Monsters and horror in the Australian royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Law and Literature, 2018, 30 (1), pp. 123 - 148
Issue Date:
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© 2017 by The Cardozo School of Law of Yeshiva University. This article analyses how the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Reponses to Child Sexual Abuse negotiates the figure of the pedophile as monster through the horror genre. It analyses the resonance of the category of pedophiles as monsters or monstrous and the ways in which this impacted upon witnesses’ responses to sex offenders, based on assumptions that monsters are outsiders or strangers who are instantly recognizable. I go on to explore the claim that one of the main effects of regarding sex offenders as monsters is that these offenders are construed as having extraordinary powers so that ordinary measures to stop them would be ineffective - accordingly, this reading underplays the significance of institutional responsibility. I conclude that although the Royal Commission consistently undermines and rejects the idea of sex offenders as monsters, a horror reading is still appropriate and insightful. The true “horror” of the Royal Commission is aroused not by the figurative monsters but by the institutions themselves, and their failures.
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