Program - Four Corners - Unlocking the Demons
- >Four Corners - 23/05/2005: Unlocking the Demons
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>Unlocking the Demons
>Read the transcript of "Unlocking the Demons", Quentin McDermott's examination
of the psyche of child sex offenders.
>QUENTIN McDERMOTT: It's autumn and the sun is shining on a garden in Alice
>TONY: We'll have a sit for a spell...This is a beautiful little spot,
>QUENTIN McDERMOTT: It's a small suburban home but this is no ordinary
couple because he is a paedophile and she, the wife who, despite everything
that's happened, still loves him. Like some biblical plague, child sexual
abuse is being inflicted on one in four of Australia's girls and one in eight
boys. And it's seemingly ordinary men like these who are doing the damage.
>HETTY JOHNSTON: These are people who will harm children, who will destroy
lives, destroy families. We want them dealt with appropriately and properly.
>QUENTIN McDERMOTT: But how should the community combat this danger? Should
offenders be locked up and the key simply thrown away? Or should therapists
treat them and try to make them safe in the community?
>OFFENDER: I would like to say it was a loving relationship but, no, it
wasn't. It was an abusive relationship and that should never have gone as
far as it did.
>QUENTIN McDERMOTT: Tonight on Four Corners, a confronting question - can
therapy successfully meet the challenge of treating child molesters as they're
released into the community?
>When the convicted child molester Dennis Ferguson moved to Queensland
earlier this year, the community vented its anger in a show of impotent rage.
>WOMAN: Alan, he's gotta go.
>MAN: No sleep tonight, Mr Ferguson.
>QUENTIN McDERMOTT: Two years before, on his release from prison, he was
hemmed in by the media, and he didn't take it well.
>DENNIS FERGUSON: What do I say to my fucking victims? Nothing, because
there was nothing ever took place. You pack of bastards want to line up, I'll
show you fucking evidence.
>REPORTER: What about the allegations?
>QUENTIN McDERMOTT: When Dennis Ferguson came out of prison he was hounded
by the media and the public. Were they right to do that?
>HETTY JOHNSTON: I don't think - well, is it right to be scared that your
children might be in danger? Is it right to react the way they did if they
knew there was someone in the area that posed a threat to their kids? They
were reacting, I suppose, as normal parents react. It's understandable. It's
>QUENTIN McDERMOTT: Dennis Ferguson hasn't coped well with his hostile
reception by the community and neither has the community coped with him. As
he lashed out in all directions, he re-entered the public's consciousness
as a vividly stereotypical child molester - wild-eyed, frantic and prone to
sudden acts of violence.
>REPORTER: Dennis, are you planning to stay...
>MAN: Leave her alone, mate. Hey, cut it out.
>QUENTIN McDERMOTT: Dennis Ferguson refused to go on a prison treatment
program but now has a therapist. Just visiting him though presents a constant
>DR WENDELL ROSEVEAR: Now he lives in isolation and he has to travel a
long distance to be able to see me and so, while our society justifies its
revenge in the way they respond to him, it pushes him into isolation and secrecy
and denial. One of the biggest predictors of re-offending is that people get
stuck in denial, where they deny their past and then don't learn from it,
and repeat the past. And so, the way I seek to short-circuit that denial process
is to create a safe, accepting, valuing environment where people can afford
to be honest and therefore achieve resolution of their issues.
>QUENTIN McDERMOTT: When Dennis Ferguson emerged from jail there was a
phalanx of cameras to greet him. But when this child molester emerged from
jail in Alice Springs to an emotional welcome from his wife, only one invited
camera was present.
>Tony is among the very few child sex offenders prepared to talk frankly
about his offences. At his request we've changed his name and his wife's and
obscured their faces to protect them. We've called him simply Tony and his
>Together they agreed to tell Four Corners about the battle they've fought
and lost to stop him re-offending.
>SARAH: I just feel that you're left with such hideous levels of guilt
and such hopelessness, and there just is a feeling that...that there is no
life at the end of this. That has changed in a lot of the things we've thought,
but at those bleak times that's what we thought.
>QUENTIN McDERMOTT: Like many paedophiles, Tony looks to his childhood
for answers. He was born into a Catholic family in Victoria. As a youngster
he was briefly uprooted and sent to a children's home on the New South Wales
>TONY: When I think back on that, I feel quite despairing and rejected,
and I had some painful experiences there of just feeling rejected.
>QUENTIN McDERMOTT: One Christmas, he says, he was taken into a shed by
an older girl.
>TONY: She was six or so years older than me and she, uh, encouraged me
to fondle her and rub some cream on her.
>QUENTIN McDERMOTT: How old were you at the time?
>TONY: Around six, I think.
>QUENTIN McDERMOTT: Tony says his time in the children's home and this
early sexual experience left him with a distorted sexual urge.
>TONY: I was aware of thoughts that I was having that I didn't want. And
I remember going to my mother and saying, "I've got these bad thoughts that
I don't want," sort of thing, and she said, "Oh, just pray to Jesus and they'll
go away," and "Or say a 'Hail Mary'," or something like that. And no more
was said about it.
>QUENTIN McDERMOTT: Do you believe now that the abuse that you experienced
helped to turn you into a sex offender?
>TONY: I believe in combination with the rejection I felt in the home and
the attention (Bleep) gave me contributed to my distortion and...
>QUENTIN McDERMOTT: And what is your distortion?
>TONY: A desire to fondle young girls from the age of, say, five to 13,
to look up their dresses, to see their crutch.
>QUENTIN McDERMOTT: Only a small percentage of those who are abused become
offenders. Tony was one of them. As a teenager he acted out his desires and
began abusing girls.
>TONY: Over a period of probably 10 years there was a number of children
that I fondled inappropriately. And I'd have pangs of guilt about it and,
um, I eventually went to a Catholic priest who identified that what I was
doing was wrong to me and that it wasn't enough just to get absolution through
confession or reconciliation - that I needed some counselling - which he offered
>QUENTIN McDERMOTT: Tony's sexual abuse caused havoc in the lives of at
least seven girls. 20 years after it began, he sought counselling and then,
five years later, handed himself in to the police. In 1991, his conviction
on three offences of indecent assault resulted in a good-behaviour bond and
100 hours of community service. A year later, after more of his past victims
came forward, he faced court again.
>TONY: I pleaded guilty to carnal knowledge and indecent assault charges
and some other charges too. I was given two years jail - 21 months suspended
- and to be of good behaviour for five years, and to continue to seek psychiatric
treatment for my paedophilia. It tore our family apart. My relationship with
my first wife was, naturally, ruined.
>QUENTIN McDERMOTT: By this stage, Tony was seeing one of the top psychiatrists
in the country, Dr Bill Glaser.
>DR BILL GLASER: Paedophilia is a persistent deviant sexual interest in
children, manifested by thoughts, fantasies, behaviours of sexual contact
with kids that's lasted for an extended period of time.
>QUENTIN McDERMOTT: Is it an illness, then?
>DR BILL GLASER: Well, that's one of those questions that are very, very
difficult to answer. At one level one could say that there are some societies
that have accepted it as normal behaviour. At another level one could say
that certainly it's, in our society and in our time, regarded as being quite
abnormal and worthy of mental health attention. But of course, on top of that,
you've got all the moral issues associated with sexual contact with kids.
>QUENTIN McDERMOTT: Tony's sexual values and the boundaries he set himself
were completely skewed.
>TONY: I saw the offending against children as wrong, even though I was
doing it. But I didn't see it as a sexual wrong, like intercourse with an
adult woman would be - premarital sex - and that was wrong. So I couldn't
bring myself to do that for some time.
>QUENTIN McDERMOTT: With Dr Glaser's help, Tony began to work on a number
of strategies designed to stop him acting out his fantasies.
>DR BILL GLASER: One very powerful emotion we know which drives offenders
towards re-offending is the feeling of rejection. So little clip-art stick
figures of somebody rejecting or shunning somebody - very useful reminder
that, "Hang on. The feelings or the urges that I have to re-offend now arise
from this particular situation."
>TONY: I have a series of drawings, just stick figures. And there's myself
standing there with this heavy weight on my chest. And a child's walking towards
me and the thought of putting that heavy weight on that child and I turn away
from that child so that we're walking away from each other. And the heavy
weight lifts off me. And the last stick figure is a matter of myself and my
wife lying in bed together in a warm embrace.
>QUENTIN McDERMOTT: So it's a combination of negative and positive thoughts?
>TONY: It is, yes, yes.
>QUENTIN McDERMOTT: Which you force yourself to have?
>TONY: I do, yes, and I also pray, say a lot of prayers. I still get thoughts
about wanting to see young girls' vaginas and it makes me angry. I want to
bash my head. I've ended up with black eyes from bashing myself from the anguish
that I felt and the anger I feel in myself for this distortion that torments
me. It is my intention to do all I possibly can to inform people of the importance
of getting help, the mechanisms of cognitive behaviour.
>QUENTIN McDERMOTT: The treatment of child molesters is still relatively
new. One of the first experiments in the world began in 1989 here in the Kia
Marama unit for child-sex offenders at Rolleston Prison in New Zealand.
>TONY WARD: The emphasis was that sexual offending is a learnt behaviour.
There's nothing faulty in the genes or the biochemistry, primarily. People
aren't monsters or psychopathic personalities. They learn to meet their needs
in ways that aren't acceptable and so it's about learning new patterns of
behaviour, new ways of thinking. So treatment was what we call cognitive behavioural
which is really about teaching people different ways of thinking and different
ways of behaving. It's as simple as that.
>QUENTIN McDERMOTT: At the heart of the program is getting offenders in
a group to confront their crimes.
>This New Zealand documentary, made 11 years ago, gives a chilling account
of a man who had raped his daughter.
>OFFENDER: At the time she didn't seem to mind it.
>INTERVIEWER: Can you explain what you mean by that?
>OFFENDER: She didn't try to stop me, put it that way.
>INTERVIEWER: Do you accept that you raped her?
>OFFENDER: I didn't rape her.
>INTERVIEWER: Why is it not rape?
>OFFENDER: She gave in. If I'd forced myself on her, yeah, it's rape. I
didn't force her to, so it can't be rape.
>QUENTIN McDERMOTT: As the session progressed, the offender began to acknowledge
what he had done.
>INTERVIEWER: Did the offending just happen to him, did it?
>MAN: He allowed it to happen.
>INTERVIEWER: Allowed it?
>MAN: He didn't stop.
>INTERVIEWER: I think maybe it's a bit more than just allowed it to happen.
What did he do?
>OFFENDER: I did it.
>INTERVIEWER: He perpetrated - what was that?
>OFFENDER: I did it. No-one else forced me.
>TONY WARD: The focus was always on getting people to admit to what they
had done and take responsibility - if you want to put it in those terms. And
tacitly, I think what we all thought was that these guys were consistently
deceiving or lying, manipulating and you couldn't trust them.
>QUENTIN McDERMOTT: Tony Ward taught the unit's current director, Jayson
Ware. He believes that child-sex offenders should be helped to lead meaningful,
constructive and ultimately happy lives - and that this will mean fewer victims.
>TONY WARD: You need to make sure that the benefits they're getting from
the harmful behaviour, they get it through more pro-social behaviours. So
you give them something to replace the sexual offending - what I call basic
>JAYSON WARE: Characteristics like warmth, appropriate levels of self-disclosure,
respect, empathy, openness, and so forth are all things that traditionally
you wouldn't expect someone working with these men to use in their therapy
sessions. However, we know it's a necessity in order to help these people.
>QUENTIN McDERMOTT: Overall, it seems to work. In recent years, fewer than
five per cent of those treated here have offended again, compared with 22
per cent who re-offended when left untreated. It's a carrot and stick approach.
In New Zealand, repeat offenders can be recalled to prison for the rest of
>Kia Marama's results are among the best in the world. One reason may be
because it operates not just as a secure unit, but as a therapeutic community.
Everyone - custodial staff and perpetrators included - is expected to help
fulfil the aims of the program.
>JAYSON WARE: Men that do arrive in the community and are sexually preoccupied,
talking about sex a lot, talking about sex with children, are often vigorously
challenged in a very public forum by a number of offenders, by correctional
officers, of course, and by therapy staff.
>QUENTIN McDERMOTT: Four Corners was given access to a group therapy session
at Kia Marama. The men have to learn how they fooled themselves into thinking
that sex with children was okay, and to understand what their victims felt.
>OFFENDER: In a sense I groom my victim up. Instead of realising she was
under the age of 16, I sort of put her up to a level where I felt I was comfortable,
that I made it alright to offend. I had actually a support meeting with my
victim's mum - not a support meeting, a family conference - and she actually
told me how she felt, and I sort of blocked it out.
>INTERVIEWER: But then at a later date, when you went through the victim
empathy module, you had a chance then to think about the words she said to
you. What was it like when you had a chance to think about that?
>OFFENDER: The first night I think I thought about it, I actually cried
because I remember one line quite clear, is that her mum thanked me that her
daughter's still alive, and that was quite scary - you know, that I could've
led up to doing something like that if I hadn't been caught, so it was quite
a scary thought.
>QUENTIN McDERMOTT: In New Zealand, the Kia Marama method is mirrored outside
prison. Here in Auckland, at any one time, around 180 child molesters attend
a special community programme, called SAFE. Some are ex-prisoners, but most
are referred by relatives, the police or family agencies, and reflect the
fact that a large proportion of child sexual abuse takes place within the
>JOHN McCARTHY: A typical example might be that a mother might ring us
and say, "My father sexually abused me when I was a child and now I've got
children of my own and I don't want their grandad having contact with them,
until he's got his problems sorted out." And so they'll ring and ask - she
might ring and ask, will we see him or can we help this family? And we can.
We will intervene and we will provide treatment to them.
>QUENTIN McDERMOTT: Families are enlisted to monitor child molesters after
they've passed through the SAFE program. Their role is considered vital.
>JOHN McCARTHY: It's fine for an offender to turn up to treatment here
and participate in it and participate well and appear to make change and genuine
change, mostly, that is. We could take his word for that, but far better that
we hear from his family or his wider support system who have been educated
by us about what to look for in terms of risk, that in fact his behaviour
outside the treatment program is mirroring what he's demonstrating inside.
>QUENTIN McDERMOTT: In a group session, the men are asked to talk through
what is known as the 'offending cycle'. Here, they describe an early part
of the cycle - the fantasies that prefigure their offences.
>OFFENDER: 99 per cent of the time it led to masturbation, of course, and
my feelings with that were that I'm feeling good and it's not hurting anybody.
Because this was before I'd taken to planning and grooming. I already knew
my victim. My victim was part of my bad sexual fantasies, but at that time,
no offending had taken place. It was building up. I hadn't actually offended
but it was going to happen. As sure as God made little green apples, it was
going to happen.
>OFFENDER: It's really lust, to want somebody else that can't say yes or
no. It's lust, is what I call it. If it's with somebody that consents and
is consensual, but I did mine for lust. That's all it was because at the end
of it I got what I wanted. There's no trying to be Mr Nice Guy and say, "Well,
I didn't really do it for this, but I did it for that." No, no, no, that's
wrong. I did it for lust.
>QUENTIN McDERMOTT: The men go on to describe a later part of the cycle
- planning their offences.
>OFFENDER: One of the ways was to be Mr Nice Guy to my victim's parents
and do odd jobs round the house and make them laugh, tell a joke, and while
this was going on to actually show in front of them that it was alright if
I put my arm around their child.
>INTERVIEWER: So you groomed the parents and the child?
>OFFENDER: Their grooming. That was the grooming part of it too. And then
it went further, planning and grooming of getting the child by themselves,
and still putting my arm around them and then inappropriate touching, and
that's the abusing.
>QUENTIN McDERMOTT: One offender in particular still appears to have difficulties
with acknowledging the nature of his actions. At the time of his offence,
he was in his 50s, and his victim was 14 years old.
>INTERVIEWER: That idea of an adult man being that age with a child and
the idea of being friends, when you look back now, using hindsight, what are
your thoughts about it when you hear yourself saying that?
>OFFENDER: How stupid could I have been, how inconsiderate and self-centred
and arrogant that I could think that I could befriend a girl of that age and
expect it to - I don't think I expected it to last any length of time, but
what it was - but when it was on, it was, yeah.
>INTERVIEWER: So you're using the word 'befriend' to describe what?
>OFFENDER: A relationship.
>INTERVIEWER: Was it a relationship? When you think back now, was it a
>OFFENDER: No, it wasn't. At the time it sufficed for a relationship because
that's what I wanted it to be.
>INTERVIEWER: What was it? What was it really?
>OFFENDER: It was a very - I would like to say it was a loving relationship,
but no, it wasn't, it was an abusive relationship and that should never have
gone as far as it did.
>INTERVIEWER: I'm very pleased to hear you say it was an abusive relationship,
because it was.
>OFFENDER: I mean, the thing is I could still abuse, and that's something
that - that I know I have to remember. I now have to be aware of three things,
which are my thoughts, my feelings, and my behaviour. And each one of those,
I have to say to myself, what's it doing for me? Is the clock taking me closer
to offending, or is it taking me away? That's it. And this is until the last
nail goes in my coffin. This doesn't stop.
>INTERVIEWER: So you say you're managing yourself until, basically, the
day you die?
>OFFENDER: Yeah. It's self-management. Self-management to the max. Yeah.
>JOHN McCARTHY: We can actually approach solving this problem with a huge
degree of hope. You know, treating people who sexually abuse - if it's done
right - can be among the most successful intervention that's made. And it's
completely a myth that once you're a child-sex offender, you're always a child-sex
offender. None of us would do this job
>if that were true.
>QUENTIN McDERMOTT: At Queensland's Wolston Prison, sex offenders have
a big incentive to go on the treatment program. It may help them get parole.
This is the prison Dennis Ferguson came out of, to face a media circus, after
serving 14 years without parole for kidnapping three children and sexually
assaulting them. Ferguson refused to go on the sex offenders' treatment program,
but is now seeing a therapist.
>This is the first time sex offenders have been filmed and interviewed
in a Queensland jail.
>OFFENDER: I'm here because I want to be. I want to put an end to my offending
behaviour, and I think we're all here for the same reason. We're admitting
that we've got a problem, and that we want that help.
>INTERVIEWER: What has it been like to actually share some of your stories
for the first time?
>OFFENDER: Very cathartic, I think. You feel like a weight's been moved
off your shoulders. You're no longer the only one that knows what's happened.
I know for me, it's made me, I think, a better person, 'cause I'm no longer
hiding that secret, and rather than keeping it a secret, you can now move
>QUENTIN McDERMOTT: The regime here is harsh. There's no mistaking the
fact that it's a prison. It isn't a therapeutic community.
>MARK RALLINGS: Certainly a therapeutic community allows a more focused
attention in terms of intervention. But I think, you know, when you've got
a setting like this centre, where you've got the commitment of the general
manager to the program, and you've got dedicated staff and you've got, you
know, the officers who are committed to the program, you can get many of the
>QUENTIN McDERMOTT: Some people will remain suspicious that offenders can
learn a formula in therapy which will help them get parole. These men, arguably,
display an unsettling confidence that they won't re-offend.
>OFFENDER: I might have offended against one person, but the ripple effect
going out from there is just absolutely massive. It's something I'd never
even thought of before.
>INTERVIEWER: So will you offend again?
>OFFENDER: I will definitely never offend again.
>INTERVIEWER: How can you be sure?
>OFFENDER: Because now I know what I've put my victim through, mainly.
>INTERVIEWER: Do you understand now the danger signals or the triggers
that might make you re-offend?
>OFFENDER: Yes. My alcohol. If I was drinking, I could be easily led, and
just do things.
>INTERVIEWER: When you leave jail and go back into the outside world, will
you offend again?
>OFFENDER: No. No.
>INTERVIEWER: How do you know?
>OFFENDER: How do I know? Because I've got a more positive attitude in
my life, and I know what direction that I want to take this time, and there'll
be no alcohol.
>QUENTIN McDERMOTT: That kind of confidence is dangerous, isn't it?
>MARK RALLINGS: There certainly can be an unrealistic level of confidence.
It's important that offenders have an appreciation, I suppose, of the difficulty
that they will have - many of them will have, in re-establishing themselves
in the community.
>QUENTIN McDERMOTT: It certainly isn't easy. Tony's story demonstrates
how difficult some perpetrators find it not to re-offend. For 13 years, between
1990 and 2003, Tony says he never re-offended, due in no small part to the
love and support of his second wife, Sarah.
>Their relationship began in unusual circumstances. She invited him to
a property she owned in Victoria, where she cared for people in need.
>TONY: I had told her, prior to her inviting me to this property - like,
24 hours prior - about my offending pattern, without going into too much detail,
but I was very clear that it was a serious problem, and that I was getting
psychiatric support for that, and I think God might have blinded her a little
to that aspect, and she accepted me for who God told her I was.
>SARAH: I showed him this place, and he heard what I was saying about the
kind of things that I did there, looking after people and that sort of thing,
and he said to me, "Sarah, how do you see me in this situation? Why are you
telling me about it?" And so I said to him, "I believe God told me that we're
to get married." And so we were married five weeks later.
>QUENTIN McDERMOTT: Sarah is adamant that theirs is a normal relationship
with a normal adult sexual bond.
>SARAH: We say that apart from the 'walrus factor', and that is where you
have the agility around the bed of two old walruses, everything's fairly normal,
and - or better than normal, probably.
>QUENTIN McDERMOTT: But Sarah wasn't complacent about Tony's history. They
talked about his offending, and together worked to minimise his exposure to
>SARAH: There were situations when he would be asked to drive some people
home, and there would be kids or teenagers or whatever involved, and he would
say, "Look, I'm a bit busy at the moment. Sarah will drive you home." And
I'd look at him and say, "Oh, do I have to?" And then he'd give me a withering
>QUENTIN McDERMOTT: Eventually, Sarah and Tony decided to move to the Northern
Territory. They are both committed Christians, and together they decided they
could put Tony's past behind them.
>SARAH: It wasn't a wise decision. I suppose I believed in the Christian
model, that a person could receive healing, and when they received healing
- you know, if your foot's healed, it's healed, you know.
>QUENTIN McDERMOTT: Sarah and Tony ended up in this remote township. They
went there expressing a missionary zeal, but without any kind of ongoing treatment
or support for Tony. Sarah got a job at the local primary school, just a few
metres away from their home, while Tony started selling second-hand furniture
to the local community.
>HAROLD DALYWATERS: I was his mate here and we used to work together round
>do odd work around here in the community.
>PETER JACKSON: He used to take a lot of people out to the lake out here,
and go camping out, and things.
>QUENTIN McDERMOTT: Did you suspect anything was wrong when he went on
>PETER JACKSON: No. No, never did.
>QUENTIN McDERMOTT: Did the community trust him?
>PETER JACKSON: They did. The kids trusted him, and 'cause of it he used
to give things away and fix their furniture and stuff like that.
>SARAH: I have to say that we both really loved those people, and really
wanted to do good things for them, and did do good things for them, in fact.
If you were to look at it on a scale, you would find that my husband had done
so many wonderful things for those people, and they recognised that too, but
there's no prizes for guessing what he'll be remembered for.
>QUENTIN McDERMOTT: Tony was making friends in the town, and with the local
children. He was also becoming depressed. A good friend had died and his relationship
with Sarah was suffering.
>SARAH: I became ill and distracted because of being ill, and he was depressed
for a whole number of reasons, and he was saying to me, "I'm in trouble and
I don't know what to do," and I didn't know what to do either. And I do feel
that I let him and the community down by not doing something at that point.
>TONY: When I became isolated and felt rejected and that sort of thing,
I became vulnerable and did offend.
>QUENTIN McDERMOTT: Do you accept that you set out to gain the trust of
these girls? That you were, in fact, grooming them?
>TONY: There is definitely a component of grooming in my relationship with
>QUENTIN McDERMOTT: So your behaviour, which you believed in the first
place was altruistic, ultimately became predatory?
>TONY: It did, and I'm ashamed of that.
>QUENTIN McDERMOTT: Tony, by his own admission, sexually abused three young
Aboriginal girls a total of 12 times. Some of the offences took place on a
camping trip, some while swimming in a creek, others at a remote waterhole.
Eventually, he took himself off to see a psychologist.
>SARAH: After he'd seen the psychologist, we were talking and he told me
what he'd told the psychologist, and then I just had this queasy feeling in
>And I said to him, "I think there's a bit more that you need to tell me."
And there was just an awful, awful, awful hesitation and then he told me.
>QUENTIN McDERMOTT: Tony and Sarah had made a pact that if he ever offended
again, he would turn himself in to the police.
>HAROLD DALYWATERS: He then said to me, "Peter, I have been doing this
thing with the little girls. I don't care how you want to deal with this matter,
either tribal way or through the law." I sat down with Peter and we sort of
talked about it, and we ended up going to the police, and reporting him.
>PETER JACKSON: We thought he was a missionary man. We thought that he
was being kind to them. But he confessed that every time he'd do something
to them he'd always go up and get them an icy pole or buy them stuff, you
know, soft drink, just to keep them quiet.
>QUENTIN McDERMOTT: How did you feel when he told you that?
>PETER JACKSON: Oh, I felt upset. He's just lucky he hadn't done it to
my daughter. He's very lucky.
>SARAH: I really didn't imagine that it - that it would ever happen, somehow,
and I didn't know how to handle it or what to do about it. And I suppose I
felt overwhelming grief. (Cries) I loved those children and that community
and I felt terrible shame and pain. I just felt I was going to have a stroke,
but I didn't.
>TONY: I was very depressed and - what's the word - self-loathing. Ashamed,
and actually endeavoured to suicide. I got some cloth and an empty bottle
and tried to screw it up around my neck to choke myself.
>QUENTIN McDERMOTT: Tony pleaded guilty to the offences he himself had
reported, and went to jail for 10 months. He didn't get any formal treatment
in prison. But he did get the usual treatment meted out to sex offenders by
other prisoners. He was bashed twice. Tony is now receiving publicly funded
psychological support, but the damage done by his offending lingers on.
>PETER JACKSON: I don't know what effect it had on the family, but the
family was real upset with him. Plus, you know, their kid's gonna live with
it. It's gonna stay in their mind for the rest of their lives.
>SARAH: I've had to take all children out of my life, including my grandchildren,
and that is a fairly special sadness. But it's obviously a sacrifice I have
to make if I'm going to stay with him.
>QUENTIN McDERMOTT: Sarah's mission now is to set up her own support group
for child-sex offenders in the Northern Territory. She's doing so without
the kind of help partners and families of child-sex offenders get in New Zealand.
>SARAH: Society says these people are dishonest and they're in denial.
Well, if you were going to admit to something, and you were going to get kicked
to death for doing so, there's a fair chance you probably wouldn't admit it.
And we just have to have some understanding that if people want honesty, if
people want people to reach out for help, if people want these people to do
the right thing, then society has to make room for them to do so.
>QUENTIN McDERMOTT: Will you ever offend again?
>TONY: I pray God that I won't. I fight like buggery to get the psychiatric
and professional help to prevent me, that will give me the tools not too offend,
and the awareness of my vulnerabilities. But without that, I couldn't guarantee
>JAYSON WARE: We promote to them that this is not about cure. It's about
long-term management and control of their behaviours.
>QUENTIN McDERMOTT: Statistically, most sex offenders don't re-offend.
Although those who do are likely to keep on doing so. While the aim will always
be to reduce the likelihood of re-offending when these men are released, most
therapists concede that a very small number of offenders may need to be locked
>TONY WARD: I've seen people who just resist change, and perhaps these
are the kind of guys who've become close to being evil, if you like; that
they're psychopathic, perhaps. And by that I mean they're deeply malevolent
in their intentions towards others.
>REPORTER: Are you going to re-offend?
>DENNIS FERGUSON: No, I'm not.
>QUENTIN McDERMOTT: It's the fear of paedophiles re-offending that fuels
community anger against men like Dennis Ferguson. Even victims' advocates
like Hetty Johnston say convicted child-sex offenders need treatment. But
in her view, it should be mandatory, and offenders should be detained indefinitely
until they've successfully completed a treatment program.
>HETTY JOHNSTON: I'm not advocating ostracising, nor am I advocating locking
them up and throwing away the key. Unless, of course, they're a dangerous
offender, and they shouldn't be released. I'm saying we wouldn't have to ostracise
them if we had some confidence that when they were released they were safe
to be out here. We wouldn't need to throw away the key if we could treat them
properly, and have some confidence. We should throw away the key where we
can't have that confidence.
>QUENTIN McDERMOTT: In Alice Springs, Tony and Sarah are getting on with
their lives as best they can. Their battle goes on to tame the demons within.
>Tony, do you regret the burden you've placed on Sarah?
>TONY: Definitely. Yes, without reservation, I regret that and I often
apologise to her for that valley of tears that I've brought her into.
>SARAH: Some people ask me the obvious question and, you know, "What would
>if he offended again?" And I have to say I don't know. Because I didn't
know what I would do before. I don't believe he will, with all my heart. I
don't believe he will. But the answer is, if things got worse, I don't know
how I'd respond. But I know who I'd talk to about it, and that'd be God.
>Please note: This transcript is produced by an independent transcription
service. The ABC does not warrant the accuracy of the transcript.