Last year we exposed global dancewear company California Kisses for posting sexualised images of underage and even pre-teen girls on their Instagram – images that attracted hundreds of comments of a sexual nature from adult men which CK failed to even moderate.
But it seems the message is not getting through. Yet another dance wear company (which also sells swimwear) is regularly posting sexualised photos of underage girls on its popular social media account. Frilledneck Fashion is an Australian company trading online internationally.
Note how the young girls pictured are dressed, styled and posed. Even when dressed in dancewear, girls are not depicted dancing (see the image above of the girl in red lying supine with an arched back.) Clothing is designed to emphasise certain parts of the body, drawing attention to adult, sexual features children do not yet possess. Girls replicate poses and sultry facial expressions that would be common in sexy adult female models. There are many other examples of even younger girls we have chosen not to show.
It is important to remember also that these images are carefully constructed. Every detail is deliberate, designed this way to sell a product. This is not about girls’ self-expression, this is about adults directing them children in costuming, how to pose and how to look at the camera. This is not how children look playing at the beach.
This comes in the wake of advice from E-Safety Commissioner Alistair MacGibbon, who warned that images on children online were increasingly being co-opted and misused by paedophiles. Does Frilledneck Fashion not care about where images of its young models might end up?
According to the American Psychological Association’s 2007 Task Force into the sexualisation of girls, sexualisation occurs when:
a person’s value comes only from his or her sexual appeal or behavior, to the exclusion of other characteristics;
a person is held to a standard that equates physical attractiveness (narrowly defined) with being sexy;
a person is sexually objectified — that is, made into a thing for others’ sexual use, rather than seen as a person with the capacity for independent action and decision making; and/or
sexuality is inappropriately imposed upon a person
Sexualisation is not the same as healthy sexuality, or natural, age appropriate curiosity and discovery. Child directed play, dress ups and trying on mum’s lipstick and high heels does not constitute sexualisation. There are several common misconceptions or defences for sexualisation we’ve addressed below.
“Sexualisation is in the eye of the beholder”
Micki Wood, mother of US child beauty pageant star Eden Wood, made this same argument in response to child advocates and health professionals who spoke out against sexualising and exploitative pageants, claiming that if an individual looks at a child and thinks ‘sex’ the problem is with them. At this time Eden was six years old and famous for her Vegas showgirl routine.
This notion that viewers are simply choosing to view children though a sexualised lens is a deliberate misrepresentation of the issue, one that obscures reality in such a way as to let advertisers and marketers off the hook completely, as if deliberately contrived ads somehow happened by accident and viewers are seeing something that isn’t there. This argument is either disingenuous or indicates a lack of understanding into the significant global body of research into the harms of sexualisation. (See our resources page for more.)
“Critiquing sexualisation = shaming girls”
A common refrain is that to acknowledge sexualised clothing is to ‘shame’ girls for their choices. The fact is, the sexualisation of girls has very little to do with girls choices, and much more to do with adults- companies, advertisers and marketers- whose financial interests are at stake, as can be seen here- corporations who make choices to sexualise girls for their own financial gain.
Calling out retailers that manufacture and sell padded push-up bras and g-strings for pre-pubescent girls, clothing and underwear with sexualised and suggestive slogans and merchandise embedded with the logo of global pornography brand Playboy is not shaming girls. It is holding these companies accountable.
“Critiquing sexualisation = victim blaming”
Another accusation from sexualisation deniers is that accurately labelling children’s clothing as sexualised is tantamount to arguing children are inviting sexual attention or even sexual assaults from grown men. Identifying sexualisation and outlining the harms for girls is in no way suggesting girls or victims are responsible for crimes against them. What the research does indicate, however, is that the sexualisation of children may play a role in ‘grooming’ children for abuse.
Dr Emma Rush, co-author of Corporate Paedophila report said, “Premature sexualisation also erases the line between who is and is not sexually mature, and as such, may increase the risk of child sexual abuse by undermining the important social norm that children are sexually unavailable.”
The American Psychologial Association concluded that “Ample evidence testing these theories indicates that sexualisation has negative effects in a variety of domains, including cognitive functioning, physical and mental health, sexuality and attitudes and beliefs.”
We contacted Frilledneck in early June with our concerns. So far they have ignored us.
Time for a new code of practice to stop sexualisation of girls in an unregulated industry
In 20 years of involvement in Australia’s dance industry, I have seen first hand the impacts on girls and young women, as a result of the imposition of hyper-sexualised messages – from broader culture of course. But also from within the industry I love. Too many girls are expected to engage with adultified choreography, costuming, music and language. From body weight obsession and appearance dissatisfaction, to ‘yo yo’ dieting, anxiety and other poor mental health outcomes, the consequences of growing up in an environment conditioned by the sexualised pressures young dancers absorb, will only become more prevalent if we don’t act soon.
In April 2015, the first of a series of articles I had written surrounding the sexualisation of children in the industry was published here on MTR. Titled ‘The Sexification of Young Dancers Inside Australia’s Booming Dance Studio Scene’, the article gained traction quickly – reaching thousands of readers nationwide and attracting mainstream media attention. It was said to have generated the largest and most widespread discussion so far on the state of children’s dance education. What was originally a final assignment to complete my Journalism degree, it so very nearly was filed to collect dust and remain unread before I sent it on to MTR, in the hope she might be interested.
The article’s publication has now lead to my involvement in a national call for a total overhaul of the industry as it relates to children.
With over 418,000 children enrolled in dance across the country, the industry is quite possibly the largest unregulated child-related industry in Australia. Detrimental consequences of the industry’s self-regulatory state are reflected in the sentencing of prominent Sydney dance teacher Grant Davies who has pled guilty to 47 charges of child pornography and sexual abuse.
Dance educators have a significant responsibility to actively safeguard the physical, mental and emotional wellbeing of all children within their care. It is in recognition of this responsibility, and my passion to see our young people thriving in the safest, most positive and supportive environments possible, that I have written a proposed ‘Code of Practice’ for dance educators and service providers. The code is an ethical framework designed to specifically combat sexualisation and harmful messages in children’s dance education, and empower teachers to adopt practices that holistically safeguard the well-being of our young people.
Such a policy does not exist. A governing authority to implement a policy in the 6,000 studios across Australia does not exist, and the Department of Education do not have a dance-specific policy in place for their in-school programs.
Until this day arrives, I and other concerned people have launched an association to bring this proposed policy to the Australian community. KidsPace Code Incorporated was set up in NSW March 2 and has developed the KidsPace Dance Code of Practice, which is included in a submission to the current NSW State Parliament inquiry into Sexualisation of Children and Young People. With the endorsement of well known and respected psychologist Steve Biddulph AM and a committee of passionate people from a range of sectors including education, welfare and child safety, we are excited to play our part in ensuring young dancers are thriving in positive, safe and supportive environments.
Parents, studio directors, teachers, school principals and anyone involved in the provision of children’s dance education can head to the website and register their interest to view the code.
Jemma Nicoll is a UTS Journalism graduate and freelance writer. She directs Inspire Creative Arts, a dance school in Sydney’s Sutherland Shire and is involved in mentoring and self-esteem development programs for girls.
A world without rapists would be a world in which women moved freely without fear of men. That some men rape provides a sufficient threat to keep all women in a constant state of intimidation, forever conscious of the knowledge that the biological tool must be held in awe, for it may turn to weapon with sudden swiftness born of harmful intent … Rather than society’s aberrants or ‘spoilers of purity’, men who commit rape have served in effect as front-line masculine shock troops, terrorist guerrillas in the longest battle the world has ever known.
—Susan Brownmiller, Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape (1975, p. 15)
Living in a rape culture means adjusting to being hyper-vigilant about male violence to the point where risk management becomes second nature. It means living with the continuum of male sexual violence on a daily basis, from creepy and threatening looks and comments in the street, home and workplace, to online rape threats, attempted assault and actual assault. It means inhabiting a paradoxical space where the rape and murder of women is prohibited but everywhere eroticised and the object of laughter.
To take just one example of rape culture, the globally popular American fantasy series Game of Thronesfeatures a blond child bride being continually raped by her warlord husband. “But it’s all ok because a prostitute slave teaches the thirteen-year-old princess super sexy sex skills, and she proceeds to blow the warlord’s mind so throughly [sic] that they fall in love,” notes feminist Laurie Penny (2012)
Many men, when asked a simple question about why male domination exists, reply that it is because men are stronger than women. This answer seems innocuously simple-minded, but the explanatory statement that ‘men have power over women because they are physically stronger than women’ also means ‘men can rape and kill women if they want to’. There is no point replying that it is illegal to rape and kill women. The law does not come into it at all. It is as though the legal prohibitions against male sexual violence are little more than the sales pitch of a corporation eager to hide its criminal intent behind images of satisfied customers.
The majority of victims do not report, and the majority of rapists walk free (Miller et al., 2011; Fayard and Rocheron, 2011; Belknap, 2010). As the title of a 2013 articleby Nigel Morris in The Independent puts it: ‘100,000 assaults. 1,000 rapists sentenced. Shockingly low conviction rates revealed. Latest statistics also show difficulties in persuading victims to report attacks’. Although media attention on particular rapes occasionally stirs up public debate, these rapes are the exception to the norm simply because victims have broken their silence and the criminal justice system has been involved. One cannot but wonder how many people know of, or are friends with, men who have sexually assaulted women and children, and yet do nothing about it.
It has only been since the 1960s and 1970s that most western women have been able to work outside the home without needing permission from their husbands/owners. It is only in the last few decades that marital rape has been recognised in some nations as a human rights violation. In Australiamarital rape was outlawed as late as 1991 (Temkin, 2002). As late as 1993 the United Nations published the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women. In many countries young girls are still forced to marry their rapists.
Raping women and children continues to be a lethal form of oppression in advanced neo-liberal democracies. Victims of male sexual violence continue to be branded as ‘damaged goods’ and re-abused in the criminal justice system to such an extent that the majority of victims simply give up and opt out of the legal process (Fisher et al., 2000; Fisher et al., 2003). Lawyers are often reluctant to take on rape cases because they know they are difficult to win. Child victims of male sexual violence are subjected to ritualistic humiliation in courts (Taylor, 2004). Child pornography victims are subjected to malicious attacks by bourgeois academics in high-ranking American legal journals (Lollar, 2012).
Young women, who sustain the majority of sexual assaults, not only endure court-licensed abuse, but they are now also bullied online for daring to speak out. Raped girls are urged to kill themselves by pack verbal abuse that is all too often uttered as mocking jokes (Salek, 2013). Victim-blaming has become lethal.
In a novel by feminist academic Yvette Rocheron, Double Crossings (2009), a mother decides to commit suicide after she is brutally raped by a cousin, knowing that, if she lives, the crime will destroy her family and her life. “For her loved ones, a sublime act of love … She would go down knowingly … [T]he vitriolic defacement of women, the misguided abortions, the rapes. She was a thousand years old” (p. 271). There is no humour in this novel as the mother leaps to her death, merely a solemn awareness of the barbarism of a crime against women that leaves the murderous poison of social death in her body.
I have lost count of how many women—friends, students, colleagues, relatives, and acquaintances—have told me they have been raped. All of the rapists have gotten away with it while the women are burdened with years of unspeakable shame and self-hatred, or shunned by their families for daring to speak out about male relatives who raped them. The stories involve horrendous child sexual abuse, rape at knifepoint, abductions in vans, group rapes, women being drugged and raped, rapes by colleagues, partners and ex-partners. A woman who was raped by her grandfather told me recently that it took her 30 years to understand that her body belonged to her. Another woman, a feminist activist and journalist, after going public about being raped at knifepoint, was subjected to online abuse along the lines that she should be ‘raped with a box cutter’. When I read the comment about the box cutter it took a few moments to sink in that the man who had posted the comment was saying that he wanted to butcher her vagina with a knife. Not surprisingly, many women keep quiet about being sexually assaulted. And all of this occurs in a world in which women who speak out about male sexual violence, or any form of male domination, are routinely subjected to online rape threats (Lewis, 2011). Again, the majority of threats never result in prosecution and women are often told to ‘get over it’, ‘toughen up’ or ‘lighten up’ or have sex with a man. ‘She just needs a good fuck’, is how the all too familiar saying goes … Oddly, having sex with men is meant to dispel fear of being raped, as though women who have an accurate assessment of the dangers of rape culture are hysterics who just need sex. The idea that women enjoy being raped still persists (Suarez and Gadalla, 2010); and if women are assumed to enjoy being raped then their protests about being harmed by rape can easily be reduced to a farce.
More about Abigail’s book and how to order can be found here.
Last month I posted a piece by a woman named Carrie, who was sold by her father into prostitution at the age of 9. She wrote about our amazing reunion 14 years after I was involved in attempts to secure asylum for her and her unborn child. I said then: “Her story is remarkable. Her suffering indescribable. Her resilience and love for life unmatchable.” Since our reunion Carrie has started to join me in my talks to students. Her story of survival and rising above great suffering, has blown the girls away (more on that later). Today she posted a piece on her blog, which took special courage. I wanted you to see how brave she is and hopefully be inspired to rise above personal difficulties and no longer be burdened by things of the past. You can also read her extraordinary poem ‘Sold’ here.
LITTLE GIRL LOST – IF I KNEW THEN WHAT I KNOW NOW
Last week I shared my story for the first time so candidly with a group of grade 10 girls. A few days prior to the school visit I had written my most vulnerable blog entry but hadn’t the courage to publish it. I figured, if I was brave enough to share it with the girls and their response was favorable, I would ‘dare greatly’ and put it out there. In my wildest dreams, their reaction to me could never be as astounding as it was. They have been so affirming in their acceptance of me that I found in them the courage I was lacking. So as promised to the girls and to myself, here is my most vulnerable piece to date.
I often wonder if men and boys ever consider the damage their unwanted hand on the unwilling bodies and souls of girls does to us. Would they still abuse, degrade and objectify even if they knew the end result 100% of the time at the very least leads to shame? And at the worse leads to irreparable damage to the girl’s self worth. How she views her body. How it impacts her sexuality and spirituality. Impairs her ability to trust and be intimate and many times threatens her desire to even live?
Shame is a topic I have become somewhat of an expert on during the course of my life. I remember the first time I felt it, how it consumed me, how it made me view myself as unloveable and how it kept me disconnected and silent for years…
…As a child, I walked around in a state of such dissociation, I often wondered what it felt like to be alive. I would watch other kids play while I sat on the sidelines pulling out my eyelashes and have no ability to connect with their joy. Other times, I would somehow manage to play but it was never really me doing it. Even when I laughed, a sound and expression so foreign to me in my early years, I remained so far away that I became the silent observer to the shell of myself that showed up every day in the world to represent the facade.
As a teenager, I got even better at sending the “representative” girl out into the world. My humor became the lie that would hide the truth of my pain. I knew what I was hiding no person would understand, and so for years I stayed silent. Out of fear of the threats I received and most probably because I believed at a deep level I was as bad as I was told. And so I would try to be as good as my damaged soul allowed. But anger consumed me, shame blinded me to my own potential and I hated myself for existing. I hated my mother for hating me, I hated my sister for all the times I protected her and I hated my father for destroying my soul daily before the divorce and then every other weekend there after. But mostly I hated life for not ever giving me a chance to become the person I could have been had it been different for me. Read full post on Carrie’s blog ‘Paving the road to freedom’.
Kristina Brenner, Manager of Bankstown Child Sexual Assault Service and Bankstown Women’s Health Centre, asked if I would reprint her Telegraph article on my blog. I am happy to do so. If you’d like to join the campaign against possible cut backs to these vital services, please contact Kristina, email: Kristina.Brenner@sswahs.nsw.gov.au
PLEASE note: This article contains references to child sexual assault that may disturb some readers.
Where can child sexual assault victims go to for help if no organisations can take them in? This is the question on everyone’s lips as the rumour grows that the funding of 11 specialist child sexual assault services in NSW may be at risk.
Because of proposed state budget cuts, at least one of these essential services, Wollongong West St Centre, has been allegedly recommended for de-funding. The fate of 10 other child sexual assault services, including four in western Sydney, is also unclear.
If you take funding away from these services, there will be nowhere for many victims of child sexual assault to go. The consequences for children, families and whole communities will be incalculable.
Since the government is now enjoying an unexpected $680 million budget surplus, do we really want to risk going down that path?
There are 11 non-government organisations in NSW that provide child sexual assault services under an umbrella called Child and Adolescent Sexual Assault Counsellors (CASAC).
They provide free services that are a lifeline for victims and their families, funded by the Department of Family and Community Services. CASACs offer counselling, court advocacy, professional development, community education and family support to the most vulnerable people in our community. Statistics estimate up to one in three girls and one in four boys will experience child sexual assault.
Many children, adolescents and adults use CASAC services because they have no other alternatives.
Recovery from complex trauma requires a long-term and flexible therapeutic response. However, Medicare-funded psychology provides just a handful of sessions, and private therapists are unaffordable for many.
Government services such as NSW Health have rigid eligibility criteria that many victims do not fit within. In contrast, CASAC services can accept almost anyone who has experienced child sexual assault but this means some CASACs have huge waiting lists.
Those who make it through CASAC’s doors are the tip of the iceberg. The truth is, a large number of child sexual assault victims miss out.
CASAC services are remarkably cost-effective. The combined cost of funding all 11 CASACs is less than $1.5 million per year, which enables specialists to assist hundreds of children, teens and adults across the state.
The CASAC service I manage, Bankstown Child Sexual Assault Service, receives annual funding of $81,234. This allows one full-time staff to provide holistic child sexual assault services 35 hours per week.
In the past 12 months, we were able to use these funds to provide counselling and support services to 116 children, adolescents and adults affected by child sexual assault. Most of these clients become success stories. After receiving professional support, many clients become active participants in the workforce, passionate community volunteers, or take on important family roles.
Sarah* was an isolated and severely depressed adult survivor of child sexual assault whose three children were sexually abused by a family friend. Sarah came to Wollongong West St Centre after having been turned away from other organisations who could not fit her in to their strict eligibility criteria.
After counselling and family support at West St, Sarah’s children stopped self-harming and started achieving great results at school.
Sarah gained a respected position at a medical practice and her deep depression finally lifted.
The brilliant thing about many CASAC services is that they see adult survivors as well as children and teens. This increases the effectiveness of these unique organisations. Providing counselling to adults who have experienced child sexual abuse is at the very core of child protection work.
It can break the cycle of abuse and prevent the vulnerable children of these victims from becoming sexually abused by predators.
The horrors of child sexual abuse can impact on every part of a person’s life. Long-term effects can include psychiatric disability, imprisonment, drug abuse, chronic disadvantage, dependence on government benefits, and suicide.
Support from skilled CASAC professionals can be a buffer against these possible outcomes. If we take CASAC services away, there is a huge risk that child sexual assault victims will be more vulnerable to these crippling social problems. This only creates more strain and hardship for individuals, families and communities.
Continuing to fund essential child sexual assault services such as Wollongong West Street Centre and the 10 other CASAC services makes good sense socially and financially.
Here are the approximate cost savings to the government if Wollongong West St Centre helped to prevent just one child sexual assault victim from experiencing the following:
ONE year incarceration in a NSW prison: $150,000;
RELIANCE on a disability support pension for 10 years: $185,120;
A TWO-week stay in an in-patient psychiatric unit: $9030; and a 60-day stay in a drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre: $7020.
Up until recently, some decision-makers have argued that cost savings needed to be made in the Department of Family and Community Services to make up for the state’s budget deficit.
Surely now that the government’s financial situation has changed, they should reconsider this idea. CASAC has only been able to play its key role in child abuse prevention and trauma recovery due to ongoing government funding since the 1970s.
Child sexual assault is a crime. I call on the government to guarantee the continuation of funding to all 11 CASAC services in NSW.
Did you know that the waiting list for some CASACs is more than two years, and that some people travel hundreds of kilometres just to use these services? Perhaps instead of talking about funding cuts, we should be starting a discussion about the social and economic benefits of providing more funding to these vital community services.
*Names have been changed
If you have been affected by this article and would like someone to talk to, call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or visit casac.org.au
Why did it take almost a year to remove child prostitution tourism book?
On Thursday, after a protest initiated through Change.org Amazon removed the Age of Consent: A sex Tourists Guide!
This is how it was promoted on the global book seller, before it was pulled.
The self-published e.book by Peter F. Friedmann – available for free in the Kindle Lending Library – was described this way:
…there are many countries on this planet where the age of consent is as low as 12 or 13, whilst one country has no age limit whatsoever! Before travelling, whether you are going as a backpacker, for business purposes, or as a sex tourist, you need to invest in this comprehensive guide to the age of consent laws in every country in the world! It will keep your fun legal!…This $3.49 will keep you out of jail, possibly the most important few dollars that any red blooded testosterone pumped traveller will spend.
Isn’t that great news? The age of consent as low as 12 or 13 and in one country you, the lucky child sex tourist, you will not be limited by any inconvenient laws to restrict your child shopping!
Until it was threatened with a boycott, Amazon had no qualms about selling this guide to the selling of children for rape – which it had been doing for nine months.
And Amazon wasn’t just offering this handy service to heterosexuals.
This Kindle book relates only to heterosexual sex, if you are gay or lesbian then you need the sister publication Age of Consent: Homosexual Edition.
The company helpfully directs us to other books by Mr Friedmann who no one could accuse of not doing his bit to further the global trade in the bodies of women and children:
Also by the same author – Sex Tourism in Bangkok, Sex Tourism in Pattaya, and Free Webcam Sex: Find Real Girls Don’t Pay A Penny!
Amazon initially went on the defensive, stating:
Amazon believes it is censorship not to sell certain books simply because we or others believe their message is objectionable. Amazon does not support or promote hatred or criminal acts, however, we do support the right of every individual to make their own purchasing decisions.
That’s the same line it trotted out when it defending selling The Pedophiles Guide to Love and Pleasure: a child lover’s code of conduct in 2010, following another protest which I wrote about at the time.
The book endorses sexual crimes against children.
The E. book by Phillip R. Greaves, which was available for Amazon’s Kindle electronic reader, is an instructional manual which teaches pedophiles how to break the law so as to avoid getting, caught or so as to attract ‘liter’ [sic] sentences” if they are caught.
In using the term ‘pedosexuals’, the book asserts that the sexual abuse of children (often their own children) is simply a sexual preference. The idea is that pedophiles are a misunderstood sexual minority who ‘love’ children. The book compares the plight of pedophiles to the plight of Jews in World War 2. This is a deadly idea that covers up the reality of what is being promoted: the rape of children.
The book advises on how to find products similar to condoms for ‘boys younger than thirteen’. It gives advice on the best way to use images of children as ‘masturbation material’. It suggests the use of ‘any children you have actually been with, in the past’ in fantasies.
…Amazon’s own policies prohibit content of certain kinds, including “offensive material,” as well as content that “may lead to the production of an illegal item or illegal activity.”
Perhaps teaching men how to rape children and get away with it just wasn’t offensive enough?
At that time child advocates called for the resignation of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos for allowing Amazon.com to sell such titles, citing a “blatant disregard and complete inhumanity” towards child victims.
But Bezos is still there heading up this corporate irresponsibility and books which make it easier to locate children to torture end up promoted and sold through Amazon like they were any other book.
How long will this continue? What can we expect Amazon to bring us next?
I’m often asked for resources for children to help them protect them from possible sexual abuse. There has been nothing I could recommend. Until now.
Melbourne author, primary school teacher and mother, Jayneen Sanders, has filled the gap by publishing a picture book for children titled Some Secrets Should Never Be Kept.
The book is designed to help parents and all who care for children.
I interviewed Jayneen about her book this week.
Jayneen, tell us why you wrote this book?
Three years ago, when I was on my children’s school council, I raised the subject of sexual abuse prevention education. I asked why we didn’t have such program. No-one could give me a good answer. I decided to do something about educating our children and our community about the importance of body safety.
I knew picture books could be a powerful medium when discussing difficult topics with children. As both a mother and a teacher I wanted to write a story that was neither confronting nor frightening for both parents and children.
We teach our children water safety and road safety – we need to also teach body safety from a young age. We know one in four girls and one in seven boys will be sexually interfered with before they reach the age of 18. So body safety needs to become a normal part of our parenting conversation. Remember we are not always there to protect our children so preventative education is the key.
Why do you think so few individuals and schools want to discuss the issue?
I think one of the biggest misconceptions parents and educators have (and I can understand this fear) is that in order to teach body safety to a child, they will need to talk to them about sex and/or the act of sexual abuse. This is just not the case. When we teach road safety to children, we do not show them graphic images of accidents, we simply tell them to look left and then right and then left again, and if the road is clear, walk (don’t run). It is the same with body safety. We simply teach young children a series of rules that can briefly be summarised as: “Your body is your body, no-one has the right to touch your private parts and if someone does, tell and keep telling”. There is no need to talk to the child about sex. This is a topic for another day.
I wrote Some Secrets so parents felt comfortable when teaching body safety and to make sure if a situation like the one Sir Alfred (the main character) encountered were to ever happen to a child they would know what to do. Forewarned is forearmed, and if children know inappropriate touch is wrong, then they are in a much better position to say something about it.
The National Safe Schools Framework states that protective behaviours (including sexual abuse prevention education) should be taught in schools — but, unfortunately, it is not mandatory. I hope that this will change in the 2013 Australian Curriculum.
Sexual abuse prevention is also the community’s responsibility. Parents should ask their child’s kinder, day-care centre or school if they are running such a program. If not, lobby for it. Child wise run excellent programs. There really is no excuse not to run a program in every school.
So children won’t be upset by the information?
I’d like to reassure parents that by reading Some Secrets to their children they will in no way upset, harm or unsettle their child. To children it is simply a storybook. They feel empathy for the little boy, but let me again assure parents that if anyone does ever touch their child inappropriately he or she will have the skills to know what to do. Children are very visual learners and they will remember this story.
You question the focus on ‘stranger danger’ and say it only perpetuates dangerous myths. Can you explain?
Only five percent of child sex offenders will be caught and convicted for their crimes. The shadowy figures that may be hanging around public toilets and anonymous paedophilies grooming our children on-line are statistically not where the majority of the threat lies. Ninety three percent of children will know their perpetrator and only three percent of abused children will ever tell of their abuse. It is important to remember that offenders always plan their abuse of children and rarely target confident kids. If it is likely a child will tell, the perpetrator will not risk their secret being revealed and is more likely to not target that child.
What has been the response to the book so far?
The response has been extremely positive and I know we have already done what we set out to do: provide children with the knowledge of what to do if they are ever touched inappropriately. Craig Smith’s sensitive, non-threatening and beautifully-drawn illustrations make the book perfect to use with young children (the book can be read to children from 3 to 12 years). The Teacher’s Pack has been selling strongly which is very gratifying as it suggests the message is going to reach many children.
Body safety tips for children
Jayneen recommends the following tips to help keep your child safe.
1. As soon as your child begins to talk and is aware of their body parts, begin to name them correctly, e.g. toes, nose, eyes, etc. Children should also know the correct names for their genitals from a young age. Try not to use ‘pet names’. This way, if a child is touched inappropriately, they can clearly state to you or a trusted adult where they have been touched.
2. Teach your child that their penis, vagina, bottom, breasts and nipples are called their ‘private parts’ and that these are their body parts that go under their swimsuit.
3. Teach your child that no-one has the right to touch their private parts/private zones and if someone does, they must tell you or a trusted adult (or older teenager) straight away. As your child becomes older (4+) help them to identify five people they could tell.
4. At the same time as you are discussing inappropriate touch, talk about feelings. Discuss what it feels like to be happy, sad, angry, excited, etc. Encourage your child in daily activities to talk about their feelings. This way your child will be more able to verbalise how they are feeling if someone does touch them inappropriately.
5. Talk with your child about feeling ‘safe’ and ‘unsafe’. Discuss times when your child might feel ‘unsafe’ or ‘safe’. For example, when feeling ‘safe’, they may feel happy and have a warm feeling inside; when feeling ‘unsafe’ they may feel scared and have a sick feeling in their tummy.
6. Discuss with your child their ‘early warning signs’ when feeling unsafe, i.e. heart racing, feeling sick in the tummy, sweaty palms, feeling like crying. Let them come up with some ideas of their own. Tell your child that they must tell you if any of their ‘early warning signs’ happen in any situation. Reinforce that you will always believe them and that they can tell you anything.
7. As your child grows, try as much as possible to discourage the keeping of secrets. Talk about happy surprises such as not telling Granny about her surprise birthday party and ‘bad’ secrets such as someone touching your private parts. Make sure your child knows that if someone does ask them to keep an inappropriate secret that they must tell you or someone in their network straight away.
8. Discuss with your child when it is appropriate for someone to touch their private parts, e.g. a doctor if they are sick. Discuss with your child that if someone does touch their private parts (without you there) they have the right to say: ‘No!’ or ‘Stop!’
Former MP guilty of sex offences receives suspended sentence
Today I am thinking about a 15-year-old Tasmanian girl and what she thinks of the Australian justice system. I’m wondering if she is questioning if it was worth taking her harrowing ordeal to the courts to find no justice at the end of the process.
At a mere 12-years-old, this girl was prostituted by adults and used by at least 120 men. Only one of them was charged. And yesterday he was released.
Former Tasmanian MP Terry Martin, who had been found guilty of unlawful sexual intercourse with a young person and of producing child exploitation material in 2009 – he took photos of the girl which were added to his stash of hundreds of pornographic images including of children as young as eight -walked free from court with a suspended sentence.
Handing down his ruling in Hobart’s Supreme Court, judge David Porter said Martin’s medication for Parkinson’s disease caused him to do what he did.
According to The Australian “The judge said the condition caused by the medication had impaired Martin’s ability to make moral judgments and therefore ‘his moral culpability is reduced’.
How did the drugs influence the fact that he took images of what he did? Did they cause him to pick up a camera and start filming? When the Judge says Martin’s offences would not have occurred, it is as if they just happened like that.
Was it just an incredible coincidence that Martin already had a child porn collection? And what does this suggest about other men who are on the same medication? Should they be watched with eagle eyes around children? If this drug causes men to solicit girls and use them for sexual gratification, shouldn’t it be immediately withdrawn from market?
Late last year I published a piece on the girl’s case by Professor Caroline S Taylor. It gives important background and detail on the case, so I think it is worth reprinting today.
Meanwhile, I hope the young girl, so mistreated and violated and now denied justice, knows that there are many who do care for her and are angered and saddened at what passes for justice.
Post by Professor S. Caroline Taylor, Foundation Chair in Social Justice and Head of the Social Justice Research Centre at Edith Cowan University. Professor Taylor is also the Founder and Chair of Children of Phoenix Organisation, a charity that provides scholarships and mentoring support to children, adolescents and adults affected by childhood sexual abuse.
Last week, the Tasmanian Director of Public Prosecution, Mr Tim Ellis, released an eight page Memorandum of Advice to the Tasmania police which instructed that at least 120 men who had paid to ‘have sex with’ a 12-year-old ward of the state will not be charged with breaking the law.
On October 1, on Stateline Tasmania, Mr Ellis dismissed broad community and expert concern about the case as nothing more than a symptom of “wicked” media sensationalism. He added the gratuitous comment that the law rests with a “reasonable jury, not a lynch mob”.
In effect Mr Ellis framed the numerous and profound media and expert critiques of the social justice issues that this case clearly raises as nothing more than an hysterical media driven moral panic about child sexual abuse.
It’s a puerile argument, as stupid as it is offensive to public sensibilities. This tactic reduces the complex reasons behind the critique of his decision with an underhanded accusation that such critiques are not “reasonable”. This is echoed in the Attorney-General Lara Giddings comment: “I understand their anger”. Reducing the profound ethical critiques of this case to a single reactionary emotion – anger – infantilises public concern in order to dismiss such concerns.
Our legal system is premised on the notion that police lay charges where there is evidence that a crime has been committed according to the rules of the law. Yet in this case the DPP has determined that not one, not two, not three, not four, but a series of men charged with paying to sexually abuse a child all really believed that a 12-year-old ward of the state was an adult. To be clear, the Director of Public Prosecution has used his discretion to void all charges on the grounds that he found every one of their arguments “convincing”. I wonder how many “arguments” they actually had? Or did they amount to the one generic excuse: they could not tell the difference between a primary school age child and a female aged 18.Read more
On September 14, Collective Shout made a submission to the Classification Review Board, calling for a review of the Classification Board’s April decision to grant the film an R18+ rating.
We described scenes of extreme sexual violence against a child and against women.
“A Serbian Film contains depictions of a man raping his five year old son; of a man beheading a woman while raping her and of an adolescent girl smilingly encouraging a man to hit a woman while the woman performs oral sex on him. The film clearly exceeds the classification guidelines for R18+ films and should have been Refused Classification.”
We also said it was beyond comprehension that such a film -which we hear is now doing the rounds of schools on USB sticks – could be approved for local video stores. Crikey website editor Luke Buckmaster described the film as “morally irredeemable”.
The Classification Review Board met yesterday and overturned the original ruling.
Naturally Accent films, the Australian distributor is not happy about the reversal, inferring on twitter that the decision was a denial of democratic freedom.
Apparently democratic freedom should allow images of child sexual assault and the torture and decapitation of women, available at your local DVD outlet.
While we do of course welcome the Review Board’s decision, we can’t help but ask: what was the Board thinking in to allow it to go through in the first place?
The Classification system is in need of an overhaul, as we’ve argued in two recent submissions, including this one to the current Australian Law Reform Commission review.
‘Is it possible the DSM could become the book of appeasement, refuting questions of morality and legal culpability with regard to child abuse and exploitation?’
Last week Salon ran a comment piece by Tracy Clark-Flory which opened:
We usually hear pedophilia talked about in terms of mental illness – if not evil – but Aug. 17 a motley crew of self-identified “minor-attracted persons” and mental health professionals have gathered in Baltimore to talk about it as a sexual identity. At hand is an issue deeply important to both groups: the revision of the diagnostic criteria for pedophilia.
I have written elsewhere on the mental gymnastics employed by some of the judiciary when it comes to accepting either the vocabulary of excuses put forward by child sex offenders to exculpate them from responsibility for their offences, or minimising the harm suffered by child victims.
Of course these arguments, attitudes, utterances and opinions would not hold currency were it not for the lawyers who advance them on behalf of their clients and quarters of society that either accept them or give them tacit approval via a passive and apathetic response.
This week UK judges severely weakened legal rules that limited sex offenders’ unsupervised access to their own children. Judges declared that it was a human rights violation to prevent offenders’ from having this access. After all, they said, family life and unfettered access to ‘family life’ is their right – the rights of child victims factor in only as a secondary issue. Despite the rhetoric and declaration of a charter of human rights for children, they continue to have their status at citizens of equal worth negated. More troubling is the fact this so often occurs when children are most in need of protection from sexual predation or sexual violence.
In the same week, a US conference was held on ‘pedophilia’ under the rubric of men who are ‘minor-attracted – in other words men who desire and seek to sexually abuse children. The conference sought to advance the rights of this particular group of men by influencing the revision of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders to better reflect a particular understanding of pedophilia as a psychiatric illness.
The DSM is the psychiatric bible and has been criticized for its development as a diagnostic manual based largely on incomplete and unscientific data – indeed psychiatrists ‘vote’ on additions and revisions and much research has highlighted the gendered nature of the psychiatric illnesses proclaimed in the book with some disorders being so ridiculous they beggar belief.
That fact that many have been removed or revised in response to societal and cultural awareness and changes in attitudes to gender and race is a testament to how mental illness can be socially constructed and even vanish from our vocabulary and treatment as society and psychiatry reconcile certain social and cultural beliefs and attitudes.
The psychiatric nomenclature declaring certain types of sexual offenders or men who declare they have not yet engaged in sexual activity with a child but have a predilection of sexual attraction to children, as individuals with a mental illness as opposed to criminals (or at least potential abusers) is a worry for many reasons.
Why is this ‘illness’ the almost exclusive problem of men and not women? It is an ‘illness’ that has been going on for centuries without recourse to any successful treatment.
I have a problem with the term ‘pedophile’ because it can be literally translated as a lover of children. Chat rooms for pedophile advocates highlight that they do not seek to ‘hurt’ children, but it is patently clear they have no concept – morally or otherwise – of what it is to ‘hurt’ a child. And believe me in my professional work I have seen first- hand the hurt suffered by children by ‘pedophiles’ – hurt that punctures the very soul of young lives and leads to damage across adult lives.
If we accept it is an illness then it is an illness afflicting almost exclusively men and has inflicted a tsunami of catastrophic damage to the lives of countless millions of children that amounts to an emotional genocide across time and place that appears to have no end.
Those advocating for these men are concerned that the law and society misunderstand ‘pedophiles’ and view them alongside ‘molesters’ of children. There exists a problem in the teasing out of men who are sexually attracted to children but say they have not acted on it as opposed to men who say they are sexually attracted to children and have acted on it.
As studies continue to show, men who are sexually attracted to children will generally move to act on that attraction. Those who have not as yet physically acted on that attraction may very likely seek other forms of intimacy with that attraction perhaps by way of viewing child pornography or engaging in contact that might not be sexual but may well still be harmful to a child’s healthy development.
We should feel a strong discomfort about a group seeking to define the parameters of what they say is their sexual orientation and have it accepted as an illness when that particular ‘illness’ can and does lead to various forms of abuse and exploitation of children around the world.
There is also the problem of normalizing the idea that many men harbor sexual desires for children. At a time when we are battling the enormous and endemic problem of child pornography and child sex tourism, we need to ramp up our collective check of society’s moral compass on accepting, even reluctantly, that sexual desires for children are a modern illness afflicting men around the world.
There are moral, ethical and even psychological questions as to why the sexual predation, desire and sexualisation of children is the almost exclusive domain of men. In late modern society we need to ask ourselves some strong questions – is the sexualisation of children a link to the sexual desire for children and the growing market in child pornography and child sex tourism. And again to ask why these issues have the common denominator of children and men.
I worry about the gendered nature of an illness where men harbor sexual desires for children – and which research consistently shows so many men will act upon – and want this targeted behaviour to be classified as an illness. We have become a humanity that pathologies our behaviours and actions to an extraordinary degree, thus removing notions of responsibility, decency and a solid moral compass.
The 20th century is marked by consumerism with our identity linked to what we buy. I buy therefore I am, is the credo. And just as our high consumerism causes so much destruction – professionals have helped us craft a language of illness and pathology about our buying habits. Why reflect on a problem and see ourselves as central to it when we can tell ourselves it is an illness and thus another ailment in society we can seek treatment for.
Is it possible the DSM could become the book of appeasement refuting questions of morality and legal culpability with regard to child abuse and exploitation?
It is not the redefinition in the DSM that will ‘cure’ this peculiar illness of men nor provide the type of moral erudition needed to tackle the world wide problem of child sexual abuse. It is the refining of humanity and our capacity to deal with an entrenched crime inflicted on children.
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