Mountainous task but big rewards to be found
Most shocking for Detective Sergeant Shannon Spargo when he started working in the Child Abuse Squad was learning of the massive amount of mistreatment across all strata of society.
But despite the volume, Spargo says the reward for working in such a gruelling area of policing was locking up offenders and, ultimately, improving young people's lives.
"It's certainly not pretty; the cases you read and obviously the significant volume of work is tough, but there is no other work that motivates you more to make a difference," he says.
"It's extremely traumatic, you don't realise how tough some kids' lives are until you're exposed to this."
Spargo says his two years with the Wollongong unit involved working on cases where kids faced physical harm, assault, sexual assault and extreme neglect.
"You've got to realise why you're there," he says. "There is no benefit to the child to make it personal. The process flows a lot better when you remain objective; you need to remove yourself from the case and obviously there are serious repercussions if you get too personally involved."
His squad works closely with other agencies to make up joint investigation response teams, including Community Services and health professionals, that process initial allegations and assessments through various criteria in child protection matters.
"There is no specific profile of a child abuser," Spargo says. "It's widespread and not in a specific area or specific group of people. An offender does not fit into one category."
At the end of the day, Spargo says he would switch off, simply "leave his work at work" and return to his own family.
"There are a number of reasons why people do this," he says. "There's those that do because they have the opportunity to do it, it's a power thing, but you can't say why people do this. There is never one specific reason."