Horrifying Study Finds One In Ten Australian Men Report Having Sexual Contact With Under 18s

CONTENT WARNING: This article discusses distressing content.

A disturbing study has found that one in ten Australian men say they have had sexual contact with a person under 18.

The study, released on Monday, also revealed that one in 15 men said they would have sexual contact with a child aged 14 or under if no one would find out, and one in six said they have sexual feelings towards children and teenagers.

The study was conducted by the University of New South Wales and Jesuit Social Services, and took a representative sample of 1,945 men aged from 18 to over 65. Researchers wrote that the results were consistent with overseas reports from the United States and the United Kingdom.

Men were classed as offenders if they admitted to at least one of the following with a minor: deliberately viewing pornography featuring underage people; flirting or engaging in sexual conversations online; using a webcam in a sexual way or in-person sexual contact; and paying for online sexual interactions, images or videos.

Lead investigator Professor Michael Salter said the typical offender was “the classic person who you’d never suspect” and said the goal of the study was to focus on the behaviours and profiles of undetected offenders to bring them to light and improve prevention.

“This study affirms what countless survivors have said – that the men who abused them were well connected and relatively wealthy, and whose behaviour is secretive and easily overlooked,” he said in the report.

“By shining a light on the characteristics of individual perpetrators and the broader social and technological patterns that enable their abuse, it is our hope that this research can be the catalyst for change to ultimately keep children safe.”

The report found that typical offenders were more likely to be married, working with children and earning higher incomes. They were also more likely to report anxiety, depression and binge drinking behaviours, as well as be active online on social media, be involved with cryptocurrency and consume pornography with violence or beastiality.

A number of recommendations were made on the back of the study, including better safeguards for children, early intervention programs for men with sexual feelings towards children who have not offended, and improving safeguards on online romance and dating sites.

The study was developed with Stop It Now! Australia, the country’s only helpline for people sexually attracted to children. Speaking on the report, Manager Georgia Naldrett said the amount of abuse uncovered was “deeply concerning”.

“Our detailed and evidence-based recommendations call for investment in initiatives that address concerning behaviour before it starts, intervene earlier with boys and men who report troubling thoughts and behaviours, and reduce the reoffending risk of those who have already sexually abused children,” she said.

“Investment in these areas can help keep children safe from harm.”

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