Justice Calls: The Survivor’s Guide to Institutional Abuse

Sexual abuse is an important issue that plagues society, and it can happen to anyone and anywhere. It is also crucial to reiterate that it is never the victim’s fault in all these cases.

In Australia alone, sexual abuse has been so rampant (particularly for children) that the government instituted the most significant Royal Commission mainly centering on international public queries regarding institutional abuse.

Going further into what this Royal Commission does for institutional abuse victims and other legal actions that survivors may take to put forth their rights against their abusers, it is important to know what sexual abuse is vis-a-vis institutional abuse.

What is Sexual Abuse?

What most people know about sexual abuse is it involves explicit and violative contact of an individual with another, with sexual intent. Such is done without the consent of the other party. However, this definition is just the tip of the iceberg. Sexual abuse is an umbrella term for different methods that sexual predators employ upon their victims.

For one, sexual abuse can happen in the form of sexual violence, or what is commonly referred to as “sexual assault.” Sexual assault includes acts induced by a sexual nature that are carried out against a person’s will through intimidation, force, coercion, or any other activities that would denote any attempt to do these.

Sexual assault includes rape, indecent assault, ritual abuse, child sexual abuse, and even female genital mutilation. If you’re planning to get a lawyer for these cases, it would be best to get one near you. For example, if you’re living in Sydney, then get the best sexual assault lawyer sydney has to offer. Getting lawyers within your area know about certain state laws and know what’s best for you.

How About Institutional Abuse?

Only a few people may be familiar with this term. Still, this species of sexual abuse has been going on for decades and has been a point of controversy, particularly affecting children and other vulnerable minority groups.

Institutional abuse, to put it simply, is the maltreatment of a person (often children and other vulnerable and marginalized individuals) by a person in authority or an organization who perpetrates such abuse through a system of power. There are several types of institutional abuse, such as:

  • Clerical and other Religious Institution Abuse
  • Foster System Abuse
  • School Abuse
  • Elder Rehabilitation Home Abuse

This list is not exhaustive, as any organization wherein sexual abuse is perpetrated by people who are supposed to manage and take care of these victims, and have control and power over these institutions, can be considered places where institutional abuse happens.

Because of the alarming rate of institutional abuse cases that take over the court’s dockets, the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse was formed to examine how organizations with responsibility for children have responded to take action over allegations of child sexual abuse.

This Royal Commission addresses the call for accountability over the crimes committed by people considered authorities over these establishments that foster, adopt, teach, or watch over children. This Commission also recognizes the abuse’s drastic effects on the victims and the lifelong damage it has caused from their childhood to adult life.

As sexual abuse, particularly institutional abuse, has now come forth into life and is recognized by communities limited within Australia and in the international sphere. Victims are afforded support and protection to put forth their claims.

What to Do in the Face of Institutional Abuse?

If you have experienced institutional abuse yourself, or know a loved one who is currently experiencing such, do not be afraid to speak up and take legal action. Here are some steps you may take to ensure that institutional abuse may be prevented, or better, stopped:

  1. The first step in dealing with institutional abuse is engaging in open yet safe and assuring dialogue with the victim. Remember that there is no single strategy in reaching out to a child or vulnerable person who has gone through such an ordeal. Providing a safe environment for them to speak up about their experience or about preventive measures to ensure your child is safe from such forms of abuse is an initial step in stopping the proliferation of institutional abuse.
  2.  In Australia alone, there are mandatory reporting laws in every jurisdiction. In New South Wales, Sections 23 and 27 of the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998 (NSW) provide who is mandated to report sexual abuse cases happening within institutions.

In these cases, if you are a victim, or know someone experiencing such abuse, know that you can approach trusted personnel within the organization. This personnel may consist of persons in their professional work, whether a specialized clinician, in management, or holding any position within the institution are mandated to report sexual abuse cases.

  1. You may contact your local authority for assistance in bringing forth institutional abuse. In NSW, you may call the Department of Communities and Justice, responsible for handling child abuse and neglect reports. You may also head to the Department’s web page for inquiries on child welfare.
  2. You can reach out to a law firm specializing in abuse claims, particularly institutional sexual abuse. Firms like Kelso Lawyers have long been fighting for sexual abuse victims and assuring that they get the justice they deserve.


In the face of abuse, know that you are not alone in this fight against sexual corruption and abuse. There are kind individuals and agencies out there who will help as long as you are not afraid to speak for your rights and stand up for yourself.