A CULTURE in Australia of allowing children to be "seen and not heard" has contributed to child sexual abuse, the head of the royal commission said on Monday.
Chair of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, Justice Peter McClellan, spoke about the commission's work at Parliament House.
During a speech launching the Adults Surviving Child Abuse's annual Blue Knot Day, he said the commission's work showed it was apparent that society's standards had failed.
"Although the primary responsibility for the sexual abuse of an individual lies with the abuser and the institution of which they were a part, we cannot avoid the conclusion that the problems faced by many people who have been abused are the responsibility of our entire society," he said.
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Justice McClellan said that "where once silence was demanded (of children), a child's complaint, however tentative in its communication, must be heard to give an appropriate response".
"Whatever the nature of an institution and however its members are respected by the community, we must all accept that there may be members of trusted institutions who failed in their duty towards children.
"The power of an institution must never again be able to silence a child."
His comments came as ASCA president Dr Cathy Kezelman released new research revealing the types and consequences of abuse on 4000 victims who called the group's support line.
The data showed of those 4000 callers, more than 43% reported sexual abuse, a further 45% reported emotional or physical abuse and almost half reported multiple types of abuse.
Of those, the vast majority of abuse occurred in the home, at 64%, and "in care" and "institution" and schools made up about 20% of the places abuse occurred.
Dr Kezelman said the figures shed a light on the harsh reality of child abuse and its prevalence in our society.
"We want to provide survivors with a message of hope - to know that recovery is possible and that it is important to reach out and seek help, which comes in many forms."
A parliamentary group concerned about child abuse, led by Liberal MP Ken Wyatt and Labor Senator Catryna Bilyk, will raise the issue among parliamentary colleagues.
ASCA will also launch a campaign later this week to raise awareness of child abuse and those surviving it.
Readers concerned about their or others wellbeing can phone ASCA's professional support line on 1300 657 380.
- APN NEWSDESK
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