For well over a year now, the Royal Commission on child sex abuse has been trundling its inquisitional way around the country like Judge Jeffreys and his assizes. Soon its origin will be lost in the mists of antiquity; if anyone has already forgotten, the Royal Commission is the most enduring legacy of Julia Gillard. Floundering in her own ineptitude in the closing days of her unlamented prime ministership, she thought it up as an attention-grabber, a way to cash in on the even by then rather weary saga of clerical and other child abuse which, as far as the ABC and the rest of the right-on media are concerned, age can never wither nor the years condemn.
No doubt they would like it to go on forever, but there is some indication that the commission is running out of victims. I infer this from a telephone call a friend received one Sunday from a “market researcher” asking, quite out of the blue, whether the friend knew, should he happen to be a victim of sexual abuse, how he would go about bringing a complaint before the commission – in order to “share (his) story” as the commission’s website puts it.
That sounds to me like touting for custom, as though not enough “survivors” (as they have come to be called, as if they’d got out of a plane crash) have already come forward. If there’d been an avalanche of claims you’d think the commission would have its work cut out dealing with them without looking for more.
The caller gave his name as “Troy” and said he represented a well known polling company. “I am calling to conduct a survey,” he said. “It will take a few minutes. Are you happy to proceed?” Instead of bundling Troy off the phone as an unrequired intruder into the sabbath calm my friend, who is kindly natured, agreed. “Have you heard about the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse?” asked Troy.
“I think so,” said my friend, repressing the temptation to add, “Who hasn’t, given the blare of publicity it’s received in the media?” – especially on the ABC(which, it should be remembered, was itself back in the hippy era endorsing child sex abuse by promoting paedophilia as a “lifestyle matter”, a legitimate sexual preference, at a time when the modish liberal demand, the gay marriage of the day, was for the age of consent to be lowered to eleven).
Troy produced another question. “What do you think is the function of the Royal Commission?” To this of course one answer is: “It’s a witch hunt set up for cynical political motives by a discredited prime minister and supported by the secularist Left as a means of bashing the Roman Catholic Church.” The Left loathes the Catholic Church as the most influential opponent of its gay-marriage-and-unlimited-abortion agenda.
Troy’s next question indicated that he too might he aware of this. “Can you name” (nudge nudge, wink wink) “any major institution that has been investigated by the commission?” My colleague had no intention of falling into that trap, so he said, “Oh, I think the Salvation Army,” which is like saying that the principal enemy in the Second World War was not Germany or Japan but Bulgaria.
Now began the subtle sales pitch. “Do you know how someone who might want to submit something to the Royal Commission would do so?”
“Go to the police, I suppose,” said my friend (the commission’s website helpfully suggests three pretty obvious ways: “call, write or email”). It struck my friend that it would be rather odd if someone who had a serious complaint to make were still sitting around wondering how to make it (“Should I ring them up? Maybe I should send a note”). But perhaps the commission wishes to reach out to people in two minds about whether they were really victims or not. People who’d been touched up by the gym master at school but neither psychologically nor physically damaged by it and had just got on with their lives.
The next question seemed to insinuate that my friend might actually know of an abuse case but was being coy about advising the survivor to report it. “If you know anyone who has been a victim of child sexual abuse,” said Troy, “do you know they (sic) can contact the Royal Commission, or not?” In other words, you’re not encouraging anyone to keep something back, are you? You’re not encouraging anyone not to share their story? The only answer to that was no.
Troy had kept to his few minutes and that was that, apart from Troy giving my friend the commission’s “contact details”, presumably in case he should bump into someone who was looking for them – “Oh by the way, did I ever tell you I was once sexually abused? You wouldn’t happen to know how to get in touch with that Royal Commission, would you?”
For anyone wavering about coming forward, the commission’s website has a section called “Are you ready to share your story?” “If you were sexually abused as a child in an Australian institution, like a school, church or sports club, you can tell your story to the Royal Commission. If you’re ready to share your story, we’re ready to listen,” it soothingly announces. What is missing here? Statistics suggest that “a school, church or sports club” is not where most abuse takes place. An American survey two years ago indicated that in more than 90 per cent of cases the abuser was a family member or someone known to the family (21 per cent alone were either stepfathers or boyfriends of the child’s mother). If the situation is similar in Australia, the family is the principal danger zone.
In that case why wasn’t the commission authorised to investigate the family? After all, many PC thinkers, especially feminists, disapprove of the family as a “repressive structure”, so why not use the abuse stick to beat it? Here one can only speculate on the unfathomable motives of the bien-pensant Left. My guess is that to track down the innumerable cases of abuse that have taken place within domestic walls, to haul all the wicked Uncle Ernies (as in The Who’s rock opera Tommy) into the dock and persuade all the Tommies to tell their story, is beyond the range of even as well-funded and well-staffed an entity as the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. It’s much easier to send out the signal that it’s the institutions that are unique founts of wickedness and let Troy’s fingers do the walking.
Subscribe to The Spectator Australia today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Subscribe – Try a month free