University of Tasmania

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Behind the candelabra : preventing child sexual abuse in Tasmania

posted on 2023-05-27, 20:39 authored by Michael Andre GuerzoniMichael Andre Guerzoni
Clergy-child sexual abuse in Christian Church institutions is a prevalent criminological issue in the 21st Century. Research from academic and governmental inquiry collectively has focussed on building knowledge of clerical offenders, victims/survivors, victimisation, crime prevention, and institutional responses to abuse; particularly within the American and Irish Roman Catholic contexts. This scholarship has been fundamental in bringing care and justice to survivors and offenders, as well as in the development and implementation of child protection legislation, policies, screening requirements, training, and compensation schemes in religious and non-religious organisations around the Western world. In recent years, scholarship has moved from the previously normative focus on 'offenders with deviant sexual interests' in understanding child abuse to identifying and exploring the role of institutional cultures and environments in abuse events. By highlighting the malleable nature of individual behaviours and desires when subject to surrounding influences and variables, it has been shown how church cultures and environments precipitate child sexual abuse events; leading the otherwise normal‚ÄövÑvp person to abuse or be complicit in church secrecy. The commonality of susceptibility to sexual offending, and the role of organisational culture and environments in this process, press for an examination of the micro-level context of church organisations: what is occurring at the everyday parish today, and how this activity is influenced by clerical cultures and congregational situational factors. This dissertation provides empirical research on the child protective clerical cultures operative within the Anglican Diocese of Tasmania. Drawing from a sample of 34 clerics (29 male, 5 female) and document analysis of Diocesan policies and legislation, inquiry is directed towards understanding the clerical habitus (predispositions that guide individual beliefs and behaviours) in respect to child sexual abuse and child protection, and how this shapes clergy's everyday safe ministry practices. These reported practices are then analysed through the lens of situational crime prevention techniques to analyse the feasibility of their efficiency in minimising abuse events. The dissertation then seeks to identify clerical cultures towards child protection in Tasmania, to test the presence of an interconnection between these cultures, Diocesan structures (policies and training), and the clerical child protective habitus. In understanding the cognition, conduct and culture of clergy in the Tasmanian Anglican Church, recommendations are offered on how to make church life safer places for children.


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