NZ’s child sex crimes ranking demands urgent response
Sexual violence advocacy group Stop Demand Foundation says that a UN report that ranks New Zealand as being in the top
seven countries for child sex crimes, highlights the urgent need for action.
Stop Demand founder and long-time campaigner against sexual violence, Denise Ritchie, argues that it is less the role of
government and more the role of families and communities to prevent such crimes.
“There are various groups that need targeting with strong messages, if we are to see these crimes stopped and statistics
reversed,” says Ritchie.
Targeting offenders, current and potential, is vital. “Overwhelmingly,” says Ritchie, “sex crimes against our kids are
committed by males, most of whom are a part of or known to a victim’s family. Many cannot conceive of, or care less
about, the often lasting damage inflicted on victims. They need to grasp that their selfish offending brings lasting
damage and death to victims’ lives: they destroy childhood innocence, kill hopes and dreams, shatter trust, with
survivors often crippled by depression, anxiety, self-loathing and suicidal ideation. Until such time as understanding
and empathy is achievable, offenders need to hear the blunt message, ‘Keep your penis in your pants! Your offending is a
choice. Stop it. As with female offenders, seek help.’”
Stop Demand says hard-hitting messages must also be aimed at the partners of perpetrators. Many turn a blind eye to
known or suspected offending. Some opt to believe a perpetrator’s denial over a child’s reporting. Ritchie says,
“Partners of perpetrators need to be challenged about putting their own neediness before their legal and moral
obligation to protect their children, or other kids at risk. If they haven’t the resolve or if they are a victim of
violence themselves, they must seek help. Such bystanders need reminding that silent collusion in enabling child sex
crimes is an imprisonable offence.”
Extended family/whanau, communities and wider society have vital roles to play in preventing sexual violence against
children. “But,” says Ritchie, “let’s stop using the banal term ‘abuse’ for child rape and sexual violation. We must
stop minimising and reducing child sex crimes to a ‘social issue’. They are a criminal issue. Our mental health systems
and prisons are full of adults who’ve suffered lasting damage as a result of being sexually violated as kids. Yet today,
these often heinous crimes continue to be committed on children who rely on adults around them to love, protect and look
out for them. We must stop failing them.”
Stop Demand points to the small northland town of Kaikohe, that several years ago recognised that families and the
communities around them, rather than government, are best positioned to stop such crimes. It urges more communities to
step up and do likewise.
New Zealand’s high ranking, globally, on child sex crimes is more than a national disgrace. It is a stain on the soul of
our nation. It has to change.
Stop Demands calls for action to end sexual violence, sexual exploitation and sexual denigration of women and children.