The In(Visible) victim: Characterisations of Child Victims of Intrafamilial Child Sexual Abuse in the Family Court of Australia

Miss Isabella Conte1
1The University Of Melbourne, Carlton, Australia

Intrafamilial Child Sexual Abuse (ICSA) is the sexual abuse of a child by a related adult or a related child. For years, it has been identified as the most prevalent and harmful form of child sexual abuse in Australia. However, children who suffer such abuse remain one of the most neglected and misunderstood legal figures in Australia. Within the Criminal Justice System, child victims of ICSA are often grossly mischaracterised by Lawyers and Judges (e.g. as an impressionable witness or as an instigator of abuse) and, as a result, their experiences of abuse are afforded minimal currency in the overall judgment. Besides the Criminal Justice System, little scholarly attention has been given to exploring how child victims of ICSA are discursively treated in Australia’s legal systems, particularly within the Family Court of Australia. Since its establishment in 1975, the Family Court has become a core legal apparatus in Australia’s child protection system, judging a considerable amount of Parenting Order cases that include allegations of Intrafamilial Child Sexual Abuse. In light of how child victims of ICSA are mistreated in the Criminal Justice System, it is alarming that the Family Court and its discursive treatment of child victims of ICSA has largely escaped scholarly attention. By drawing on feminist poststructual conceptual thinking, this paper aims to draw attention to the Family Court of Australia and investigate how the child victim is characterised via language in the Judgments and Legislation of the Melbourne Registry of the Family Court of Australia.


Isabella Conte: student in Honours of Criminology at the University of Melbourne.


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