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No surprise sex offenders getting younger - expert

Published: 9:28AM Friday January 27, 2012 Source: ONE News

An expert says a recent spate of violent sex crimes, which have been made more disturbing by the arrest of teenagers, comes as no surprise.

Family Services clinical leader Les Simmonds told TV ONE's Breakfast that there has been a rise in the severity of violence in sex offenders recently and he is not surprised by the fact that the offenders are getting younger and younger.

"When we start to look at the young people who are committing these crimes we're seeing young people coming from a generation of violence, we're seeing them in a context of poverty and under-achievement.

"It is of no surprise to me that younger and younger people are committing these crimes.

"I think what happens is you get young people who are brought up in a context where their family has a lot of alcohol and drugs, there's unemployment, there's hopelessness, and what that does is that it generates and increases the propensity to commit crime and to be violent," he said.

Ngaroimata Reid, from The Tu Wahine Trust, provides counselling and support to Maori families affected by violence and she claims that the amount of crime is not increasing, but the severity of crime is.

Earlier this month a 16-year-old, who attacked and raped a five-year-old tourist at a campground in Turangi, pleaded guilty on three charges including one count of sexual violation, one count of sexual violation causing grievous bodily harm and entering the caravan with the intent to commit a crime.

The teen is in custody and will be sentenced in Rotorua District Court on February 23.

Because of the seriousness of the attack the teen will next month be sentenced as an adult.  The maximum jail sentence for rape is 20 years.

And a teenager was arrested over the daylight rape of a 27-year-old woman in an Auckland schoolground last week.

The 17-year-old appeared in the Auckland Youth Court yesterday morning, charged with rape, assault with intent to commit rape, aggravated wounding and unlawful sexual connection.

He was 16 when he is alleged to have carried out the attack.

The youth, who rarely raised his head during the appearance, was remanded in Child, Youth and Family custody until his next appearance.

Not enough funding

Russell Smith, who is a counsellor who works with male sex offenders in prisons through Korowai Tumanako, said he receives a number of calls for support from parents who are concerned about their child's behaviour.

Smith said parents often have concerns about their child's sexualised behaviour at school, with some finding sexualised photos of other school children on their child's mobile phones.

But he claims in many cases he does not have the resources to support them.

He said the earlier you catch this type of behaviour the better.

"We believe it should be part of the school curriculum about changing the way our young people view media, you know we're dealing with some highly violent media that's on social media so that reinforces particular behaviour."

Reid agrees and says today children have to deal with far greater issues than older generations.

"I think Russell's right about the impact of the outside cultures, the impact of media on our young people, like you can go on the internet and download just about anything and that has an impact on how our rangatahi (young people) view themselves and how they view other people."

She said sex has always sold, but it is the way that sexual messages are portrayed in media, such as in music videos, which means it is now selling to all ages.

Simmonds, who works with 12-14 year olds who have been acting violent, said he has had some incredible success with his programme.

But, he said there should be more information sharing and more collaboration with different agencies such as Child Youth and Family and the police to better combat the issues of violence.