Reporters for Australia’s ABC Tasmania have reportedly been warned to avoid using the term ‘pedophile’ when referring to an accused serial child molestor, for fear of “discouraging” non-offending pedophiles from seeking help.
In an email to reporters, an unnamed senior producer at ABC said that the Sexual Assault Support Service (SASS) had “mentioned their concerns” about describing former nurse James Geoffrey Griffin – who committed suicide in 2019 after the allegations against him were made public – as a pedophile.
Griffin was accused by multiple women of having abused them as children as far back as the 1980s, and after police searched his home in 2019, “a significant amount of child exploitation material” was found, ABC reported. He was subsequently charged with more than a dozen crimes.
“We should avoid [the term pedophile], 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 producer warned.
The email cautioned that the SASS says there are a lot of pedophiles or “people with paedophilia” who “do not act on those impulses,” particularly if they “reach out for and receive professional psychological help.”
The producer added that calling Griffin a pedophile “could discourage” non-offending pedophiles “from seeking help, making it more likely that they go on to abuse children.”
According to The Australian newspaper, the producer’s email“concerned and angered” some reporters, as well as activists against child molestation. Beyond Abuse founder Steve Fisher, who himself is a survivor of abuse, argued that “changing language” could confuse people when reading stories that expose predators.
While some reporters initially believed the advice to be binding, others did not and there have been multiple instances of the word ‘pedophile’ being used since the email was sent, the Australian said.
ABC told the paper that the word ‘pedophile’ had not been banned. A spokeswoman said it was simply intended “to inform staff about information from the Sexual Assault Support Service” and “shouldn’t have conveyed any official change in language use.”
Griffin allegedly targeted children in the hospital where he worked, as well as the children of colleagues, and police found online comments he had made in a forum in 2015 bragging about his crimes and about drugging children to abuse them.
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