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NCJ Number: 202784 Find in a Library
Title: Institutional Processes for Dealing With Allegations of Child Sexual Abuse
Author(s): Tom Altobelli
Date Published: May 2003
Page Count: 14
Sponsoring Agency: Australian Institute of Criminology
Canberra ACT, 2601, Australia
Sale Source: Australian Institute of Criminology
GPO Box 2944
Canberra ACT, 2601,
Document: PDF
Type: Conference Material; Legislation/Policy Analysis
Format: Document (Online)
Language: English
Country: Australia
Annotation: This paper suggests a new model for dealing with allegations of child sexual abuse within institutions, so as to improve on achieving a balance between the public and private interests involved.
Abstract: The December 2000 Australian Catholic Bishops Conference "Towards Healing" document is used in this paper as an example of an institutional process that fails to take into account the public interest involved in allegations of child sexual abuse, although the document generally is a good institutional model for dealing with such allegations. Sexual abuse is both a private and a public problem. For the survivors, alleged perpetrators, and the institutions involved, there are obvious legitimate interests in ensuring that the processes of dealing with the allegations are private and confidential; however, these private interests in confidentiality must be balanced with the public interest in transparency and accountability. The protection of children from harm has long been regarded as a public matter and not just a private family or organizational matter. The public bears the social, economic, and other costs of treating the consequences of abuse. The public has an interest in the amounts of compensation awarded, even in private settlements. It is in the public interest that victims should not have to pay for the costs of their rehabilitation due to sexual abuse. It is equally in the public interest that it should not have to bear this cost when a legally responsible party is financially able to meet this cost. Further, there is a close link between transparency, accountability, and education directed toward prevention. Each allegation of abuse is yet another opportunity to educate a sometimes unbelieving and reluctant public about the extent and consequences of abuse and how it may be avoided or minimized. The fundamental thesis of this paper is that existing procedures do not adequately take into account the public interest in these issues. An institution that is committed to considering the public interest must acknowledge that it can only achieve this by surrendering some of its control and involving persons external to the organization. On the other hand, the public must recognize the legitimacy of reasonable confidentiality. It is not in the public interest to discourage survivors of sexual abuse from coming forward by exposing them to public scrutiny. This paper proposes an independently appointed ombudsperson, operating either nationally or on an institutional basis. The ombudsperson would have the power to review randomly any institutional process. There would be complete and unfettered access to all documents and evidence. The ombudsperson thus assumes the defacto role of the protector of the public interest, ensuring that the processes used are transparent, rigorous, accountable, and protect the interests of all stakeholders, particularly other possible sexual abuse survivors. The ombudsperson can ensure appropriate confidentiality in its reporting and assist in coordinating the development of best practice in institutional processes designed to address allegations of child sexual abuse.
Main Term(s): Juvenile victims
Index Term(s): Accountability; Case processing; Child abuse investigations; Child Sexual Abuse; Foreign criminal justice systems; Institutional child abuse
Note: Paper presented at the Child Sexual Abuse: Justice Response or Alternative Resolution Conference held in Adelaide, Australia, May 1-2, 2003; downloaded November 6, 2003.
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