• 11Jul


    Child sex abuse within families rampant

    Victoria Police wants to open a new front in the fight against family violence as frightening new data reveals a 43 per cent jump in child sex abuse cases in the past five years.

    Detective Superintendent Rod Jouning, head of the Victoria Police sexual and family violence division, said the true rate of child sex abuse by family members and others known to the victim was horrifying. He said Victoria Police’s campaign to tackle family violence had encouraged unprecedented reporting of partner on partner violence, but too many child sex abuse victims were still not coming forward.

    child sexual abuse vic


    The Latest News from the Royal Commission

    Cardinal George Pell disputes evidence of his closest advisers at the inquiry at the royal commission into child sex abuse.

    George Pell’s truck driver analogy veers into hostile territory by Tammy Mills of The Age

    And again from the Age: Vatican refuses to hand over files on accused pedophile priests

    cuts to royal commission


    The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse is probably one of the most noteworthy legacies of the Gillard Labor Government.



    It was established to be serious and important – the way it was set up, its structure and its operation – it was no empty gesture to the concerns being expressed by the community in response to child sexual abuse allegations which occurred and are occurring within our large church and government organizations.
    During this we have some high profile child sexual abuse allegations against men such as Jimmy Savile and Rolf Harris.
    In January of this year a new research study was released (Profiling parental child sex abuse by Jane Goodman-Delahunty)
    Just a quick glance of some of the research findings:
    • High prevalence rates of childhood sexual abuse in Australia—38 percent for women and 13 percent for men.

    • Only 10 percent of child sexual abuse cases are perpetrated by strangers.

    Most parental child sex offenders were men in a father–child relationship with their victim.

    More than three-fifths of the victims were under the age of 10 years at the time of disclosure of the abuse, and overwhelming were exclusively female (91%).

    • Parental sex offenders are among the successful and productive sex offenders who tend to be classified as low risk and to receive shorter sentences.

    •  One in every four victims experiencing sexual abuse it was accompanied by threats of extortion, or violence.


    This research clearly shows us that the incidents of child sexual abuse that are currently hitting our headlines are not the majority – that the majority are occurring in our homes.
    However, what the headlines are capturing is that this is about power and control.

    The power and control offenders have over children – in homes, in churches and in institutions.

    The power to do harm.
    And this power and control is enacted with impunity – because they are protected by powerful institutions – whether it is church organizations or those protecting the sanctity of the family.
    Be very clear that the sanctity of the family is at the heart of this impunity.

    Our family law system fails to acknowledge or hear victims, and punishes mothers for raising their concerns about the safety of their children.

    Our child protection system is more likely to punish mothers for failing to protect their children, than take action against offending fathers.

    Our media portrays these men as “pathological or aberrant”, placing them as out of the norm.

    But how abnormal can it be when over a third of women are victims of child sexual abuse?
    Suzanne Power has written an excellent article about this in which she talks about the absence of the discussion about gender, patriarchy and male power.

    “Many would prefer to take refuge in the idea of the paedophile as pathological and aberrant. Those who work with victims of abuse will tell you that as with rape, most abusers are known to the victim. Home is where the hatred is and that is why abuse rips apart the boundaries between love and trust and intimacy in families and is so devastating.”

    She talks about sexual politics, men in positions of power, cover ups and a culture of culpability. And the refusal to examine this in terms of patriarchy and how male power works. As she says:

    “We are called feminists. Child abuse isn’t a new story for us.”

    The questions that Suzanne Power asks go to the very reason why child sexual abuse is such a major problem and why there is so much silence surrounding it.
    And the answers are that it is about patriarchy and male power and our “collective refusal to contemplate how patriarchy works.”


    I will leave it to Suzanne to conclude:

    “But it is absolutely negligent to talk about power and abuse without any context, in some gender-free vacuum. If we cannot talk about historical abuse and how male privilege operated to make it so risk-free, then it won’t go away. Abuse is always an expression of power. Not acknowledging that power is another way of silencing its victims.”


    Another useful reference is Rocking the Cradle of Sexual Politics: What Happened When Women Said Incest by Louise Armstrong. A very good article she wrote in 1994, ‘Who Stole Incest?‘ is still very relevant 10 years later.

  • 19Jun


    Equality before the Law – you think?!
    When the Family Law Act came into being in 1975 it was hailed as one of the most progressive pieces of family legislation in the Western world. Australia was one of the first western nations to bring about ‘no-fault’ divorce. And it was a momentous moment for women. At last they could leave unhappy and abusive husbands without the trauma of proving fault.
    However, there remains one significant fault with the concept of equality within the family law arena – the fact that men and women, mothers and fathers are not equal.
    Just look at the recent figures that came out from the Hilda survey  in the last couple of weeks.
    Male breadwinners continue to dominate within heterosexual couples with 75% of men continuing to earn more than their female partners. Women were less likely to earn more money than their partner if the couple had dependent children.

    hilda report breadwinners
    And women continue to do the bulk of unpaid work.
    Women are considerably more likely to be unpaid carers than men, with 9.1% of females aged 15 and over providing unpaid care on an ongoing basis in 2011, compared with 5.8% of males aged 15 and over.
    The survey also found that gender roles in households are persisting, with women doing 15 hours more housework each week than men, and 12 hours more child rearing.
    Check out the article in the Guardian

    guardian re hilda

    Women constitute 69.9% of all part time employees, according to the Australian government’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency.
    Once separated many women as single parents are left in poverty. The cuts to single-parent payments over the past decade have coincided with a rise in child poverty.
    So when a couple separate women are at a disadvantage economically and often socially and physically. They take on the responsibility of parenting both emotionally and physically at a greater rate than men. This often involves sacrificing their own careers and future financial stability. They make an emotional commitment to parenting that men are not obliged to make. Men have the option of opting in or out of parenting, which women do not.
    We hold women responsible not only for ensuring the care of children, but also of maintaining the family. We herald women as mothers as the core of the family unit – “Good on you Mum”. But when things go wrong we blame women – for not holding a family together, for not being available to their children, for aiming for more than motherhood.
    And yet even when families separate women are held responsible for ensuring that children continue to have a positive relationship with their fathers. And when they don’t do this – most often because of fears of their children’s safety in the care of an abusive father, or concerns for the children’s well-being with a father who has shown little interest in parenting in the past – they are punished by a family law system that hails fathers’ rights as being paramount.
    We hold the concept of the mother-child bond as being on the highest pedestal – but only when she is firmly ensconced in a relationship with the father.
    We know that a child’s bond with its primary parent is essential to a child’s ongoing emotional and social development. And yet the family law system is deliberately structured to ignore past behaviors within the family and focus on the future – a future which often involves damaging the attachment between the primary parent (mother) and the child to ensure that fathers maintain their patriarchal rights over children.
    We need to examine the basis of the patriarchal family and how this is the driving force behind such inequalities for women and scrutinize how the structure of the patriarchal family can be a perilous place for women and children.
    I will be writing more on this issue – there is so much more to write!
    For more information see articles and research at the WEAVE website.
    And Women’s Safety After Separation website.