The Australian Child Maltreatment Study (“ACMS”) coordinated by Professor Ben Mathews of Queensland University of Technology and published in the Medical Journal of Australia, is a series of investigations conducted for the purpose of detailing the experiences and associated health or social outcomes of adults who suffered child maltreatment.

The ACMS is the first national survey in the world to study the topic of child maltreatment and abuse in detail, surveying 8503 Australians aged from sixteen (16) years and over.

Key Findings

The key findings of the ACMS were categorised by Professor Mathews into five (5) prevalent forms of child maltreatment:-

  1. Physical abuse: 32%;
  2. Sexual abuse: 28.5%;
  3. Emotional abuse: 30.9%;
  4. Neglect: 8.9%; and
  5. Exposure to Domestic Violence: 39.6%.

The ACMS showed a reduction in Australians experiencing physical or sexual abuse in younger generations, of which Professor Mathews coincides with the growing awareness and education around the harm these forms of maltreatment can cause upon children. Furthermore, research indicated that women or gender-diverse individuals experienced the highest rates of child maltreatment.

Ultimately, the study found that the majority of Australians, approximately 62.2%, have experienced childhood maltreatment.6 Of that 62.2%, 39.4% experienced more than two (2) forms of the five (5) maltreatment types described above.

Of the five (5) categories, exposure to domestic violence was the most common form of abuse, as well as was prevalent amongst the majority of individuals who suffered from multiple forms of maltreatment.

The Impact of Abuse

According to the ACMS, there was a direct correlation between the forms of child maltreatment and high-risk health behaviours, including binge drinking, cannabis dependence, smoking, obesity, self-harm, and suicide ideation. It was found that these health-risk behaviours ordinarily commenced in early adolescence and continued into adulthood.

Of the child maltreatment categories, sexual and emotional abuse were deemed to cause the highest likelihood of health-risk behaviours.

In comparison with non-maltreated Australians, those who have experienced past mistreatment experience increased costs associated with higher attendance upon health care specialists, including regular hospital admission, mental health admission and visits to their general practitioner.

What are your options if you are a survivor of childhood maltreatment and abuse?

In Queensland, a survivor of the above-mentioned five (5) forms of child maltreatment may be capable of instituting a civil claim under the Personal Injuries Proceedings Act 2002 (QLD) for personal injury, including psychological injury or physical injury, arising out of a breach of duty.

Section 11(A)(1) of the Limitation of Actions Act 1974 (QLD) (“LAA”), allows an action for damages resulting from the abuse of the person, when the person was a child, to be brought at any time and is not subject to a limitation period.

“Abuse” under section 11(A)(b) of the LAA, is defined as:-

  • Sexual abuse;
  • Serious physical abuse;
  • Psychological abuse perpetrated in connection with sexual abuse; or
  • Psychological abuse perpetrated in connection with serious physical abuse.

As a result of section 11(A)(b) of the LAA, any of the categorised five (5) child maltreatment forms recognised by Professor Mathews may amount to a claim for personal injuries if the abuse is in connection with sexual abuse or serious physical abuse. Moreover, a claim for childhood abuse is not restricted to the ordinary three (3) year time limitation; therefore adults, including those the ACMS consider to have suffered the highest rate of maltreatment, are able to commence a claim at any time.

Survivors of abuse are capable of being compensated for a variety of injuries, psychological or physical, and the injuries associated loss and damages, including:-

  • General Damages: The nature and impact of the psychological and/or physical injury on a person’s whole person;
  • Violation of Personal Integrity: The seriousness and degree of the violation;
  • Aggravated Damages: The manner or circumstances in which the Defendant’s wrongful conduct was carried out and how the action increased the Plaintiff’s suffering, including the Defendant’s action following the abuse, during the extent of the claim and/or at trial;
  • Exemplary Damages: Compensatory damages assessed by the Court for the purpose of punishing the Defendant, ordinarily occurring where the Defendant has not been charged criminal or the police have chosen not to pursue the Defendant criminally;
  • Economic Loss: Loss of past or future income and superannuation arising from the personal injury;
  • Loss of Opportunity: Loss of opportunity to purse past or future employment and study due to the personal injury;
  • Care and Assistance: The requirement for household, domestic or personal care and assistance by paid professional carers or gratuitously (unpaid) by family and friends; and/or
  • Past and Future Treatment: The cost of past or future medical consultations, rehabilitation consultations, psychological consultations, physiotherapy consultations, hospital treatment, travel to treatment providers and/or pharmaceuticals.

If you have suffered abuse at the hands of an individual or due to the negligence of an institution, such as a School, Church, Juvenile Centre, Prison, Sporting Club or whilst under Child Protection as a Ward of the State, you may have a claim under common law or through the National Redress Scheme.

Littles Lawyers are specialist in Abuse Claims and can help you get compensation for the wrong done to you. We know that each survivor has their own unique story and Littles Lawyers can assist you by providing individualised legal advice tailored to your circumstances, as to obtain financial compensation from the responsible individual or institution.

Please reach out to the author and the team at Littles Lawyers for further advice on Personal Injury, Public Liability, Workcover, Motor Vehicle, Medical Negligence, Total Permanant Disability (“TPD”) or Abuse Claims. Further Abuse Law information or Case Law Updates written by the author, Claudia Douglas, can be found on our website.

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