Shurlee Swain

Publication Date



The announcement of Australia's Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse was the culmination of a long campaign by survivor groups to have their stories heard. Although this campaign, and the organisations themselves, date only from the last years of the twentieth century, institutional sexual abuse has a far longer history. This paper will seek to trace the evidence of sexual abuse back into the nineteenth century and ask why it took so long for survivors to have their stories heard. It will argue that while institutional responses to allegations of sexual abuse remained remarkably consistent over time, it was only in the aftermath of the feminist (re)discovery of child sexual abuse in the 1970s that survivors were able to access a language through which to understand and articulate their experiences. Without access to such a language enabling them to position themselves as victims of, rather than being complicit in, such abusive behaviours, survivors were ill-equipped to resist the attempts by those in authority to silence their concerns.

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Open Access Journal Article

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Open Access

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