Call on Government and Children’s Commissioner to prioritise child rape.
Stop Demand Foundation, which calls for action to stop sexual violence against women and children, is calling on the incoming Children’s Commissioner Andrew Becroft to address, as a priority, New Zealand’s shameful litany of sex crimes being committed against children.
Its call follows the reporting, in just one day last week, of four cases spanning four regions: “Sex offender jailed for nine years for abuse of 11-year-old girl”, “Tearful apology by health practitioner for indecently assaulting daughter”, “Man admits to years of sexual offending against adopted daughter” and “CYF worker jailed for 22 years for sexual assaults”.
Yesterday saw further reports, with the headlines: “Rape ‘became her reality’”, involving a stepfather upon his release from prison for previous child sex crimes, and “No new trial for sex offender”, a case of a teacher convicted of sex crimes against multiple boys.
Stop Demand’s founder Denise Ritchie says that many people, herself included, have had a “gutsful” of reading “way too many” accounts of children who lives have been irreparably shattered and ripped apart by the vile and selfish acts of sexual predators.
“These cases highlight an unpalatable truth,” says Ritchie. “There are children, girls in particular, who are not safe in their own homes or beds. We have girls who are not safe from men entrusted to care for them. In five of these six cases, a father, an adoptive father, a stepfather, a carer and a CYF caregiver all went from trusted male to sexual predator.”
Shamefully, during the case of the 11-year-old girl it was revealed that “four other men had also been charged with abusing the victim at various stages of her life when she was aged between 8-12 years old” with three pleading guilty while another was before the Courts. “For a young girl to have been sexually violated by four, likely five, different men that the Courts know of, by the time she reached 12 years old, is beyond sickening,” says Ritchie. Her latest predator had two previous convictions for child sex crimes.
Stop Demand is urging the Government to provide resourcing and support to the incoming Children’s Commissioner to address sex crimes against children specifically, as a priority.
“The Commissioner is our nation’s highest advocate for children. We need one who is outspoken, visible, engaged, incensed on behalf of the children he represents, and who will lead this issue from the front,” says Ritchie. “Traditionally the Commissioner’s role has focussed heavily on report writing. But few people are changed or challenged by reports. We need serious soul-searching and hard-hitting nationwide campaigns that strike at the heart of actual and potential sex offenders and their often complicit families/whanau”.
Stop Demand is also keen to see an end to subsuming child sex crimes into the banal term “child abuse”. “‘Abuse’ is such a broad, overused word,” says Ritchie. “In calling child rape and sexual violation ‘abuse’ we hide the crime, we minimise it, we feed the secrecy. We also imply there is no noteworthy difference in hitting or raping a child – it’s all just ‘abuse’.”
Stop Demand notes that in 2014 there were a lamentable 1,822 convictions for sexual violence offences against children aged 16 years and under – convictions that represent a fraction of “actual” cases, with most going unreported to Police.
Stop Demand acknowledges that it took time for New Zealanders to accept we had an unacceptably high rate of child physical violence. It is now time for New Zealand to shine a spotlight on the abysmal magnitude of child sexual violence.
Ritchie says, “Our mental health systems, our prisons and our suicide statistics are littered with broken lives arising out of childhood incest, rape and sexual violation. The sheer extent is a national disgrace. It is a stain on the soul of our nation. It needs to end.”