Family breakdown increases risk of child sexual abuse

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A hidden silence masks the reality that children are at greater risk of sexual abuse in broken families as opposed to their peers in two parent biological families, finds a new report from The Centre for Independent Studies.
 
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has been widely hailed by politicians, academics and the media as breaking the silence about child sexual abuse, yet it ignores the circumstances in which most abuse occurs today - the family.
 
Dr Jeremy Sammut, author of The New Silence: Family Breakdown and Child Sexual Abuse, argues that the type of family situation has a significant impact on the risk of child sexual abuse.
 
'Children who do not live with both biological parents are at significantly greater risk of sexual abuse, especially by men living in their homes in a "stepfather" role - the married, cohabitating or casual partner of a divorced or single mother,' says Dr Sammut.
 
Dr Sammut argues that there is a silence in the public statistics about child sexual abuse and family structure, including the identity of the perpetrators and their relationship with the child.
 
'There is a lack of data on child sexual abuse, which should be collected and made publicly available in the interest of transparency and informed debate,' says Dr Sammut.  
 
'In the United States, for example, we know that step- and single-parent families account for one third of all children, but for more than two-thirds of all children who experience child sexual abuse.'
 
'In Australia, the social services sector, in particular, downplays the links between broken families and child maltreatment, so as not to challenge politically correct attitudes towards "family diversity".'
 
Dr Sammut argues for a public information campaign to explain the impact of adults' relationship and reproductive choices on child welfare.
 
'We need to speak openly and honestly about the negative impact of family breakdown on child welfare, much like we are now talking about the failure of institutions through the Royal Commission.' 
Dr Jeremy Sammut is a Research Fellow at The Centre for Independent Studies. He is available for comment.

Access the report: The New Silence: Family Breakdown and Child Sexual Abuse.

Read the Snapshot



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