Support groups have warned that the upcoming Royal Commission into child sexual abuse could be held back by legal gag orders.

They say some of the most severe cases of abuse might be restricted by a court order or a confidential legal settlement and there are concerns this could stop some victims sharing their stories.

At the Victorian parliamentary inquiry into abuse, the Catholic Church waived any confidential legal agreements that had been entered into by victims of abuse and allowed victims to give evidence.

But Hetty Johnston, founder of the support group Bravehearts, says she does not expect the same thing to happen in the national royal commission.

"I hope that the same thing does happen. I haven't heard it though and I haven't read it anywhere that there's been any kind of statement to that effect from across the board," she said.

"From not just the Catholic Church... there's other institutions and organisations out there who have unpleasant histories... and stories which we can learn things from."

During a press conference last month .

Human Rights Group lawyer Stephen Keim says gag orders could be a "significant barrier" that could stop the royal commission from getting the information it needs.

"We do know that most claims or damages eventually settle and don't go to court. So, all of the circumstantial evidence would indicate to me that there have been quite a lot of settlements over the past 10 or 20 years," he said.

"Logic would suggest to me that some of those cases which have settled are the ones which perhaps have the most valuable information from the commissioner's point of view."

Mr Keim says there is a solution to overriding confidentiality agreements.

"Special legislation could be passed so that the confidentiality agreement remains in place but an exemption is made with regard to information provided to the commission," he said.

"You'd need it to be carefully drafted, it should not be any wider."

The commission's terms of reference are still being worked out.

They were due by the end of this year but are now expected early in 2013.

 

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