An investigation into the adequacy of current treatment services for child abuse survivors has been welcomed by the organisation that supports an estimated five million Australian adults affected by childhood trauma.
On Thursday, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse called for submissions from interested parties on current advocacy, support and therapeutic treatment services for people suffering the aftermath of abuse.
Cathy Kezelman, president of Adults Surviving Child Abuse (ASCA), told AAP the inquiry by the commission was much needed.
“There has not been a substantive piece of work that scopes what is and what isn’t – and can actually back what people have been saying anecdotally,” she said.
Commission CEO Philip Reed said on Thursday that through public case studies and more than 4000 private sessions, attention had been drawn to the lack of quality support services as well the difficulties survivors faced when seeking therapy.
Dr Kezelman, AM, said there was an across-the-board requirement for this investigation because of a misconception about what survivors of child sexual abuse needed.
There was an assumption they could be “fixed” in the current Medicare allowance of 10 sessions per year, she said and described this as outrageous and potentially quite damaging.
“When a child is repeatedly sexually abused in childhood, it affects their developing brain and has much more profound global effect,” she said.
Therapists needed to be trained to understand the difference between this type of trauma and single-incident trauma, Dr Kezelman said.
When people are abused as children, it has an impact on a developing sense of self, and to start to repair that and help people feel safe takes a very slow-building therapeutic relationship, she said.
Earlier this year, ASCA released an economic report, The Cost of Unresolved Childhood Trauma and Abuse in Adults in Australia, which estimated unresolved trauma was costing the nation $9 billion a year.
The report, done by Pegasus Economics, was based on Bureau of Statistics data and estimated the cost to the economy based on people who had suffered childhood trauma and were not able to contribute in the workplace or pay taxes and the cost of providing revolving door crises services.
Dr Kezelman said the cost of not providing the right care and support to survivors was double the slated $4.3 billion cost of the royal commission’s recommended redress scheme, which included funding for counselling and psychological care.
Once the commission receives submissions, it will publish a consultation paper.
Final recommendations on advocacy, support and therapeutic services will be contained in the royal commission’s final report in 2017.