A recent article in the Sydney Morning Herald by columnist Miranda Devine was a hard read; the very subject matter curdled the stomach and made the insides squirm in an effort to escape it.

The subject matter was paedophiles and how easily they gain both the trust of parents and access to the innocent children that become their victims.

The other disturbing aspect of the article lay in the fact that society doesn’t seem to want to acknowledge and address the horrors of child abuse in order to help protect the next generation, the innocent children, who are falling victim to an sexual, physical, mental and emotional abuse.

As Miranda points out, ‘how did we arrive at a circumstance in which a 56-year-old man is convicted in the NSW District Court this week of sexually abusing eight children aged from 12 months to 14 years, videotaping thousands of unspeakable crimes, and barely a comment is made?”

The trial in question was that of David Shane Whitby whose reign of terror lasted more than a decade, in which time he video-taped his despicable acts against innocent children. In one video he allegedly said “I love to molest children …. I am a child molester and transvestite … I have molested so many children”.

The list of charges read like an ‘R’ rated horror story and included 73 counts of sexual intercourse with a child aged between 10 and 14 years old. It is small consolation that he will be sentenced in September.

A police officer who works in child protection said ”they were poor single mothers doing it tough and they were conned by a predator … Whitby will be remembered as the worst paedophile in Australia’s history, in terms of number of victims, number of crimes and the extremely sick nature of the crimes … No one in child protection has ever seen anything like this.”

Traditionally the ‘family’ has formed the threads of our social fabric and yet because of changes in society during the last 40 years the social fabric that holds our community together is being ripped apart by society itself.

Gone are the days when the family was made up of a working father and a stay at home mother. Couples are marrying later and having fewer families. Today the term ‘family’ can be applied to step-parents, single parents, blended families, defacto relationships and same sex parents.

In essence change is good and these new lifestyle choices are merely a response to the world we now live in, but are they also unwittingly undermining the strength of the ‘family’ on which our society is built?

In the UK Sir Paul Coleridge, a Family Court judge, caused controversy last year when he addressed the Family Holiday Association and suggested that the state of marriage should be upheld and that those who destroy family life should be held accountable.

He described what he sees in court as a ”never-ending carnival of human misery … I have witnessed the damage done [to children] by the endless game of ‘musical relationships’, or ‘pass the partner’, in which a significant portion of the population is engaged”.

Sir Coleridge’s views might be considered old fashioned by some, but he had a point when he said “surely the test of any social change is whether it enhances people’s lives or makes them more miserable. And this is where I take issue with the modern view of the family. If it is so successful, why are the statistics for separation so large?”.
 
“More significantly, why are the family courts overwhelmed with cases involving damaged, miserable or disturbed children? How do other children, caught up in less serious separations, really feel? Do they relish the endless changes of partner, or adapting to a new step-parent and step-siblings?” he added.

So the question remains; how can our children be protected in a world where predators can easily enter their lives because of the breakdown in family values? If their parents cannot protect them, then who can?

How, we might ask ourselves, can a man like Whitby get so close to these vulnerable children?  The answer is ‘easily’ when you look at the recent case of a father who was awarded custody of his daughter, despite the fact that he has a known history of heroin addiction and sex offences.

He was given custody simply because the mother was even less able to protect and take care of her daughter than he was, as she had a string of shoplifting, drug and prostitution related convictions to her name.

The magistrate reasoned that “the father provides calmer parenting with more clearly set boundaries than the mother does,” adding that “a history of inadequate supervision combined with heroin and marijuana use create a serious concern that (the girl) may be neglected by her mother”.

Joe Tucci of The Australian childhood Foundation said “children shouldn’t ever be placed in a situation where the rights of the parents . . . override their right to protection,” he said.

“The decision should be about whether a child is safe or not, not which parent is the better to look after them.

As Miranda Devine points out “it is the community’s responsibility to rebuild social norms destroyed through the social revolution of the past 40 years.”

Writer Helen Splarn. Editor Dr Ramesh Manocha.

Source: Sydney Morning Herald. Speech by Sir Paul Coleridge.