THE announcement this week that a program to treat youths who have displayed sexually abusive behaviour has received a significant funding boost is most welcome.
Loddon Campaspe’s Centre Against Sexual Assault has been inundated with participants over the past 12 months, ranging in age from four to 17 years.
It is confronting to hear that there is even a need for this service in our community, but there clearly is, with the local service working with more than 80 children in the last year – an increase on 26 the year before.
There is much debate over what exactly is causing this worrying spike in inappropriate, illegal and downright abhorrent behaviour among people so young.
The ease with which children can access pornography via the internet on their phones, tablets and computers is often cited as a major factor. In the not-so-distant past, inquisitive youths might have turned to positively quaint – by today’s standards, at least – picture-based magazines to satisfy their sexual curiosity.
Now, though, everything you could possibly imagine – and plenty you wouldn’t want to – is available in high-definition video, at no charge no less.
There is no doubt that these days there is an increased likelihood of children being exposed to material that may damage their sexual development.
According to the Australian Institute of Family Studies, studies show that consuming pornography can reinforce harmful stereotypes around gender, promote unhealthy and sexist views of women and condone violence against women.
CASA will use the state government’s additional $300,000 to run the Sexually Abusive Behaviours Treatment Services program, which Families and Children’s Minister Jenny Mikakos says is about “addressing destructive behaviour from an early age, to ensure we are rehabilitating young people and setting them on the right path”.
But what can be done to stop this damaging behaviour before it starts?
There appears little hope of stopping the proliferation of porn online. For every site taken down, another is launched; for every platform banned, another one pops up; for every filter, there is a work around.
It is an old-fashioned idea, but perhaps the best defence is still having responsible adults – parents, teachers and counsellors – talking openly and honestly about sex.
- Ross Tyson, deputy editor