Australian historian Brother Barry Coldrey CFC, has attributed sexual abuse in Christian Brothers institutions to widespread corporal punishment that was part of a culture of violence engendered by post-war economic hardship.
   Writing in current issue of the Irish Jesuits' review 'Studies', he said that the tough regimen in the institutions, and the caning of the bare buttocks that was a part of it, 'encouraged sexual abusers and provided a cover for their activities'.
   He writes: "The institutions were sparse places. What was not realised at the time was that certain forms of physical punishment and certain orphanage routines blurred the boundaries between physical and sexual abuse."
   Brother Coldrey sees heavy reliance on corporal punishment as a coping mechanism in a context that was both severe and chaotic. "The institutions were filled with large numbers of boisterous youngsters and teenagers, all left to the care of relatively few staff, none of whom were trained professionally for child care. The harassed staff readily resorted to corporal punishment as the only control mechanism they knew - aware that this form of discipline was legally and socially sanctioned."
   He argues that sexual abuse was often caused by the common practice of caning on the bare buttocks, which 'trespassed on one of the body's more private and erogenous zones where a high concentration of nerve endings led directly to sexual nerve centres'.


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