A fifth of Aussie blokes have sexual feelings for children

sexual feelings for children

It seems having sexual feelings for children isn’t uncommon.

A new UNSW Sydney and Jesuit Social Service study found one in five Australian men admitted having sexual feelings towards children and/or have sexually offended against children.

That statistic shows the necessity of safeguarding children at early childhood education and care services, and places where children gather.

The largest study of its kind ever undertaken globally, the survey looked at two main areas.

One of these examined identifying and understanding child sexual offending behaviour and attitudes among Australian men.

The other measured the prevalence of risk behaviours and attitudes regarding child sexual offending among a representative sample of 1,945 Australian men aged 18 to 65+ years of age.

Worryingly, only a third of those who reported having sexual feelings towards children said they were motivated to access help.

Key findings

Just over 15 per cent of Australian men report sexual feelings towards children

About one in 10 Australian men has sexually offended against children (including technologically facilitated and offline abuse).

Of those men who had sexually offended against children, about half (4.9 percent) reported having sexual feelings towards children. They were more likely than men with no sexual feelings or offending against children to:

  • be married, working with children, earning higher incomes
  • report anxiety, depression and binge drinking behaviour
  • have been sexually abused or had adverse experiences in childhood
  • be active online, including on social media, encrypted apps and cryptocurrency
  • consume pornography that involves violence or bestiality

New approach

The study report recommends a new approach for measuring and tracking sexual offending and feelings for children. This includes information that can bolster service responses and attitudinal changes that help keep children safe from harm.

“This study brings unprecedented visibility to the numbers of undetected child sex offenders in the Australian community” said lead investigator Associate Professor Michael Salter.

“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.

“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.”

Key recommendations

Preventing child sexual abuse is essential, the report says.

It calls on government and the private sector to invest in ways to address risk factors contributing to sexual offending and reoffending, including:

Safeguarding children in “risky” environments – eg schools, day-care, social groups

Raising community understanding of child sexual abuse harm and challenging attitudes that support child sexual abuse

Improving online romance and dating site safety to reduce offender access to single parents

Providing early intervention services for men with sexual feelings towards children but who have not offended, and undetected offenders who want help

Supporting family and friends to identify problematic behaviour

Improving the capacity for child protection, law enforcement and the criminal justice system – to better identify men who are a chronic risk to children but who are adaptive in their efforts to avoid detection and prosecution


Additional reading

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