Study challenges the notion of the family as a safe-haven

(A note about this article: The reasoning for posting this article is not to sow fear and mass paranoia. Statistically, the chances of any particular father sexual abusing their children is extremely low.  The purpose is to inform parents that this type of abuse does happen, and for those parents who may have real reason to suspect their spouse of parental child sexual abuse, to investigate, and if need be, act on it.)

STRANGER-danger is a myth and a “plague” in the anti-paedophile debate that ignores the dangers posed by biological fathers, the Commissioner for the Victims of Crime Michael O’Connell has warned.

Mr O’Connell was commenting on a study by the Australian Institute of Criminology of 213 parental child sexual offenders, which found despite a belief that predator stepfathers were more likely to commit offences, there was little difference between them and paedophile biological fathers.

Almost half of the Australian offenders studied were biological fathers, the researchers found.

It is estimated that between 10 and 15 per cent of child sex offending is committed by a parent.

“The study debunks the stranger-danger myth that too often plagues the debate on sex offences and sex offenders,” Mr O’Connell told The Advertiser.

“It also challenges the notion of the family as a safe-haven – it is not for too many children.”

Mr O’Connell said the findings of the study were very important because children who informed on their biological fathers were often not believed.

Also, only 7 per cent of the predators, less than one in ten, abused people outside the family, making it difficult for them to be caught.

“Child-victims need to be heard and believed but also never blamed,” Mr O’Connell said. “They need to be told that they are believed, although there might be some changes in their family’s life thereafter.

UniSA child protection expert Dr Freda Briggs said the vast majority of sexual crimes against children occur in the family home and social environment.

“In our (recent) research with male victims, we found that only 26 out of 200 tried to make a report and only one succeeded,” she said. “No-one wanted to believe them.”

Dr Briggs said added damage was done to children when mothers ignored the victim when they informed on fathers.

“Significant harm results when the mother ignores the abuse,” she said.

“Usually it is because she is emotionally or financially dependent on the abuser or she was abused in childhood and accepts it as something that has to be tolerated.”

Dr Briggs welcomed the AIC study and called on South Australian authorities to record and make public the nature of the relationship between the children and the abuser.

“A problem is that Families SA and, indeed, the national statistics published annually in Child Protection Australia, do not show how many offences involve fathers, stepfathers, de facto parents or mothers,” she said.

Republished 2014 story in The Advertiser.

Posted in media, news-articles.

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