(The Age Online, 21 August 2014)
This week the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse turned its attention to the Melbourne Response - a process established by the city's Catholic Archdiocese to address the sexual abuse complaints accumulating against the church. Like much of the evidence presented to the Commission, the hearings included stories of lives and trust destroyed – shattered not only by individual perpetrators, but by the obfuscation and bellicose approach of the responsible institution.
Witnesses spoke of being discouraged from reporting to police; and of the distress of having their allegations accepted for the purposes of compensation offers, yet being told that these same allegations would be strenuously defended should they seek instead to go to court. Certainly, sexual assault complainants are often met with a theatre of evasion – from denial to legalistic defences which trivialise the complaint or disparage the complainant; from responses framed only in terms of compensation, to settlements which prevent victims from speaking out.
Rob Hulls is the Director of the Centre for Innovative Justice at RMIT University.