This reporter posted the following question under the image on the article: "Is redemption possible for paedophiles?" Well of course it's possible! Not everybody who sexually abuses a child is a pedophile, by definition. Reporters need to stop misusing the terms "sex offender," and "pedophile" as if they mean the same thing, they do not.
By Daniella Miletic
Barbara pulls a thick stack of handwritten notes from a cloth bag, places them on the table and starts talking in a voice that never rises above the softly conversational. On a warm Melbourne morning in a city cafe, she smiles comfortably but glances discreetly around, not wanting to be overheard. There are few topics, she says, that are more volatile than the one she is here to talk about.
She grips a small clump of her hair, saying it was fear that drained the pigment from these strands the day her husband told her his secret. The day she decided to leave. ''It caused instant menopause. I decided I was going to go,'' she says, and then stops. ''I love him. It's bloody hard.''
Even when pressed, she offers little more detail of that day, of that time, of the crime her husband revealed to her. ''The fact is, I knew he was in a bad place and I suppose my head didn't want to let the suspicions through. But once I knew, I told him what we had to do, and that was to hand himself in.''
Barbara convinced her husband to confess and he went to jail. She chose to stand by him because of her love and her religious faith, she says. If anything else had been wrong with him, if he were schizophrenic, an alcoholic, she knows she would have tried to help him. ''People might hate these men, but God doesn't,'' she says. ''And one of the reasons Jesus got nailed on the cross was for mixing with the wrong kind of people. Back then it was prostitutes and lepers.''
Today, it is paedophiles.
But Barbara believes in redemption. When she was growing up, her father worked in prison reform, helping criminals, mainly men, restart their lives outside prison. Often, he would take them into the family home. ''They would live with us until they got work. They were my friends,'' says Barbara. ''We wouldn't talk about their crimes, most criminals don't want to talk about that, but we often talked about their lives when their lives were good. Their memories.''
Since her husband's release several years ago, Barbara has dedicated her own life to his rehabilitation, learning about paedophilia and its treatments and watching him to make sure he never does anything like it again. She read about a Canadian program that aims to prevent child abuse by creating a friendship group around sex offenders. She felt there were similarities to Alcoholics Anonymous and believed it might work for her husband. Besides, no other treatment program was on offer except a Salvation Army course for drug addiction, which he also took on, because his was an addiction of a kind.
She has been unofficially mimicking the program since he was released, with just her and a counsellor as his support group. For years she has also been campaigning, pleading - with police, politicians, church groups - for help to start a group to make the treatment available for all child sex offenders in Australia once they get out of jail.
Barbara says she had not prepared herself for the hatred, sometimes the violence, she would encounter. ''I am trying to make sense of the monster theory, the rock spider thing,'' she writes in a diary entry almost a decade old. ''I have discovered a wall of suspicion, and an overwhelming resistance to viewing sexual offending as anything but the worse kind of intentional evil …"
''The resistance is so great, that anyone who bears any other kind of message is viewed as naive at best, and plain evil at worst … The experts in this area stay very quiet for they also shrink from the hysterical reactions. Consequently most people do not doubt the monster model, and seem to prefer to believe that either these people are untreatable or that they don't deserve to be treated.''
This is why a treatment program like Circles of Support and Accountability, she says, one that carries the motto ''No More Victims'', can't seem to get off the ground here. ''It's madness,'' she says, shaking her head.