A few weeks ago, my friend and colleague Monique Schafter gave me a heads up that a documentary on pedophilia that she’d been directing would soon be airing on the ABC. Entitled “Our Little Secret”, Monique’s documentary follows the personal survival story of Chas Fisher and his pursuit to determine what makes some people sexually abuse children.
Now I’m under no illusions about how provocative “Our Little Secret” is going to be once it hits ABC2’s airwaves at 9-30pm on the 11th of December. That’s partially because unlike most people I’ve seen Monique weave her magical media skills in person, but mostly because I’ve spent most of the past 18 months investigating both historical and more contemporary pedophilia allegations, convictions and court appearances from across the New England region of New South Wales. From instances of child abuse involving the Church through to parents and other family members assaulting their own children, the horrendous nature of such abuse touches everyone who investigates it, whether they be emergency responders, officers of the courts, medical practitioners or journalists such as myself.
Throughout the time that I’ve been investigating this issue within the New England, I’ve come across content that rivals (and in some cases also involves) some of the worst of the evidence presented during the Special Commission into the Maitland-Newcastle Diocese of the Roman Catholic Church, with hundreds of child sexual abuse cases being reported within the New England region between September 1986 and March 1987 alone. As well as this, I’ve seen friends repeatedly shatter themselves to pieces once the haunting dread of pedophilia has crept upon their doors, while I’ve also uncovered manefesto-like academic thesis’s of self-confessed child abusers who have attempted to apologise for their actions utilising historical prose, questionable financial transactions that have been designed to protect offenders and some seriously disturbing actions that have been undertaken by the Police and Judiciary from that region, which should have been the subject of an inquiry a long time ago.
But are the thoughts, experiences and opinions that Chas Fisher exhibits along with the people that he interviews within “Our Little Secret” unique, or are they more broadly representative of pedophilia survivors as a whole than we are currently aware? Coincidentally, many of the questions that Chas Fisher asks during this documentary are also ones that were raised by current affairs programs in the New England such as 9-8’s (NEN) “Monday Report” during the late 1980’s. Entitled “No Excuses”, parts of Neil Warren’s story focused on the experiences and thoughts of a pedophilia survivor who was refered to as “Jane Doe” throughout the course of the production. As evidenced by the edited footage attached below, there’s a remarkable similarity between the questions that both victims and victim support facilities are asking now, in comparison to what was being asked by society in general throughout other times in Australia’s history.
Now while Neil Warren (who now works for 7News Brisbane) couldn’t remember anything about this story when I contacted him in relation to it, the work of reporters from both the 1980’s and earlier is still undoubtedly going to play a key role in allowing the Royal Commission into Child Abuse to determine the extent that Australia has been influenced by the crime of pedophilia in the past. As a result of these productions, not only can we contrast the thoughts and views of both society and victims alike between then and now, but we can also verify that there were major concerns across the entirety of the New England in regards to pedophilia, long before the ABC, SBS and Fairfax amongst others, started commissioning stories on offences that were taking place in rural New South Wales. As well as that, we can also contrast the effectiveness and reach of various pedophilia awareness, protection, reporting and restitution programs in contrast to both then and now, not to mention the likelihood of institutional offenders and their superiors being aware that such activities towards children are destructive. Coincidentally, the principal subject of Four Corners’ “Unholy Silence” documentary last year was initially arrested on allegations of pedophilia in Tamworth, less than two months after “No Excuses” went to air via the “Monday Report” on the 22nd of June, 1987.
Needless to say, this will be an area that I’ll be further examining over the course of the next couple of weeks, which in turn will undoubtedly raise further questions that will need answering by both the Royal Commission into Child Abuse, as well as other organisations and individuals going forward.