Hetty Johnston, Bravehearts CEO
Hetty Johnston, Bravehearts CEO

How child predators are lurking in plain sight

A CHILD safety advocate believes the days of keeping child abuse under wraps are over, but predators were still lurking in plain sight.

The Townsville Bulletin's major investigation Predator at the Pulpit, into paedophile priest Neville Creen revealed how his decades of abuse on 22 known children was kept a secret by the people his victims told.

In an explosive interview and a heartbreaking 'In Her Own Words' piece, one of his victims Kathleen Walsh detailed the devastation of having told a number of nuns and a priest about the abuse she suffered at the time.

In September 2020 it became an offence to fail to protect a child from child sexual offences and failing to report a belief of child sexual offences.

The law has the ability to be retrospective, but the person needs to have told someone about the abuse after September last year.

Kathleen Walsh wants these laws to change, to hold the people she told accountable for their inaction.

Bravehearts founder Hetty Johnston understood Ms Walsh's position, but said retrospectivity was limited by law.

Bravehearts founder and senator Hetty Johnston.
Bravehearts founder and senator Hetty Johnston.

"It's taken until now, and people like her, to get these laws changed," Ms Johnston said.

"They needed to be changed, and I can understand how frustrated and angry she might be at those people for not defending her.

"It's a silent crime, and the people who knew said nothing.

"These things weren't to be spoken about … and if you spoke about it as a female survivor it was almost weaponised against you."

Ms Johnston said victim's families were often used by the attackers to get closer.

"Between 85 and 95 per cent of offenders are known to their victims … and the family protects them too."

Ms Johnston said this close connection to family made it painstaking for a victim to come forward, with little hope of being believed.

"There was not a lot of benefits of speaking up, no substantial punishment for the offender, so no motivation for that victim to talk.

"The offenders rely on this."

Ms Johnston said the entire community had a responsibility to listen and speak up to protect children.

"We all have a responsibility to stop sexual interference against out children, and it's not okay to keep that secret.

"It's never okay."


Originally published as How child predators are lurking in plain sight