November 18, 2012
Inside the mind of a paedophile
"Meet the police whose job it is to try to understand what motivates those who prey on children.
Sitting in a stuffy room on the sixth floor of a city office building, Detective Senior Sergeant Debra Bennett is explaining the difference between a child molester and a paedophile.
You have only to witness the public fury that led to the recently announced royal commission on child abuse to understand the almost primeval feelings aroused by those who prey on the young.
Most people cannot conceive of committing this type of crime, and would find it difficult to understand what motivates a child sex offender. But for Bennett, an FBI-trained forensic psychologist, it's a crucial part of her job.
Bennett works shoulder-to-shoulder with the 12-strong Astraea taskforce, formed by Victoria Police earlier this year to hunt down child sex offenders who use the internet to find and abuse their victims.
The taskforce works closely with police in other states, national law enforcement bodies such as the Australian Federal Police, customs and the Australian Crime Commission, and overseas agencies.
Since Astraea was formed, dozens of men of all ages and from all walks of life have been arrested and charged with offences such as possessing child pornography and grooming children for sex.
During a lengthy interview with Fairfax, Bennett explains that not all child sex offenders are the same: just as they come from all areas of society, they have different motivations. At one end of the spectrum, she says, are those who prefer to have sex with children - or paedophiles - while at the other are people who will have sex with children because of the particular situation they find themselves in.
''It could be just out of curiosity, it could be because they don't feel as if children are going to judge them like adults will, it could be that they'll have sex with anything and children are just one of the spectrum, it could be a revenge-type scenario - he's in a relationship with somebody but feels disaffected in some way, doesn't have any power or control, feels as though she's dominating.''"