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Abuse Uncovered

CHILDREN as young as four have been subject to horrific sexual abuse in homes across central Victoria, some left with dislocated hips, internal injuries and sexually transmitted diseases. Others are suffering in silence - unable to comprehend what has happened to them, or fearful of speaking out because of bribes or threats made by the offender.
This is the stark reality of childhood sexual abuse, which is a hidden and huge issue in central Victoria, according to experts. Centre Against Sexual Assault manager for the Loddon Campaspe region Judy Flanagan said while the stigma surrounding sexual abuse had lessened, it was still very much a "behind closed doors" phenomenon. "There's still a hidden element to sexual abuse - it is an issue much of the community doesn't want to know about because it is just too confronting," she said. "It is incomprehensible to much of the community that fathers can, and do, rape their daughters and sons."
Between 2002 and 2003, CASA received 184 new registrations for children and teenagers in the Loddon Campaspe region who required counselling.
A staggering 72 per cent of CASA's total sexual assault records related to child rape and indecent assault. She said some children who had been sexually abused had been forced to wait for up to three months for counselling as services were stretched to the limit.
St Luke's Bendigo executive director Di O'Neil said the physical and emotional impacts of child sexual abuse were far reaching. "It is a huge issue - what is concerning for us at the moment is we have a number of children who have moved from the victim to an alleged offender," she said.
"They have developed sexualised behaviour which is placing younger children in the family at risk.
"This seems to be on the rise and in country areas, there are just no therapeutic services to help these kids who are not to blame." CASA counsellor Andrea Holland said child sexual abuse had a huge emotional impact on both victims and their families. "Really young kids come out with some really disturbing behaviour - they have been exposed to information beyond their years which they just don't have the cognitive ability to process," she said.
"We've seen children who defecate in drawers and cupboards, become extremely anxious around adult males and become socially withdrawn."

AAP (10-6-2004)

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