Child Sexual Abuse
Child Sexual Abuse
There are many predators out in the world living among us. Some of those predators are accessible to distinguish and safe guard against. Others however do not have a definite classification which makes them a bigger threat. An example of such a predator is a child sexual abuser. According to a research report made by the National Institute of Justice, "There is no single ‘profile’ that accurately describes or accounts for all child molesters" (doc1). More focus must be put on this topic to be able to accurately profile the characteristics of a child sexual abuser. According to Kali Munro, M.Ed., the definition of child sexual abuse is "any form of sexual activity with a child by an adult, or by another child where there is no consent or consent is not possible; or by another child who has power over the child. By this definition, it is possible for a child to be sexually abused by another child who is younger than they are. Sexual abuse includes showing a child pornographic materials, placing the child’s hand on another person’s genitals, touching a child’s genitals, and the more extreme form of abuse that of penetration. Penetration does not have to occur for it to be sexual abuse" (doc2). This criminal offense is despised beyond most other criminal offenses. However because of the lack of victims coming forth and reporting incidents, studies have been based on relatively inaccurate information. More emphasis must be put on persuading the victims of these crimes to come forth. This research is primarily focused on general characteristics of an offender, different types of abuse, and victims of child sexual abuse.
One thing that makes child sexual abuse a difficult topic to study is the fact that there are not any actual guideline to a way an offender is supposed to act. They come from all paths and do different things to children but often times, the "perpetrators are most often someone the child knows and trusts" (doc2). "The sexual abusers of children are highly dissimilar in terms of personal characteristics, life experiences, and criminal histories" (doc1). However, there are some very general guidelines to their characteristics including an offender’s sexual focus, victimization as children, social competence, personality and developmental influences. There are two components of sexual focus in child molesters. One component is the intensity of pedophilic interest. This focuses on how much an offender views a child in a sexual manner. The other component focus’s on how an offender views only children as sexual objects. These two focuses differ because where the first doesn’t count out the idea that the offender still has interest in adult relationships, the second focus’s on the exclusivity of preference to children. Although it has not been proven, studies show that there may be a link that suggests that an offender may be affected by his own sexual victimization as a child. "Tests of the recapitulation theory on a sample of 131 rapists and child molesters revealed that child molesters who committed their first assault when they were 14 or younger were sexually victimized at a younger age than offenders who committed their first assault in adulthood; they also experienced more severe sexual abuse than offenders with adult onset of sexual aggression" (doc1). This may just be a small factor of what causes a person to be a child sexual abuser. There is no solid evidence that links childhood victimization to a person becoming a child molester at a later age. There must be many other factors for this to even be considered as an explanation. One of these factors includes the way a person acts towards other situations. "Research shows that child molesters who committed their first sexual offense in adolescence had histories of being disruptive in school (verbally or physically assaulting peers and teachers), showed high levels of juvenile antisocial behavior, and, as adults, manifested a greater degree of nonsexual aggression " (doc1). Aggression seems to play a big role in an offender. Although this may not include sexual victimization, this ties in very well with the way a child might have been affected by his/her surroundings. Another factor may be "caregiver inconstancy" which "measures the frequency of changes in primary caregivers and the longest time spent with any single caregiver; it reflects the permanence and consistency of the child’s interpersonal relationships with significant adults" (doc1). This means that a child that has not had a steady relationship with a caregiver (parent) is more prone to develop a disorder causing them to have social problems preventing them from having solid relationships with adults. This can cause an offender to look to children to meet their psychosexual needs.
Although child molestation is usually the first thing that comes to mind when a person hears "child sexual abuse", it is not the only example. Other forms of abuse include child pornography, computer exploitation, and child prostitution. "The child pornography laws of the majority of states and the federal government require obscenity as an element of the offense. However, all these laws define the content of the prohibited child pornography. Most define child pornography as visual depictions of a minor engaged in ‘sexual conduct’ or ‘sexually explicit conduct’" (doc3). A case study by the NCJRS shows an example of computer exploitation. A twenty eight year old man was using a bulletin board system to talk to young boys and were giving graphic details about sexual experiences and offering to send the boys pornographic material. He also encouraged the boys to meet together so that they could engage in some "fun." Although it may not seem as serious as physical child molestation, this can be potentially more dangerous because the child is led to believe that he/she is talking to someone else. The computer is a dangerous tool that an offender can use to try to establish a sexual relationship with children. Another case study shows an example of child prostitution. A fifteen year old girl runs away from home because she was allegedly being sexually abused by her stepfather. She turns to a thirty two year old man who she refers to as her "boyfriend" who in turn suggests that she try prostituting to earn quick cash. Although most runaways do not turn to prostitution, most girls that do resort to prostitution are girls that ran away from home. "Approximately 95% of teenage prostitutes have been sexually abused" (doc4). Although the girl may be willingly putting herself into situations where abuse occurs, anyone that proceeded to get her services would be a child sexual abuser.
As mentioned before, child sexual abuse is despised more than most other criminal offenses mainly because the victims here are children. Children may seem like an ideal target for many offenders because "Children often fail to report because of the fear that disclosure will bring consequences even worse than being victimized again. The victim may fear consequences from the family, feel guilty for consequences to the perpetrator, and may fear subsequent retaliatory actions from the perpetrator" (doc4). There is evidence that supports this. A study showed that seventy nine percent of the children that were studied denied any abuse at first. Of the children that initially did disclose, about three-quarters disclosed it by mistake. This is one of the main reasons that it is so hard to study this topic. The children are quick to keep quiet about their victimization. Some of them can not recognize that they are being victimized where others are just too embarrassed to say anything. A research document found at the NCJRS found that "All types of abuse and neglect in childhood put people at greater risk for arrest later in life. But an important finding of this study is that, in cases of sexual abuse, the risk is no greater than for other types of maltreatment" (doc5). Children who were abused have a greater risk of being delinquent when they are older but children who suffered from sexual abuse have a higher tendency to run away. "An average of 5.5 children per 10,000 erolled in day care are sexually abused, an average of 8.9 children out of every 10,000 are abused in the home" (doc4). Because of the lack of children coming forth, this figure is most likely inaccurate.
With new studies currently in affect, the situation of child abuse is starting to be addressed properly. The biggest obstacle seems to be trying to find a way to get children to come forth about there victimizations. There have been many school programs in affect to try to get children to speak up about any abuse that they might be receiving however, the success of these programs will be based mainly on the children’s willingness to cooperate. With the majority of child sexual abusers still on the streets, it is important for parents or any caregiver to communicate with there children about child sexual abuse.