Australian police and child welfare officers will investigate the case of a girl forced to admit she was raped during a radio stunt in which she was strapped to a lie detector, officials said Thursday.
The 14-year-old broke down on air after her mother, who volunteered her for the commercial radio segment, began pressing her about whether she was sexually active, knowing she had been assaulted.
“I’ve already told you the story about this, and don’t look at me and smile because it’s not funny,” said the girl, who was strapped to a polygraph machine.
“Oh OK, I got raped when I was 12 years old,” she said.
Host Kyle Sandilands’ response of “Right, and is that the only sexual experience you’ve had?” prompted a barrage of online criticism and phone calls to the Sydney station demanding he and co-host Jackie O resign or be sacked.
Psychologists, broadcasters, child protection and rape crisis groups slammed Wednesday’s stunt as exploitative, insensitive and in bad taste.
Linda Burney, community services minister for New South Wales state, said she felt “sick” when she heard the segment, and had asked child welfare officers and police to investigate.
“Whether or not they knew the claim of a rape is irrelevant,” Burney said.
“The fact they had a 14-year-old girl there asking her about sex is the focus and the inappropriate action here.”
Burney also questioned the mother’s role, saying she had moral obligations towards her young daughter.
“I hope that the parent involved is asking themselves whether or not they were very wise in what seemed like a fun activity, particularly if she was aware that the rape had taken place,” she said.
Sandilands, who is also a judge on the reality television show “Australian Idol” and is famed for his blunt and inflammatory remarks, hit back at his critics, saying he had “no idea” about the girl’s past.
“An apology is an apology. I’ve apologised to anyone that it offended, I apologised to the girl,” Sandilands said.
“Unfortunately rape happens in society. We didn’t know the poor kid had had that situation happen to her,” he added.
He said the revelation stunned him into silence, and admitted his response had not helped the situation.
“It’s sad, it was awful, I instantly felt terrible for the girl and the mother. I just wish that I’d chosen my words a bit more cleverly.”
The communications authority said it had received a large volume of correspondence about the incident, but could not act until the girl herself made a complaint.