Blame the Victims for Child Sexual Abuse

This is an important update on a blog first posted on 8 July 2015.  

It concerned an outrageous claim made by the Parenting Research Centre and the University of Melbourne in a ‘research’ report called, ‘Scoping review: Evaluations of out-of-home care practice elements that aim to prevent child sexual abuse’.

The report was commissioned by – and published (February 2015) on the website of – the Royal Commission into the Institutional Handling of Child Sexual Abuse. More to the point, Senior Counsel Assisting the Commission used the outrageous claim in her opening address on 10 March 2015 at the outset of the public hearing into ‘out-of-home care

The major focus of preventing child sexual abuse in out of home care should be on efforts to prevent child to child sexual abuse rather than caregiver child sexual abuse, since this type of abuse likely represents the vast majority of observed child sexual abuse in out of home care.

This false assertion was not backed up by reputable research evidence. Senior Counsel had been badly advised by the Commission’s researchers who should have known better than to present such a sweeping allegation.

However, the claim was swallowed by some professional bodies who should have known better – and by the media, hungry for a headline. 

CLAN CEO Leonie Sheedy and I  met with one of the researchers and presented her and the Royal Commission with  a thorough analysis of the many flaws in the research report. While holding the line, the  researcher undertook to review the report. Negotiations followed.

The Royal Commission “temporarily removed” the  offending research report from its website “to address an error”.

Meanwhile, however, the damaging claim remained, unchallenged,  in the public arena. On 2 July, I wrote a  Letter to the Editor of The Age . 

Dear Editor

Paul Austin reports (The Age July 1) that the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has heard that “in the majority of cases of abuse it is perpetrated not by adults, but by adolescents who are also in care”. This absurd proposition was indeed put to the Royal Commission, but there is absolutely no evidence to back it up. The facts clearly run the other way. You have to wonder at the motivation of those putting forward this slanderous allegation against children in ‘care’  – who of course have no right of reply. It diverts attention away from the adults, both those who are the perpetrators of abuse and those who are responsible for supervising what goes on in out-of-home ‘care’. 

Frank Golding, Vice-President Care Leavers Australasia Network (CLAN)

The Editor couldn’t find space for my 120 words in  defence of the kids whose voices are never heard. The media showed, once again, that it has little interest in backtracking over “yesterday’s news” even when they find they got it wrong.

However, after months of to-ing and fro-ing a few days ago, a revised version has finally been posted on the Royal Commission’s website. The revised report contains this preliminary notice.

The original version of this report contained an error. Specifically the report stated that the majority of child sexual abuse in out-of-home care was child-child sexual abuse. Though there is evidence to suggest that child-child sexual abuse in out-of-home care occurs at substantial levels, its prevalence has not yet been established.

The report has been revised to correct this inaccuracy and all research implications that were informed by this inaccurate statement.

The authors note, since publication of the original report, the release of the Victorian Commission for Children and Young People’s report ‘…as a good parent would…’(August 2015). This report also discusses the sexual exploitation of children in out-of-home care and highlights a range of possible perpetrators including but not limited to abuse perpetrated by carers and other children within the placement.

You can see a copy of the revised report here or by following this link.


The tenor of the changes can be seen in comparing the initial February 2015 version at page 7: 

The major focus of preventing CSA in OOHC should be on efforts to prevent child–child sexual abuse rather than caregiver–child sexual abuseThe vast majority of CSA in OOHC currently appears to occur at a child-child level. Therefore, additional efforts to prevent CSA should have a greater focus on child-child CSA. (my underlining).

with the revised report November 2015 version:

A major focus of preventing CSA in OOHC should be on efforts to prevent child–child sexual abuse. While the prevalence of CSA in OOHC is yet to be consistently and rigorously measured, a substantial proportion of CSA in OOHC appears to be child-child sexual abuse. The different nature of this type of maltreatment (peer rather than caregiver perpetration) means that additional, and likely different, efforts to prevent CSA should be undertaken to prevent all types of CSA in OOHC (my underlining).


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