Oct. 22 (UPI) — Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison confronted Monday a growing child sexual abuse scandal by apologizing to victims.
The apology comes after a report last year that said churches, schools, orphanages, sports clubs and other institutions failed children and parents.
“Today, as a nation, we confront our failure to listen, to believe, and to provide justice,” Morrison said. “We say sorry. To the children we failed, sorry. To the parents whose trust was betrayed and who have struggled to pick up the pieces, sorry.
“Today, we finally acknowledge and confront the lost screams of our children.”
Morrison spoke in front of hundreds of survivors who traveled from around the country to Canberra.
The biggest offender was the Roman Catholic Church, in which a report found 7 percent of Australian children were sexually abused from 1950 to 2010. The report cited 1,880 perpetrators.
“It is not a case of a few ‘rotten apples,'” it said. “Society’s major institutions have seriously failed us.”
Many Catholic dioceses and ministries held local events to mark Morrison’s apology.
In July, the Australian government started a redress fund for surviving victims of institutional child sexual abuse. The Catholic Church and other institutions have contributed to the fund.
In his speech Monday, Morrison said often children would report incidents of abuse but weren’t believed. He described one in which a girl committed suicide after she was abused.
“As the father of two daughters, I cannot comprehend the magnitude of what she has faced,” Morrison said.
The Catholic Church is fighting a proposal to make reporting mandatory, to avoid forcing priests to break confession rules.