Monsters and Horror in the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse

  • Penny Crofts
  • Law & Literature, August 2017, Taylor & Francis
  • DOI: 10.1080/1535685x.2017.1346959

Pedophiles as monsters

What is it about?

It is really common in the media to label sex offenders as monsters. This article analyses the resonance of the category of paedophiles as monsters or monstrous and the ways in which this impacted upon witnesses’ responses to sex offenders in the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. I highlight witness assumptions that monsters are outsiders or strangers that are instantly recognisable. I go on to explore the claim that one of the main effects of regarding sex offenders as monsters is that these offenders are construed as having extraordinary powers so that ordinary measures to stop them would be ineffective. In the Royal Commission, some institutions pointed to exceptional, insidious powers of pedophiles as an explanation of why they could not be stopped. Although the Royal Commission consistently undermines and rejects the idea of sex offenders as monsters, a horror reading is still appropriate and insightful. The true “horror” of the Royal Commission is aroused not by the figurative monsters but by the institutions themselves, and their failures

Why is it important?

It is really common to portray sex offenders as monstrous. This article explores the implications of regarding sex offenders as monsters. I point to the ways in which this leads to the failure to recognise sex offenders. More importantly, I argue that the idea of sex offenders as monsters can be used by institutions as an excuse of why they failed to stop sex offenders, based on the idea that these offenders have exceptional powers and only exceptional means could have been used to stop them. In contrast, the Royal Commission has consistently argued that sex offenders are not monstrous - and ordinary measures and procedures could have been used to prevent offending.

Perspectives

PENNY CROFTS
University of Technology Sydney

The issue of sex offending within institutions is challenging and ongoing. I enjoyed writing this article because it provides an alternative perspective on this important issue.

Read Publication

http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/1535685x.2017.1346959

The following have contributed to this page: PENNY CROFTS