A bad mother

In today’s SMH, (in this case I need to reproduce the whole story)

A WOMAN has been jailed for at least nine years for forcing her daughters aged six and nine to perform sex acts on each other, photographing them and emailing the pictures to an American man she met over the internet.

Judge Jennifer English said the photographs were stomach-churning and described the woman’s conduct as vile.

“It is almost incomprehensible that a mother of two young girls could behave such a way,” she said yesterday.

The 41-year-old Sydney woman was arrested after US police found her boyfriend’s laptop and alerted NSW police. The woman pleaded guilty to eight charges.

The District Court at Penrith heard the woman began emailing the American in early 2005. At first he asked her to think of games for adult sex parties. Then he revealed a foot fetish. Soon she was masturbating on webcam.

He asked her to photograph her 13-year-old niece naked. She had told the girl: “If you do this, I will buy you a phone and some PlayStation games.” When the teenager refused, she had brandished scissors and threatened to cut her clothes off.

The emailing stopped after the woman resisted the man’s request to photograph some local boys, but contact resumed in early 2006. He asked her for explicit photographs of her daughters, making suggestions about poses and dress.

She said: “You know me, I will do all that I can.” In June, she picked her daughters up from school and told them they would have some fun and take some nude pictures. The next day she emailed the photos to the American.

Judge English said the woman was intelligent and articulate. She studied at university and worked in hospitality before opting to be a full-time mother.

Initially, she failed to accept the gravity of her crime. A psychologist reported she believed her children had not been harmed by the photographs because she said it would not happen again and told them not to tell anyone.

She blamed the American for coercing her. She was a typical untreated sex offender, the psychologist found, and needed treatment.

Earlier this year, however, the woman saw the photographs again and was shocked. They were more graphic than she remembered. She co-operated with authorities because she “needs to stop [the man] doing this to anyone else”.

Judge English said the woman was now “truly remorseful and contrite”.

But her behaviour had been “outrageous and disgusting”, and the girls were violated in the “sanctity of their own home”. The children were incapable of standing up for themselves against the wishes of their mother.

The woman was sentenced to 13 years and nine months jail, with a non-parole period of nine years. She will be eligible for parole in 2015.

Now, I don’t know exactly how disgusting these pictures were or how terrible the sex acts which the girls were made to commit upon each other were, though commonsense or maybe my lack of imagination would suggest that the scope would have been relatively limited. But for an episode which, so far as the girls were concerned, occurred overnight, even if one adds the compounding offence of then forwarding the pictures to the boyfriend, a non-parole minimum sentence of 9 years seems very long indeed. People can kill people as a result of an unlawful and dangerous act and spend less time in gaol than that. However much the children were harmed by this episode, having their mother locked up for 9 years (even if she is a very very bad mother) will probably harm them much more.

Need the punishment for being a bad mother really be so severe?

 Afterword

At least one correspondent to the SMH feels the same:

Punishment won’t help healing

As a GP and mother of three I am sure I’m not alone in feeling sad and repulsed by the actions of a mother against her children (“Mother forced child sex acts for man online”, April 5-6). However, my sadness only deepened on hearing of her lengthy sentence. Surely now what her children most deserve is the opportunity to heal. Must we not ask what is more damaging – a single incomprehensible act without intention to harm, or a childhood living with the daily shame and the absence of a mother, however inadequate she may be? I hope, for the girls’ sake, that our justice system got it right.

Melissa Finch Cooks Hill

but the classical retributive [retributory?] view has also got a guernsey:

Poor excuse for a mother

Melissa Finch (Letters, April 7) writes that the action of the mother who forced her children to perform sex acts for a man online was a “single incomprehensible act”. How do we know this? She says there was no “intention to harm”. How could there be no intention to harm with this reprehensible action? Let this poor excuse for a mother serve her rightful time, and may her poor children find some solace in the arms of a loving and eager family.

Rosemary O’Brien Georges Hall

When a mother uses her children to commit disgusting perverted acts for pedophiles without any coercion from that monster, she abandons the right to be a mother and should be punished accordingly, as the justice system found.

Michael Fogarty Mortdale

The second of these letters, in particular, appears to me to owe much to traditional views of children as the possessions of their parents, to be forfeited in the case of parental misconduct. There is a glimmer of this in the first letter also, with the declaration that the children should “find some solace in the arms of a loving and eager family.” Yet this woman will always be these children’s mother, their children’s (if any) grandmother, etc etc. Is destroying this really a proportionate response? It seems to me like a way of deepening and perpetuating the scar. I suppose this is just a particularly florid example of the general dilemma about unfit parents and whether to remove children from them. The facts given in the original story just don’t enable us to tell how typical or atypical the incident which brought the mother to the attention to the courts was. It still seems odd to me that the mother could probably have burnt the children with an iron, or broken their arm in a beating, and suffered less punishment and possibly even only temporary deprivation of her children.

Which is why I am suspicious of language like “disgusting perverted acts for pedophiles.” That is just knee-jerk reaction. Here (rather like false imprisonment when you are asleep), the pedophile was far far away and the children would have been totally unaware of him. Now, of course, neither they nor their children (if any) will ever forget.

After after word: everyone has a view (8 April, SMH)

Two sets of rules

A mother takes explicit photographs of her daughters and emails them to a man in the US (“Mother forced child sex acts for man online”, April 5-6). After describing the photographs as “stomach-churning” and the mother’s actions as “vile”, the (female) judge sentences her to a minimum of nine years’ jail.
The NSW Crown prosecutor Patrick Power is caught with hundreds of child porn images on his computer. The (male) chief magistrate describes the images as “distressing and disheartening”, with one video in the “worst category of child porn”. He is sentenced to six months’ jail.

The disparity raises many questions. What is the difference between supplying pornographic images of children and fuelling demand for them? How does the socioeconomic standing of the mother differ from Power’s? To what extent does the gender of the judge and magistrate influence the sentencing? What would the woman’s sentence have been had she, like Power, gathered 59 character references from “high-achievers”?

Sexual exploitation and abuse of children do not recognise social and gender divides. Neither should the subsequent punishment.

Anthony Johnsen Newtown

Indeed, Melissa Finch (Letters, April 7), we should feel repulsed and sickened. I wonder if you would feel as sympathetic to the perpetrator and question the imposition of a jail term if the headline had read “Father forced child sex acts for man online”?

Iain Martin Erskineville

It’s a spiral of moral panic here, imho.

One Response to “A bad mother”

  1. goldnsilver Says:

    I whole heartedly disagree with you. I personally believe that all acts of sexual crime should be given far harsher penalties than they currently receive, life imprisonment even.

    Your point of view and comments like ‘I don’t know exactly how disgusting these pictures were or how terrible the sex acts which the girls were made to commit upon each other were, though commonsense or maybe my lack of imagination would suggest that the scope would have been relatively limited’ shows a severe lack of how damaging sexual abuse is to the victims.

    You argue that these girls may have worse emotional damage from being seperated from their mother. What if they are actually given to a foster home that loves and protects them? Giving them back to a fuckwit mother who repeatedly tried to abuse children (re-read your own article. She tried to abuse her niece as well. Hardly ‘accidental’. Saying that didn’t understand what she was doing is the absolute bullshit criminals feed to idiots like you who are happy to lap up their excuses and sympathise with them).

    Having lived with someone who was raped by her own father, and watching how it completely ruined her life, I am sick to death with people who say that those that judge peadofiles are in ‘a spiral of moral panic’.

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