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Opinion piece: Tougher laws needed to help protect children


The sentencing of a sixth man in Perth’s infamous “Evil 8” paedophile case brought home the fact that child abuse is not a thing of the past it is still happening today. Shine’s Abuse Law Principal Lisa Flynn wrote an impassioned editorial calling on the community not to be complacent and to continue to be vigilant about child protection.

The most disturbing thing is the “Evil 8” used classifieds website Craigslist to find each other, which is a popular website we can all access. They were hiding in plain sight.

Op Ed by Lisa Flynn, as it appears on news.com.au.

MANY people think child sex abuse is a thing of the past.

They think that the community, and our children, are too well educated about the issue for it to go unreported.

But the depravity of Perth’s infamous “Evil 8” took place right on our doorstep, and the men used modern technology to find each other.

It brings it crashing home that despite the learnings of the past, childhood sexual abuse is still happening to our most vulnerable.

In the “Evil 8” case the father of an 11-year-old West Australian girl used the online advertising platform Craigslist to pimp out his daughter to degenerate paedophiles.

A sixth man has been jailed this week over the abuse that went on for years, through an internet site we all can access.

Currently, Australia has a Royal Commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse and we have heard many stories from thousands of survivors of abuse within Australian institutions, like orphanages, boarding houses and schools. These are brave courageous stories but most are from a long time ago.

I think people would like to believe that was then and this is now and surely things have changed, surely our kids will be safe but this is misguided and simply isn’t true.

My question is: for the poor child in the “Evil 8” case, in a society where we are supposed to be so aware of the scourge of sexual abuse, could we have stopped this sooner?

Were there signs of the abuse? If so, where were her teachers who have mandatory reporting responsibilities? Where were the rest of the family? Her friends? Doctors? The rest of us?

My intention is not to lay blame on others after the fact because we know that child sexual abusers are cunning, their methods of control are powerful and their threats are targeted and heinous.

ALARM BELLS

Moving forward we need to be reminded that often in child victims of sexual abuse there are signs that should ring alarm bells — a sudden change in demeanour, inappropriate sexualised behaviour, withdrawal from the world, a deep fear and distrust of authority.

And we must all understand that it is everyone’s place to speak out.

We must work hard to make the reporting processes easier and we must empower all in the community with the knowledge they will be listened to.

We also need to fix the laws in relation to punishment of convicted paedophiles.

Too often we hear of punishments that are too lenient when the survivor of the abuse gets a life sentence.

We need courageous law makers and judges, police and prosecutors to do all they can to protect our kids.

TOUGHER LAWS

One of the “Evil 8” was out on bail and found living 60 metres from a child care centre. How did this happen?

We need tighter bail and parole conditions so that convicted child rapists don’t get easy access to other kids in circumstances where they are not rehabilitated, and we need our governments to do more to rehabilitate offenders so that when they are released, the don’t go back to their previous behaviour.

We need to keep the current Royal Commission spotlight on institutional responses but we also need to broaden our lens.

Abuse in institutions is only a part of the problem, it is now happening more often within the home and family.

Perhaps we need to look again at the education campaign for our kids about what they can do if this is happening to them. Maybe we all need a reminder on how to respond if we suspect that this is happening.

And if it does happen we need to wrap all of our arms around the victim of the abuse.

We need to ensure support, counselling, treatment, love and care are all easily available. We need to give them a voice again.

As all the media focuses on the monsters in the Evil 8, my thoughts are with the victim — who I hope with all my heart is a survivor.

Written by Shine Lawyers on February 6, 2017. Last modified: September 6, 2018.

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