As demands for a men's health centre in Ballarat grow louder, a new study from Queensland University of Technology will examine how child abuse affects a community economically.
The news of the study, which aims to interview 10,000 survivors of child abuse, will find “for the first time” the prevalence of child mistreatment in Australia.
Leading the research project is Professor Ben Mathews, an expert in child sexual abuse law and policy.
“For survivors of clerical sexual abuse, we will have a much better understanding of its real prevalence, location, severity and survivor profiles, of those who inflict it, and of its comparative prevalence over time (for example, 1960s versus 1990s). This gives us a better evidence base to inform recommendations for policy and prevention efforts,” he said.
Regional communities like Ballarat could especially benefit from the new research.
“There is strong impressionistic evidence that small communities that endure widespread historical sexual abuse (and its attendant effects, including emotional and psychological trauma), can be devastated by the effects on individual survivors; their parents and siblings and birth family relationships; their adult partners; their children; accordingly, the entire community,” Professor Mathews said.
“This occurs through, for example, broken relationships, substance abuse, alcohol abuse, unemployment, self-harm and suicide.
“Effects on survivors’ educational attainment are well-known, with downstream effects on their capacity to attain and keep employment.”
With this in mind, survivors across Australia are also showing their support.
A survivor of non-clerical abuse based in Sydney, Nathan, said crowdfunding could be used to contribute to the Ballarat men’s health clinic proposed by a committee of survivors and medical experts.
It was also the subject of a plea from Clare Linane, a survivor’s wife, whose video calling on the Catholic Church to act went viral.
Nathan said he had already written to members of parliament and was keen to get in touch with people in Ballarat to see what could be done.
“My proposal is to help them get tax deductible status, a name, a PayPal, so people like me can donate over the internet,” he said.
“We need to say right, we need to support Clare, we want to support you and put something up.”
The healing centre also has Professor Mathews’ support.
“I would say that a coherent, integrated and sustainable community approach to healing would assist,” he said.
“Survivors need specialised counselling support; other health supports; genuine apologies and commitments by institutions that the abuse will not happen again; employment, dignity and purpose. Men might need additional specialised supports.”
As previously reported, the idea for a healing centre or an integrated “centre of healing” was proposed in 2016, with Cardinal George Pell telling survivors in The Vatican he was prepared to support it.
Since then, there has not been much movement - recently, Ballarat’s Bishop Paul Bird said the diocese could not afford a men’s health clinic.
Supported by urologist Dr Lachlan Dodd, the proposed clinic would curb premature deaths, helping to lower worrying men’s suicide statistics in Ballarat and providing ongoing help, including counselling, to vulnerable people.
Affected by this story? Phone Ballarat Centre Against Sexual Assault on 5320 3933, or its 24-hour crisis line on 1800 806 292.
Lifeline is available on 13 11 14.
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