Peace and Happiness…writes Ari Heber

February 11, 2015 by Ari Heber
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As the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse continues its investigation we should be aware that the incidents it is investigating represent only a very small percentage of child sexual abuse incidents in Australia.

Ari Heber

Ari Heber

This is not a pleasant topic but one that has to be discussed so we can provide a safe and protected environment for our children.

I am one of the facilitators of a men’s support group MARS (Men Affected by Rape and Sexual abuse) I also run Queensland Jewish Community Services Inc. I have worked with about 150 men in groups over the last 10 years and separately to the group have had around 60 members of the Jewish Community male and female disclose to me their childhood abuse.

Statistics show that approximately 25% of females and 17 – 20% of males are sexually abused by the time they are eighteen. These numbers appear to be consistent around the world across national, religious and ethnic boundaries. All communities are affected, without exception, with very similar levels of prevalence. No community can afford to be smug or complacent.

Fewer than 10% of all incidents of child sexual abuse take place in institutions. More than 90% of incidents occur in the home and other social settings, and are therefore outside the purview of the Royal Commission. As important as the work of the Royal Commission has been, the incidents of child sexual abuse on which it has shone a light are just the tip the iceberg in Australia.

In more than 95% of incidents the perpetrator is known to the abused. This makes “stranger danger” just “danger”. Most cases of abuse involve repeated sexual interference with a child over an extended period of time as the perpetrator has continued access to the child. One-off incidents of abuse occur less frequently and result from opportunistic attacks by perpetrators unknown to their victims.

While the media has portrayed paedophiles as frightening monsters, the truth is that most paedophiles are outwardly pleasant and engaging, and are able to interact with their victims and groom them and their families without causing concern or suspicion. Perpetrator measure their success by the extent to which they gain access to the victim and the trust of the family.

Perpetrators have been family members (including parents), house-guests, tradespeople, babysitters; and others who have access to children. .

Four years ago when I had identified 45 cases of child sexual abuse I started bringing child abuse to the attention of the community leaders in Brisbane. The responses included: “You are being political”; “Thank G-d this has never happened at our school”;” I have lived here all my life and never heard such a thing so we have no problem and should do nothing to publicise it”. As an adult I found these attitudes to be dismissive and upsetting.

How would or could a child stand up against this?

How could a child tell those in authority that he or she had been abused and expect to be heard?

Would you believe any of your children if they told you they had been abused?

People who expect, often with good reason, that they will not be believed will not report abuse.

What should you do when a person tells you he or she was abused? BELIEVE THEM!

In MARS we advise people that we do not quantify or qualify abuse. Abuse is abuse. It is not a competition. Both one-off events and chronic experiences leave the abused suffering from similar symptoms. . Lack of trust, low self-esteem and self-medication are common in varying degrees in all cases.

Men who have been abused tend to bury the experience. I have found that a lot of the men who I have worked with were unable to articulate what happened to them as children because they do not have the language to report the abuse or even contextualise the experience in their own minds.

At MARS men attending for the first time are aged in their early thirties or older. In recent years, with the general awareness of childhood sexual abuse increasing, I have started to see younger men attending.

We need to talk to and educate our children about what is and isn’t appropriate in being touched, spoken to and shown. Educational resources available online and in print can assist. Open, honest communication is essential. Ultimately there can be no substitute for a home and school environment in which children will feel secure and confident enough to come forward and report sexual abuse in the expectation that their complaints will be believed and immediately acted upon, and that they will be protected.


Wesley’s World; Resofsky and Pavlotski

Victims No Longer; The Classic Guide for Men Recovering from Sexual Child Abuse: Mike Lew

Breaking the Silence; Sexual Abuse in the Jewish Community: Mandel & Pelcovitz



2 Responses to “Peace and Happiness…writes Ari Heber”
  1. Helen Dawson says:

    Thank you for this article Ari Heber. The survivors of child sexual assault who have testified at the Royal Commission have been very courageous in showing how damaging the consequences have has been in their lives.
    Victims of child sex abuse take on average over 20 years to disclose what happened to them.
    Their innocence about adults sexual behaviour has been destroyed in a terrible way, and it takes a long time to get any understanding of what happened. Sometimes it is only when they have their own children, and their children reach the same age as the age at which they were abused, that it suddenly comes to them as a great shock, that they were THAT innocent and vulnerable when the abuse happened to them. And that the grooming and lies by the perpetrator was just that, grooming and lies. Sometimes the violence and shock of child rape and child sex abuse is such that a survivor has lost all trust in people and only trusts their pets, or trusts no-one at all. There is lifelong seriously debilitating Post Traumatic Stress syndrome for survivors.
    If you have any knowledge about sexual crimes committed against Australian children and covered up by institutions religious or otherwise, please contact the Royal Commission 61 2 8815 2319

  2. Vivien Resofsky says:

    Thank you J-wire for publishing this article. We must all embrace education to meet the threat of child sexual abuse head on. Ariel Haber gives us honest and accurate information. We can’t rely on the same people who we have relied on before.

    Thank you Ariel. I believe that we need to hear from people who work at the coalface and who have empathy as well as integrity. You have to be a special person to work with survivors because it is not easy seeing the struggle that people have to grapple with. Why didn’t I use the word pain? Because it has been used so much in the context of child sexual abuse, we have become desensitized.

    Thank you Ariel. I believe that we need to hear from people who work at
    the coalface and who have empathy as well as integrity. You have to be a special person to work with survivors because it is not easy seeing the struggle that people have to grapple with. Why didn’t I use the word pain? Because it has been used so much in the context of child sexual abuse, we have become desensitized.

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