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#NotForSale Children and the Sex Trade in the Digital Age

WITH the advent of information communications technology (ICT), children are now easy prey to predators in the borderless sex trade that...

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mercoledì 7 giugno 2017

Child Abuse Squad

Detective Senior Constable Jane Prior wears her personality on her sleeve. Her Child Abuse Squad security pass hangs on a crystal-encrusted multi-coloured neon lanyard.

Warm, intelligent and highly respected by her colleagues, she has a way of making everyone she speaks to feel at ease. It's an essential attribute in a job like this.

A 10-year veteran of the specialist New South Wales Police squad, when we meet her she is nearing the end of a lengthy investigation. It's taken the team years to secure an interview with a highly traumatised victim of a horrendous case of sexual abuse.
The arrest has been on her mind all night.
"I did have the case running through my head and different scenarios, but I got [to sleep] in the end," she says.
The ABC's 7.30 was given special access to the Child Abuse Squad to see how the unit deals with the trauma inflicted on children and families and how that affects police working on the cases.
We drive to a checkpoint to meet a group of other officers from the unit, which has more than 200 officers across NSW.
Their task is to find and arrest the man alleged to have repeatedly raped the child they interviewed.
It's a delicate operation that will change the lives of a family forever. As in many cases the squad investigates, the alleged offender is a person the family trusted most. In this case, the young boy's uncle.
He'll soon be charged with more than a dozen child sexual abuse offences, accused of taking away the innocence of a child who was just five years old when the abuse started.
This arrest is just one of more than 330 the squad has made this year.
Detective Senior Constable Prior and her colleague, Detective Sergeant John Breda, are waiting in their car when they receive the call they've been waiting for.
"All right, we're moving, people. OK we are off."
"My stomach just went blergh then," Detective Senior Constable Prior tells us.
The unmarked police car careens around the narrow street corners to a small house. It's in a quiet suburban street.
The man they've come for is wearing a pale blue button-down shirt, khaki pants and hiking boots. He seems awkward and shy. He's silent and strangely calm as the two officers approach.
"Are you understanding what you've been arrested for?" Detective Sergeant Breda asks.
"Um. I heard the statement, yes," the man in the blue shirt responds.
After the drama of getting to the arrest there's suddenly an eerie sense of calm. The streets are silent. The man is quiet and seems unsurprised. He makes no fuss as officers search him and bundle him into a paddy wagon.
"He would know this was coming. It's just a matter of when for these guys," Detective Senior Constable Prior says.
"He didn't even question what it was about," Detective Sergeant Breda agrees.
"[Offenders] come from all walks of life, all occupations and all education standards. The commonality that they do have is they are very good at isolating children from their social support," Detective Sergeant Breda says.
It's not the first time Detective Senior Constable Prior has encountered the alleged offender. The traumatised victim was identified in child pornography in 2012, tracked down and finally gave a statement to police.
"It's been awhile since I've seen him. But he was the same … which was quite calm," Detective Senior Constable Prior says.
Now the arrest has been made, officers need to call the family and tell them what's happened.
"It can be quite devastating and traumatic but also it can be a sense of relief for the victim and their family as well, because there's going to start to be closure now," Detective Senior Constable Prior says.
"So this is a healing process for the victim and his family to go through."

The increase in cases

Police are juggling more and more cases of child sexual abuse, according to the head of the Child Abuse Squad.
"I think that there is a number of factors that it's increased," Detective Chief Inspector Peter Yeomans says.
Foremost, he says, is the publicity surrounding the Royal Commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse which has encouraged more victims and their families to come forward to police.
"Our investigative strategies are a whole lot better. We're just doing things a lot better now and we're doing it for the victims," he says.
In 2012 the squad arrested 455 people and laid 2,062 charges. Last year that increased to 770 arrests and 3,144 charges. This year arrests are likely to top 800.
Disturbingly, the majority of those arrested will be new offenders.
Detective Chief Inspector Yeomans explains one of the major challenges with this particular type of crime is encouraging victims to come forward.
"Probably about 85, 90 per cent of these matters that we do, the offenders are known to the victim. So it makes it very difficult.
"They are, you know, relatives, they are teachers or sports coaches, whatever it might be. So they're known. So they're trusted by their victims.
"The challenges are to get the best evidence from the children. That is really, really important. It takes a lot of professionalism and the way my people interview these children to get these children to then disclose these matters."

The interview


Child sex crimes are unique, not only in their shocking and traumatic nature, but also in the burden on the victim to come forward in order for police to prosecute.
"Because these crimes are never usually witnessed by anybody, there's usually never any sort of other evidence," Detective Senior Constable Prior says.
"We have to go forward and try and find corroborative evidence to make sure what the victim is saying is the truth and is what's really happened."
Officers in the Child Abuse Squad are highly specialised in interviewing children, sometimes as young as just two or three years old — children asked to reveal trauma to a stranger that many adults would struggle to comprehend.
"Sometimes they use different sorts of language. They can draw things. They can use sign language. They can use different words for different things," Detective Senior Constable Prior says.
She says part of the process is building rapport with the children, finding ways to get onto their level.
"I might ask the parents what their favourite toy is or what their favourite movie is, so when I meet the child for the first time I sit down and relate to them, and so it might be talking about Shrek or it might be talking about Frozen the movie.
"I've Googled the words to Let It Go so I can sing it in the interview to the kids."
Detective Sergeant John Breda has conducted around 40 interviews and says every one is different, and each officer has their own strategy.
"I like to talk about sports and that sort of thing, or for little boys it could be cars or something else," he says.
"People would be shocked about what we hear at times, and see so it's something we have to deal with."

The impact

Next to her desk, Detective Senior Constable Prior has a box of mementos given to her by the children she's helped over the years.
Paintings, drawings, a paper plane a victim was playing with during an interview, and a rock with "inner strength" engraved on it which was given to her by a four-year-old and her mum.
"They went to a shop apparently and the little girl saw it and said, 'I want to buy this for the detective that helped me'.
"I think kids have got a real compassion inside of them. Most of the time when they are going through their trauma they're not actually thinking about themselves. They think about everybody else involved."
Detective Senior Constable Prior is the first to admit the work has an impact on the officers in the squad.
"There are certain cases that do stick in your mind and that will never leave you. However you have to deal with that.
"It is an extraordinarily difficult job, but also it's a very rewarding job at the same time.
"You're able to see matters through to the very end, you're able to help victims and children. You're also able to help family members."
Detective Chief Inspector Yeomans' office is filled with articles and posters, reminders of the cases he's worked on. A horrendous catalogue of the most depraved crimes imaginable. Adults taking advantage of vulnerable, sometimes disabled children, sometimes newborns.
"It's a taboo subject. If you talk about a baby being sexually assaulted or someone physically shaking a baby, or a young child, people just don't want to hear about it," he says.
"My staff investigated recently a 10-month-old, the sexual assault of a little baby. We investigate matters of very, very young children being sexually and physically assaulted and that does take its toll. A lot of my police are very, very young. They've got children themselves."
Detective Sergeant Breda has a young family of his own. He's spent time across the police force in property crime and the Middle Eastern Organised Crime Squad, but says his work with CAS has been unique and rewarding.
"You can't share some of the things that we see with people. It's just the way it is, unfortunately. Because you don't want to have to burden them with what you've seen and heard, so that's just part and parcel of what the job is."
He says the squad rely on each other for support.
"We have other social supports in place. Our "well checks" that we have to go to every three or four months, where we debrief with a specialised counsellor.
"It's not for every police officer. Some people wish to be there, and you don't have to be here if you don't want to, but everyone that's here wants to be here and to help children."
Detective Chief Inspector Yeomans says he wants more people to talk openly about the issue of child sexual abuse, hoping it will encourage victims to come forward.
"That is what the Royal Commission [into Child Sexual Abuse] is doing and making it a front page [issue] and making it being spoken about.
"There is a particular squad in place, there are 200 detectives, very, very dedicated detectives, that these victims can go to assist them if they need it.
Detective Chief Inspector Yeomans also hopes talking about it openly will show offenders they can't hide in the shadows.
"They're not going to get away with what they've done. We will do something about these matters," he says.
"Justice will prevail."

Behind the scenes at the Child Abuse Squad Elise Worthington Alex McDonald 06 06 2017


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