Vigilance needed to bring an end to evil in our midst


If you haven't seen the Four Corners investigation that aired on ABC TV on Monday night, you should.

'Child abuse rings are not isolated. They are increasingly sophisticated.' Photo: Viki Lascaris

'Child abuse rings are not isolated. They are increasingly sophisticated.' Photo: Viki Lascaris

Expect to turn it off within five minutes. You will feel dirty and ashamed to be Australian.

Go wash your hands and face.

But try again to sit through the whole harrowing lot, though, because something more - much more - has to be done to protect children.

The program, called The Boy with the Henna Tattoo, shows how a Cairns couple bought a baby from Russia for $US8000 in 2005. They sexually abused him from age 20 months and shared him around a global network of paedophiles for years.

Australians have to wake up and be more alert to the warning signs of child abuse, not just from deviants overseas but among local community groups, families, friends and neighbours.

We have to demand greater investment in specialised policing to expose the secretive internet networks through which abusers thrive. We need to accept that protecting children will require some loss of personal liberty for law-abiding adults.

So we need to discuss how pornography is part of the problem.

Adults who view degrading images and defend unfettered access to it are complicit in creating a culture that reduces people to pieces of meat for self-satisfaction.

We need to discuss how marketing, media and the internet are sexualising children as well.

The Four Corners episode is a good place to start.

It shows how Australian Peter Truong and American Mark Newton portrayed themselves as a loving same-sex couple seeking to adopt a child.

The media fell for it. So did the local community.

Many same-sex couples probably did too, hoping to show the public that gay men can be great loving parents.

Indeed they can. And it will be sad indeed if the Four Corners program is seen purely through the prism of gay versus straight parenting.

The truth is many heterosexuals make terrible parents and most child abuse occurs in traditional families. But that does not diminish the need to stop evil people like Truong and Newton, and the networks used by them and many thousands of others.

They recorded the depravity inflicted on their son and distributed footage through encrypted file-sharing networks. The couple became rock stars of the child sexual abuse underworld. They destroyed a boy's life for kicks.

We have to stop making excuses.

Truong's psychologist implored Four Corners viewers to stop calling abusers nasty names. Truong was abused himself, recognised gay tendencies at 14, accessed porn on the internet, just wanted the love of older men.

The child abuse porn network convinced him it was all right. Soon he believed it was acceptable to have sex with boys under 10.

''I love my son dearly and the last thing in the world I ever wanted to do was to hurt him,'' Truong said from the US jail where he is serving 30 years. ''I'm fun, I'm a father, I'm a brother. You know, I'm a human being.''


Truong might need lots of help, but sometimes we must call behaviour for the offence to humanity it is. If we don't, it is too easy to file this sort of depravity in the one-off basket.

Child abuse rings are not isolated. They are increasingly sophisticated. Their members belong to all professions. They are fathers, brothers, uncles and neighbours.

Rarely have Australians seen such graphic depiction of depravity.

While Four Corners blurred out the boy's face, you saw his blond hair, shirtless body and his so-called parents grooming him. You saw them leading him to the men who would abuse him. You saw where it happened. You heard his voice.

These abuses were so degrading that the American judge at Newton's court appearance refused to show them to a jury.

Four Corners should have been more subtle.

You also wonder about the wisdom of airing so much of the Truong team's pleas for sympathy, when he refused to answer key questions. How convenient.

That said, this is an important program. It raises many questions but one crucial one: how did we let it come to this?

Such is life…


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