Sexual violence against children is a widespread social problem in Papua New Guinea, where capacity to respond to reported incidents is limited and only a minority of cases are reported to police. Where cases are brought to the attention of child protection authorities and police, the consequences and outcomes from such reporting is not known.
A new project funded by the Australian Research Council (ARC Grant Number DP210101727) aims to improve our understanding of the current responses to reported incidents of sexual violence against children in Papua New Guinea and knowledge and community acknowledgement of sexual violence against children. The project will be led by Dr Judy Putt and Associate Professor Sinclair Dinnen from the ANU Department of Pacific Affairs and Dr Francis Essacu from the Papua New Guinea University of Natural Resources and Environment. It will be undertaken in collaboration with Ms Loto Losenamo from the University of Papua New Guinea and other research partners. The researchers will work with two partner specialist family and sexual violence services to design and implement an approach that strengthens advocacy and practitioner networks and improves support for, and the safety of, child survivors of sexual violence and their families. Ultimately, the project aims to develop an approach that could be adapted and adopted in other low income and fragile contexts.
The research will build on a study undertaken in 2019 by Putt and Dinnen in Papua New Guinea in which they examined criminal justice responses to family and sexual violence. That study, funded by the Australian Government through the Justice Services and Stability for Development Program, sheds some light on the kinds of cases brought to the attention of the authorities and the considerable challenges involved in reaching any kind of resolution through the criminal justice system. The consistently poor outcomes of sexual violence cases globally have been termed ‘the justice gap’, which is even more pronounced when the victims are children and the setting is a low-income country like Papua New Guinea with seriously frayed and uneven service delivery. This research will contribute evidence to inform responses seeking to address this justice gap.