New laws to protect children against sexual abuse

NEW laws to further protect children from sexual abuse were introduced into Victorian parliament on Wednesday. 

The state government brought in legislation which will make it a criminal offence to engage in a behaviour known as ‘grooming’.

Grooming is when an offender seeks to cultivate a child or their family in order to facilitate sexual abuse of the child.

Attorney General Robert Clark said a parliamentary committee identified that sexual abusers often sought not only to groom an intended victim, but also their parents, teachers and others who had care of the child. 

“The Committee highlighted the calculated and protracted use of grooming techniques by abusers to develop a relationship over time with an intended victim or their family," he said. 

“This law recognises the insidious methods that these sexual predators use in befriending and relationship building prior to perpetrating their abuse.”

The reform will introduce a broad prohibition of any grooming of either a child or their parents or carers, with a penalty of up to 10 years in jail.

Attorney General Clark said the grooming laws would apply to any communication with a child, parent or carer intended to facilitate involving the child in a sexual offence.

The laws will apply to both grooming through personal contact and grooming using the internet or any other means.

The creation of this new offence forms part of the Government’s response to the recommendations of the Parliamentary Family and Community Development Committee’s Betrayal of Trust report on the handling of child sex abuse allegations.

Attorney General said the new offence would not require that any sexual abuse had actually occurred or been attempted.

“This law will give the courts the power to protect Victorian families by imposing suitably strong sentences in response to this insidious behaviour,” he said.

Mr Clark said evidence to the Committee from a number of victims showed the devastating impact this breach of trust can have on children, their families and carers.

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