ASCA child abuse “Wedding” ad followup: transcript of the “Life Matters” discussion

With many thanks to Su, we now have a transcript of the ABC’s Life Matters show on the recently-launched ASCA child sexual abuse awareness advertisement campaign, as linked by Fine in comments on our post on the TV “Wedding” ad, “If only”? New child abuse campaign.

This is only in a separate post for length reasons, so comments are closed; please join the discussion at the original post.


Transcript of a segment from “Life Matters”, an ABC Radio National radio program hosted by Richard Aedy. The segment aired 9th February 2009 and was entitled “Provocative Child Abuse ads”

Richard Aedy: You might find what I’m about to talk about uncomfortable, you probably will. We are talking about a confronting advertising campaign being launched today to draw attention to the long term effects of child abuse. There are far too many adults whose childhood experiences are not acknowledged, according to a group called. ASCA- Adults Surviving Child Abuse. So with the backing of some high profile and well connected supporters these ads, which haven’t cost the organization a thing, will soon appear. And they are deliberately provocative, which you should take as a warning before listening further. Ita Buttrose, the Grande Dame of magazine publishing is the patron of ASCA and she is with me in the studio, welcome to Life Matters.

Ita Buttrose: Thank you

RA: And Dr. Cathy Kezelman, former GP, is the ASCA chair, hello Cathy.

Dr Cathy Kezelman: Hi how are you.

RA: I’m well. Now I’ll play one of the radio ads straight away to give you the idea.

Sound clip of radio ad. We hear the voice of a male MC and an award recipient at an awards function with background laughter and chatter throughout. The tone is jocular.

MC: The winner of the Wombats Rugby Club Best and Fairest – Phil Wigan!
(laughter and applause)
Phil Wigan: Well, ah, thanks to the rest of the boys of course – my brothers!
Audience: Yeah!
PW: Ah as most you know of course, well um Dad has been bashing me for years..
Audience Member: …learned to run!
PW: I did learn to run, as you saw on the field today.
(Gorilla noises from audience)
PW: So uh, this trophy is for dad –
Audience: yeah!
PW : The Basher!
Audience: The Basher!
Voiceover: If only it was this easy to get over child abuse. To find out more, visit

RA: Well, uh Cathy Kezelman, I want to start with you… it is confronting, each ad takes a similar approach, doesn’t it? A deceptively light hearted situation and finishing with that tag line: “ If only it was this easy to get over child abuse“.

CK: Yes that’s right, look what we are trying to do here is to tackle a taboo topic um around the long term impacts of child abuse and the needs of adult survivors but we are particularly tackling a myth, a pervasive myth that it’s easy to get over child abuse and ASCA, Adults Surviving Child Abuse, is here to tell the Australian public and the government that it isn’t.

RA: Ita Buttrose you know a fair bit about messages and the media and the public do you think the campaign will work?

IB: Well – you can never be absolutely 100% sure, but yes, I would think it will work because we want people to sit up and think about what a person who has been abused might have gone through as a child, think of how would you feel and uh you don’t just get over it. But I think there is this assumption, we have this assumption in our community that you do get over these things. I mean I just heard Bob Montgomery telling you about people who survive bushfires and so on and some of the things that he outlined that happen – post traumatic stress. You don’t just get over bushfires and you don’t just get over child abuse either. And I think people’s eyes glaze over, they think “Oh yes we know children get abused but, you know, they get over it”

RA: Perhaps they don’t want to think about it, it’s such a confronting and terrible thing.

IB: Well it is very confronting and I think the fact that it is so widespread, I mean we estimate that there is at least two million adults…

RA: Two Million?

IB: Yes and that’s conservative because a lot of people don’t come forward and never talk about the abuse that they‘ve endured as a child. And so you know, I think it is about roughly 1 in 4 people in the community..

CK: Yes that’s right.

IB: So you know that if you go and do a pitch or you go into a room and your fundraising that one , two three people in a room, depending on the number, will have been abused and so in a way they have to confront their demons.

RA: You’ve been here before, Ita, In a way, a little over twenty years ago we had the controversial grim reaper ads for aids awareness and you chaired the National Advisory Committee on Aids which approved it. Do you think these ads will be as hard hitting, as controversial?

IB: I certainly think they’ll be as hard hitting, I’m not sure they’ll be quite as controversial as the grim reaper. But Cathy and I were actually talking about the grim reaper when we were waiting to um come into the studio and I said : Yes we did upset a lot of people BUT you know we had a lot of people then ringing up and seeking advice, wanting to have more knowledge, the counseling services ran hot, so it did achieve its objectives and that’s what we are hoping this ASCA campaign is going to do as well.

RA: The television ad is for me the most disturbing. It’s a wedding speech by the father of the bride who makes jokes about his sexual abuse of his daughter, but everybody is very photogenic and happy and apparently unperturbed, including the bride. When that suddenly comes on television, what will viewers make of it, Cathy?

CK: Yes, well I think what we’ve tried to do here is show a very middle class scene and a wedding of course, which is one of the best days, presumably, in someone’s life and yet we have this outrageous dialogue and outrageous acts that have gone on and everyone seems ok with it and that’s exactly what we are trying to tackle – the myth that it’s easy to get over child abuse because it absolutely isn’t and as Ita says, it leaves people struggling, day to day, really to get to first base.

IB: And families do cover it up. It is often hidden in families. That is the other factor that we need to think about. Families sometimes know that abuse is going on but… it threatens the viability of the family therefore everyone just goes along as if it isn’t happening even though they know it is happening.

CK: The reality is that 85% of abuse occurs in the family and 96% is actually perpetrated by someone the child knows. So when you are betrayed by someone who is meant to be caring and nurturing you, ah then obviously that’s going to have very severe consequences.

RA: Is there though any risk that such a confronting or unsettling approach, that you actually alienate people and that they just, they don‘t want to go there?

CK: Well I think this is a topic that people haven’t wanted visited before but what we hope is that this is going to get people talking and thinking about the topic, and get the conversation happening so that adults who are struggling with the impact of the abuse will be able to come forward, get the help they need and we’ll have a receptive audience within the Australian community. And of course, also we are trying to reach government because what we really have here is a very significant societal challenge that has been ignored by government and we need substantial funding and resources to give people the help that they

(Richard Adie here reintroduces guests for people who have tuned in part way through)

RA: Um, TV stations, Ita, do you think they will play this? I mean because all media outlets are being asked to run this free of charge?

IB: Well, it’s after 8.30, er it’s got a restrictive timeslot so it’s after 8:30. We know that there is time on tv channels at the moment and it’s my experience that um most of the television channels are very supportive of charitable causes. Um, I would hope that they would be as generous to this campaign as they have been to other campaigns for which I’ve had my begging bowl out in the past.

RA: Anyone put their hand up and said yeah we’re on board?

CK: We’ve had a very positive response from virtually all the tv networks and similarly across radio and print media . Um because of the classification it is going to be shown late at night, which is appropriate, but er we’ve had a very good, supportive response, because people understand the need, people understand that this message needs to get out there.

IB: Probably should explain, the, it has been presented to the media, it was shown to the media. There were presentations done to the three major groups.

RA: Yeah, er does a positive response though mean an actual commitment to…

CK: Yes, there has absolutely been a commitment across the board.

RA: Oh Ok. Um, I think like many of the ASCA members, you have your own experience of abuse.

CK: Yes.

RA: As someone who has been through… bad things, these ads do you think they, do they resonate, do they strike a chord?

CK: Yes I mean they resonate… they’re obviously upsetting and they will be upsetting for survivors but we have tested them, er both during development and er, prior to release uh with survivors, both internally within ASCA and outside and while people have been confronted, they support what we are doing because for them it is high time that this issue is out there and being spoken about.

RA: It’s actually a kind of knife edge this, you want to confront people who haven’t been abused and who you want to make more aware of it but you don’t want to absolutely smash the people who have.

CK: No, we want to give them permission to speak out and to be heard so that when they do speak up about their abuse that people can listen empathically and validate what they have been through. That er mention of abuse, which has been my experience, doesn’t clear the room, that people will stay and listen and understand and understand that they need to offer their support.

RA: Well here’s another of the radio ads, dealing this time with emotional abuse and there is some strong language.

Transcript of the radio ad. A Birthday speech given by a woman. Everyone remains jocular throughout.

Woman: Thanks everyone. You know, I’ll always have very special memories of my mum…
Interjector: Happy Birthday (inaudible)
Woman: Like when she told me what an ugly child I was
Woman‘s Mother: and you haven’t changed a bit, dear!
W: And remember when you came home, drunk as a lord!
WM: Oh, if I came home at all!
W: No wonder I’m such a slut!
Voiceover: If only it was this easy to get over child abuse. To find out more, visit

RA: It is, I mean that’s not as confronting as the telly one which we haven’t played, but that is a very confronting one too. It’s about something different.

CK: Yes, I mean, we’ve tackled all the different forms of abuse here. We’ve looked at emotional abuse, sexual abuse and physical abuse and basically what ASCA is saying is that these are all forms of childhood trauma and they all need to be acknowledged. Ah, emotional abuse also has an enormous impact on somebody’s self esteem, on their ability to form relationships, to resolve conflict, to find a job, to get an education, so I mean it’s just as significant.

RA: It’s interesting that, Ita, there’s a print ad too with a birthday cake saying “Celebrating 20 years since you said I should have been aborted”. Do you think that possibly with emotional abuse most of all that
people need to be reminded of the long term effects because it’s a less obvious crime?

IB: It appears to be a less obvious crime, doesn’t it, but, but, some of the things in emotional abuse are so hurtful that the person does carry them for ever within them. So I think we are trying to get people to understand that abuse does have many forms and none, no abuse is every easy to get over. If you, if you affect a child’s upbringing by any form of abuse, a child carries the scars forever. And you know, as we say, we can’t bring the childhood back, but we would like to give these children a future.

RA: One of the print ads shows a man in his late, um somewhere in his thirties and he’s ironing in his lounge room and he’s wearing a t-shirt that says, “My uncle raped me when I was 8 and all I got was this lousy t-shirt”, would you publish that in a magazine?

IB: Yes, I would. Yes I would, absolutely I …

RA: Would you have 25 years ago, when you were…

IB: Yes I would have, um, because actually it was when I was running the Women’s Weekly that we ran a thing called the Voice of the Australian Women and in 1978, we published the findings and we actually uncovered, for the first time in this country in a major way, the high level of incest and abuse in our community. It almost, it opened the doors for people to start talking about these issues.

RA: The media buying agency OMD have been doing the negotiating over the media space, and I gather they’re fairly powerful players in the field so they’re able to call in some favors to an extent but it is quite a decision, isn’t it, to weigh up, for a media proprietor, running something that is in the public good but might cause people to flick over the page or change the channel?

CK: Well, I was involved with the presentations to the various media groups and they were very, very supportive of what we are doing and as I said, most of them have come on board in a big way.

RA: Last Thursday I think, you were both part of a deputation that included Professor Freda Briggs…

CK: Yes

RA: …um who’s a highly respected child protection advocate, been on this show before, that went to Canberra to present the ads to a group of Federal politicians and discuss the issues, what kind of response did you get from them?

CK: We got a very positive response, ah we had members and senators there from both sides of the house and we presented the tv ads and we actually took along the actual cake that you talked about, and they were uniformly supportive. We had Brendon Nelson there, we had Peter Garrett there, Bronwyn Bishop, members of PACAN Parliamentarians against Child abuse, Senator Mark Arbib, Senator Helen Kroger and that they uniformly came back in support, they were confronted but yes they totally understood the reason for it, and there were lots of offers of help. So we will be talking again to the Federal Government because obviously this is a topic that we need to have a minister who takes this on as a portfolio responsibility, it needs to become a specific focus of government and we need to see funding that is commensurate with the scale of the problem and its impact.

IB: Because ASCA is completely run by volunteers, you know, and you’ve got all these Australians who need a helping hand and this organization has been working by itself for more than ten years now, I mean I cannot believe, given the enormity of the problem that ASCA does not receive government funding.

CK: And we have developed programmes, we’ve got workshops of proven benefit, we’re doing education and training for health care… practitioners. We’re delivering those programmes but we cannot deliver them with the capacity that they need to be delivered.

RA: Well good luck with it…

CK: Thank you.

RA:… thank you for telling us about it today, my guests have been Dr. Cathy Kezelman, who’s Chair of ASCA, Adults Surviving Child Abuse and Ita Buttrose, who’s Patron and if anyone wants further support after hearing this discussion you could contact ASCA through their website or on 1300 657 380. We’ll have ASCA’s website on ours which is the one that many of you probably know off by heart matters. I’d really like to know what you think about both this problem and the approach because it is confronting – do you think it will shock people into awareness ? Is it ok to make people feel uncomfortable in the interests of gathering support for those who have been made to feel much more than uncomfortable because they have been seriously hurt or do you think these ads will make people switch off or disconnect? We want to know either way. Get in touch …, or give us a ring on…0283331430.


Reminder: This is only in a separate post for length reasons, so comments are closed; please join the discussion at the original post.

Categories: gender & feminism, media, violence

1 reply


  1. “If only”? New child abuse campaign. — Hoyden About Town
%d bloggers like this: