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More older Aussies calling child sex abuse survivor line

There has been an increase in the number of older Australians seeking professional help because of childhood sex abuse, new research shows.

Adults Surviving Child Abuse (ASCA) released the data on Monday to coincide with Blue Knot Day – a national event to raise awareness about the 5 million Australian adults who have survived childhood abuse. Research based on an analysis of 5000 calls to ASCA’s 1300 professional support line reveals people aged 40–69 are still the most common age group to seek support for past abuse.

There has, however, been a 10 per cent increase in the 50–59 age group looking for help, compared with last year. The data also shows 19 per cent of callers in the 60–69 age group, and 6 per cent in the 70–79 bracket called the helpline for the first time.

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse interim report shows it takes on average 22 years for people to disclose abuse, but ASCA’s latest data reveals it often takes even longer.

Cathy Kezelman, president of ASCA, told AAP many of the older callers had never told anyone about their abuse and reported how it had affected their whole life.

“You just need to look at the impacts on people’s lives … to begin to appreciate the lifetime burden of which many survivors speak,” she said.

The data showed more than half (52 per cent) of the callers reported impacts on relationships with their immediate family, 37 per cent reported impacts on their partner, 17 per cent said it affected their parenting abilities, and 23 per cent said it had an impact on extended family.

Seventy-three per cent of callers reported multiple impacts. ASCA said this could be an underestimate given the majority of callers make only one call to the line.

Kezelman said the need for a national redress scheme was “urgent”. She called on the Turnbull Government to show leadership, and to work with the states and territories to commit to a national redress scheme before it was too late.

The Royal Commission has made its final recommendations on redress and favours a national scheme, run by the federal government and paid for by the institutions where children were abused. The commission modelled a scheme for 65,000 abuse survivors that would cost $4.3 billion. It is understood attorneys-general will discuss the recommendations at the upcoming Council of Australian Governments meeting.

Kezelman said the current data validated the findings from ASCA’s economic report, released in early 2015, which conservatively estimated the cost of failing to provide the right pathways for recovery for Australian adult survivors of childhood trauma would be $9.8 billion annually.

“As a community, we need to bring hope and very real possibilities for recovery,” she said.

This year, ASCA’s official Blue Knot Day opening event was held at 6am on Monday at Sydney’s Government House. It marked the start of a week of events across the country to support sex abuse survivors.

Click to hear more from Kezelman.

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