AN increase in child sexual assault survivors breaking the silence is putting a strain on specialist counselling services on the Gold Coast, but it’s a challenge Bravehearts is meeting thanks to the generosity of the community.
Research undertaken by the Royal Commission into Institutionalised Responses to Child Sexual Abuse shows on average it takes 22 years for victims to report assaults – meaning the majority of those speaking out for the first time and engaging in therapy are well into adulthood.
Statistics released by the Royal Commission have revealed that 90 per cent of survivors it has spoken to are aged 40 years or older, while 70 per cent are 50 years or older.
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The increase in reporting, many for the first time, has been the catalyst for the launch of a new adult counselling room at Bravehearts head office in Arundel which joins three therapy rooms designed for children.
Bravehearts Therapeutic Services Manager Dr Deirdre Thompson said it was crucial that adults had access to specialist support services to assist with their recovery.
“Adult clients find it confronting sitting in a counselling room designed for young people, particularly when they were harmed as children,” she said.
“This new room provides a safe space for adults to share their experiences and seek help to move forward. We are at capacity but we are meeting demand as best we can with very limited resources.
“Bravehearts is Australia’s leading child protection advocate and although our vision is to make Australia the safest place in the world to raise a child, offering support services to adults who are breaking the silence for the first time is a big part of what we do.”
According to Bravehearts Head of Research Carol Ronken, the shame and guilt felt by victims can often mean that survivors are unable to disclose until parents have passed away, while many are simply not ready as they may still be processing the psychological trauma and impacts of the sexual assault.
She said others may experience post-traumatic stress disorder, where a victim is aware of the harm they have experienced but disassociate themselves from any reminders of the traumatic event, including litigation.
“Survivors of child sexual assault face enormous barriers in disclosing. The impacts typically mean that the victim does not disclose until they feel safe to do so and this frequently does not occur until some time has passed,” she said
Bravehearts has 16 locations Australia-wide and on average counsels over 90 clients a week.
In addition, Bravehearts offers education and case management services for the one in five Australian children sexually assaulted in some way before their 18th birthday.
To support Bravehearts – donate and participate at its upcoming 18th annual White Balloon Day – whiteballoonday.com.au.
Bravehearts is here to help: 1800 272 831.