Who to Contact First? (Or: Choose Wisely)

Most people who report or seek help with the effects of, child sexual abuse take many years to reach that point. It is a very painful, difficult process and the outcomes can depend a lot on just who is first contacted.

Many will not want to approach police first, largely due to authority figure concerns, or a lack of trust in officialdom. Despite the fact that people involved in hearing concerns have, in recent times, become more aware of the difficulties associated with reporting abuse, many will still not like this way of approaching justice and help. This is fair enough, so alternatives need to be available.

This posting is not so much about whom to approach, as much as whom NOT to approach. There are enough people who have had a very bad experience from contacting bodies set up by their abuser’s organisation for others to be particularly wary of contacting these bodies first, if at all.

Many of these bodies, such as the infamous “Melbourne Response,” have been more concerned with controlling victims, rather than in helping them in any way. Ditto goes for the “counseling services” they operate and recommend. Indeed, the author heard of a case where a victim went to a counseling centre, and there saw his abuser hanging around it.

A quick search on the Internet will also reveal that there are a lot of apparently “victim-run” organisations, which, on closer scrutiny, are just fronts for the abusive organisation. The aim is usually to get to the victim before he or she contacts police or a lawyer. Many people have hit this problem.

Sadly, there are also a few organisations that are victim-run, or run by apparent sympathisers, which have become corrupted by accepting funding from abusive organisations. These can be very difficult to identify. As a rule of thumb, people should enquire about the source of funding, if any, before trusting any particular organisation.

The matter of approaching lawyers first can be problematical. It requires a fair bit of research to determine the bona fides of law firms. Clearly, there are several firms which can be totally trusted, but one must be aware that some can represent other clients, including for example, the Catholic Church, which may raise concerns of conflict of interest. People can only trust their own research about which lawyers they approach.

Although, in the early days of the Children’s Homes abuse awareness campaign, there was significant hostility towards therapists and similar professions, there has also been an extensive increase in awareness of the problems in these professions. In those early days, for example, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder was not recognised by the psychiatric profession. It was known simply as Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, and was assumed to last for no more than two years. This made victims ineligible for a disability pension.

So, if one had to recommend anyone to approach as a first step, it would be a trusted medical practitioner or psychotherapist or similar, and take it from there. Whoever a person chooses to approach about historical abuse, the key factor is to give due consideration to the factors of trust, competence, conflicts of interest and sensitivity. Where you end up is determined by where you start.

TOMORROW: George goes to Rio

That’s all I can say

Lewis Blayse (né Lewin Blazevich)


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