Imagine a health system that only had an emergency department. Imagine the needless suffering. Imagine the nurses and doctors who would be completely overwhelmed providing support to people with preventable diseases.
And so it is with some of our greatest societal problems – like child sexual abuse. We have made great strides in this country in raising awareness and creating a community that wants to take action.
We are investing more and more in the police response and the support services for victims of abuse. But how much are we actually doing to address what causes people to perpetrate abuse in the first place?
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Child sexual abuse is rightly considered by our society as its most heinous crime – and so the idea of exploring why people do it feels sickening, right?'
But if we are fair dinkum about preventing children from being abused, we must confront and address the causes of perpetration.
I have been in the unique position of having worked with victims, and also paedophiles, when I was given the statutory position of being the Queensland Public Guardian.
Some people are shocked to know there are individuals out there who actually want help to prevent or stop themselves from offending. Many of these people are young themselves. My experience has really challenged my previous stereotypes of an offender both online and in our community.
My grave concern is that members of the community picture a child sexual abuser as someone who preys on children from outside the family or online.
However, the majority of child sexual abuse that is reported occurs in the home. And this is where lockdown has both incubated and exacerbated the issue. Many perpetrators of child abuse online are also abusing children in the home.
COVID-19 has seen a shocking rise in child sexual abuse. Did you know that reports of online child sexual abuse in Australia increased by 122 per cent during the first three months of coronavirus lockdowns?
There is no doubt that people who perpetrate abuse are exploiting the fact there are more children online doing their schooling. But there is also a different act of child abuse offending that has rampantly increased. People seeking out child abuse images increased.
Platforms that support the distribution of child abuse images were so over-burdened by users during the start of lockdowns that they crashed.
The victims are children all over the world not just those being groomed while schooling on computers in Australia.