Debates Day 4 - Tuesday 9 May 2017
Parliamentary Record 5
Debates for 13th Assembly 2016 - 2018; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 13th Assembly 2016 - 2020
pp 1623 to 1686
Made available by the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
DEBATES Tuesday 9 May 2017 1635 truly overdue. I also commend the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse for the work that is now flowing out and which other states are involved with. The Royal Commission heard many times that the existence of limitation periods acts as a significant barrier for survivors of abuse commencing civil litigation. Those stories impart on these peoples lives. Most of us may have had friends or people we know who have shared stories with the Royal Commission, not necessarily on sexual abuse but physical abuse, and how those horrors and nightmares stick with them throughout their lives. Those times when your mind floats into empty spaces, it is often those horrors that are relived. The Royal Commission has done a great thing by removing those barriers in the Northern Territory. One of the impacts of serious abuse is that victims may not disclose what happened to them until they feel safe to do so. Many survivors are unable to disclose their abuse until well into adulthood. All the research and literature says that. For a range of reasons, until you are in a position of strength it is hard to address some of those issues. You may want to block it out and not relive the horrors. In the case where it is members of the church or even close family members, it is often about waiting until that person passes on or there is a change of circumstances. You might remove yourself from that community, especially if it is a church which has a strong influence in a small country town. It is often about having to wait until you have the strength and your personal circumstances change. Children who have been abused by people who have authority or power over them often blame themselves for the abuse. They think, If I had not done something wrong then the abuse would not have occurred. It was my fault. What did I do that caused this? That is what the abusers perpetrate, power over their victims to make them feel embarrassed or ashamed and to ensure the victim does not tell. They will often threaten them about other family members. There is lifelong trauma that goes with that. For children who have been abused, it is often about blaming themselves. Evidence suggests that the closer the relationship between an abused child and a perpetrator, the less likely it is that the abuse will be formally reported. That is a terrible situation. Young children who feel guilty and that they are to blame are less likely to report the matter. Feelings of powerlessness, guilt and shame for letting it happen can stay with a person for a very long time, making it difficult to tell anyone about what has happened for many years. The Royal Commissions analysis of the submissions and testimonies they received identified that on average it takes over 22 years for a survivor to disclose abuse. That is an average, which means there are plenty of people who take a lot longer than 22 years to have the strength and courage to be able to testify against someone who has abused them. Abuse can severely affect a childs ability to communicate and interact with others and form positive, reciprocal relationships. Further to this, children who have experienced abuse are more likely to have poorer education outcomes and poorer mental health, including increased risk of post-traumatic stress disorder. Educators see this in classrooms in the Northern Territory. When we talk about abuse we hear it is family violence and sexual abuse that have the biggest impact on children. It impacts their learning. If any of us thought about the feelings we would have as a young child who was physically abused that morning or the night beforehow difficult it would be to go into a classroom, sit down and be able to learn. We know the impact of not having a healthy breakfast and how that can distract a childs learning, let alone severe trauma or abuse of any sort. We can all relate to that. If you have an argument with your partner before work, of course you replay those moments of what you should have said, what could have happened and what will happen that night. As adults we can manage those things and manage our emotions, but imagine a young child having to go to school, play with their friends, sit in a classroom and pretend nothing happenedto fear going back into that household and that situation, whether it is a foster family or otherwise. The impacts of depression and anxiety, as well as substance abuse, can occur as you age. It is no surprise that people who experience abuse as a child find it difficult to talk about their experiences and problems with family, friends and support services, let alone argue with legal services about whether or not the abuse happened within a permissible time frame. How hard would it be to talk to family, especially if it was another family member who abused you? Will you be believed by your friends and support networks? Let alone then having to go through those things with a
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