​Very early in my time as Archbishop, as this diocese struggled with the shame of the findings of our abuse inquiry, I was told that something like 95% of all child abuse happened in family settings.

That statistic did nothing to lessen our responsibility and shame for abuses that happened in our churches and schools, but it was an uncomfortable truth that has haunted me for more than 10 years.

As our diocesan systems & national protocols improved, and as the avalanche of historic sexual abuse cases reduced to a trickle – as mandatory reporting became the norm, and we threw away any church demands for victims to stay silent in return for compensation – as these he reforms took hold, I thought more often of those 95 in every 100 children. I worried about what had changed or improved for them.

I was told that child abuse is more widespread than AIDS & heart disease; that the majority of all forms of sexual crime in Australia are committed against children; that the number of children in care has risen 70% between 1996-2005; and that one in four women and one in eight men are victims of childhood sexual abuse, mostly committed very close to home. This means that hundreds of thousands of Anglicans have themselves suffered in this way.

I read once that the average age of children at the first episode of abuse was 10 years. How little and innocent are those children?

The church is at work with a wide range of responses. In parish communities the length and breadth of southern Queensland, our people are both fighting their own battles with this scourge and reaching out in care to those who suffer. Anglicare, Living Well, our street ministries, our youth workers, our chaplains, our schools, our children’s ministries are all working to care and heal.

All of this is frontline mission – doing Christ's work in his name. They deal with the brutal, raw, unvarnished aftermath of abuse – of people young, middle age and old, cutting, maiming, starving, medicating, drugging & killing themselves, to shut out the much worse pain they feel.

Now there is something more: the beginning of a nationwide hope. The royal commission announced in November by Prime Minister Julia Gillard offers an historic opportunity for all of Australia. While it will focus on child sexual abuse in institutions, it can also begin by institutionalising child protection.

At the most basic level, the royal commission need only to begin to save some Australian children from violation, misery and the life-long consequences that follow. International experience tells us that raised awareness will, in itself, significantly reduce the incidence of abuse.

Stepping up now, I am convinced is what it means to follow in Christ's footsteps; to take up our cross and follow him. We will need to accept blame when it is properly laid. And we can also be part of a broader revolution of people actively talking about, following, and learning from the work of the commission.

Please pray with me that the royal commission will achieve constructive and healing outcomes, that it will operate with courage, commitment and compassion, and that it will bring a measure of comfort and help to those everyone affected by abuse.
 

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