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Tuesday, 16 June 2009
Page: 6172

Mrs MIRABELLA (8:49 PM) —I rise with a heavy heart this evening to talk about an issue that deeply cuts into community, destroys families and destroys lives. I am speaking this evening about child sexual abuse. It is not a palatable issue. It is not something that people like to speak about, because it is one of those very distasteful, awful and disturbing issues. Sometimes those who try to raise these issues receive all sorts of criticisms. I was moved to again think deeply about this issue after the sentence brought down in the case of the DPP v LW, on 15 June 2009 in the criminal division of the Supreme Court in Victoria. In this case, a mother was sentenced to six years imprisonment because she was found guilty of incitement to murder her stepfather. Her stepfather had been charged with an offence after a complaint was made to police. He had sexually assaulted the woman’s 12-year-old daughter. I thought to myself that it would be very interesting to find out what sort of punishment the stepfather received and, although I cannot be 100 per cent sure, I have received advice that his sentence was far more lenient. So this woman’s stepfather molested her daughter and he received a lenient sentence, while she received a far less lenient sentence after she was found guilty of incitement to murder the man who committed this heinous crime against her daughter.

Over the last few days, I have said to people, ‘What would you do if you found A, B, or C had interfered with your child?’ The instinctive reaction of a parent is not only to protect their child but to punish someone who could be so sick, be so antisocial and break all the rules as we know them in a civil society and impinge on the freedom and the innocence of childhood. The instinctive reaction of parents is to say, ‘I’d want to destroy the bastard; I’d want to kill the bastard.’ That is the instinctive reaction and that is natural.

What we are seeing here—and I am not advocating that we should go out and fulfil our instinctive urges—is a disconnect between the community sentiment of disgust and the anger that we feel for the perpetrator when a child is abused, and what the law actually does and what sentencing achieves. Perhaps what we need are greater, more severe penalties for child abusers, because it is not just the dollars and cents, the estimated $4 billion a year which child abuse costs; it is the human tragedy. We see disturbed adults who were abused as children. They have suicidal, antisocial behaviour and a greater incidence of substance abuse and eating disorders. They have issues with trust and intimacy and they are at risk of revictimisation, with the risk of sexual violence in adulthood for women who were abused at 54 per cent, versus 26 per cent for all women. There are real issues here.

As a community we need to demand of our legislators in relevant jurisdictions that they amend laws to reflect the due punishment for people who perpetrate such crimes because there are too many of them out in the community and walking the streets, perpetrators who get away with so much to satisfy their perverse desires and leave behind a string of damaged and bruised children and families. We must do better. We must serve our community and the children of Australia much better than we are currently. The beginning is to start talking about this more and more, not to be embarrassed, because it is a real problem, and not to be ashamed to say that these abhorrent people deserve greater punishment.