Sex Offences: hysteria v reality
This issue exposes the contradictions of personal behaviour, commercial interests and government responses like no other. Justice Action has for many years defended the apparently indefensible, embraced the most reviled, and feels that handling this issue properly will lead to a reconsideration of community values on punishment. The furore around Ray (Dennis) Ferguson has given us the focus.
We welcome comment and regard the area as an opportunity to examine our community values. The over-reaction to the settlement of Ray (Dennis) Ferguson, who represents no threat to the community, has the effect of preventing those currently being abused from getting help.
Stark figures are that one in four females and one in eight males are sexually abused. It is a very common crime with 90% happening with a trusted family member or friend in a home, and mostly not reported. Of those charged, 95% are unknown to police. The level of recidivism after exposure is lower than almost any other crime, and treatments work. Yet "sex offenders" are labelled and excluded like no other person. It is a label for life with unexposed sex offenders often the most righteous accusers. The exposed offenders are scapegoats for bad community management.
Many victims don't report continuing abuse, as the stereotype of the dangerous stranger makes them think they won't be believed, and also they realise that the effect of exposure on their family and themselves would be devastating. The family member very often is essential and trusted in other roles. The hysteria of the government response blocks relief for the victim and protects the abusers. In fact it is a community issue requiring community support and resolution.
The punishment for an assault driven by anger causing permanent injury can be light, but an assault driven by lust for pleasure causing harm, either major or inconsequential, can cause lifelong labelling and exclusion.
Sex enticement is ever present, drives advertising, is always hot and forms a major industry. Access to gratification is restricted by rules which empower only some - the loved, the beautiful and the rich. Gender differences underlie some of the tensions. It is very unequal. Its expression is not seen as a human right. Many religions see abstention as virtuous.
We believe that sex offending must be handled privately, using a special Sex Offences Court with community support. Those affected by the abuse should get top priority, and restorative processes with mentoring adopted. Our proposal is below.
Proposal download pdf
Sex Offending Analysis Paper (23/9 version) download pdf
Housing - COSPs - new quasi prison system
There has been a dangerous development of a quasi-prison system being created around the resettlement of ex prisoners. Before enacting a new housing law to evict Ray (Dennis) Ferguson, he was told a COSP (Community Offender Support Programs) would be the only place available for him!
Instead of people ending their sentence and returning to the community with support from non government organisations and mainstream services, Corrective Services has begun taking federal homelessness money and extending the prison system by stealth. They are calling them COSPs but in reality they are controlled by the prisons department, where curfews and in some cases even permission to meet family members has to be granted two weeks in advance.
This is destructive of community support development, takes away the essential element of personal responsibility and trust and reduces the money for community organisations involved in post release services. The prisons departments are already squandering their money and failing badly. Ray (Dennis) Ferguson was told a COSP would be the only place available for him! Justifying their system! We must make sure we can properly support people like Mr Ferguson in the community.
COSP Analysis paper download pdf
Prisons as part of the Community
This is a key to JA's work. It was presented to the NSW Legislative Council 2009 as part of the campaign against the corporate privatisation of prisons. It is an analysis of the conflicting policies of social exclusion and community building, giving examples of how they conflict in practice and offering some direction for change.
Prisons as part of the Community Analysis Paper download pdf