Note on Australian Abuse Victims

After the initial Royal Commission report that 7% of Catholic clerics sexually abused children, a number of apologists claimed that was an overestimate because it included all abuse claims received by the Church, not only the credible claims. There are a number of problems with this.

First, no one said what percentage of abuse claims failed to meet the credibility standard. I suspect this is very low. The major problem with the data is that victims often fail to report the crime, resulting in underestimates of abuse. Needless to say none of media brought this up, even though the report stated that on average, victims waited 33 years before reporting the crime. This indicates massive underreporting.

But a later report from the Royal Commission (here), dealing primarily with demographic detail on abusers, shows that the Commission did not in fact use all complaints. They were conservative, and their criteria may have been more stringent than prior credibility judgments:

"8. The claims data does not indicate the total number of allegations of child sexual abuse made to Catholic Church authorities in Australia. This is because the claims data survey did not seek data about all allegations of child sexual abuse but only about claims where the claimant had sought redress, or about complaints that were accepted by Catholic Church authorities without redress being sought by the claimant."

 

In short, the Commission and the media bent over backwards to give the Church every benefit of the doubt. No one even mentioned that the prevalence of abuse was underestimated due to victims’ delay in reporting.