Victorian abuse inquiry must be just the start

Victorian abuse inquiry must be just the start

published National Times

Cathy Kezelman
April 20, 2012 – 11:15AM
Opinion

Victoria’s inquiry may go some way to shattering the secrecy, tackling the stigma and addressing the denial that surrounds abuse. Photo: John Donegan

The Victorian parliamentary inquiry into sexual abuse within religious organisations is to be applauded. The long overdue announcement this week by the Baillieu government has come on the back of years of lobbying by victims, their families and victims’ groups.

The report into the appalling number of suicides by victims of clergy abuse in that state has delivered, it appears, the final momentum needed for the inquiry to be announced.

To those of us who work in the child abuse arena, such statistics, while always chilling, are not surprising. A 2008 Victorian study established that survivors of child sexual assault are up to 18 times more likely to commit suicide than people who haven’t been abused.

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Child abuse is destructive. When victims don’t receive the support and validation they need, as has been perpetrated by an array of religious institutions, the quality of their lives can be badly affected. In some cases, lives are lost.

In Australia more than 2 million adults are living with the impacts of their childhood abuse. Many have described it as an epidemic that is steeped in secrecy, stigma and collective denial. In Australia, Victoria is leading the way in shattering the secrecy, tackling the stigma and addressing the denial.

It’s a start, but it’s now time for full transparency and real accountability across the board.

This inquiry must be followed by similar processes in other states and territories, supported with a national broad-based inquiry.

As has been suggested, such a process may well be better served by a royal commission or judicial inquiry. It’s a matter of what will wield greater power.

Make no mistake, this is an issue of power; the power of a perpetrator over a victim, the power of an adult over a child, the power of a person in a position of trust betraying that trust, the power of a member of the clergy abrogating their responsibility, the power of the strong over the vulnerable.

It has also been an issue of the power of religious institutions to operate by their own rules, internal rules that have, at times, put them at odds with the very laws that hold other organisations, institutions and citizens accountable.

Religious institutions are predominantly closed patriarchal systems. The more closed the organisation or institution, often the greater the investment in maintaining silence and secrecy. Perpetrators use secrecy and silence to hide their crimes and if secrecy fails, they attack the credibility of victims to try to ensure that no one listens.

We have witnessed the blaming and discrediting of victims within religious institutions, with the shame that victims feel projected onto them all over again.

These systems have their own structures and hierarchies. In the case of the Catholic Church, these structures have prevented victims from pursuing claims against that institution, and internal canon law has taken precedence over civil law.

In many religious institutions the hierarchical systems have perpetuated secrecy and denial, led by an inherent belief that the religious institution knows best and will handle the issue internally, thereby seeking to contain the shame and controversy around such crimes.

So why has it taken so long for any government to come forward and tackle this issue? Collectively, as a society we recoil from stories of abuse. Often we would rather blame the victim for making us uncomfortable and, effectively, for their own victimisation.

As a society we continue to betray those who have been abused in childhood, silencing and shaming them, minimising and negating their experiences. As bystanders we are complicit in these practices, and the shame so inappropriately adopted by victims belongs with us all.

Generations of survivors of clergy abuse have now spoken out. The time has come for us as a society to overcome our disgust, push aside the stigma and taboo around abuse and take action.

It is within a conspiracy of silence and collective denial that the crime of child sexual assault thrives. It is enormously difficult for victims to speak out, both in childhood and as adults. Silenced by shame, threats and the fear of not being believed, many victims don’t ever tell their story. And some don’t ever get the chance.

Thank you, Premier Baillieu and your government, for listening.

Dr Cathy Kezelman is the president of Adults Surviving Child Abuse.

Read more: http://www.canberratimes.com.au/opinion/politics/victorian-abuse-inquiry-must-be-just-the-start-20120419-1x9of.html#ixzz1sZ9dbzeg

Victorian abuse inquiry must be just the start

Victorian abuse inquiry must be just the start

published national times

Cathy Kezelman
April 20, 2012 – 11:15AM
Opinion

Victoria’s inquiry may go some way to shattering the secrecy, tackling the stigma and addressing the denial that surrounds abuse. Photo: John Donegan

The Victorian parliamentary inquiry into sexual abuse within religious organisations is to be applauded. The long overdue announcement this week by the Baillieu government has come on the back of years of lobbying by victims, their families and victims’ groups.

The report into the appalling number of suicides by victims of clergy abuse in that state has delivered, it appears, the final momentum needed for the inquiry to be announced.

To those of us who work in the child abuse arena, such statistics, while always chilling, are not surprising. A 2008 Victorian study established that survivors of child sexual assault are up to 18 times more likely to commit suicide than people who haven’t been abused.

Advertisement: Story continues below

Child abuse is destructive. When victims don’t receive the support and validation they need, as has been perpetrated by an array of religious institutions, the quality of their lives can be badly affected. In some cases, lives are lost.

In Australia more than 2 million adults are living with the impacts of their childhood abuse. Many have described it as an epidemic that is steeped in secrecy, stigma and collective denial. In Australia, Victoria is leading the way in shattering the secrecy, tackling the stigma and addressing the denial.

It’s a start, but it’s now time for full transparency and real accountability across the board.

This inquiry must be followed by similar processes in other states and territories, supported with a national broad-based inquiry.

As has been suggested, such a process may well be better served by a royal commission or judicial inquiry. It’s a matter of what will wield greater power.

Make no mistake, this is an issue of power; the power of a perpetrator over a victim, the power of an adult over a child, the power of a person in a position of trust betraying that trust, the power of a member of the clergy abrogating their responsibility, the power of the strong over the vulnerable.

It has also been an issue of the power of religious institutions to operate by their own rules, internal rules that have, at times, put them at odds with the very laws that hold other organisations, institutions and citizens accountable.

Religious institutions are predominantly closed patriarchal systems. The more closed the organisation or institution, often the greater the investment in maintaining silence and secrecy. Perpetrators use secrecy and silence to hide their crimes and if secrecy fails, they attack the credibility of victims to try to ensure that no one listens.

We have witnessed the blaming and discrediting of victims within religious institutions, with the shame that victims feel projected onto them all over again.

These systems have their own structures and hierarchies. In the case of the Catholic Church, these structures have prevented victims from pursuing claims against that institution, and internal canon law has taken precedence over civil law.

In many religious institutions the hierarchical systems have perpetuated secrecy and denial, led by an inherent belief that the religious institution knows best and will handle the issue internally, thereby seeking to contain the shame and controversy around such crimes.

So why has it taken so long for any government to come forward and tackle this issue? Collectively, as a society we recoil from stories of abuse. Often we would rather blame the victim for making us uncomfortable and, effectively, for their own victimisation.

As a society we continue to betray those who have been abused in childhood, silencing and shaming them, minimising and negating their experiences. As bystanders we are complicit in these practices, and the shame so inappropriately adopted by victims belongs with us all.

Generations of survivors of clergy abuse have now spoken out. The time has come for us as a society to overcome our disgust, push aside the stigma and taboo around abuse and take action.

It is within a conspiracy of silence and collective denial that the crime of child sexual assault thrives. It is enormously difficult for victims to speak out, both in childhood and as adults. Silenced by shame, threats and the fear of not being believed, many victims don’t ever tell their story. And some don’t ever get the chance.

Thank you, Premier Baillieu and your government, for listening.

Dr Cathy Kezelman is the president of Adults Surviving Child Abuse.

Read more: http://www.canberratimes.com.au/opinion/politics/victorian-abuse-inquiry-must-be-just-the-start-20120419-1x9of.html#ixzz1sZ9dbzeg

TED Global entry – The Trauma of Child Abuse

Below is the script for a video recorded for TED Global auditions, youtube link to the video as well as an article from Sydney Morning Herald related to the TED competition

“Do you know that the biggest public health issue of our times is the trauma of child abuse?

It affects one in five adults in our society and causes ‘long-term disease, disability, chronic social problems and early death’. And yet the issue is treated with a deafening silence.

Traumatic amnesia related to child abuse is not only experienced by survivors, but also collectively by communities.

I know because I’m a survivor, a medical practitioner and President of ASCA, where I help thousands of survivors.

New insights from neuropasticity research have brought hope and optimism. The brain can change and repair itself; people can recover. We need to translate this research into practice.

But first we need to shift attitudes. Just as child abuse survivors need to challenge their thinking and behaviours towards recovery so too do our policy makers and systems of care.

I want to create this change and bring health and wellbeing to people and communities affected by the trauma of child abuse.”

http://youtu.be/yQwCAUALYo4

http://www.smh.com.au/digital-life/app-time-then-nap-time-for-happy-little-technomites-20120404-1wd9p.html

 

It’s time to speak out about the unspeakable

It’s time to speak out about the unspeakable

Published online in ‘The Punch’, http://www.thepunch.com.au/articles/Its-time-to-speak-out-about-the-unspeakable/

8th March 2012

During the early 1900s, at a time of increasing unrest over economic, social and political inequality for women, International Women’s Day was born. Now etched in our calendars, March 8th has even become an official holiday in some countries.

The day celebrates both the achievements and the vital contribution women make in society. It’s also a recognition of the role feminism has played in exposing sexual violence and seeking solutions to combat this problem. A problem that is yet to be abated.

The release late last month of the UN Secretary-general’s report on sexual violence during conflict, named military forces, militia and other armed groups as serious offenders in a large number of countries. Sexual violence was noted to have hampered peace building in places such as Timor Leste, Sierra Leone and Bosnia and featured in civil unrest in Egypt and Syria.

While sexual violence flourishes in regions which are at war or experiencing civil unrest, it is not restricted to such zones. In fact, sexual assault is a pervasive social practice which knows no religious, cultural, demographic or economic bounds.

While sexual assault can profoundly affect victims of all ages, child sexual assault is often the most damaging. Extensive research has established the impacts of child sexual assault on the brain not just in childhood but right through the life cycle.

In Australia, an estimated one in three girls, and one in six boys will be sexually assaulted in some way prior to the age of 18. While more typically perpetrated by men, women can and do offend. Sexual violence has long been used as a tool of power and control, instilling and exacerbating fear, helplessness and humiliation in vulnerable populations.

Children are inherently vulnerable. Child sexual assault is a primary act of betrayal by someone in a position of trust, often the very person charged with the child’s care. It violates the child’s basic human rights.

In situations of conflict and post conflict these crimes can be encapsulated in terms of civil and political rights, transgressed in the public domain.  However in Australia, the vast majority of cases of child sexual assault are perpetrated in the private domain, in the home and family.

In the 1970s and 80s, feminist waves first highlighted the often gendered crimes of sexual violence. For the first time, sexual abuse was publicly named, personal stories were told and power imbalance and control were identified as key factors in the perpetration of sexual violence.

While we have evidenced some changes in our societal approach to sexually violent crimes, in Australia we have a long way to go in combating the collective denial, stigma and taboo which would still rather not speak about the apparently unspeakable.

In recent years, the Australian media has begun to report on child sexual assault more frequently. But often they are sensationalised, with the focus shone on the facts of single cases, ignoring more substantive educative messages.

It is time to speak openly and candidly about the factors which foster child sexual assault, and how to mitigate them. More survivors and the organisations which represent them are starting to speak out but they need to be heard by a society which is ready to listen. Only then can survivors start to overcome the soul-destroying shame imposed on them by both their original victimisation and their re-victimisation by communities and systems which minimise, negate and/or dismiss their experiences.

As human beings we share a common humanity. Inherent in our humanity is an accompanying vulnerability. War and civil unrest create vulnerable populations where, fuelled by the oppression of women within those populations, the human rights abuses of violence and sexual violence can and do abound.

Within Australia we have our own history of human rights violations. Cultural dislocation and entrenched disadvantage have presided over an epidemic of violence and sexual violence within Indigenous communities, with substantiated rates of child abuse and neglect being eight times those of non-Indigenous communities.

Yet child sexual assault in Australia is widespread and not confined to Indigenous communities. We, in Australia, who live in the “lucky country”, a country at peace, must address the factors which enable child sexual assault to continue unabated.

This International Women’s Day let’s celebrate the contribution women have made in their various roles as mother, daughter, mentor, colleague, boss or friend. And let’s do what we can to protect the most vulnerable amongst us ­– our children – from child sexual assault.

Child protection programs which educate families on how to keep children safe are to be commended. However, not all children can defend themselves against sexual abusers, or feel safe enough to disclose and ask for help. All Australians need to be alert to the possibility of abuse and its signs in child victims.

The average paedophile has between 50 and 150 victims. If there is any suspicion that a child is being abused, it is important to come forward and notify the appropriate authorities. Should the suspicion not be substantiated, the consequences of being wrong are far less damaging than those of failing to report a case in which a child is actually being abused.

Not reporting not only leaves that child at risk of ongoing abuse, but puts other children at risk. Once reported the onus is on the authorities to investigate but we can all play a part. This International Women’s Day and every day from now on, let’s do what we can to keep our children safe from sexual predators.

Happiness and its Causes

I am to be interviewed by Julie McCrossin on March 1 at Happiness and its Causes, a conference to be held at Sydney Town Hall. For more informati0on go to

http://www.happinessanditscauses.com.au/programme-conference-day-one-thursday-1-march-2012.stm#personal-story-living-with-courage-and-an-open-heart

Innocence Revisited now an e-book!

Available on
* Amazon/Kindle USA and globally
* Apple Ibookstores Australia, UK, USA, Canada, Germany, France, etc. We just downloaded it from Germany

* Booki.sh – Avid Reader; Fullers; Gleebooks; Mary Ryan; Readings; Turning Page

* Kobo Books; Angus & Robertson; Borders; Whitcoulls NZ; Chapters/Indigo, Canada, Collins

* Overdrive – Booku.com Books on Board, UK and USA; Waterstones UK; Read Without Paper

Presentation – complex trauma

The following presentation was given at Inaugural Conference, Westmead Psychotherapy Program for Complex Traumatic Disorders, 10th November 2011. It is available on registration at psychevisual http://www.psychevisual.com/

http://www.psychevisual.com/Video_by_Cathy_Kezelman_on_Responding_to_the_needs_of_consumers_with_complex_trauma_histories_a_consumer_perspective.html

 

This presentation, “Responding to the needs of consumers with complex trauma histories a consumer perspective” focuses on the needs of adult survivors of child abuse, highlighting the frequent failures of the current system to identify them and respond appropriately. Using her personal journey of recovery from complex trauma at the core of which is childhood abuse, Cathy explores the distinguishing features of complex trauma presentations. In so doing she stresses the need to respond holistically to each person with full awareness of their lived experience. She highlights the need for the research of the last thirty years to be incorporated into practice with a trauma-informed approach to care bringing better outcomes for consumers with complex trauma histories.

I have read your book

I have read your book and it has been such a gift of healing for me.

I felt such a deep connection with the pain of your experiences and felt tremendous sadness for you that I was then able to experience towards myself.

As a health professional I have felt tremendous shame in not being able to heal myself and was unable to acknowledge the depths of my dissociation.

Your capacity to articulate your experience of this has helped me to understand its complexity and function and have increased my compassion for myself in my ongoing journey towards healing.

I resonated with your words that “every survivor has been granted the gift of life, not once, or twice but over and over again. It’s a gift that deserves to be celebrated.” I so hope that I really come to really know this.

Your life is such a testimony of HOPE. I hope that I can have the same courage that you have had – for me, my husband and children.

Your story has been such a gift that is precious beyond words, Cathy.

Thanks for sharing your story with me

A great insight into trauma and recovery.  I think it would provide a lot of hope to others as well as be a good guide (or some might say bible!) to those who may be close to someone who has experienced childhood trauma. It reminded me so strongly of the honesty that Anne Deveson brought to
her book about her son (Tell me I am here) that really touched me as a young adult. Therefore I got inspired! Now I am reading Anne’s book again almost 15
years later.

 

You have a gift for writing and I just wanted to say thanks for sharing your story with me.

 

 

Sage Telford

 

Prioritise support for the abused: ASCA

http://news.ninemsn.com.au/national/8408133/prioritise-support-for-the-abused-asca

Governments need to do more to support the two million Australian adults who have experienced child abuse, survivors say.

Adults Surviving Child Abuse (ASCA) says all governments should do more to help health services identify and respond to trauma, in particular the complex trauma of child abuse.

Cathy Kezelman, ASCA’s head of stakeholder relations, said health services needed the right tools to provide proper care for adults who too often suffered in silence from the trauma of their childhood abuse.

“There is a significant research base that shows the damaging effects of the often multiple, unresolved trauma of childhood experiences on the brain,” Dr
Kezelman said in a statement.

“But research also shows us that the brain has the capacity to repair itself. With the right support, adults abused as children can reclaim control of their lives
and make an important contribution to society.”

She said the annual estimated cost of child abuse and neglect among Australians had been estimated at $4 billion. She said more than two million Australian adults had experienced some form of child abuse.

Guidelines need to be developed to fill a gap in education and awareness among health professionals to help them identify and deal with the impact of childhood trauma resulting from abuse, ASCA said in the statement.