“Francene Reo’s stepdad told her it was therapy. In 1976, the Newcastle Supreme Court found it was child sexual abuse.
“At that time, charging someone for incest was so unusual “they didn’t even know how to word the charges”, she said. Reo’s stepdad spent five years behind bars for his years of severe offending, which took place for 10 years when she was aged six to 16. She didn’t speak about it for decades.
“I felt that if I’d gone public in those days, that I would have been seen as a nutcase,” Reo said. “People were so unable to discuss their own sexuality, let alone confront little children being sexually abused.”
“At the time paedophilia was believed to be rare. But according to University of New South Wales research published on Monday, there is nothing rare about the sexual abuse of children. Described by its authors as the largest study of its kind ever undertaken globally, the study, titled Identifying and understanding child sexual offending behaviour and attitudes among Australian men, surveyed a nationally representative sample of 1,945 Australian men and found 9.4% endorsed at least one of five behaviours that the report authors characterised as sexual offending. That would equate to about one million Australian men….
“The report found nearly one in six men (15.1%) had sexual feelings towards under 18s. It reported that child offenders are also prolific consumers of deviant or violent adult pornography, signalling to Salter that “the overall porn-saturated online environment does have a role to play in sexual harm to children”.
“The findings add to groundbreaking research into victims of child abuse published in April. The landmark Australian child maltreatment study found that about 23.7% of Australians had experienced child sexual abuse; about 8.7% had been forced into sex. More than one in three Australian girls experience child sexual abuse, it found.
“The UNSW research found two distinct cohorts of child sex offenders: One which is motivated by sexual interest in children, and a second group who may be offending for situational or opportunistic reasons.
“It also revealed the existence of a large group of undetected men who Salter called “specialist” offenders: otherwise pro-social, well-liked, high status men who repeatedly groom and then abuse children without detection. The study showed they tend to have higher incomes, are more likely to be married and are more likely to work in a field giving them access to children.
“He said governments – and social media providers – need to do more to uncover their offending. ‘We have commercial products that are actively facilitating child sexual exploitation,’ he said.
“The study also found that perpetrators were also more likely to have been themselves the victim of sexual abuse or had adverse experiences as a child, to have anxiety, depression and binge drinking.
Stop It Now! Australia, the country’s only helpline for people sexually attracted to children, helped develop the study. It found that about one-third of the men with sexual feelings towards children wanted help.” (continues)
SOURCE: The Guardian, by Andrew Messenger, 19 November 2023. PHOTO: John Williams/Alamy in The Guardian, same topic, 4 August 2023