If your organisation is looking for offenders, you’re leaving children at risk
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It sounds backwards, but it’s true, according to child safety expert Brad Poynting. Here, he discusses the findings of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse Final Report, and steps to create safer environments for children.
One of the things we know from the Royal Commission’s Final Report about child sex offenders is that in the overwhelming majority of cases, the most remarkable thing about the offender is just how unremarkable they are. And that makes looking for them hard.
The Commissioners found, “There is no typical profile of an adult perpetrator”. They found that the strategies used to sexually abuse children would differ greatly depending on the context in which the abuse occurred. As a result, they stated, “Attempting to predict the likelihood of someone being a perpetrator based on preconceptions should be avoided.” The stereotype that most people conjure as an image when they think of a paedophile is simply not accurate. For the most part, child sex offenders look and act like everybody else – their only defining characteristic is that they sexually offend against children.
So if you can’t find a potential child sex offender lurking in your organisation by looking for them, how do you find them?
The short answer is, you don’t. Instead, you make it too hard for them to work with you in the first place or be able to perpetrate within your organisation.
There are factors about organisations which can enable offenders to sexually abuse children. Some of these include:
- Unsupervised one-on-one access to children
- Provision of intimate care or an expectation of physical contact
- Prestige of the perpetrator which results in higher levels of trust and credibility
- Responsibility for young children, such as that held be early education carers
- Specialist expertise, such as medical practitioners that enable offenders to disguise sexual abuse.
The reality is that any organisation that either provides a service specifically to children or has a percentage of clients that are children or young people inherently carries the risk that someone affiliated with the organisation may use that relationship to gain access to children and young people in order to sexually abuse them.
If you read the above list and realised that your organisation fits these factors, then your organisation is at an increased risk of enabling child sexual abuse to occur – unless mitigating action has been taken to reduce the risk.
The intention of the Final Report was to pave the way for Australian organisations to create safer environments for children by preventing child sexual abuse from occurring. This is a big task for any organisation whether that organisation employs two people or twenty thousand people. For most organisations, the skills to ensure their organisation keeps children safe will not be found in-house, and a child safety expert may need to be considered. .
Brad Poynting is Principal at Poynting Consulting & Advisory (PCA), a consultancy that works with businesses to ensure children within their service are kept safe. He has worked toward and advocated for the best interests of children for over 10 years, beginning his focus on protecting children from harm when he joined the Queensland Department of Communities as a front-line child protection worker, before transitioning to the early education sector to work at the nexus of early education and child protection. Brad’s focus in the ECEC sector has been to increase awareness of the prevention of institutional child abuse and neglect, commonly called ‘child safeguarding’ in addition to preventing child abuse and neglect in the community. For more information, visit the PCA website.