Monday, April 5, 2010

ZenTiger Does NZ tolerate sexual abuse of minors?

I know I'm supposed to wait 30 years before raising such issues, but this story is worth adding to the blog archives.

The short story is that an adult has repeated sex with an 11 year old. Gets her pregnant at age 13, and this finally comes to the attention of the police who decline to lay charges even though it is a criminal offense, with a penalty of 20 years. This was in New Zealand, in 2007.

We (NZ society) appear to make very vocal statements that sex with minors is abhorrent and not to be tolerated. Yet, cases pop up with a degree of regularity that show we are tolerating it. The abortion numbers of girls under 16 are increasing. Given the law has obviously been broken, why not more investigations? How big is this problem we seemingly chose to ignore?

Unless it involves the Church that is. At the other end of the spectrum, the Catholic Church is under fire for the Father Murphy case. He abused deaf boys in the 1950's and onwards in America. Apparently, this was reported to the police and they did nothing. A bit like the case above, it seems. Now, in 2010 the media is asking why a 1996 internal church trial was so slow in coming (the Vatican was notified in 1995), and wonders if the Pope can be blamed. Actually, many media outlets have blamed the Pope and playing loose with the facts seems not to be much of a problem. The case, like many cases of abuse, is horrendous, and legal inaction from secular authorities ought to be part of the horror we all feel that this abuse continued for so long.

Here's the story I mentioned:

Minor has baby: no charges laid
5:00AM Sunday November 25, 2007
By Stephen Cook

Police chose not to lay charges against a 21-year-old who fathered a child with a 13-year-old girl – even though he confessed to police he had been having sex with a minor.

The pregnancy was highlighted last week by Children’s Commissioner Cindy Kiro, who used the case to illustrate “the wall of silence” protecting people who committed child abuse.

The girl had started having sex from the age of 11 and Kiro claimed that no one in her family would come forward and shed any light on who was responsible.

However, the Herald on Sunday understands the father turned himself in to police but was given only a verbal warning by officers.

Rape Crisis is demanding answers about why police never charged the man with having sex with a minor. It says the police’s failure to do so sends extremely worrying mixed messages to teenagers.

A conviction for having sex with someone under the age of 12 carries a maximum prison term of 14 years. Having sex with someone under the age of 16 carries a 10-year maximum prison term.

Sources involved with the girl’s family told the Herald on Sunday the man had been involved in a sexual relationship with the girl since she was 11. When Child Youth and Family (CYF) became aware the girl was pregnant at 12, she was removed from the mother’s care and placed with a family member. Four months ago the girl gave birth. She was 13.

It is understood the 21-year-old is still involved in a relationship with the girl and has supervised visits with his son. During the day the baby is cared for by a family member, allowing the girl to remain at school.

A source told the Herald on Sunday the girl’s mother was aware her daughter’s relationship was of a sexual nature, but chose to do nothing about it. For five months, the girl had managed to hide the pregnancy, and authorities became involved only after being alerted to the case by the girl’s doctor.

It was then that CYF intervened. CYF is understood to still be monitoring the girl, but with the refusal of police to act in the case it is hamstrung over taking any action about her relationship with the baby’s father.

Asked about police protocols in the case of someone having sex with a minor, a spokesperson at Police National Headquarters said charges were laid only if there was sufficient evidence and proceeding with a case was in the public interest.

Rape Crisis spokeswoman Sandz Peipi said the fact the 21-year-old had been involved with the girl when she was only 11 was “disturbing and quite perverse”.

Whether the sex was consensual was irrelevant because of the girl’s age and the man should have been charged by police.

The fact he had admitted committing “statutory rape” meant police had more than sufficient evidence to go on, Peipi said. She was also surprised police did not believe it was in the “public interest” to lay charges.

NZ tolerates the sexual abuse of minors

14 comment(s):

Psycho Milt said...

Does NZ tolerate sexual abuse of minors?

Well, in this particular case it seems the Police and the girl's family do. But it also appears that the girl's doctor, CYF, Rape Crisis, the Children's Commissioner and the news media don't, and that they've made attempts to do something about it.

Unfortunately, those attempts are fairly easily thwarted if those with authority to impose consequences for the abuse can't be arsed doing so. The person at the head of those authorities should be called to acount for their failure. No doubt they can claim this particular case was not drawn to their attention and it was all the fault of underlings doing the wrong thing. Doesn't matter - the buck stops at the top.

Seán said...

Does NZ tolerate sexual abuse of minors?

The answer need not be in the responses of the individual parties involved in this case. I would like to know what the reaction to the case (news) was by the general public. Was there outrage in the blogs/letters to the editor/talkback radio? Were there follow up news reports and weekend columnists condemning the police actions?

This is more indicative of "NZ". If it was all pretty quiet then Zen is right. If not, then "NZ"s collective moral fibre remains to fight another day.

KG said...

"...a spokesperson at Police National Headquarters said charges were laid only if there was sufficient evidence and proceeding with a case was in the public interest."

Is the crucial point here.
Not the first time we've heard this phrase from them, is it? The police are employed to enforce the laws and the "public interest" excuse moves that enforcement from the realm of law into the opinions of the police and Crown Law.
Now, those opinions may be based on anything at all for all we know--it's not unknown for senior figures in police forces and the courts in other countries to be involved in paedophilia and to therefore have a personal interest in whether such crimes are prosecuted.
So when the sweeping "not in the public interest" phrase is trotted out I smell a large rat. The public interest is best served by an arrest for the alleged offence followed by an open trial in open court.
Anything less is law applied on the whim of an elite. Which is no law at all.

Andrei said...

Well we have this ongoing story which doesn't seem to arouse much interest.

Now if lake Alice had been a Catholic institution, run by the clergy the question of everybody's lips would be what did the Pope know and when did he know it?

Psycho Milt said...

Well, sure - I expect that if Lake Alice had been run by an organisation that had made efforts to conceal the abuse while claiming to be an inerrant moral authority and issuing declarations on how we should all behave, everyone would be very interested in the story.

Ciaron said...

Without knowing all the facts, would it be outside the realms of possibility that the 21yr old is committed financially & emotionally (i.e. providing), to both the mother & child? I'm not endorsing what he's done, merely suggesting that it may not be in the child's best interest if he went to prison.

ZenTiger said...

Actually, it wasn't in the child's best interests (the 11 year old) to have a sexual relationship with this man, and that's the first "best interests" hurdle to overcome.

A sexual abuser willing to pay child maintenance doesn't really cut it for me as a mitigating reason, although I acknowledge that this line of thinking you point out (but don't endorse) is most likely the one that the police have seized upon as an excuse for inaction.

ZenTiger said...

PM, whilst that was the issue with some of these cases many years ago, that is not the issue now, as directives and policies have been changed and the Vatican is taking back control over such matters from "local" authorities.

Further to that is the often not mentioned point that far too often secular authorities WERE informed, and also did nothing. Often it's a case of statute of limitations, but they could have changed the law and extended those. The Vatican did back in 2001 I think it was, and had over-ridden that statute in at least a couple of cases prior I remember reading.

I.M Fletcher said...

PS, yes the Church does claim to be an inerrant moral authority, but were the priests who committed these foul deeds following the moral authority of the Church? Of course not.

Just because the Church claims to be inerrant in matters of morals doesn't mean that those who represent the Church are automatically and magically gifted with the power to follow those morals any more than the members of the Police are gifted with the power to follow and uphold the law.

Are there no Police officers who break the law? Who commit criminal acts? We expect to a certain degree that the Police be above breaking the law that they are supposed to be upholding but we know that they aren't perfect.

We are all human and sometimes we sin in horrible ways. Judas betrayed Jesus - the Jesus who performed miracles right in front of his eyes. Should I expect the priests who followed after to make no mistake as big, or not to commit any sins at all?

While I abhor the sins that have been brought to light, I think that it is remarkably few priests that have been accused, but this same brush has been used to paint the entire membership.

In secular society, if there is a bad cop, do we paint all cops bad by association? Of course not. Nor do we call for the abolishment of the Police as a whole as some have called for the Catholic Church to be abolished.

The media have a lot to answer for. The longer I live, the more I see that nothing the media say is to be believed without seeing the whole story.

Psycho Milt said...

...yes the Church does claim to be an inerrant moral authority, but were the priests who committed these foul deeds following the moral authority of the Church? Of course not.

No, indeed. Every organisation has some bad apples in the barrel. However, at issue in my comment is an organisation claiming inerrant moral authority dealing with these bad apples by covering up the abuse and packing the abusers off to new, unsuspecting congregations. That the claims to moral authority should take a hammering in consequence is hardly surprising.

I.M Fletcher said...

PM, I think a lot of it has to do with how society as a whole handled things like this in the past. That is what my elderly mother said when all this came up. There would have been a great sense of embarrassment and a wish not to air one's dirty laundry in public. Things like this in any organisation, be it church, school, or orphanage were talked about in hushed tones and it just wasn't 'proper' to talk about it.

Of course it was wrong but I think those in authority thought they were doing what was right. Perhaps they thought a change of location - getting the perpetrator away from his victim - would make a difference. Perhaps they thought that the priest was somehow attracted to the victim in a special way and that it wasn't a problem the priest had with all children. I don't really know.

There's an interesting article linked at left that claims abuse in schools is 100 times worse that that by priests -

n the last several weeks such a quantity of ink has been spilled in newspapers across the globe about the priestly sex abuse scandals, that a casual reader might be forgiven for thinking that Catholic priests are the worst and most common perpetrators of child sex abuse.

But according to Charol Shakeshaft, the researcher of a little-remembered 2004 study prepared for the U.S. Department of Education, "the physical sexual abuse of students in schools is likely more than 100 times the abuse by priests."

After effectively disappearing from the radar, Shakeshaft’s study is now being revisited by commentators seeking to restore a sense of proportion to the mainstream coverage of the Church scandal.

According to the 2004 study “the most accurate data available at this time” indicates that “nearly 9.6 percent of students are targets of educator sexual misconduct sometime during their school career.”

“Educator sexual misconduct is woefully under-studied,” writes the researcher. “We have scant data on incidence and even less on descriptions of predators and targets. There are many questions that call for answers.“

In an article published on Monday, renowned Catholic commentator George Weigel referred to the Shakeshaft study, and observed that “The sexual and physical abuse of children and young people is a global plague” in which Catholic priests constitute only a small minority of perpetrators.

While Weigel observes that the findings of Shakeshaft’s study do nothing to mitigate the harm caused by priestly abuse, or excuse the “clericalism” and “fideism” that led bishops to ignore the problem, they do point to a gross imbalance in the level of scrutiny given to it, throwing suspicion on the motives of the news outlets that are pouring their resources into digging up decades-old dirt on the Church.

“The narrative that has been constructed is often less about the protection of the young (for whom the Catholic Church is, by empirical measure, the safest environment for young people in America today) than it is about taking the Church down," he writes.

I think it is true to some extent that there is a concerted effort by the media to 'take down' the Church.

Psycho Milt said...

So, we shouldn't judge the Church on the actions of a few criminals but the school system is fair game?

Still, it's a good point, and if the Min of Ed or the teachers' unions ever characterise their organisations as created by God to represent him here on Earth and start issuing pronouncements on morality that they declare to be inerrant, you bet I will hold them to an extremely high standard of organisational behaviour.

ZenTiger said...

PM, the Church has been judged, over and over again. It's cleaning out the dead wood and the garbage. The "new" scandals rocking the Church aren't exactly new.

The media has made several misrepresentations of facts.

The point of my post was also to hold the secular authorities to the same standards they say they believe in, and I'm simply talking here about the laws of the land.

Here's a case where the laws of the land are not being enforced. There are others, which you gloss over, where they were informed of sexual abuse and did nothing.

The culture of cover-ups was largely predicated on the belief that these things wouldn't happen again. Trouble was, your average good priest could probably not fully comprehend at the time the evil and deceptive nature of these child abusers.

Which partly explains why, of the hundreds or even thousands of cases, it seems the victims and the parents didn't go to the authorities as much as anyone living in these times would expect.

Can we excuse these people for waiting years to come forward? Can we say that their failure to come forward damaged other lives? Or do we have to appreciate that sometimes, in the thick of things, the view isn't so clear cut as it looks 20 years later?

And whilst some of the stories are about cover-ups, not all are. As I said, there are many instances where secular authorities get involved and little happens.

I saw on one thread on these matters some strange confusion from a commenter. He wondered why sexual abuse by priests prevented the police from getting involved. He said "why should the Vatican be trying this priest to decide if he gets defrocked, when clearly the law has been broken and he should be punished. Priests should not be exempt from the law"

What he hadn't quite twigged to, was that the authorities had been involved and decided not to press charges. "Nothing they could do" and the trial by the Vatican was something additional and separate, not instead of. He might view the story I mention above with the same puzzlement.

And there are a range of stories that indicate to me some double standards by the courts: I recall one story of the Church being successfully sued for millions of dollars (maybe 16 or 25, can't remember) because a youth worker they hired (not even a priest) had sexual relations with a 15 year old girl. Where it gets ironic, is that he not only fooled the Church, he fooled her parents, who invited him on a family camping trip where some of the offending took place. They could sue the Church for 25 million, but apparently did not see the value in suing themselves for an equal amount for their own failure to provide a secure and safe environment for their daughter.

Andrei said...

Still, it's a good point, and if the Min of Ed or the teachers' unions ever characterise their organisations as created by God to represent him here on Earth and start issuing pronouncements on morality that they declare to be inerrant, you bet I will hold them to an extremely high standard of organisational behaviour.

Well every dam school in New Zealand is sexually abuses our children when they feed them dangerous pap about using condoms for anal intercourse Milt!

All school children are even given practical demonstrations on how to fit the satanic articles to the male member using various phallic objects as stand ins some in some cases realistic ones.

Don't go all secular holier than thou - our schools a destroying the future hope and happiness of our children with crap.

God save our children from secular education

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