The Women’s gives evidence at the child abuse Royal Commission

30 March 2017 | Family violence | Mental health

The Women’s and University of Melbourne Professor Louise Newman will today give evidence at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

Professor Newman, who is the Women’s Director of the Centre for Women’s Mental Health, will give evidence about the lifelong trauma caused to victims of child sex abuse and the need for early psychological support.

“Child abuse and trauma can have long term effects on mental health and there is a need for greater access to trauma focussed interventions.” Professor Newman said. “Infancy and early childhood trauma and high levels of stress directly impact the developing brain as well as emerging psychological and emotional capacities. Abuse fundamentally shapes emerging understandings of human interaction and relationships.

“Trauma can contribute to difficulties in forming trusting relationships and a whole range of mental health problems including depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. These issues can affect a person’s well-being and mental health across their lifespan.”

Professor Newman said a greater focus on early treatment was crucial to helping prevent lifelong damage caused by child sex abuse.

“Treatment and services need to be available as early as possible including for infants and young children,” she said. “Child protection services tend to focus on better identification of trauma and risk factors but there is also a need in the immediate term for supportive interventions and trauma focussed interventions to deal with symptoms such as anxiety.”

The inquiry is Australia's longest Royal Commission, starting in 2013 and due to finish with a final report to the federal government in December.

More than 6500 child sexual abuse survivors have provided evidence in private sessions and another 1200 witnesses have appeared during the more than 400 days of public hearings.

For more information, visit Royal Commission Website.