Child sexual assault campaigner Damian De Marco has praised a new inquiry into historic sex crimes in the ACT and urged victims to harness the opportunity to speak up and seek justice.
The former Marist College Canberra student welcomed Monday's announcement police would launch an investigation into sexual abuse offences committed within ACT institutions and said it would not be a case of "too little, too late" for many victims.
Operation Attest was sparked by the child sex abuse royal commission, as well as recent changes to territory laws which cleared the path for certain sex offences which took place between 1951 and 1985 to be prosecuted.
Previous anomalies in the legislation meant victims could not seek justice through the courts unless the crimes were reported within one year of the offence.
He bravely became the public face of the royal commission case investigating the institutional response of the Marist Brothers to allegations of child sex abuse against two of its brothers - the only person to testify without anonymity.
His evidence related to an assault in 1981 on him by Brother Kostka Chute, who was later found guilty of molesting boys at the school and jailed.
Mr De Marco expected there would be a mixed response to the new probe but believed it would ultimately be helpful for victims who chose to report abuse.
"I've seen victims helped greatly by inquiries and the royal commission."
"More than anything it's very helpful, it's very empowering. There's a lot of power play that happens with abuse."
"I realise for some people it stirs up all those emotions, but more than anything it helps you know there are people who are interested in the problems and want to address them."
Victims often took years to speak up and many never would because "a terrible stigma" remained around sexual abuse, Mr De Marco said.
"There are so many reasons why victims wouldn't come forward: it's all done in secret, it's one person's word against the other and they're worried they won't be believed."
Mr De Marco said the impacts of sexual abuse were "long and protracted" and often manifested as anger, violent behaviour and distrust of authority in victims.
"It's insidious, it's pretty horrible in what it does. I've learned from the royal commission it has effects which can last a lifetime.
"I think with guys generally they put this stuff aside and think they can move on, but research shows it sits inside their head and it doesn't go away.
"The long-term effects vary all the way from suicide to trashed lives."
Mr De Marco advised victims who were reluctant to report offences that they could report incidents of abuse anonymously through Operation Attest.
"There's power in numbers and just through speaking up they can really help other people.
"It all helps to try and solve the problems for the future."
He hoped to use his public profile to build online and social media platforms that would help lobby for widespread change concerning responses to sexual abuse in organisations.