Supporting survivors of child sexual abuse: opportunities for recognition and witnessing beyond the child abuse royal commission

Stream: Child safety and protection
Date: Monday, 9 September 2019
Time: 1.30 pm – 3.10 pm


“…they gave me credibility, they accepted what I was saying, and put value onto what I was saying… And that sense of relief that, yes, all those things that I feel have been vindicated. That, in a sense, I don't need to minimise this anymore. I can just let it be. I can just deal with it as it is.” 'Larry', Royal Commission participant

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse provided a rare opportunity for survivors to tell their stories in the public sphere, without the burden of proof which underpins adversarial criminal justice responses to child sexual abuse. The Royal Commission operated from a position of believing the victim; validating participants’ status as a ‘knower’ and acknowledging their worth as a member of the community. Drawing on interviews with 26 Royal Commission participants, I will describe the elements that made telling their stories in this setting a transformative and healing experience for many abuse survivors. I argue that this was largely due to the creation of circumstances for public testimony which felt safe for participants, and which provided an experience of epistemic justice and dignity honoured. I will reflect on the possibilities for ‘everyday’ facilitation of such transformative experiences, and on the implications of these findings for other public inquiries, criminal justice responses, social services, and therapeutic work with survivors of child sexual abuse.


Rebecca Moran (Presenter), UNSW Sydney
Rebecca has a background in youth work, domestic violence services, mental health, emergency services, criminology research, and training. She has specialised in trauma and recovery for many years, in Australia and the United Kingdom. Rebecca currently teaches at Curtin University, as well as working for the Blue Knot Foundation as a trainer. Rebecca is completing her PhD through University of New South Wales School of Social Sciences. Her project explores meaning-making and social action as part of recovery from child sexual abuse, with particular focus on the recent Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.