Be it via Twitter or by engaging lonely, late-night radio listeners, reaching the vast and diverse number of Australians affected by child sexual abuse is the big challenge for the royal commission into child sexual abuse in its early stages.
The commission’s chief executive Janette Dines said commissioners were acutely aware that, in hearing victims’ stories, they were ”bearing witness on behalf of the nation”.
The biggest obstacle to fulfilling this duty was that such different sections of the community had to be engaged, from late-night radio listeners who could not be contacted any other way, to disabled people, remote indigenous communities and young Twitter followers, Ms Dines said.
”We are going to have to hire someone who works 24/7 on social media. I don’t think a lot of royal commission CEOs go on late-night radio or television or hold meet-and-greet sessions in regional centres with local groups who can amplify the message and plug the gaps.”
Considerable care was being taken to protect the mental health of commissioners, staff and witnesses. She said vicarious trauma was relatively little understood, and had been listed this year for the first time in the manual of psychological disorders.
Counsellors were preparing commissioners and staff, debriefing them after sessions, and organising regular checks from mental health professionals.
Although the commissioners expected to hear horrific stories, nothing could prepare people for the devastated lives of many victims of child sexual abuse.
Ms Dines said many victims had never disclosed their abuse, and came out of the meetings euphoric at being listened to and believed.
So far, the commissioners had held more than 50 informal meetings in Sydney and Brisbane. This week they started in Adelaide, followed by Perth, and started private meetings in Melbourne towards the end of August. The first public hearings would be in September.
The commission had identified 24 issues and cases it wanted to examine. Its first discussion paper, issued on June 17, was about working with children checks.
”These are parallel processes; we are two commissions in one,” Ms Dines said. ”The first is giving healing to people and hearing their stories, the second is inquiring into the systematic issues.”
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.