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No free lunch with child porn

By Barbara Biggs - posted Tuesday, 13 November 2007

While the Federal Government is spending more than $100 million on efforts to protect Australian families from internet porn, associated problems are popping up like spot fires in a hot wind.

We've already seen that tech-savvy teenagers can bust the government's online porn filters. That knowledge will no doubt spread like a virus (like other information forbidden to teenagers online).

Isn't it better to presume kids will see internet porn and introduce measures to counter it in school sex education programs before sparks of dysfunctional sexuality become a raging social phenomenon?


Adult porn can encourage our children to assume that porn made by men for men (showing only men's pleasure and disrespecting women) is the sexual norm. Child porn has more sinister consequences.

According to experts, there's a whole new breed of child sex offenders who had no predilection for child sex before they became addicted and desensitised to child pornography online.

New Zealand is leaps ahead of Australia when it comes to treating child sex offenders. Nathan Gaunt, who runs the internet offenders section at Auckland's Safe community program, says he is seeing increasing numbers of clients who developed fantasies of child sex by watching it online. 

   "There's a group of clients we're seeing who have none of the usual history of child sex offenders."

Some begin by watching adults having sex online and then kids their own age.

Others are young children being sexually abused, in the home or elsewhere, going online looking for child porn images to "normalise"' what's happening to them. This can re-traumatise and make them believe it is normal. Some of these children will go on to offend.


Another group of young people watching child porn, Gaunt says, are self-mutilators who turn to the internet to shock themselves. They're finding child porn serves the same function as the razor blade.

One convicted offender said what might have shocked him when he started, began to seem normal when he saw younger and younger images of children.

Just at an age where adolescents' sexuality is emerging, when almost anything can become sexualised, they can begin having fantasies about the images they are watching online. Gaunt says some of these young people, currently in treatment, are there because of concern they may go on to offend.

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Article edited by Allison Orr.
If you'd like to be a volunteer editor too, click here.

First published in the Courier Mail on 6 November, 2007.

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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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