As a victim of child sexual abuse, I want to reply to the growing public push to make child sex offenders public.
Contrary to what many would imagine, my strong opinion is against making public registers of this kind.
Wanting to protect children in this way is a natural reaction. After what happened to create Megan’s Law in the US, I was a great believer in making the register public myself. That was until I started learning more about the crime through my own work in campaigning to stop the plague of child sexual abuse in our society.
My books about my own abuse are now used in one of the world’s leading treatment programs for child sex offenders. I speak at child protection conferences about my own story and speak with experts in the field.
In New Zealand recently I told my story to a room of about 40 child sex offenders. There’s a common social myth that offenders of this crime can’t be treated. These men were all clients of a community-based treatment program in Auckland.
The latest international research disputes the popular notion that the condition can’t be managed. The prison where my books are used, in the empathy part of the program, has a recidivism rate of just 5 per cent.
It’s my belief, and that of experts in the field, that the only way to stop child sexual abuse is by treating offenders - stopping it at the source. You may want to lock them up and throw away the key or hang them from the nearest tree, but in our society this is not going to happen.
Given that we need to co-exist, there are certain elements of this crime that should be understood.
For example, Patrick Tidmarsh, a therapist who works in Melbourne with juvenile offenders - and any other specialist therapist in this area - will tell you that one of the triggers for offending, is stress, drama, a death in the family, losing ones job or security, and so on.
Vigilante action against offenders on a public register has already happened in Australia and horrific examples can be found overseas. One where a UK pediatrician’s house was set alight because the person thought the sign meant “pedophile”.
A public register also does not take into account the various types and degree of offending. A flasher who has never touched a child would be targeted equally with a serial child rapist. And yes, our society is awash with such ignorance.
I absolutely agree that registers should be used by police and other authorities to check the suitability for people applying to work with children.
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