THE Australian Defence Force Cadets appeared to blameteenage victims after a Williamtown RAAF Base cadet trainer groomed and sexually assaulted them, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has found.
The “deficient” ADF Cadets handling of the case of convicted sex offender Christopher Adams was despite the suicide of another young cadet after she was groomed by a senior trainer, a case that was widely known, the commission said.
The commission has released a final report on the Department of Defence’s responses to child sex offending after a hearing in 2016 considered harrowing evidence from survivors of historical abuse at HMAS Leeuwin and the army apprentice school at Balcombe.
The case of Christopher Adams revealed damning evidence of widespread failures in Defence’s procedures for protecting more than 25,000 in cadet units across the country.
The commission heard evidence from two girls who joined the cadets in 2009, aged 13, and their grooming by Christopher Adams at Williamtown RAAF Base and other Defence locations.
The commission was highly critical of Defence Cadets for a deficient investigation of allegations Adams sexually assaulted the teenagers, aged 16 and 17, while they were under his care.
Cadets were not advised it was a criminal offence for a supervisor to have sex with them, even if they were over the age of consent.
“The seriousness of the allegations required the appointment of an experienced investigator, yet the investigation was conducted by a person with no experience or training in conducting an investigation or in dealing with an allegation of an inappropriate relationship between a cadet and an instructor,” the commission found.
“We find that the investigation was conducted in an insensitive manner.”
The commission found a script followed by the investigator, in which cadets were told, “There’s been an allegation made that you had a sexual encounter with a male staff member. I’m required to make you aware of this allegation”, had the effect of blaming the victim.
The Department of Defence recorded more than 150 incidents or allegations of child sexual abuse from 2001.
Vice Chief of the Defence Force Ray Griggs issued an apology during the hearing, and outlined significant reforms to change the culture within Defence that contributed to the abuse.
Vice Admiral Griggs acknowledged that, in the past, the culture in the ADF was one that excluded rather than included, diversity was not tolerated; and those that did not ‘fit in’ paid the price.
Christopher Adams pleaded guilty to sexual offences against three Defence cadets and was sentenced to two years’ jail in December, 2015.