A GERMAN sexual abuse prevention program that targets potential offenders before they offend could help protect Australian children from harm, according to clinical psychologist Christabel Chamarette.
Ms Chamarette is part of a committee that hosted the 2nd Perth Symposium – Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Mapping the Field – in Maylands on Thursday where The Dunkelfeld Project founder Klaus Beier was guest speaker.
Professor Beier, in Australia for the first time, presented to about 90 experts and professionals who help victims of sexual abuse and offenders, on the program he founded in 2005.
Dunkelfeld started with a series of confronting TV and billboard advertisements that offered free and confidential support to people who identified they were sexually attracted to children.
It has now expanded to 11 states in Germany with people able to access it via phone or email to organise a clinical interview followed by an assessment.
Prof Beier, who works at the Institute of Sexology and Sexual Medicine in Berlin, said if someone was a “currently detected” paedophile they would be excluded.
He said “nobody chooses their sexual preference”.
“Paedophilia is a diagnosis, not a crime.”
Prof Beier said the German public was accepting the Dunkelfeld approach.
He said that within 10 years they might be able to determine a person’s sexual preference using imaging techniques.
Prof Beier acknowledged that the Dunkelfeld program worked in Germany because it did not have mandatory reporting of sexual abuse laws like Australia.
Ms Chamarette said while the mandatory reporting laws prevented Australia from introducing the Dunkelfeld program in full, it was no excuse to do nothing.
“We need to change the conversation away from punishment to how can we keep our children safe through preventative programs,” she said.
Commissioner for Children and Young People Colin Pettit, who opened the symposium, said Australia could accommodate some of the Dunkelfeld principals.
“Mandatory reporting happens after the event, we can still learn a lot from the program,” Mr Pettit said.
The Commissioner and his team have been working on two papers, which will be released at the end of the year, to inform and educate the broader public about the target service providers.