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Your child next?

By Barbara Biggs - posted Monday, 10 July 2006

I’ve recently been contacted by half a dozen radio programs wanting to talk to me about how parents can keep their children safe following the tragic death of Sofia Rodrigez-Urrutia-Shu in Perth.

I can only ask: are you really happy if I tell you how to protect your child - supposing even that I could - if instead of your loved one, it ends up being a child next door, down the road or in the next city?

The Perth killing was random. This time it wasn’t your child, it was someone else’s. You can shadow your child’s every move, but if you take your eyes of him or her for a second, will your child be next?


We need to stop thinking of how we can protect our child, and start thinking about what we can do to protect every child. The only effective way we can truly protect our own child is by making sure, as a community, we do everything we can to keep all children safe.

And what is that?

Men who kill and molest children don’t suddenly wake up one day and decide to offend. Usually there’s a history, a story, the beginning of such behaviour: most often rooted in family dysfunction, that puts them in the line of sight of “the system” long before any serious damage to another occurs.

This is where we need to be directing resources: to stopping this problem at the source, with offenders themselves.

When my first book about my own abuse was published, In Moral Danger, I received an email from a psychologist who was treating a ten-year-old Aboriginal boy who had been fed cask wine and buggered from the age of four to six. There was only enough funding for three months of treatment.

“This boy has so much anger I know he won’t get the help he needs until he murders someone at 15. If it’s not murder, it will be something equally horrific. He has all the signs,” the therapist wrote.


Last week I received an email from a convicted child sex offender. He’s 42 now. When he first realised he had a predilection for children, in his early 20s, he said if there had been any way he could have sought treatment without risking jail, he would have.

But there wasn’t then and still isn’t. Three ruined lives later, having been convicted last year, he’s now receiving treatment. The gestation of these crimes was long. Very long.

Unfortunately, in this country, treatment is generally only available after a crime has been committed. In poor Sofia’s case, it is too late. But really, in all cases, this is too late.

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An edited version of this was first published in the Canberra Times and The Courier-Mail on July 4, 2006.

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About the Author

Barbara Biggs is a former journalist and author of a two-part autobiography, In Moral Danger and The Road Home, launched in May 2004 by Peter Hollingworth and Chat Room in 2006. Her latest book is Sex and Money: How to Get More. Barbara is convenor of the National Council for Children Post-Separation,

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