This article was published in the Australian Alternative Dispute Resolution Bulletin 2016 Vol 3 No3.

by Kerry Hogan-Ross 

 

“Honesty, frankness and well-meaning people can get to a settlement,” says US mediator Federal Judge Michael R Hogan1 in the context of the 2012 Spokane, Washing- ton diocese US$48 million settlement with victims of child sexual abuse (survivors).

I would add “informed” to the qualities required to conduct a mediation involving child sexual abuse.

Hogan J, a non-Catholic, who favoured a leather jacket and casual clothes for mediation also said “the overall idea is of healing for the victims and the church”.2

The concept of healing, or reconciliation, is the single most important facet of mediating child sex abuse claims and it is this concept that distinguishes these types of mediations from other disputes.3
Mediation — the practicalities
Mediators do not operate in a vacuum and the best approach to a mediation varies for each survivor. There is no one size fits all. Before the mediation the mediator receives a bundle of documents and position papers that have often been exchanged between the parties. The bundle will include documents that reveal personal details of the survivor including their experiences, reli- gion, ethnicity, sexuality, mental and physical condition. From these documents a mediator can glean a lot about the survivor. The documents can be used to develop an understanding of what is likely to be most important to the survivors and how they would like to be treated. If the material does not provide an adequate picture of the survivor, the mediator might seek more information before embarking on the mediation.

Child sexual abuse mediations tend to follow a familiar pattern. In the first instance the mediator meets separately with the survivor and their team […]