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UNSW survey of 2,000 Australian men makes child sexual abuse findings

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A UNSW survey of 2,000 Australian men found nearly 10% of respondents had committed a sexual offence against a person under the age of 18.
unsw survey australian men
CW: Child sexual abuse

A UNSW survey of 2,000 Australian men found nearly 10% of respondents had committed a sexual offence against a person under the age of 18.

It’s the first nationally representative Australian study on child sexual abuse perpetration. The study is the largest of its kind globally.

Nationally representative means it’s designed to represent the population as a whole.

Survey takeaways

  • Almost 10% of men surveyed had sexually offended against children
  • 15% of respondents had experienced sexual feelings towards children
  • 30% of those with sexual feelings towards children want help

The nearly 10% of respondents classified as sex offenders answered ‘yes’ to at least one of five questions, including:

  • If they’d flirted with a person under 18 online
  • If they’d had sex with someone below 18 while they were an adult
  • If they’d deliberately watched porn containing people under 18, This question extended to men who’d also watched this material when they were under 18.

Age of consent laws

The survey is part of an international study including men in the U.S. and the UK.

In Australia, the age of consent varies between 16 and 17. As a result, the report’s benchmark for “offending” doesn’t mean all Australian respondents broke the law.

The report acknowledged that “some of what is noted as sexual contact with a child in our findings may be consensual activity”. Accordingly, it said this was a “limitation of the survey”.

Comments

Lead investigator on the study, UNSW Associate Professor Michael Salter, said the report brought “unprecedented visibility” to the number of undetected child sex offenders in Australia.

“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.”

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