It is imperative to challenge the forces within our society that would prefer the issue of child sexual assault to stay silent, or for the silence to be disguised by messages including ‘tired of talking about it’ or ‘it doesn’t seem to be an issue anymore’ or ‘it only happens to certain children in certain families’. A critical responsibility of all who work in the field professionally is to never allow such silence to prevail.
Having graduated as a social worker from the University of Sydney in the late 1980s, Catherine Want felt motivated by the strong political legacy from her family to work against the proliferation of disadvantage and injustice that afflicts so many people’s lives. Growing up in Western Sydney, Catherine has always felt closely affiliated to the area and wanted to remain connected to this familiar territory in her professional life.
Catherine has been working in the field of sexual assault since 1986, initially at Westmead Hospital, later moving to take a position as a child sexual assault counsellor at Rosie’s Place. Rosie’s Place is a community-based sexual assault counselling service for children, young people and their non-offending family members. It has serviced the Blacktown Local Government Association and primarily the Mt Druitt community since 1986.
Catherine is currently the Manager at Rosie’s Place, taking responsibility for managing this small but extremely busy non-government organisation as well as providing counselling and advocacy services to the children, young people and their families who need its support. Catherine also provides training in the field of child sexual assault and domestic violence, primarily as a contracted trainer with the Education Centre Against Violence (ECAV).
A critical part of the work in breaking the silence and secrecy surrounding child sexual assault has been the purposeful focus by Catherine on the development of resources which stem primarily from practices of consultation and co-research with clients. Their voices have contributed dramatically to the unique style of the many publications that have been produced by Rosie’s Place, attempting to stay true to the accounts of specific experiences but also incorporating the wealth of knowledge and wisdom accumulated by so many of those involved, including children, young people and adults.
When individual workers or collective services seek to respond to the issue of child sexual assault, Catherine believes that there must always be a political position guiding their practice in regard to the subjugation of women and children to oppression through violence. The professional path for any worker who remains in the field for many years is to acclimatise to the changes in the landscape surrounding child sexual assault. As new information is acquired, old ideas are challenged and either strengthened or abandoned. Experts agree to disagree about best practice and what service delivery should look like. Sources of funding go up and down depending on who determines social priorities and how those priorities are addressed. But some things never change. Children continue to be subjected to the violence of sexual assault at extraordinarily high rates with alarming impact. And they deserve the right to be heard and to have their voices taken seriously. Catherine, along with her colleagues at Rosie’s Place, is committed to ensuring that these children are offered access to all the services available within their community, and given a shot at a future that is free from violence and abuse.