Daily Archives: 09/11/2011

Violators, Victims and Vigilantes

The Western Australian government is about to introduce controversial legislation to let parents know about convicted child sex offenders who may live nearby.  Queensland is struggling to a way to deal with offenders who have served their time, but can’t be reintegrated into the community.  We are all troubled, one way or another, by people who are sexually aroused by children.  And the state struggles to find ways to deal with such people, to appease community outrage while treating them appropriately within the law.

The problem isn’t new, but definitions of childhood have changed greatly since the days when midshipmen went into battle at 10 and girls routinely married as soon as they reached puberty. The age of consent in England was 12 until 1885, when it was raised to 16 because of public concern about young girls being sold into brothels.  [See W.T. Stead, ‘The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon’ from The Pall Mall Gazette]

Girl in a Pinafore

David Cox, Girl in a Pinafore, c. 1800. In Yale Center for British Art, Yale Digital Commons

The first recorded case in Australia of the sexual assault of the child came to court in Sydney in September 1789, when Henry Wright, a private in the Marines in his early 30s, was tried for the rape of Elizabeth Chapman, aged 8. Continue reading