Thursday, June 1, 2017

How Australia Is Failing Its Children

So, this past week, my news feed has been blowing up with big-sounding news out of Australia. The claim is that they are about to put a big dent in "child sex tourism", which is such a bad term to be using. Just call it child sexual abuse overseas or something, can we? I mean, you do not want to legitimize that sort of thing.

What Is The Issue?

Anyway, the news is that they are working on a bill to invalidate the passports of child sexual offenders. And that may seem like a good idea, right? I mean, clearly, if there are 20,000 people who are child sexual offenders in Australia, and 800 of them traveled abroad in the last year, it is an issue. You know, even if only half of those travel to SE Asia, and half of THOSE (by now we are talking 200 people, 1% of the total) failed to notify authorities per the requirement of their registration. So, clearly, focusing on maybe 1-2% of those affected is going to make a big impact on child sexual abuse in SE Asia. Something is not right there.

Several outlets have reported the news in a variety of ways:



US News

The Australian

Australia Is Walking Down The Path Of The United States: Tertiary Prevention

I have covered this time and time again: Policies aimed at sex offenders are only ever effective on recidivists, because these policies are what we call "tertiary prevention." They are a way to stop those who have already acted from acting again. This seems important, until you look at the data: Sex offender recidivism is extremely low, and most sexual crimes are committed by first-time offenders, not registrants.

In other words, primary prevention methods, or methods of intervening before a sexual crime takes place, are always going to be far more effective at stopping sexual crime, and tertiary prevention methods are always going to be the least effective way to stop sexual crime. Focusing on sex offenders, which works as a political maneuver but not much else, does not protect children.

Issues In Asia

One of the issues related to this is that child sexual abuse is a very serious problem in Asia, particularly the Southeast portion including Cambodia, India, and the Philippines. One of the problems is claimed to be that people are visiting these countries specifically to sexually abuse children, both boys and girls. While this is certainly an issue, and one that appears to be normal and accepted in these cultures (ie, it happens to everyone, not that people are okay with it), I very much doubt that this issue stems from travelling convicts with sex crimes on their record, because of the statistics I have seen. If that is not an issue in the United States (and the State Department has been on record saying that exact thing), then I doubt that other countries that are less wealthy than the United States have an issue either. Rather, the problem would be those who have no criminal record, some of whom are on business trips and dealing with job-related stress. It would be interesting to do a study on this issue, to see what kind of demographics are at play, but the proposal in Australia, similar to International Megan's Law in the United States, seems based more on politics than it is in actually keeping children safe.

Even The Jacob Wetterling Resource Center Says This

Remember Jacob? Maybe you did not grow up in Minnesota, but much of the sex offender policies we have started with three victims: Jacob Wetterling, Megan Kanka, and Adam Walsh. Jacob Wetterling's sexual assault, kidnapping, and murder (that last revelation came last year) sparked the activism of Patty Wetterling in creating a sex offender registry as an investigative tool for law enforcement. Her activism started the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center, which recently suggested we need to stop spending money on sex offenders and start spending it on prevention.

Pedophiles Are Not The Same As Child Sex Offenders Are Not The Same As Sexual Abusers

As always, the news media is butchering terminology around this issue. A pedophile is not someone who has hurt a child, they are someone with a sexual attraction to children. Most with that attraction never abuse, and most who abuse do not have that attraction. A child sex offender is someone who has been caught for a sexual offense with a child: Caught, not someone who has perpetrated it. For the purposes of the article from Australia, this is an accurate term.

However, when we refer to those that hurt children, it is highly inaccurate to call them child sex offenders because most are not adjudicated (seen in the criminal justice system). Most have never been caught, and most are known and trusted in the community and unlikely to ever be caught. Without using accurate terminology around this issue, we spread myths, like the idea that sex offenders just keep hurting children, or the idea that all pedophiles are a threat to children. Those myths fuel harmful policies that do not protect children, and cause all kinds of collateral damage.

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