The National Centre for Action on Child Sexual Abuse calls on community to do more to respond to the needs of children and adults who have suffered child sexual abuse

The National Centre for Action on Child Sexual Abuse calls on community to do more to respond to the needs of children and adults who have suffered child sexual abuse.

Marking the fourth anniversary of the National Apology to Victims and Survivors of Institutional Child Sexual Abuse, the National Centre for Action on Child Sexual Abuse has identified seven key challenges that need to be overcome in order to more effectively protect children and better support adult victims and survivors.

“Child sexual abuse is a crime. It causes enormous trauma to children and adults, many of whom are not believed. Without protection and early support, the impact of child sexual abuse can cause a range of emotional, psychological and life challenges for adults across their lives”, said Dr Joe Tucci, Chair of the National Centre. “Adult victims and survivors of child sexual abuse need understanding and compassion in order to start their process of healing. We need to break through the secrecy, stigma and shame that still surrounds child sexual abuse and make it easier for children, young people and adults to share their experiences and receive the support they need, when they need it and wherever they are.”

Launched today by the Minister for Social Services, the Hon Amanda Rishworth MP, the Draft Five Year Strategy of the National Centre highlights the following key challenges to be addressed to transform our responses to child sexual abuse:
• Child sexual abuse and its effects across the life course are not well understood or identified in the community.
• Victims and survivors of child sexual abuse are often not believed and responded to with compassion.
• Children, young people and adults with experiences of child sexual abuse are often not identified or are not well supported when they raise concerns or disclose.
• Children and young people who have engaged in harmful sexual behaviour or experienced it require adults to better understand and meet their needs.
• Victims and survivors of child sexual abuse are often unable to access the support and resources that meet their changing needs at different times in their lives.
• Knowledge about complex and intergenerational trauma and dissociation does not generally inform responses to individuals with lived and living experiences of child sexual abuse.
• Child sexual abuse will not be stopped unless there is a comprehensive framework for addressing the power dynamics and factors which enable it.

“The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse was a watershed time in this country as for the first time, victims and survivors of child sexual abuse were seen, heard and believed. The National Centre will build on the critical work of the Commission, putting the lived and living experience of victims and survivors at the core of everything it does, engaging broadly with survivors across the life course, their loved ones, with and across governments, with researchers, practitioners, and the community to transform our understanding of and respond to child sexual abuse in the home, family and online, as well as institutionally. The Draft Five Year Strategy sets out what we need to do, when, and how to stop child sexual abuse before it starts and drive generational change for everyone subjected to the trauma it causes” said Dr Cathy Kezelman AM, Deputy Chair of the Board of the National Centre.

The National Centre is seeking feedback about its Draft Five Year Strategy and plans to urgently tackle the problem of child sexual abuse.

In order to support its work, the National Centre also announced the opening of its first research grant round for researchers and practitioners to help build the knowledge base that is essential in order to make the changes that are necessary to create generational change to the way that child sexual abuse is understood and responded to.

The National Centre also announced its new CEO – Dr Leanne Beagley – who will take the National Centre forward from early December. Dr Leanne Beagley has clinical qualifications and a decade of experience in child and family mental health services, with subsequent experience as a senior leader within health, mental health and primary care settings. She has undertaken policy leadership within government and policy advocacy from within the sector. She comes to us most recently from the national independent peak body Mental Health Australia where she has been the CEO.

The National Centre is a critical recommendation from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (the Royal Commission). It has a key role that is separate and independent from government. Its role includes:
• Providing leadership on integrated responses to child sexual abuse and its impacts across the country, for example, through national agendas;
• Increasing community understanding and recognition of child sexual abuse and the underlying power and contextual dynamics which drive it;
• Enhancing understanding about children and young people who have engaged in harmful sexual behaviour and how to best support and intervene with them and the network of important adults around them;
• Promoting effective policy and practices to protect children and young people from sexual abuse;
• Increasing professional expertise through workforce capability building to improve service responses to child and adult victims and survivors of child sexual abuse;
• Reducing the harm and stigma that child sexual abuse and harmful sexual behaviour cause;
• Promoting whole of society understanding and change; and,
• Strengthening pathways for disclosure and healing for victims and survivors, including strategies to improve service coordination.

The National Centre is a partnership between three leading national organisations with a long-standing commitment to supporting children, young people and adults to heal from child sexual abuse. They are the Blue Knot Foundation, the Australian Childhood Foundation and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Healing Foundation (The Healing Foundation).
The Healing Foundation’s CEO and Board Director of the National Centre, Fiona Cornforth stated today that she “was grateful for the strong engagement from across the country to support the development of the Centre’s draft five-year strategy. The Healing Foundation has been walking alongside First Nations victims and survivors and their support services since the Royal Commission, and to be able to continue to do this through the work of the National Centre is very important for honouring the many First Nations peoples affected by the abuse. Bearing witness through that process was a huge deal, and to respond with action and impact is critical to the process of healing and preventing further harm.”

The National Centre for Action on Child Sexual Abuse has been funded by the Australian Government Department of Social Services.

For interviews, contact
• Dr Joe Tucci, Chair of the Board of the National Centre for Action on Child Sexual Abuse on 0418 991 766 or by email: joetucci@ncacsa.org.au
• Dr Cathy Kezelman AM, Deputy Chair of the Board of the National Centre for Action on Child Sexual Abuse on 0425 812 197 or by email: ckezelman@blueknot.org.au

Dr Tucci is a psychologist and social worker with over 30 years of experience supporting children and young people who have experienced trauma from child abuse and family violence.
Dr Cathy Kezelman AM is a survivor of child sexual abuse and medical practitioner, advocating for greater awareness and support to enable adults impacted by violence, abuse and neglect to heal.

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