Reports of this type on abused children do more harm than good

Dear Editor,

On Wednesday 21st July 2010, Channel 28’s Evening News featured an item on sexually abused children. In the item, the community in which the children are now living was identified and the name and a photograph of their dead mother were broadcast.

While the intention of the station was no doubt to expose and raise awareness about child abuse and in particular the situation of these children, including the alleged murder of their mother, the coverage was troubling for a number of reasons.

By disclosing the location of the children, Channel 28 may have put them at further risk from the perpetrator and has in any event severely compromised their anonymity in the community and the country as they try to bring some semblance of normality to their lives. Disclosure of any information that could identify the complainant to an offence under the new Sexual Offences Act is itself an offence punishable by a fine of $2 million.

Furthermore, since the matter has already been reported to the relevant authorities, the report may have compromised the case from a law enforcement and judicial perspective.

And last but by no means least, the way the camera focused on the children was appalling and deeply disturbing. The obvious distress they felt in recounting part of their abuse was heart-rending to watch. Disclosure for the sake of disclosure is not a healing process unless accompanied by ongoing and sustained counselling and support.

While we recognise that there is valid frustration at the slow pace and quality of investigation and court processes, the safety, security and psychological healing of child survivors of sexual and other forms of abuse are paramount, and this kind of coverage does considerably more harm than good.

Yours faithfully,
Denise Dias
Afna Garnett
Danuta Radzik
Josephine Whitehead
for Help & Shelter

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