ONE OF THE REASONS that child sex abuse victims don’t come forward is that they don’t think anybody will believe them.
Especially if their attacker is a ‘respected’ member of the community. A copper, a mayor, a magistrate, or a TV star like Robert Hughes or Jimmy Saville or (allegedly) Rolf Harris.
That’s on top of the schoolteacher, tennis coach or step-father persuading them ‘it’s our secret’ and that the child will get into trouble if the secret gets out.
Then there are the cases where parents have not gone to police because they misguidedly think they are protecting the victim by shielding them from intrusive questioning and, sometimes brutal, courtroom appearances.
But imagine the anger and frustration and sense of betrayal when a child does come forward and his or her parents do go to police and nothing happens.
Imagine what message that sends to the victim. What it tells him about the world around him. And what a picture it paints of his own parents who promised to take care of the situation.
Such a case crossed my desk over the weekend. Once again, the case came from Queensland. You can feel a father’s pain leaping off the page.
It involves the alleged rape of a five-year-old boy by the 15-year-old son of family friends in the town of Warwick. Under scrutiny is the Child Protection Unit at the Warwick police station. Some of the details have been aired in the Warwick Daily News.
‘They said they would not get a conviction
… and that he would “forget about it in time’.
The teenager was never charged – even though he reportedly admitted the assault – and the father says he was advised by police not to mention the ‘incident’ again to his little boy because ‘he’ll forget about it in time’.
The father (who cannot be named because that would identify his son) found out about the alleged rape late last year. He and his partner, the boy’s mother, gave statements to police and then their son was interviewed by police on his own.
‘Half-an-hour later the police asked us inside. I asked the detective about his thoughts on what happened and he replied that he had no doubt the sexual assault took place.
‘He told me not to seek justice myself, as it would make the alleged offender and his parents groom themselves before they could be interviewed by police. The police informed us they would speak to the alleged offender within hours.
‘Days went by and we called and asked the detectives if they had charged the offender – the response was, “we are working on it, but we have many cases to deal with” and that they were concentrating on the bikies and also had to attend courses’.
Meanwhile the five-year-old had counselling and a blood test for hepatitis and HIV. The father said the GP was concerned the police had not asked for a medical examination.
A week later the Dad said he was told the detectives handling the case had gone on leave and a week later that the CPU was ‘busy with more serious matters’.
Then the real blow.
‘They said they would not get a conviction and told me not to bring it up with my child and that he would “forget about it in time”. I was devastated and furious and contacted the Crime and Misconduct Commission with a complaint.
‘Police Ethical Standards investigated and the CPU was then forced to interview the alleged offender. Moments after interviewing him one of the detectives phoned and informed us the accused teenager had freely admitted to the assault’.
No charge was laid. The misconduct commission found the detectives had handled the case well with no grounds for complaint.
So. The coppers are in the clear. The alleged rapist goes on with life as usual. The little boy must feel there is nobody there to protect him.
And the angry and anguished father?
‘We are now selling up and leaving a town we had many happy memories of’.
Footnote: And while on the subject of coppers. Did this do the uniform proud? I know weekend drunks must be the bane of suburban duty officers. Pissed, unreasonable, irrational. They deserve four hours in the drunk tank.
This edited email from an inebriate in North Melbourne Saturday night. He was arrested for being drunk and disorderly and said it was ‘good to see the police are doing the job’ and he had no problem with his arrest or the four hours in the clink.
‘It was the abusive treatment that followed. First I asked them to call my wife to let her know that I’d been arrested but was OK. The taunts and sarcasm were pure torture. Saying I was a “shit father and parent” and also “a loser” made me bite my tongue but I did react due to my passion about being a great parent. When I finished my time the officer on call said: “Get the fuck out of here. Fuck off you cunt”.
‘Arresting me was the legitimate thing to do but the abuse that followed from the North Melbourne police station left me with a lot of anger. Derryn, am I just whining or is it wrong to treat someone in that manner regardless of the circumstance?’