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Child Sexual Abuse in Indigenous Communities

NCJ Number
Janet Stanley
Date Published
May 2003
8 pages
Based on discussions with two officials from Australia's Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care, as well as the author's work with an Indigenous researcher and the views of Indigenous people expressed in recently published major reports, this paper discusses issues related to child sexual abuse in Australia's Indigenous communities.
The extent of child sexual abuse in Indigenous communities is not well understood, partly because of a failure to report it and a failure to respond to it. Some reasons for failure to report child sexual abuse in Indigenous communities include the fear of racism by the authorities; a fear of reprisal from the perpetrator in small, closed communities; fear that the perpetrator (who may be a family member) will be killed while in custody; and difficulties in communicating with legal staff. The substantiation rate for child sexual abuse is lower for Indigenous than for non-Indigenous children. This may be due to the fact that child protection authorities and other child protection professions are not trained or skilled in interacting with Indigenous families and communities. Underlying many of the problems that impede addressing child sexual abuse in Indigenous communities is the disabling impact of social disadvantage and the experience of trauma. This paper recommends the development of culturally appropriate ways of addressing child sexual abuse in Indigenous communities, including service models; healing of trauma to enhance constructive outcomes; addressing racism; aiming for negotiation rather than consultation; the provision of resources to support change; the provision of allied services; and consideration of the transfer of control and responsibility for child welfare to the Indigenous community. 15 references