One in six Australian men admit to having sexual feelings towards children and teens, according to a survey conducted by the University of NSW and Jesuit Social Services.
Adding to this, one in 10 admits to committing sexual offences against minors under the age of 18, despite few being caught.
Even more alarming, one in 15 men admit they would have sexual contact with a child aged 14 or younger, if no one would find out.
15.1% of respondents have sexual feelings towards children and teenagers
These findings were part of a report to determine the disturbing extent of child sexual abuse in Australia. The survey involved 1,900 Australian men over the age of 18 and is the largest study of its kind globally.
The aim of this study was to flip the script and really bring to visibility the men in the community who are harming children who never come to the attention of the criminal justice system,” the study’s lead investigator, Professor Michael Salter, said.
“This study brings unprecedented visibility to the numbers of undetected child sex offenders in the Australian community.”
Willingness to have sexual contact with a child
- 5.7% – Men who say they would have sexual contact with a child aged between 12 to 14 if no one found out.
- 4.6% – Men who say they would have sexual contact with a child aged between 10 to 12 if no one found out.
- 4% – Men who say they would have sexual contact with a child aged younger than 10 if no one found out.
- 6.6% – Men who admit to at least one of the above.
- 10.2% of respondents who had sexual feelings for children but said they had not acted on them.
The research classed men as offenders if they admitted to at least one of the following as an adult:
- deliberately viewing pornography featuring underage people.
- flirting or sexual conversations online.
- using a webcam in a sexual way or in-person sexual contact with a minor.
- paying for online sexual interactions, images or videos involving a person under 18.
The age of consent in Australia is 16 or 17, depending on the state or territory. However, researchers questioned participants on their feelings towards all minors aged up to 18 to align the study with international research.
1 in 10 have committed a sexual offense
Of the 10% of Australian men who admitted to committing an offence, half of these men reported having sexual feelings towards children and teens. The other half admitted to committing the crime without having any sexual feelings and the act may have been prompted by drugs or alcohol.
This particular group of men also reported higher levels of anxiety, depression and binge drinking behaviour. They were also more likely to have been sexually abused or had adverse experiences in childhood and consume pornography that involves violence or bestiality.
However, they were also reported to be more likely to be outwardly successful, married, working with children and earning higher incomes.
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,” Salter added.
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.”
Last financial year the AFP received more than 40,000 reports of online child exploitation, arrested 186 people for federal child sexual abuse crimes and referred 545 cases to other Australian law enforcement bodies.
If you or someone you know is experiencing sexual thoughts or behaviours towards children, please contact Stop It Now! Australia. Stop it Now! Australia is a child sexual abuse prevention program that works with adults concerned about their own, or someone else’s sexual thoughts or behaviours towards children.
Call the anonymous helpline on 1800-01-1800 or access resources at www.stopitnow.org.au.