By Margaret Burin
Comments by the publisher of the south-west Victorian Hamilton Spectator newspaper have sparked anger amongst survivors of child sex abuse.
On Saturday the Hamilton Spectator's publisher, Richard Beks printed an opinion piece on the topic of child sex abuse.
Survivors of child sex abuse say The Spec Blog entry trivialises criminal behaviour and dismisses its impacts on victims.
"Sheahan got a nine-month suspended sentence as well. Not sure to what purpose. At 83 years of age, living in a nursing home and needing a walking frame to get about he's obviously not going to reoffend so a suspended sentence seems pointless," Mr Beks writes.
He then goes on to discuss a case of a Hamilton school teacher who in 2008 was sentenced to 18 months in prison "for merely touching an U16 girl's breast and genitals in a private home in Brisbane some years earlier".
"I'm not nominating him for a medal however, something like this for the middle-age bachelor has the hallmarks of misguided curiosity. There were no threats or intimidation involved so you could argue that this was closer to a case of appalling manners than major crime," he writes.
Misguided curiosity? Are you serious? We're not talking about an adolescent on his first date?
The blog also says that the ABC and SBS are "forever baying for blood" on the matter of child sex abuse "with the courts often responding - with confusing regard to the level of damage caused".
Dr Wayne Chamley of Broken Rites, an advocacy group for victims of child sex abuse, says the piece is bizarre.
"The author of this blog is expressing a view that's not held by our society, thank goodness," he told Steve Martin on the ABC Ballarat and South West Victoria Mornings program.
"We take the protection of children and the rights of children to enjoy their childhood and not be molested by predatory adults as a very serious matter and whoever this person is, his mindset is entirely off the scale."
Mr Beks has not responded to the ABC's request for an interview.
However according to the Warrnambool Standard, the publisher said while he expected some criticism he stands by his comments.
"Something quite trivial shouldn't be looked at the same as a serious crime," Mr Beks told The Standard.
Dr Chamley says he finds the newspaper publisher's comments astounding, and warned that the comment piece could further torment victims and their families.
"I think it appeals to a very small group in society who still see children as fair game and this just reinforces their own prejudices about that."
"The Western Districts of Victoria stand out within Australia as one of the worst hunting grounds for predatory paedophiles in our history, a terrible tragedy," he said.
"It's not just Ballarat. It's Mortlake, Hamilton, you name it. A group of them were moving through those areas. This just confronts the families whose children were molested at the time."
A Cavendish woman named Leonie who was a target of child sex abuse called ABC Local Radio to condemn the opinion piece.
"I think it's appalling," she said.
"I think the man is stupid and ignorant in this manner.
"He has no idea of the effect on victims even if you're part of, pardon the phrase we used to use 'minor touch ups'."
As a publisher, you would think that Beks would have the brains to research the subject before spouting off about it. You would think he would talk to some women or girls who had suffered 'minor touch-ups', and asked them just what effect it had on them. He obviously didn't, or he wouldn't have written that ignorant piece.