By Erin Parke
Police in Western Australia’s north are concerned about an increase in children committing sexual assaults, a trend child advocates say is being seen nationally.
In the 12 months leading up to August 2016, police investigated 18 children for sexual assault, a sharp rise from the same period in 2014, when just three were investigated.
Senior East Kimberley police detective Tania MacKenzie told the ABC she was shocked by the number of reports she was receiving in relation to children molesting other young people, and even forcing themselves on adult women.
“The amount of juveniles that are now starting to get involved in that sexualised behaviour is concerning,” she said.
“We had a period last year when we were investigating more than a dozen allegations made against kids from as young as nine, up to age 17.
“A lot of the time for … sexual penetrations without consent, there have been times which are opportunistic.
“The other thing we’ve found is the same opportunistic behaviour, where a group of young boys are together and they’ve seen a girl walking past that they want to steal something off, but you end up with groping behaviour and inappropriate touching.”
Many of the cases are still before the Children’s Court, and only limited details can be reported to protect the identities of both the alleged offenders and victims.
But the ABC can reveal cases recently investigated include:
- An 11-year-old girl who fell pregnant after having sex with two teenagers, who have both been charged with sexual penetration of a child under 13. The girl is now aged 12, and is raising the baby with the support of family. A paternity test has been done to establish which of the 14 year olds is the father.
- A 13-year-old boy arrested for indecently assaulting a 26-year-old woman in her home, then later raping a 34-year-old woman in the front yard of a property in Broome.
- A 11-year-old boy accused of sneaking up on a school-teacher in a carpark and groping her. Within months he was then arrested for indecently assaulting women in two separate incidents at train stations in Perth.
Detective Sergeant MacKenzie said it was a disturbing trend.
“That sort of behaviour has a huge impact on the victim, and I don’t want to see an escalation in it,” she said.
Sexual abuse by children on rise in Australia
Karen Flanagan, a child protection advocate with Save the Children, has been studying sexual abuse amongst children for more than three decades, and said it is thought problematic behaviour is increasing in Australia.