ABC Denies CEO’s Claim It ‘Misquoted’ Sexual Assault Service on Use of Paedophile Term

March 9, 2021 Updated: March 9, 2021

The chief executive officer of Tasmania’s Sexual Assault Support Service (SASS) has claimed that a news producer from the ABC “misquoted” one of their managers when advising some journalists, via email, to avoid using the word “paedophile” in reporting, so as not to marginalise them. But the ABC stands by the contents of the email.

This comes after News Corp’s The Australian reported on March 6 that a senior ABC producer was purportedly prompted to send the email after the SASS manager expressed concern that the use of the word “paedophile” might negatively impact some paedophiles.

This was reportedly prompted by the death by suicide, in 2019, of an alleged paedophile nurse, James (Jim) Geoffrey Griffin, who was facing multiple charges related to child sexual abuse and producing child exploitation material.

“We should avoid it, unless we know he had a clinical diagnosis of paedophilia and instead use serial sexual offender/predator, or a sexual abuser of children and young people,” the senior staffer’s email allegedly said, in a bold font.

“[Sexual Assault Support Service] says … there are a lot of paedophiles/people with paedophilia who do not act on those impulses, ­especially if they reach out for and receive professional psychological help … describing (perhaps technically inaccurately) Griffin as a paedophile could ­discourage those people from seeking help, making it more ­likely that they go on to abuse children,” the email allegedly said.

The Epoch Times has not seen the email.

In an editorial published on March 8, The Australian criticised the ABC, and the news producer, for allegedly adopting that editorial position.

“A paedophile, defined by the Macquarie Dictionary, is ‘an adult who engages in sexual activities with children.’ The public understands the term—it could not be clearer. Unless you are a senior news producer at the national broadcaster in Tasmania,” The Australian’s editorial said.

“The producer should be telling staff to use tight, accurate wording, not weasel words,” it added.

An ABC spokesperson told The Epoch Times on March 9: “There has been no change to the ABC’s usage of the term ‘paedophile’ in reporting. It’s still used.”

“The intent of the note to some staff in Tasmania was to inform them about information from the Sexual Assault Support Service, as it’s always useful to understand the views of the services dealing closely with survivors,” the ABC spokesperson said. “The note should not have given the impression there has been any official change in language use because there hasn’t been.”

But on March 10, Jill Maxwell, the CEO of Tasmania’s SASS, told The Epoch Times their manager might have been misquoted.

“Disappointingly, the comment from the [SASS] staff member was misquoted and also taken out of context. I have since spoken to the Producer at ABC Tasmania about this matter,” Maxwell said.

“SASS is not suggesting the word paedophile should never be used, nor are we seeking to change or soften language in regards to criminal behaviour,” she clarified.

But an ABC spokesperson, in response to queries, said: “We don’t believe the information was misquoted.”

Paedophiles Can’t Be Turned Into Victims

Peter Kurti, an expert on society and culture from the Centre for Independent Studies, has attributed the confusion around the use of the term to it having both a clinical and widespread everyday use.

Further, he noted that while there is a tendency to change the language to make terms more palatable for progressive tastes, a line will be drawn by the public when it comes to the use of the word paedophile.

“Are we really so concerned about making a fine distinction between using the term colloquially and using it in a clinical way?” he told The Epoch Times on March 9. “Just because somebody doesn’t act on those principles doesn’t turn them into a victim because we might describe them as a paedophile.”

He noted that society is particularly ensnared at the moment by the notion of a victim but warned against making paedophiles out to be “misrepresented” and “misunderstood” as a result of being mistermed in the media.

“I do think this idea that somebody can be a victim because a term is misapplied to them is wrong. Because that’s not how we use language,” he said.

He said the desire to treat people fairly and justly had led some people to go to extremes to “find the next group of victims.”

“I think the real victims of paedophilia are not the people who are mistermed as paedophiles; the real victims are those who suffer the abuse,” he said.

Follow Caden on Twitter: @cadenpearson