THE guilt and shame that child sexual assault victims feel can deter them from ever speaking out about the crime, Lifeline Central West chief executive officer Stephanie Robinson says.
Australia's highest ranking Catholic, Cardinal George Pell was found guilty of child sex offences on Tuesday.
Defence lawyer Robert Richter said in court that Pell's crimes involved a violent act, in that he grabbed two boys by the head before he sexually assaulted them, despite their protests.
Ms Robinson has extensive experience working with victims of sexual assault in the Central West and she said the crime was an abuse of power and control.
She said many victims feel that they are to blame and this often results in them not speaking up following the crime.
"People can feel ashamed that they let that happen," she said.
Threats and fear are exactly what they [perpetrators] put into children - fear of judgement and fear of not being loved.Lifeline Central West chief executive officer Stephanie Robinson
Ms Robinson said child sexual assault victims were "not equipped to cope with what's happened".
"It's so often that it's a person who was in a relationship of trust and it's a person in a position of power," she said.
Ms Robinson said there are many reasons why victims do not come forward straight after the crime has occurred.
"Threats and fear are exactly what they [perpetrators] put into children - fear of judgement and fear of not being loved," she said.
"It's sometimes not until they're older that they realise what they've been robbed of."
Living in a smaller, regional community can also deter victims from speaking out as the offender might be a well-known or trusted member of society.
Ms Robinson said while each victim copes differently, the way many see the world after being abused changes forever.
"It can lead to a lot of complex trauma … for a child it shatters their sense of safety," she said.
"While you have hope you can heal, but a lot of people never find that hope."
It's so often that it's a person who was in a relationship of trust and it's a person in a position of power.Lifeline Central West chief executive officer Stephanie Robinson
Ms Robinson had a message for any victims who may not have come forward with their experiences.
"So often they haven't brought the subject up because they haven't wanted to hurt their loved ones," she said.
She encouraged people to support victims and to ensure they were not coping on their own.
"My number one thing would be to believe them and listen without judgement," she said.
"Place the blame where it belongs, the only person at fault is the offender.
"Let them lead the next steps, whether that's reporting it to police or disclosing to other loved ones."
- For help in a crisis call Lifeline on 13 11 14.
What does the Catholic Church have to say?
Meanwhile, Catholic Diocese of Bathurst's Bishop Michael McKenna who works across most of the Central West has chosen not to make any public comment on the Pell case until the appeal process was concluded.
He did, however, refer Australian Community Media to a statement released by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference president Archbishop Mark Coleridge.
"The news of Cardinal George Pell’s conviction on historical child sexual abuse charges has shocked many across Australia and around the world, including the Catholic Bishops of Australia," he said.
The news of Cardinal George Pell’s conviction on historical child sexual abuse charges has shocked many across Australia and around the world, including the Catholic Bishops of Australia.Australian Catholic Bishops Conference president Archbishop Mark Coleridge
"The Bishops agree that everyone should be equal under the law, and we respect the Australian legal system.
"The same legal system that delivered the verdict will consider the appeal that the Cardinal’s legal team has lodged.
"Our hope, at all times, is that through this process, justice will be served.
"In the meantime, we pray for all those who have been abused and their loved ones, and we commit ourselves anew to doing everything possible to ensure that the Church is a safe place for all, especially the young and the vulnerable."
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