Opinion Child Sexual Abuse and the Churches: A Story of Moral Failure? There is no denying the moral failures in all children’s australian jokes over the years.
But we need to tell the whole story of why these failures occurred, which will allow us to protect children better in the future. Related Story: Child sexual abuse and the churches: A story of moral failure? Professor Patrick Parkinson AM delivered the 2013 Smith Lecture on Thursday, 24 October, in Sydney. The second part of the lecture can be read here. Some people may be puzzled, even angered, that the title to this lecture ends in a question-mark. Surely, we already know that the story of child sexual abuse in churches is a story of shocking moral failure. In the court of public opinion, then, the judgment has already been delivered.
It is only the consequences of that judgment which are still being worked out. In this lecture, I will not for one moment deny that there have been serious moral failures, and it is likely that these are to be found in all churches over the years. I have played a small part in exposing some of those failures, in challenging wrongdoing, and seeking to promote higher standards of child protection in church communities. To tell that story would not be to repeat anything that is new or surprising. The Extent of Child Sexual Abuse Sexual abuse in the community A starting point in talking about sexual abuse in church settings is to understand the horrifying levels of child sexual abuse within the community – at least in the past.
The most reliable indications of the extent of sexual abuse in our society come from general community surveys of adults who have been asked about their experiences as children. In defining sexual abuse for the purposes of such surveys, it is important to distinguish between sexual abuse and childhood sexual exploration. A common way of defining sexual abuse for the purposes of these surveys therefore is to define it as sexual contact involving an adult or a minor who is at least five years older, whether the child was a “willing” participant in the activity or not. Girls Almost all surveys have indicated that the sexual abuse of girls is very common. One of the most well-known surveys of sexual abuse in childhood was the landmark research conducted by David Finkelhor in the United States towards the end of the 1970s. Finkelhor asked questions about all forms of sexual experience in childhood including situations where men exposed themselves to them, or made sexual advances which the child rejected.
Child under 13, partner under 19 but at least 5 years older – 8. Child 13-16, partner at least 10 years older – 4. Although these were both surveys of college students, the results are broadly consistent with surveys which have been conducted of the general population in the United States and elsewhere. Jillian Fleming interviewed 710 women who were randomly selected from Australian federal electoral rolls. Boys Fewer boys are abused than girls.