The Spatial Haunting of Child Sexual Abuse

Dr Dave McDonald1
1University Of Melbourne, Parkville, Australia

In December 2017 the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse came to a close. Throughout the course of this inquiry, the Victorian town of Ballarat was a key site of the commission’s investigations, identifying the vast scale of sexual abuse against children over several decades. This paper examines how this has transformed Ballarat – both in terms of the recognition of prolific institutional child sexual abuse, as well as the space of the town itself. The way in which crime haunts victims and communities is widely recognised. Here I explore how crime haunts in the aftermath of prolific abuse, coverup, denial and silencing, and practices of acknowledgement and memorialisation that seek to do justice in the aftermath. What does it mean to mark out crime scenes after decades of silencing? How do these practices reconfigure such sites? And what ethical questions arise from encounters with these practices of acknowledgment and memorialisation? In this paper I take up these questions to explore the ways in which space is haunted by crime.


Dr Dave McDonald is a Lecturer in Criminology at the University of Melbourne. He researches in the area of child sexual abuse and paedophilia, with a particular interest in quasi-legal practices of justice. In recent years he has spent extensive time conducting fieldwork in the town of Ballarat, and investigating the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. He is also the author of numerous publications on the legal, cultural and historical construction of the category of paedophilia.


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