The purpose of this project was to:
• identify the data holdings that currently exist on contemporary (within the past five years) incidents of child sexual abuse in institutional contexts in Australia
• determine the accessibility of any such data for research purposes
• identify what, if anything, the data reveals about the extent of child sexual abuse in institutional contexts in Australia.
The project comprised four stages:
1. a literature review of the relevant Australian and international research and ‘grey’ literature (including previous commissions of inquiry into institutional abuse), focusing on the methodologies for using administrative data to estimate the extent of child sexual abuse in institutional contexts
2. conceptual scoping and desktop analysis of promising data sources – including information provided to the Royal Commission by jurisdictions and institutions regarding data holdings
3. phone-based consultations with data custodians regarding the relevance of their data holdings, specific fields of interest and challenges for data extraction
4. issuing formal notices for data extraction, and data analysis to guide conclusions – to the extent the data allows – about the nature and extent of child sexual abuse in institutional contexts in Australia.
The review found a small number of studies that attempt to estimate the prevalence of child sexual abuse in various institutional contexts. The majority of these studies focus on abuse in the Roman Catholic Church in different jurisdictions, some of them associated with enquiries into child sexual abuse in particular dioceses. A smaller body of research focused on other church denominations and other institutional contexts – such as out-of-home care. No study covers the full range of institutional contexts. The majority of these studies use surveys or file audits as their methodology, and none analysed administrative datasets. None of the studies attempted to gauge current prevalence except for a small number of studies on abuse in out-of-home care in the early 1990s. Based on this, the review concluded that this is the first and only study that attempts to estimate the current extent of abuse across institutional contexts, and that uses administrative data to form its estimates.