Well-Being in Cyberspace - Regulating the Online World, Especially Concerning Child Sexual Abuse
This consultation paper has been produced by the Justice and International Mission (JIM) Cluster to assist Uniting Church members in considering the issues related to the harm that occurs online, especially concerning child sexual abuse. The consultation paper also asks the reader what measures are reasonably needed to curb such damages and prevent them. The paper contains a suggested proposal for the February 2021 Synod meeting. It provides some consultation questions that you might respond to, or simply provide any feedback that you wish.
In addition to the consultation paper, the Synod Ethics Committee has provided a separate theological reflection on the issue that can also be downloaded.
The JIM Cluster intends to bring a proposal to the February 2021 Synod meeting, which would set the principles by which the Synod should support or oppose particular measures to regulate the online world. The Uniting Church’s existing position as it stands is that the protection of children and adults from sexual abuse takes priority over other concerns such as privacy. The draft proposal to the Synod meeting would not change the current priority of preventing sexual abuse online, as well as other harms. It would add consideration of online privacy and support safeguards over the powers law enforcement agencies are granted online.
The reasons for the Synod to take an interest in this issue are:
- The Uniting Church nationally has committed to hearing the voices of survivors of sexual abuse.
- Both meetings of the National Assembly and the Synod have committed the Uniting Church to supporting measures to prevent sexual abuse in the wider community.
The JIM Cluster is keen to hear from Uniting Church members their views on what position and actions the Synod should take on regulating the online world. We are also eager to have conversations with members on the issue to help shape the position the Synod adopts.
Written feedback can be provided to:
Justice and International Mission Cluster
Centre for Theology and Ministry
29 College Crescent
Parkville, Victoria, 3052
Feedback or requests for a conversation can also be provided by e-mail to email@example.com.
For a direct phone conversation or to set up a conversation call (03) 9340 8807.
These contacts can also be used to request the posting out of hard copies of the consultation paper.
Comments and feedback are needed by Monday 31 August 2020. The deadline is to ensure input can be considered in the formulation of the final recommendation to be taken to the February 2021 Synod meeting.
The Justice and International Mission Cluster alerts the reader that they may find some of the material in this paper distressing or upsetting.
This paper should not be read by anyone below the age of 18.
The Uniting Church has committed itself to hear from survivors of sexual abuse. Within this paper, we have upheld that commitment by including the voices of survivors. Where the voices of survivors appear, the survivor has asked for their experience to be shared publicly. All the survivors were adults at the time they offered comment on their experience and the harm it has caused in their lives.
Discussion around child sexual abuse can be confronting and disturbing. Please seek support if you need it.
Any congregation planning to hold a discussion in response to the paper should put in place appropriate pastoral support for anyone who may become distressed. The organiser of the discussion should ensure there is someone available to leave the meeting with anyone who becomes distressed.
The organiser of the consultation should contact the Synod Culture of Safety Unit if they have any concerns as a result of the conversation or any reason to suspect any abuse is or may have taken place.
If you need support, please use the following services.
1800 Respect - Call 1800 737 732 or visit www.1800respect.org.au
Lifeline - Call 13 11 14 or visit www.lifeline.org.au
Tasmania - Sexual Assault Support Service Inc. - 03 6231 1811/03 6231 0044
Victoria - Centres Against Sexual Assault call 1800 806 292 or visit www.casa.org.au
The Bethel Pastoral Centre is available to people who want to talk with someone confidentially about abuse and misuse of power within the church.
Telephone 03 9859 8700; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you are aware of any child abuse, you must report it. If you know of someone who has committed or is committing online child sexual abuse, this is criminal behaviour and must be reported.
If you or are a child are in immediate danger, phone the police on 000.
For reporting where there is no immediate danger, contact:
- Your local police
- Child Protection Victoria – visit https://services.dhhs.vic.gov.au/reporting-child-abuse
- Child Protection Tasmania – visit dhhs.tas.gov.au/contact/child_protection_notification_form
Known or suspected child abuse may also be a Reportable Conduct matter. Please contact the Synod Ethical Standards Manager on 0437 072 231 for support.