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Action needed on child Pornography and abuse

By Cliff Baxter

The fact that two Catholic schoolteachers in Perth were among those charged with child pornography offences during a nationwide police operation will add to the parental unease and insecurity about trusting the care of their children to others.

The teachers are from St Brigid's primary school in Middle Swan and Iona Presentation College in Mosman Park.

The principal of the second school was quick to point out in the media that the material was downloaded in the teacher's home and did not involve the college's computers.

Surely the point is that a person in charge of children has been fantasising over images of children subjected to sexual acts.

It is not a big step to move from fantasy to 'acting out'.

In the addict's fantasy, the child 'welcomes' the acts. All that is needed is for the right circumstances to come about in which the fantasy can become a reality.

The question of 'right' or 'wrong' is irrelevant to the person addicted to child pornography.

It is comfortable for the rest of society to condemn such people as 'monsters' or 'potential monsters'. That way we can ignore our own dark sides, our own lack of sexual and emotional maturity. Those who fantasise about or act out in sexual acts with children are deep-frozen into a grossly immature, infantile and warped state of mind.

Relations with an adult do not serve the addict's needs.

The addict may rise into a position of power - I remember one sexual abuser who was a canon lawyer - and yet the sexual and emotional slice of the personality is perpetually immature.

The defencelessness of the child is an aphrodisiac. An adult would resist, but the child is helpless.

I wish we would stop using the term paedophile, because the word 'philia' means love. There is no love in it; in fact, some sexual abusers kill the victim after satiating the appetite.

The child is a sexual object, not a human being. In this respect, child pornography has this in common with other pornography and sexual fantasies and deviance. The victim is a 'thing' not a person.

None of my attempts to explain child pornography and the sexual abuse of children justifies any of it.

There are no excuses, ever. They are crimes, which must be detected, prevented and punished.

So far there are no cures. One of the reasons is that the perpetrator feels no guilt, no sense of shame much as the psychopath or sadist feels no twinge of conscience.

Australia desperately needs a new national policy on the abuse of children. At the moment there are great differences from State to State.

The sexual abuse of children is a gross abuse of power. It should not surprise us that many of the perpetrators have manoeuvred themselves into positions of power and trust. It is all part of the strategy of the perpetrator awaiting its prey.

Similarly perpetrators 'network' on a global basis.

They can act as philanthropists in poor countries. I remember one Australian I investigated in The Philippines who would sail his yacht close to shore, invite poor parents and their children on board for luxuries - and wait his moment. He was nabbed and sent to jail.

Another Aussie, a priest, would accompany rich socialites on a helicopter packed with champagne and other goodies to view 'ballets' staged by poor village children. He is dead now after doing time.

Australian diplomats and aid workers, visiting businessmen have perfect opportunities in poor countries to do their secret, evil business.

I wonder if those who hold power in the Catholic Church are aware of the sophistication and skill of the perpetrators. I remember many years ago attending an ECPAT (End Child Prostitution in Asian Tourism) conference in Sydney.

The only clergyman present was the Armenian Apostolic Church Archbishop. Not one Catholic monsignor or bishop to be found.

This is not to say that priests on the front line are not fighting this evil. In Thailand an Irish priest flattened an abuser in front of his friends. The man said, you cannot do that you are a priest. Get up so I can flatten you again, said the paddy.

In Olongapo City, Philippines, Father Shay Cullen, a Columban friend of mine, for many years has gone out 'wired' to nab those who run child sex rackets. He pretends to be a businessman looking for sexual release with children. Thanks to modern technology he has them captured on audio and video.

Father Cullen has done great work in rehabilitation of victims, using 'primal scream' therapy to release the pain and anguish.

So the next time someone jeers at your church as if it were a haven for sexual abuse, remember Shay. While some bishops may be fugacious on the subject, men like him are unafraid to stand up and be counted.

There is one aspect of the whole sexual abuse topic that really bothers me. The media is inclined to talk about the lives of victims being 'ruined'. The seeking of compensation also encourages this notion.

To ruin means to destroy, extirpate, eradicate, to do away with by a destructive process, to inflict or bring about great or irretrievable disaster upon a person or a community, to dishonour and demoralise, to spoil, damage and injure in a completely destructive manner.

I cannot accept that a victim has to carry a 'loop tape' in his or her mind for the rest of their lives. They were innocent when the event occurred, and they remain so. It is possible to confront the 'loop tape' and throw it away. This is easier said than done.

More of our resources need to be devoted to the restoration of self-esteem of the victims and the facilitation of their rightful place in society.

Part of the hoarded government money in Canberra could go towards such new projects. Also we need more resources to investigate the causes of this blight upon our churches, schools and institutions and society itself.

There are no rewards for doing nothing and expressing horror about monsters.

We must see, judge and act.

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