A CHILD counsellor has spoken of how difficult it would be to identify dozens of unknown sex abuse victims a paedophile filmed at Joondalup and Warwick shopping centres over the past three years.
Balga man Peter Anthony Lewsam (50) was jailed in July for more than 120 child sex offences after officers seized footage of 78 children he filmed at Lakeside Joondalup and Warwick Grove between 2012 and January this year.
However, 77 of those victims remain unidentified, with police saying they are not pursuing the issue because Lewsam’s footage allowed them to convict him regardless of the children’s identification.
While Anglicare children’s consultant Tunya Petridis said it was “shocking” for so many of them to be unknown, she explained the difficulty police faced in identifying the victims.
“They can’t publish the photos,” she said. “Without it being a massive forensic process… I don’t know how they could possibly pursue that in a way that is sensitive and which assures confidentiality of those victims.
“The important thing they’ve done is secure a conviction, so that’s very reassuring and I think we need to applaud that.
“It’s mindblowing he (Lewsam) got that close to them in a shop.”
Police said some of the victims may be too young to remember the incident but Ms Petridis said that did not necessarily mean they would be unaffected.
She said they might not have a “cognitive memory” of it but could still have a “sensory or traumatic memory”.
“It can still be terrifying, overwhelming, evasive and lead to trauma,” she said. “Very young children can still have a sensory memory and they can still be traumatised.
“But before you start thinking about that, you need to make sure that something’s actually happened to your child.
“The behaviours that occur as the result of sexual abuse are quite broad.”
She said it was important to remember parents could still contact police and specialist children counselling services if they were concerned their child was a victim.
She advised parents to talk to their children about appropriate and inappropriate touch so they knew their rights even as toddlers.
“Having those conversations with your kids – learning some of those skills as a parent – facilitates that kind of conversation if anything does ever happen to your child,” she said.
Lewsam was sentenced to more than 16 years in jail for abusing children in the toy sections of outlets while filming them with a phone or GoPro device. Police said most of the victims were thought to be aged between two and six.
Anglicare Child Sexual Abuse Therapy Service, Joondalup
Warning signs of sex abuse in children 2-5:
– anxious and clingy.
– unexpected regression to previous behaviours such as bed wetting or thumb sucking.
– become aggressive in their play with other children, their parents or their toys.
– play the same game over and over, like piling blocks and knocking them down, dropping toys behind furniture, or crashing the same two cars over again.
– look sullen even if they say they are having fun.