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'I've got your back' - working for the good of victims & survivors 
 - Issue 15

 SEPTEMBER UPDATE 2016

Last year's Academy Award for Best Film went to Spotlight, a true story of the sexual abuse of children by clergy and an attempt to cover it up by the Catholic Church in Boston.

The Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse last month cast a spotlight on the the Newcastle Anglican Diocese. The public hearing showed some of its senior clergy and lay people were part of an equally shameful paedophile network which wreaked havoc on the lives of vulnerable children and whistle-blowers.

Paul Gray and Phillip D’Ammond horror stories exposed the silent victimisation in the Newcastle Diocese, not by 'stranger danger' or 'monster predators,' but by those they most admired, trusted and loved. We also heard evidence of victims overdosing on drugs and alcohol to deal with the undeserved shape and a pain no one cared to believe. 

The 'conspiracy of silence' by certain senior clergy helped it fester and propagate in the darkness for decades. Nobody seemed energised to follow up on any allegations and, for the most part, denying any disclosures occurred.

It took three insiders, Michael Elliot, current Director of Professional Standards, John Cleary, the Diocese Business Manager and, Bishop Greg Thomson, current Bishop of Newcastle, to bring child sexual abuse into the clear light of day even when people with structural authority stood against them and made it nearly impossible to find.

So how is it that men knew and did nothing? Part of the answer is that most do not want to stand out from the crowd; to break ranks and, many are bad at whistle-blowing. This can be a good thing. Men are stronger together. They have each other’s backs. The problem lies when they band together to conceal abuse; to look the other way; to keep the code of silence. 

If there is any good news to come out of the Commission it is that child sexual abuse is preventable. It starts by recognising the negative behaviours and attitudes that shaped this high risk environment, for example, a culture of intimidation and silence and, practices which were at best poor and at worst, dangerous.

One particular view that I hear often from people is this: 'I would step in if I thought a child was being abused.' Most are certain they’d recognise abusive behaviour if it were happening. What I say is, ‘No, not necessarily. I want to get you in touch with the ‘pressures’ that cause passive bystander behaviour, such as fear of losing friendships, fear of bad consequences, fear of getting too involved, or believing that nothing good will happen if you were to speak up. Then, when you feel those pressures, I want that to be a cue that you may be ignoring abuse when it's staring you right in the face.

Our goal is to help men and women to effectively and safely call each other out; to confront abuses when they occur.  Our Active Bystander Workshops offer skill-building opportunities - helping people to a point of having many options for action with only one wrong answer – and that is ‘to do nothing. 

Below are a list of referrals providing Australians with access to expert advice from trained counsellors and an opportunity to speak up about child abuse.

IF YOU SEE, HEAR, OR SUSPECT SOMEONE YOU KNOW IS IN IMMEDIATE DANGER, CALL 000

Child Wise National Child Abuse Hotline:  1800 99 10 99 - 24/7 
Email: helpline@childwise.org.au

Sexual Assault Crisis Line:  1800 806 292 – 24/7
Kids Helpline:  1800 55 1800 – 24/7

 Reminder of events coming up:

  • Sept 11 -  St John's Anglican Church Bentleigh - Homily. Details & Registration
  • Sept 11 - ' When Love Hurts - Strike & Stroke.' Sponsored by Jewish Taskforce against Family Violence. Details & Registration
  • October  23 - St Peter's East Melbourne - Spotlight - a film worth discussing. Details & Registration
  • Nov 23 & 24 - Workshops Swan Hill & Eaglehawk, sponsored by Mothers' Union Bendigo. Details and registration
  • Dec 4 - Holding the light - an ecumenical service to remember the victims and survivors of domestic violence in Australia.  Details and registration 

Violence prevention resources   

If you would like to show case the violence prevention work of your faith community or submit any success (or partial success) that you've had as an active bystander upload it here 

Think Prevent is edited by Jill Graham & Em Timmins and information is issued by Kempster Consultants. The opinions, events, links, and reports within the e-Newsletter are not necessarily endorsed or supported by the Anglican Diocese of Melbourne, its program partners Brotherhood of St Laurence or Anglicare Victoria.  

For further information contact: Dr Ree Boddé  (M) 0450039288. Email: thinkprevent@gmail.com
We declare our commitment to be an Active Bystander against discrimination, sexism, sexual abuse and violence whether at home, on the sports field, at work, in our house of worship, or out with friends, family, colleagues, or workmates
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