child sexual abuse, more thorny issues
A theme obviously close to my heart in current criminological affairs is the growth in allegations of sexual abuse, especially against children or youths.
My eye was caught a few days ago by a piece, I think it was in The Sydney Morning Herald, about the tragic suicide death of a policeman working in child protection in NSW. The paper described him as working to combat ‘the rising tide of child sexual abuse’, presumably in Australia. Police interviewed felt naturally traumatised by this event, and there was much talk of the stresses and strains of this kind of work.
Of course I feel sympathy, but is there a rising tide of child sexual abuse in Australia? Are more adults becoming child abusers, in spite of the huge amount of adverse publicity such cases attract? In spite of vast increases in policing in the area, with the development of databases of known sexual abusers, the increased networking between states on the matter, the general public being roused to protest against the presence of abusers in their neighbourhoods? Somehow, it doesn’t seem likely. The rising tide the newspaper mentions is a rise of allegations and of reporting. Now, it’s often claimed that such abuse has been under-reported, and I don’t doubt it, but there can be no doubt either that there’s been a rise in false and ‘frivolous’ allegations. A bandwagon effect, if you will. Sometimes this has to do with seeking compensation, but there are all sorts of other motives operating.
A little internet research on this topic has uncovered a lot of material relating to the child pornography investigations conducted Australia-wide (and even world-wide) and being heavily reported on around October last year. It was claimed in an article of October 12 2004 that 700 people were being investigated, and that their arrest was imminent. I’ll see if I can uncover any further developments in this area. Of course, if my (very different) situation is anything to go by, these cases, if they’ve been acted on, will be sub judicae for a while yet.
Another interesting development in this area is the policy adopted by both Qantas and Air New Zealand not to seat men next to unaccompanied children. As this article shows, arguments pro and con are flying around, with some child protection people commending the airlines for their protective policies, while some politicians and lawyers are claiming that the policy is discriminatory (and surely it is) and a contravention of human rights. We’ll see if there’s any follow-up.
Labels: just stuff