Talk notes for Sexual Integrity Forum.
Dr Sue Packer
8-9 August 2005

Main Committee Room
Parliament House, Canberra

Child Abuse and the Contribution of the Internet & Pornography
Dr. Sue Packer

"All children in our community are vulnerable to abuse because of their developmental limitations in an adult world.
"Some children are particularly vulnerable- infants and young children, children with a disability, children in families which are stressed and disrupted e.g. illness, divorce, isolation, mental illness etc.
"Most abuse of children still occurs within families, or involves trusted family friends.  (See Statistics from CARAU)
"Within our society, children are still expected to be courteous and obedient towards adults, including unfamiliar adults.  They are discouraged from "telling on grownups". They are expected to comply.
"The children most vulnerable to abuse outside the family are older children, who are still relatively unskilled in being independent, particularly in alcohol- related situations.
"Sexual abuse is not an exclusively female issue. Boys are very vulnerable too and often find it more difficult to disclose abuse.
"Most paedophiles have no police record.
"Most recognised abuse by paedophiles does not get to court.  This is chiefly because of difficulties in our Court system about the credibility of child witnesses.
"Paedophiles outside the family circle almost always identify and engage a vulnerable family first and gain the family's trust.
"Such people are also skilled at gaining respect and trust in situations involving children (+/- families)- schools, respite, churches and community groups.  They have no police record.  If their actions are recognised, formal intervention is often too difficult.  They are dismissed to move on to other children in vulnerable situations.
"Children whose only consistent experiences of affection have been associated with sexual abuse, have great difficulties and need continuing help to learn how to form relationships in a non-sexual way.
"The advent of the internet means that children and adolescents can have intimate involvement with strangers within their own homes.
"A minority of young children, who have unsupervised access to internet and video pornography, engage in aggressive sexual behaviours with other children in unsupervised situations.  In the CARAU experience, the children who offend come from chaotic homes.

What Can Parents Do to Protect their Children?
"Know where your children go.
"Know their friends and their friends' families.
"Encourage your children to discuss adults in their lives and demonstrate how you can hear about uncertainties, criticisms and concerns sympathetically and constructively.
"Teach children to trust their feelings.
"Teach children skills about how to leave an uncomfortable situation.
"Teach children about identifying support persons.
"Teach children about touch- where, who and when.
"Teach children about their bodies and touch.
"Teach children about inappropriate secrets.
"Keep all internet access used by your children in the family room, where you can be available to monitor its use, as for TV and videos.  It can be a great resource, but not in a child's bedroom.
"Use opportunities as they arise to instruct and inform.
"Think of what the child is seeing, from your child's perspective