We are making this film because we want to help change policy, by raising the profile of the pressing issue of child-on-child abuse, and the inadequate institutional responses to this escalating problem.
One of the key challenges faced by young children who have experienced abuse is the reluctance of parents, and institutions, to accept the words of children as evidence, despite the wealth of research showing that children almost never make up stories about being sexually abused.
“We know that children do not make up stories asserting they have been sexually molested. It is not in their interests to do so. Young children do not have the sexual knowledge necessary to fabricate an allegation” (Faller, 1999).
As a result, perpetrators are repeatedly left to abuse again, and victims are often re-victimised in multiple ways for truthfully asserting they have been sexually abused, to the extent that some families have found it necessary to leave their neighbourhoods (Briggs, 2017).
Disclosure highlights the fact there is a lack of alignment between child psychologists and psychiatrists and the legal powers of state. A key issue evident in the film is that children under the age of 10 cannot be considered criminally responsible for sexual abuse acts. This has resulted in a lack of agreement and consistency across Australia about appropriate responses in cases of children under the age of 10, compounded by a lack of child abuse-related training for adults whose work involves children. Parents, schools, police and social services are left ill-equipped to make effective and necessary interventions (Briggs, 2017).
Experts like criminologist Dr Wendy O’Brien at Australia’s Deakin University, Dr Joe Tucci at the Australian Childhood Foundation and Government Advisor Dr Russell Pratt have all argued that early therapeutic intervention (for child perpetrators) is essential for preventing future abuse.
The late Emeritus Professor Freda Briggs, in her submission for the Inquiry into the harm being done to Australian children through access to pornography on the internet, recommended that:
- more must be done to limit access to pornography on the internet,
- child protection school curriculum be made compulsory in all states,
- and all human service TAFE and university graduates whose work could involve children to undergo comprehensive practical and relevant child abuse-related training
“Clearly we are paying too high a price for adults’ rights to view whatever they wish regardless of the consequences for young people and society.” (Briggs, 2017)
Briggs, F. B. (2017) Submission for the Inquiry into the harm being done to Australian children through access to pornography on the internet
Cook, H & Jacks, T. (2015) ‘Child on child sexual offences rock schools’, The Age, 5 July
Faller, K. C. (1999) “Is the child victim of sexual abuse telling the truth?” in Child Abuse & Neglect. Vol. 8, pp. 473 – 481
Wright, P. J. (2015) ‘A meta-analysis of pornography Consumption and Actual Acts of Sexual Aggression in General Population Studies’. Journal of Communication 66 (1)
Trounson, A. (2017) Pornography: Exhibit A: Children who have sexually abused other children have spoken about their behaviour, spotlighting the need to tackle pornography and education https://pursuit.unimelb.edu.au/articles/pornography-exhibit-a (accessed 26/04/2017)