told, reports The Guardian.
On Monday researchers released the findings from three research reports ordered by the Royal commission into Child Sexual Abuse on the topic of child-safe institutions, such as sporting clubs, churches and schools. The reports examined: key elements of child-safe organisations; the safety of young people in residential care; and disability and institutional child sexual abuse.
One of the six royal commissioners, judge Jennifer Coate, told the symposium that survivors of child sexual abuse often shared their stories in the hope they could help stop the scourge of child sexual abuse into the future. As children, they were often unheard, or heard but ignored and punished.
“A key challenge for the commission has been the lack of research on institutional child sexual abuse to date,” Justice Coate said. “There has been no large-scale, cross-jurisdiction focus on the topic.”
To address this, almost 100 research projects had been commissioned involving 40 universities and research centres, she said.
Researchers from the Institute of Child Protection Studies at the Australian Catholic University, Professor Morag McArthur and Dr Tim Moore, shared their findings from interviews with 27 children and young people living in residential care in Australia.
The children were asked about what they thought might prevent sexual abuse, what helped them to feel safe, how well their concerns were responded to, and what could be done to increase their safety.
“Residential care felt most safe when it was home-like: where young people felt welcome, where things felt ‘normal’ and where adults looked out for them,” the researchers found.
“Participants stressed the importance of stability and predictability in residential care: where children and young people knew what was going to happen, where they felt that they knew their peers and how to manage their behaviours and where tensions could be resolved. Due to its highly chaotic and ever-changing nature, many characterised residential care as being unsafe.”
The research will help inform the royal commission’s final report, to be tabled on 15 December, which will include a volume dedicated to making institutions child safe.