Sexual Abuse

What is sexual abuse?

Sexual Abuse means the sexual assault, sexual exploitation or sexual harassment of any person, either adult or child. Sexual assault includes any intentional or reckless act, threat or use of force involving sexual activity against a person’s consent. By law, children cannot consent to sexual activity. Sexual exploitation refers to any form of sexual contact, or invitation for sexual contact, where there is an imbalance of power. It does not matter whether or not there is consent or who initiated the sexual contact. Sexual harassment means any unwelcome sexual contact, where a person reasonably feels offended, belittled or threatened.

Sexual Abuse may consist of a single incident or several incidents over a period of time. Sexual abusive behaviours include:

  • Exhibitionism
  • Oral sex and penetration of the vagina or anus with sexual organs or objects.
  • Touching of the breasts, genitals and buttocks (either dressed or undressed)
  • Inciting a child to nudity or to expose any of their private parts.
  • Allowing children to view pornographic material or using children in the production of pornography.

What is child sexual abuse?

  • It is a crime in all states of Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands.
  • Child sexual abuse doesn’t just mean sexual intercourse. It can also involve a range of sexual activities, including touching a child on their breasts or penis, masturbating in front of a child, flashing or oral sex.
  • Child sexual abuse occurs when an adult, or an adolescent bigger than the child, uses his or her authority or power over the child to involve them in sexual activity.

Is child sexual abuse common in Christian communities?

  • Churches are as vulnerable to the problem of sexual abuse as any other group in society. Indeed, they may even be more vulnerable, because of the extent to which the church is involved in working with children and young people. In Australia at least, it is likely that churches are among the largest organised providers of activities for children outside of school hours. In addition, there are a large number of Christian schools and welfare services for vulnerable children. The church is therefore a community that is likely to attract people with a strong sexual interest in children (Sullivan and Beech 2004).
  • The Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse 2013-2017 (Royal Commission) received a total of 16,361 allegations of child sexual abuse and just over 8,000 were within the terms of reference for the proceedings. Those 8,000 survivors participated in a private session with at least one of the Commissioners and were able to tell their story. Some of these stories had never been told to anyone else and on average it took survivors approximately 24 years to disclose of their abuse. 59% of the allegations related to Religious Institutions.