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Australia: Child pornography research

Publish Date: 01 Oct 2004

Source: Canberra Times
By Ben Doherty

No such thing as 'just looking', psychologically

Canberra psychologist Antoinette Harmer said yesterday there was no psychological distinction between people who viewed child pornography and child-sex offenders who physically abuse children.

"Psychologists don't differentiate between those who view child pornography and other child-sex offenders such as paedophiles. Most child-sex offenders will have multiple interests around offending against children, viewing child pornography is a category of that offending," she said. Ms Harmer - a practising clinical and forensic psychologist who is completing a doctorate in forensic psychology - said people who viewed child pornography were perpetuating the abuse on the victim.

"By enjoying those photos, and by gaining sexual gratification from the abuse of a child, they are supporting that abuse."

And she said the spectrum of child- sex offenders was too broad to establish a classic offender profile.

"Child-sex offenders can come from any socio-economic status, from wealthy, well-educated backgrounds, to lower socio- economic backgrounds or people with little education. It's not possible to pick a child-sex offender by their intellect, or the job they do or their personality type." Ms Harmer said it was also difficult to determine what childhood experiences contributed to someone becoming a child-sex offender. "Some offenders were definitely abused themselves as children, while others claim they were ... others definitely were not."

Ms Harmer said some sex offenders were socially awkward amongst adults and related better to children than to their peers.

She said some people "moved down" into child pornography from looking at adult pornography, while others had an interest only in child pornography. Those offenders with a "dedicated sexual deviant interest" in children were most likely to combine looking at child pornography with physical abuse of children.

Ms Harmer's comments were echoed by University of South Australia academic Freda Briggs.

Emeritus Professor Briggs, who specialises in child protection, told radio yesterday that the offenders uncovered so far by police raids were "just the start". She said research showed a 100 per cent correlation between those who collected child pornography and those who abuse children. "Because they are obviously interested in getting some sort of sexual satisfaction from looking at it, and you usually find that when there is a police raid, people have hundreds and hundreds of images that they've collected," she said.

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