13 April 2011

Vigilance the best prevention for "rock spiders"

THERE is a name that, when mentioned, conjures tremendous, intensive debate and hateful, vicious emotions in the hearts and minds of most Australians. 

Dennis Ferguson. 

Ferguson, arguably the most infamous paedophile in Australia, is being talked about again after the Queensland Police Service (QPS) and various media outlets yesterday tried to dispel rumours that he is residing on the Sunshine Coast. 

Although some minds may have been set at ease, the notifications caused mass debate and commentary, especially online. 

The QPS posted a "#Mythbuster" status around 1.30pm and within a few hours had received over 400 comments, and counting. The QPS was forced to sensor multiple comments due to their offensive or threatening nature. The Sunshine Coast Daily website and Sunshine Coast Facebook page may have to do the same (if they have not already). 

Dennis Ferguson is a vile creature, no doubt about it, but there is a bigger picture here. 

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, in 2009-2010 there were over 48,000 reported cases of child abuse in Australia, with over 12% being sexual abuse cases.  However these statistics do not highlight the full extent of the issue, for a number of reasons.

Firstly, this data excludes abuse perpetrated by a non-family member or person known to the family (these are dealt strictly with police not child protection services). 

Secondly, these statistics only represent cases reported to child protection services (again, not police). 

Due to the confidential and personal nature of the crime,  Australian statistics for child sexual abuse are non-existent or unverified.  All sexual abuse statistics, regardless of age, are grouped together in State and Territory Police reporting.

Statistics from the United States are generally thought to be accurate for Australian society also. The alarming statistics are as follows: 

30% sexual abuse offenders are relatives of the child

60% are acquaintances (friends of the family, babysitters, neighbours, etc)

10% are strangers

Sure no one wants Dennis Ferguson or any other known sex offender to be living near them *cue the debate over accessible sex offender lists (like in the US) or “send them back to jail” arguments*.The sad, scary fact of reality is, however, the face of paedophilia is likely to be far more familiar to you and your children than Dennis Ferguson’s beady eyed, creepy mug. Don’t let the Daniel Morcombe tragedy make you forget that “stranger danger” is not the only danger lurking in the world.

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