Unpacking the National Centre for Action against Child Sexual Abuse report

Unpacking the National Child Sexual Abuse Attitudes Study

Late in June, I attended a webinar titled In Conversation: The Australian Child Sexual Abuse Attitudes, Knowledge and Behaviour Study: What can we learn to inform our collective effort? It was hosted by the National Centre for Action on Child Sexual Abuse.

Dr Leanne Beagley moderated the conversation, which brought together the CEOs of the National Centre’s three founding partners: the Australian Childhood Foundation, Blue Knot, and the Healing Foundation.

This was the first time I’d attended a live webinar on such a topic before, and it was intriguing to hear what was being researched and then how this research provided valuable insights into community perceptions and knowledge about child sexual abuse in Australia.

Whereas in last week’s blog, I fed in my insights after each section, I’m not going to for this one. I’ll drop it all into the intro and then move into the conversation and key points. Here we go:

I found that listening to a conversation between the leaders of these organisations and considering the key takeaways was valuable for my ongoing healthy inquiry beyond researching for Resolve. I know I now need to stay aware of current events, and in this one webinar I chose to sign up for, there were clear calls to action throughout.

We know that we cannot sit back and wait for these organisations to do it all—that’s not community. Where can we best step in to start conversations and become informed so that we model what we would have appreciated if we were the children these studies are now addressing?

Children are currently being impacted by issues around community awareness, misconceptions, and victim-blaming, and adult survivors also fit into this context. There is a lack of support systems for the complexity of repercussions that continue long term, beyond the time the abuse occurred.

To shift from wishful thinking that this will all go away and someone else will fix these issues, we need to brave up, use our lived experience, and be a catalyst for change. Even if that change is in your own life, or perhaps in your niece or nephew’s life, or a child in your neighbourhood, knowledge is power.

Alone is hard. Together is better.

Simon Sinek
Understanding Community Awareness

A cornerstone of the research was determining the community’s awareness of child sexual abuse. Professor de Silva’s findings indicate that while there is high overall awareness, many Australians still believe that child sexual abuse is an issue that doesn’t affect them personally or doesn’t occur within their neighbourhoods. This misconception underscores the need for persistent and clear communication about the prevalence of this issue.

Key Points:
  • Awareness Exists: Most people know about child sexual abuse and understand broad statistics. Specifically, 60% of Australians indicated they knew an adult who had experienced child sexual abuse. However, understanding is less clear, particularly regarding non-binary children, who are substantially underestimated.
  • Proximity Misconception: Despite this awareness, many Australians believe that child sexual abuse does not happen close to them or impact their lives directly.
Persistent Victim-Blaming Attitudes

One of the more troubling findings presented by Professor de Silva is the persistence of victim-blaming attitudes within the community. Many people still hold the belief that adolescents, particularly girls, may provoke abuse through their behaviour or appearance. These harmful perceptions significantly hinder the support and protection of victims.

Key Points:
  • Victim Blaming: Victim-blaming attitudes remain prevalent, especially towards adolescent victims, with many respondents blaming victims for behaviours such as dressing provocatively or not resisting the abuse.
  • Trust Issues: Significant portions of the population are unsure about believing children’s disclosures of abuse.
Need for Better Support Systems

Dr Cathy Kezelman emphasised the importance of compassionate and validating support systems for survivors of child sexual abuse. Current support structures often lack the necessary understanding of the long-term impacts of abuse, including mental health difficulties, substance misuse, and relationship challenges.

Key Points:
  • Compassionate Support: Effective support must be empathetic, non-judgmental, and guided by the survivor’s needs.
  • Long-term Impacts: There is a lack of understanding regarding the lifelong consequences of child sexual abuse, impacting various aspects of life such as job security and financial stability. The study highlighted that the community often underestimates these long-term effects, focusing primarily on immediate impacts like substance misuse and mental health challenges.
Challenges in Recognising Abuse

Another significant finding was the community’s inconsistent ability to recognise behaviours indicative of child sexual abuse. The lack of a clear understanding of grooming and perpetration means that many adults miss critical signs that could protect children.

Key Points:
  • Recognising Abuse: There is a significant variation in the community’s ability to recognise sexually abusive behaviours, influenced by the child’s age, the nature of the behaviour, and who was involved.
  • Grooming Blind Spots: Many adults do not recognise grooming behaviours and, as a result, may not intervene early enough to protect children from sexual abuse.

The study was focused on child sexual abuse in general and not specifically on sibling sexual abuse. I am a survivor and interested in understanding all I can about sibling sexual abuse and what’s being done in that space. However, it struck me often during this conversation that the ignorance and silence of society are enormous issues for these people who are looking at how to prevent and respond to child sexual abuse and harmful sexual behaviours nationally.

Stay tuned for the second part of this series, where I’ll share the actionable steps proposed by the experts to combat these issues and create a safer environment for children and survivors.

This week I’ll close with the highlights, the headings, of some of the reviews received about my memoir Resolve:

Beautiful and enlightening.’ – Anne Moody, Adoption Agency Director and author of The Children Money Can Buy and The Baby Market. Bainbridge Island, Washington, USA

‘A brave and inspiring story about sibling sexual abuse and what follows. A must-read for us all. – Emma Rees, Doctor of Philosophy, PHD, Child Sexual Exploitation: England, UK.

‘Compelling Victim to Creator Journey.’ – David Emerald, best-selling author of The Power of TED* and The 3 Vital Questions, Bainbridge Island, Washington, USA.

This memoir is freeing, inspiring and validating.‘ – Jeannine L Rashidi, best-selling author of Abundance Beyond Trauma, California, USA.

‘This is a fantastic book on the topic of sibling sexual abuse.’ – Diane Tarantini, child safety educator and author of ‘The Brave Knight’ and memoir ‘Everyone Was Silent’, West Virginia, USA.

‘A Story of Courage, Resilience and Transformation of the Soul. – Merilee Smith, Culture Transformation Coach, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.

‘An utterly devastating and important read for us all.’ – Dr Nicole Creber, award-winning educator and best-selling author, Sunshine Coast, Qld, Australia.

‘Resolve is the most compelling book I have ever read.’ – Terry Edwards, Educator of 56 years and former Christian Brother, Sunshine Coast, QLD, Australia.

Have you already read “Resolve”?

If you found “Resolve” insightful, helpful or empowering, please consider leaving a review on Amazon. Your feedback helps other readers discover the transformative journey within its pages and supports survivors on their path to healing and empowerment. To leave a review, visit this “Resolve” product page on Amazon and click on “Write a customer review”. Alternatively, I know that more readers than not prefer to email me a review. I share those words with their name or anonymously on social media with their permission. To do that, please use this website’s Get In Touch form.

If you haven’t yet come across Resolve:

RESOLVE is an intimate, wild ride from darkness and confusion to triumphant self-determination and inner peace. Living with a dark secret inside her, Alice Perle has overcome many obstacles on her path to healing in the shadow of sibling sexual abuse.

Needing to understand her experiences at a deeper level, Alice’s personal story is interwoven with her fascinating explorations of societal and intergenerational factors. RESOLVE showcases an eclectic approach to healing that helped Alice reclaim her true self, freeing her to create a bright, joyous, peaceful life.

RESOLVE is respectfully and sensitively written for all readers. It is a memoir infused with hope and optimism. It is an inspiring story, offering us an intriguing window into one woman’s experience recovering from sibling sexual abuse – the hidden taboo.

Shared with love,

Alice Perle

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