"Don't let this happen again" child sex abuse survivors tell Australia

by Beh Lih Yi | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Thursday, 14 December 2017 13:42 GMT

A relative wears a pin displaying a photograph of children who he said had been sexually abused by the Catholic Church as he stands outside the venue for Australia's Royal Commission into Institutional Response to Child Sexual Abuse in Sydney, Australia, February 29, 2016. REUTERS/David Gray

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"I feel nothing will ever heal my wounds, they are too deep"

By Beh Lih Yi

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 14 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - More than 1,000 child sexual abuse survivors published a harrowing "Message to Australia" at the closing of a landmark inquiry on Thursday, which revealed thousands of assaults in churches, schools and the army.

The book of survivors' emotional messages was released to mark the end of a five-year investigation, which heard reports of abuse occuring in more than 4,000 institutions.

"I feel nothing will ever heal my wounds, they are too deep," one handwritten note said.

"Thank you to all at the Commission. To the Government, don't let this happen again."

The Royal Commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse, which started work in 2013, criticised various agencies for failing to act, including the police.

"The sexual abuse of children is not just a problem from the past," Peter McClellan, chairman of the commission tasked with the inquiry, said at its final hearing on Thursday.

"Child sexual abuse in institutions continues today."

A royal commission is Australia's most powerful kind of government-appointed inquiry and can compel witnesses to give evidence and recommend prosecutions.

The commission on abuse heard that some 1,100 people filed child sexual assault claims against the church, while a bullying culture in the military led to teenage recruits having boot polish smeared on their genitals.

It reported over 2,500 allegations to the police, some of which resulted in prosecutions.

Another survivor wrote: "I have lived with this trauma for my entire life ... Children are innocent. I hope very soon that Pandora's Box will be closed forever and I am now handing the burden over."

Many said they hoped the inquiry would end such crimes.

"It is my hope that by the abused children of my generation telling their stories ... (it) will ensure that this abuse will never happen again to another Australian child."

The commission will present its final report and recommendations to the government on Friday.

(Reporting by Beh Lih Yi @behlihyi, Editing by Katy Migiro. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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