Often I write sensitive content. In this case I am discussing sexual abuse against children. Even if you feel brave, or have moved beyond a previous trauma, I would ask you not to read this post. The old idea of reliving past experiences to move past them has proven to be inneffective, and this post may contribute to bringing up issues you have moved beyond. Additionally, this post and upcoming post I would ask you not to share widely elsewhere for the same reason.
This semester I bit off more than I could chew. I began with the notion of discussing the untold and taboo stories of Sydney. Prompted by the Royal Commission into the sexual abuse cases in Australia, and knowing my family members were in the Salvation Army at the time of the offences, I started to look into what was being communicated.
The perpetrators of the crimes were my first target. I, like most people, find their actions horrendous. But there are so many people involved from those who allowed the offences to happen, to those who went as far as to cover it up.
There is another side to the story though which equally appalled me though. The way sex offenders are treated is disgusting. In prison society accepts a type of vigilante justice, from prisoners against sex offenders, and to the prison guards allowing it to happen. It is taken further by the newspapers who discus this treatment as if it is acceptable, and ultimately to those who read.
This, I believe, cannot be the end result. Prison is surely about rehabilitation. Sex offenders though are treated in ways though that I can only liken to torture practices.
Knowing stories of those who have been hurt by these crimes directly, or the families, or the police and services who deal with these crimes, it is difficult to yet imagine a way forward to gain empathy for those who have committed the crimes.
So the starting point is then to understand paedophilia like as a disease. The feelings associated with paedophilia are difficult, near impossible to communicate, and because of the stigma so heavily ingrained in the issue, nightmarish to treat. There are few precedents for treatment for those who have offended. In part because the people do not seek help and come forward.
The problem of looking at paedophilia only as a crime hinders treatment options. This then puts children only at more risk. The challenge is, without the government, media, and society all on board nothing will happen.
Tackling the issue, laws about censorship became trivial and didn’t matter, we are quite free technically to express our opinions. Instead it is the stigma around the issue means people will not discus it.
This isn’t true for the whole world. Virtuous pedophiles, young pedophiles, and dont offend (dot) org, are communities that work in this sphere to treat non-offenders. In fact the Germans have gone as far as having televised campains. But it openness is certainly available of Australia, and to simply adapt the approach would be misguided.
Right now our offering in Australia is simply this. We teach children stranger danger and how to behave as they grow up, but never address the underlying causes and issues of paedophilia.
So I tried to imagine if we could do something to change paedophilia not by protecting children, but by treating paedophiles and talking about the crime before it happens rather than after. Not only empowering the unempowered, but additionally challenging assumptions to reconnect people, as they are people not monsters, with their fundamental human rights. Something I will begin to explain to you over the next couple of weeks ...