Childhood sexual assault

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If you were sexually assaulted when you were a child, it was not your fault.

Sexual assault in childhood can cause serious ongoing social, physiological and emotional difficulties.

If you were assaulted in an institution (like church or a children's home) you may be able to access payment through the National Redress Scheme.

Assistance can include counselling, a direct personal response and apology, and a compensation payment.

Understanding childhood sexual assault and its effects

Any act of a sexual nature, any sexual threat, or any exhibition of sexual behaviours, imposed on a child under the age of 16 years is a serious crime.

Those who sexually assault children take advantage of the child’s trust, innocence and vulnerability. Child sexual assault is committed against both girls and boys. Sexual assault of children happens at an alarming rate. Nearly 15% of Australian adults have experienced some form of sexual assault before the age of 15. The majority (91%) of sexual assaults against children are perpetrated by someone they know and usually involves grooming and manipulation.

The trauma impacts of sexual assault are the same for children as they are for adults. Sexual assault of children also interrupts a child's social, intellectual and emotional development. The affects of sexual assault in childhood are trauma based. Our trauma specialist counsellors can help in coping with the impacts of trauma.

Coping and recovering from childhood sexual assault

Despite how many Australians have experienced sexual assault, it remains something that can be very difficult to talk about.

Sexual assault of a child includes behaviours such as exposing genitals to a child, voyeurism, and creating and viewing child pornography.

Child sexual assault is usually perpetrated by someone known to the child and their family. The offender exploits and betrays their position of power and trust.

Offenders often manipulate the child through a range of behaviours. These can include grooming or conditioning. Later on, they may use violence, force, coercion, threats and tricks to keep their crime secret.

People who sexually assault children and young people often use tactics that make the child or non-offending family members feel responsible.

Even if the child had these feelings, the sexual contact was still unwanted and not OK.

The process of grooming and manipulation used by perpetrators of sexual violence enforces secrecy and shame in children, and makes talking about the violence even more difficult.

Recovery from childhood sexual assault

For some, the childhood experience of violence leads to mental health impacts in adulthood.

It is important to remember that these impacts are a common result of childhood sexual assault. They can be mistaken for a personality disorder, or cause the person to be wrongly told they are defective in some way.

Recovery is possible for anyone who has experienced sexual assault. The process of recovery looks different for every individual. The goal of recovery might be different from person to person.

About the Royal Commission and the National Redress Scheme

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse listened to thousands of people about the abuse they experienced as children. The abuse happened in orphanages, children’s homes, schools, churches and other religious organisations, sports clubs, hospitals, foster care and other institutions.

As a result, the National Redress Scheme was set up to help people who have experienced institutional child sexual abuse.

The National Redress Scheme:

  • Acknowledges that many children were sexually abused in Australian institutions
  • Recognises the suffering they endured because of this abuse
  • Holds institutions accountable for this abuse
  • Helps people who have experienced institutional child sexual abuse gain access to counselling, a direct personal response, and a redress (compensation) payment

The National Redress Scheme involves:

  • People who have experienced institutional child sexual abuse who can apply for redress
  • The National Redress Scheme team — Commonwealth Government staff who help promote the scheme and process applications
  • Redress Support Services — free, confidential emotional support and legal and financial help for people thinking about or applying to the scheme
  • Participating institutions that have agreed to provide redress to people who experienced institutional child sexual abuse
  • Independent decision makers who consider applications and make recommendations and conduct reviews

Getting compensation for childhood sexual assault

You can choose to apply for compensation through the National Redress Scheme if you:

  • Experienced institutional child sexual abuse before 1 July 2018
  • Are aged over 18 or will turn 18 before 30 June 2028
  • Are an Australian citizen or permanent resident
  • Are applying about an institution that has joined the National Redress Scheme
  • Apply between 1 July 2018 and 30 June 2027

Help applying for the National Redress Scheme

There are many support services for people who want to apply to the National Redress Scheme.

You can call our counsellors for free 24 hours a day, seven days a week on 1800 211 028.

We also provide face to face counselling services in far west NSW, New England, North West NSW and Albury.

To make an appointment to discuss face to face counselling options call: 1800 211 028.

To find other support services in your area, including legal and financial support, go to:

www.nationalredress.gov.au/support