Surge in child sex charges
A major investigation into child sex offences in the Pilbara has been the main cause of a dramatic surge in the number of charges laid, according to police.
West Pilbara Detectives, assisted by the WA Police Sex Crime Division based in Perth, have been charging an average of about one alleged child sex offender a week as the six months push has started to see results, making them a now regular feature on local court lists.
Pilbara District Police Superintendent Paul Coombes said they were working closely with community members and partner agencies to encourage victims to come forward and had been gaining the confidence of the community to uncover more of the incidents.
“Child sex abuse is regarded by WA Police as one of the most serious crime types with potentially long-lasting and serious consequences for the victims and their families,” Supt Coombes said.
“We are pleased that we have been able to bring a number of these matters to the courts and we will continue to investigate other allegations as they come to light.”
This month, two people were arrested in one week over separate alleged incidents in the City of Karratha area.
On Monday, Child Abuse Squad detectives charged a 40-year-old Baynton man for allegedly sexually assaulting a girl aged nine at the time of the first offence, for activity between September, 2012, and December, 2015.
The ages and locations of alleged offenders and specific charges range widely across the cases.
Supt Coombes said it was difficult to determine if the incidence of offences in the Pilbara was increasing as well as detection, and noted “child abuse can, and sadly does, occur anywhere”.
Protective Behaviours WA ambassador Andrea Musulin, who has worked as a police officer in the
Pilbara and Gascoyne, said authorities needed to go “digging” for these kinds of offences or they would not come to light because young victims were afraid.
She said the Pilbara presented a number of risk factors for child sexual abuse, including inter-generational abuse in both indigenous and non-indigenous populations, substance abuse, domestic violence, mental health issues, isolation and a lack of resources made worse by the transitional nature of many people’s stays in the area.
She said the lack of resources in country areas, where the need for them was often higher than the city, compounded the problem.
“The number one thing (for parents) is not to worry but to be aware. And to not dig your head in the sand,” she said.
“It’s a hard community issue, but don’t shy away from it ... You need to be on the front foot, you need to become aware of strategies that you can teach your children that can prevent it happening to them.” Former Wickham, Roebourne and Karratha youth services worker of more than four years, Kirsty Levi, said more parents had been asking about the protective behaviours for children program she promotes after hearing of recent arrests.
Department for Child Protection and Family Support directorgeneral Emma White said their Pilbara district office received “a similar number of reports” into child welfare concerns as other regional districts and noted child neglect and abuse often came with complex social issues, such as parental alcohol or drug misuse, family and domestic violence, homelessness, or mental health issues.
Minister for Police Liza Harvey said sexual abuse of children happened across the State and called it “one of the most sickening crimes, which can severely impact a victim for the rest of their lives”.
If you are or have been a victim of child sexual abuse, or if you have information about someone being abused, contact police on 131 444.
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