Surge in child sex charges

Pilbara News - - Front Page - Ali­cia Per­era

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.

Pic­ture: Ru­ral Health West

Emma Jones is the star of a new cam­paign to pro­mote coun­try health place­ments.

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