Link between sex victims, crime: inquiry
6:30pm March 15, 2013
One in ten boys who are sexually abused after puberty go on to be convicted sex offenders, a parliamentary inquiry has heard.
Former clinical director of the Victorian Institute of Forensic Health, Paul Mullen, says there is a strong link between men having been sexually abused as a child and becoming a sexual abuser as an adult.
The association is strongest for boys who are sexually abused between the ages of 12 to 16, he said.
"In that group, figures suggest 10 per cent of them go on to be convicted of a sexual offence, which is an enormous number," Professor Mullen said.
Addressing the Victorian parliamentary inquiry into institutions' handling of child abuse allegations, Prof Mullen said about 15 per cent of children were sexually abused during their childhood.
Men most likely to abuse children were adolescent to early 20s and involved in substance abuse and lawless behaviour.
They were men who often showed signs of social inadequacy, intellectual disability, mental health issues and disregard for others, he said.
"There are a number of things strongly associated with child sex abusers and it has nothing to do with abnormal desire," he said.
During the last decade he was involved in a study following almost 3000 sexually abused children and recording their experiences in mental disorder, suicide, drug overdose, victimisation and offending.
Prof Mullen said the study, the biggest of its kind, showed child abuse survivors had higher rates of depressive illness, anxiety and stress disorders, alcohol and drug abuse, and social problems than other people.
They also experience higher rates of education failure, interpersonal problems, marital breakdown, early onset of sexual activity and higher frequency of teen pregnancy.
Men and women survivors also have higher offending rates, especially for violence.
Prof Mullen said the risks of a child from a privileged, protective, caring background suffering significant child sexual abuse were much lower than a child from a disorganised, disadvantaged home living in a chaotic neighbourhood.
He said a public education campaign on child sex abuse was needed.
"If we're to do anything about the total burden of child sexual abuse in our community, we've got to start thinking of methods which really do address the appalling frequency with which men sexually abuse children," he said.