Lost for words

Learning the language of prevention

Featured in

  • Published 20190806
  • ISBN: 9781925773798
  • Extent: 264pp
  • Paperback (234 x 153mm), eBook

I GREW UP believing that I would be murdered by a stranger. I was eight years old when Sian Kingi was murdered. I was thirteen when Ebony Simpson was killed. I knew too many facts about Sharron Phillips’ death and had an age-inappropriate understanding of Anita Cobby’s case. I was a child of the stranger-danger generation and my father was in the media. My mother taught me to talk, but my father taught me to do it in a ‘radio voice’. My parents told me it could happen to me. I looked just like the girls on the news. I wasn’t allowed to walk to the corner store and I knew exactly why. My preadolescent brain convinced me that it would happen to me. I set out to learn everything I could about what this might mean. I wanted to understand who would do such a thing and why. I became fascinated with true crime and forensics long before it was cool.

Three decades later, as a criminologist, I have now interviewed more than one hundred men in three countries who have been incarcerated for serious sexual violence. I’ve also learnt a great deal about the causes and consequences of sexual offending, and those lessons create the structure of this essay. It addresses two major misconceptions (stranger danger and recidivism) surrounding perpetrators of child sexual abuse, explains why our reliance on these myths renders our current approach so profoundly inadequate, and describes how to prevent sexual violence and promote community safety.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here

If you are an educator or student wishing to access content for study purposes please contact us at griffithreview@griffith.edu.au

Share article

About the author

Danielle Arlanda Harris

Danielle Arlanda Harris is the deputy director (research) of the Griffith Youth Forensic Service and a senior lecturer in the School of Criminology and...

More from this edition

The sin room

FictionWhen they left, carrying Will on a stretcher, I closed the shop for the day. My thoughts were all a swirl, and the most important was that Will would be all right, despite concussion and a broken jaw – and the source of the blood, a shallow flesh wound in his back. I saw it when an ambo pulled up Will’s black shirt tail and thought: that’s not road trauma. I know a knife wound when I see it.

The how matters

MemoirThis story contains descriptions of violence.  ON SATURDAY 15 March 2014, my stepmother Genee was shot twice in her bed in Johannesburg. No. That’s misleading:...

Five years is too long

GR OnlineIN APRIL 2015, the Australian media is awash with stories of Australians in international prisons for drug trafficking. The death penalty is a hot...

Stay up to date with the latest, news, articles and special offers from Griffith Review.