Here are three key facts which you share with other people about child sexual abuse.
- As much as 95% of child sexual abuse could be prevented. Today, we have access to the information and knowledge required for stopping this menace.
- There are around 39 million adult American survivors of childhood molestation.
- More than 3 million children in the U.S. are victims of molestation. Most of these children are trying to cope with it alone, believing that they could not get any help.
Start by sharing these basic facts to play your role in preventing child molestation in your family and community.
But why should you take action? Shouldn’t professionals like therapists and physicians be doing this job? And, shouldn’t the law enforcement agencies deal with this menace?
Physicians and therapists as well as police and courts can help in providing assistance to victims and stop predators to some extent but they can never eliminate sexual abuse. Also, their help is sought too late. The kids have already become a victim when the professionals are approached for help. So, it’s only you who can timely help the children.
There’s yet another big reason for the lack of efficacy of medical experts and the law enforcement authorities during the time the offense is being committed. They can’t directly access the victim children, and they can talk to them about issues like sex only after the crime has been committed and reported. A victim child has a high probability of themselves becoming an offender and prey on other children. Only you have a direct access to your children and it’s you who could talk to them before they are harmed, or before they cause any damage to anyone else.
Can’t Happen In My Own Family
If you believe your family never had a molester or a sexually abused child, you are most probably wrong.
Most of the children today won’t tell about sexual abuse. They feel embarrassed that this happened with them. In many cases, they even are protecting the predator because s/he is a family member. By keeping silent, they believe, they are saving their loved ones from a painful situation.
Around one in 21 adult men and teenage boys molest kids, and an around one in every 3,200 adult women or teenage girls molests children. Added together, the number of child and adult victims and the molesters is well over 5 million people (or 15% of U.S. citizens) who are either a victim or offender.
Despite these high ratios, many of us continue to believe that child abuse has nothing to do with us. Most people mistakenly believe that neither their family ever had a molester nor there ever will be. To curb child sexual abuse and prevent it from occurring to your own children and those around you, start by speaking to others about it and telling them the major facts about this menace.
Speaking Same Language
If we’re to join hands for stopping child molestation, we must have a shared understanding of the relevant terms like Child, Child Molester, and Child Molestation.
Also, we need to have a fair understanding of the primary facts about this issue. What is child sexual abuse? How many American children are molested? How serious is the damage (physical, emotional and psychological) they have suffered? What are the common characteristics of child molesters? What makes someone to molest a child? And, which children are at highest risk?
- Child: A girl or boy aged 13 or younger.
- Child Molestation: The act wherein a child is sexually touched by someone.
- Child Molester: Any adult or older child who touches a kid for their own sexual satisfaction.
As for the victim-molester Age Difference, it’s five years, according to the accepted medical definition. For example, if an older child of 14 years age sexually touches a nine years old younger child it would be considered molesting.
A professional may sometimes consider an act as child sexual abuse when the children have a mere three years age difference ‑ a 6th grader touching a 4th grader, for example. The key element is the differential of strength and power between the children – the 6th grader is obviously much stronger and more adult-like in comparison to the younger kid. However, to avoid ambiguity we will stick to the definition of five years age gap.
Telling Others Facts About Sexual Abuse
If we are to save our children, we will need to have a very clear definition of sexual abuse. A major obstacle in this regard is the fear-of-facts.
Some people have no clear idea about molestation. They do not know that sexual touching is hugely different from hugging and therefore they are scared to hug children, especially those who are not their own, because they might be taken for a child molester. Their fears can be calmed by informing them that there is a hell of a difference between hugging and molesting. Sexual touching occurs when a grown up person touches the chest, hips, or genitals of a child for their own sexual gratification or sexually exciting the child.
If you can tell this fact to your spouse, sibling, cousin, or best friend, you can tell everyone all the other facts about child molestation as well.
The less information people have, the more anxious they feel. Unless they have this knowledge, they will continue pretending like this huge number of molested children doesn’t exist. By informing the people around them about these facts, one can help others become strong guardians of the kids in one’s community.
The Number Of Victim Children
When you start telling the people around you about these unfortunate children of today, their first reaction is likely to be: How could somebody know that there are exactly 3 million children who are victims of molestation? The answer is: we don’t know the exact numbers, of course.
Children rarely tell anything about such matters. These millions of child victims are a painful secret. Even those adults who faced sexual abuse in their childhood seldom speak out. But studies about adults have revealed that at least 3 million kids are sexually abused before reaching the age of 14 years. There were as many as 103,000 established cases of sexual abuse involving children in the 1998.
For comparison, in the 1950s when the polio epidemic was at its height, more than 20,000 cases were reported in a single year. Over 56,000 cases were reported for rubella (or German measles).
The numbers of confirmed cases of child molestation is only the thin end of the wedge. Importantly, for every reported case of molestation there are 2 to 3 other related cases that remain unreported. This is why we might never get the exact number of victim children.
However, going by the careful estimate (made on the basis of the statistical abstract of 1999 U.S. Census) that 2 in every 10 girl children and 1 in every 10 boy children are victims, we can say that there are surely well over 3 million victims of child sexual abuse.
Yes, three million is a shocking number. That’s 46 football stadiums full of kids who are being molested today and who think they have no elder to seek help from.
Severity of the Damage to Children
Some people might think there is no harm in touching a kid sexually. Some adults would even tell victim boys to stop whining and “act like a man.” Many people are simply unsympathetic towards the adult survivors and would say that whatever happened to anyone in childhood is a thing of the past. They will tell the adult survivors to simply get over and overcome it.
As a matter of fact, sexual abuse deeply harms children and causes them life-long scars. It causes such damage as would often be carried over into the adult life of the victim children.
This damage may include:
- Trouble in establishing long-term or lasting relationships
- Sexual acts may lead victims to contract STDs (sexually transmitted diseases)
- Physical damage to sex organs and physical symptoms
- Depression, mental stress, and suicidal thoughts
- Weakening of body’s immune system, increased illnesses, and premature deaths
Besides the emotional and physical damage done to the child, the terrible secret held closely by a few family members can severely damage the family fiber in the long run – even for generations.
Who Is The Predator?
Mostly men are child sexual abusers. In fact, the ratio of male offenders is far more than that of the female. Roughly one out of every 20 males and around one out of every 3,300 females are child molesters.
Story Of A Molester
Kevin (not his real name) was a teenager much like any other boy of his age. He got married in his twenties and fathered two sons. Kevin’s parents felt proud at him and his family. They were also proud of the values Kevin taught his kids.
In his thirties, Kevin was a successful employee and received promotion every two to three years. The promotions brought more money, but they also meant more travel, increased responsibility, and greater job stress.
Then, one day while Kevin was three states away, his wife received a phone call. Her loving husband had been arrested there on for sexually abusing a little girl. Kevin was 43 by then.
The wife remembers how she smiled into the phone, believing that it could not be true. To her, Kevin was a fine man; a very traditional and conservative soul. It must be somebody else with a similar name, she thought. She spelled out her husband’s full name – including his middle name. But when she realized that it was indeed her own husband, she was enraged. Who could level a false charge on a gentleman like Kevin, she wondered. Would the defense attorney’s fees make them bankrupt? What would his colleagues and boss think about him? She had been married to Kevin for 20 years and she knew him very well. She knew that he could ever do such a horrible thing.
But the question is: did she really know Kevin?
Like any other regular woman, Kevin’s wife thought child molestation was an abhorrent crime and a sin. But, her husband was neither a sinner nor a criminal. His record was so clean that he even had never violated a traffic sign. He was a hardworking and a highly responsible man. By all means, he was a law-abiding citizen. He was a well-mannered man and like any regular husband, took care of his family and its well-being. Religion was a significant part of Kevin’s life.
Moreover, his wife thought that Kevin can’t be a molester since they had a healthy and hearty sex life.
The following few months brought more shocks to Kevin’s family, including his parents. He confessed to sexually molesting the little girl who had accused him. She was the daughter of one of his childhood friends.
Then they discovered there were several other victims too. Kevin had victimized no less than 23 young girls, including his two nieces – his own sister’s daughter and the daughter of his sister-in-law. Kevin had also preyed on the daughters of several of his family’s close friends.
The two nieces he had abused for years did not tell anyone. In yet another shock to his family, Kevin also confessed he had been molesting his stepsister when she was a school going kid and he himself was 17. She also kept the secret.
Obviously, Kevin’s extended family is destroyed. His sister-in-law and his own sister will never forgive him for victimizing their daughters. The two women are also not on speaking terms with Kevin’s wife because they think she knew all along but did not do anything to stop her husband.
Kevin’s parents are upset as they failed to save their young daughter and their granddaughter.
Story Of Success Or Failure?
After you’ve read this story, how would you reflect on it? Does it sound like a success story? Kevin’s family sees it so.
His wife believes him when Kevin says he has learned the lesson. Kevin himself is fine with going jail as he believes he deserves punishment. For him, the jail term will be his redemption. It’s over now, and he won’t ever touch a kid again. To his wife, this punishment of an otherwise nobleman is all that is required.
Kevin’s minister believes him too, and he has visited his prison cell to pray with him.
The judge abhors such cases as he hears the troop of witnesses. He’s contended that the laws are there to deal with such crimes.
Kevin is now full of regret and remorse. He’s a changed man now.
Kevin was always a religious fellow and he knew well that sexually abusing a kid was a sin. Following his arrest, his wife discovered a Bible from his car. Sometimes, while resisting his urge to touch a little girl, he would take help from the Bible and recite some passages to stop him from committing the sin. Religion, in his case, saved a few kids from sexual abuse. Still, he sexually abused around two dozen little girls.
Arresting Kevin and sending him to jail may have saved more girls. It did save Kevin’s nieces from being molested by him again.
Many people around him believe that Kevin’s is a story success as he won’t molest anyone anymore. Several of the victims are receiving therapy. The offender has been punished and victims are being treated.
But, sending child abusers to prison is not a solution as it will continue to fail our children because for punishing a predator the justice system requires our children to be sexually abused. Authorities can’t take action unless there is a victim.
The same is the case with treating the victim children. It’s an ineffective strategy because the children get help only after they have been sexually abused.
The most horrifying thing in this story is the years-long waiting by the adults who were supposed to protect the victim children. They waited and waited powerlessly before they could help the 23 little girls. They waited while the girls were molested for years. And then they waited for a girl to break silence before someone who was willing to take action. As they waited, they let Kevin go on preying for 26 years.
Given the options available at the time, Kevin’s family did what they could do. Today, however, such a story must not be repeated because we have enough information that we can use for stopping predators like Kevin before they could move from one prey to another.
The Typical Child Molester
Kevin’s neighbors also sided with him when they learnt about the accusation leveled on him by a girl living in another city. They didn’t know the little accuser but they knew Kevin quite well. And, some of them even knew Kevin’s parents.
When Kevin admitted to the charge and confessed molesting so many other girls too, their shock knew no limits: “He is the last person one could imagine doing such a horrible thing.” “It’s a very strange case.” “I have known him since school. I find it too hard to believe.”
Every person who knows Kevin is still sure that he’s not a monster and he’s not like a typical molester. Not only he but his wife also comes from a noble family. Kevin’s parents and his parents-in-law live in the same area and visit the same church.
Kevin was baptized in church and he’s still a regular attendee. He religiously follows all the rules and regulations and pays the bills a week prior to the due date. He rotates his car tires and observes speed limit rules. He is a responsible father and maintains funds for his sons’ education.
His wife and their neighbors believe it’s almost impossible for a common folk like Kevin to be a child molester. An exemplary husband and a responsible father like him can’t do any such thing, they believe.
They mistakenly think his exemplary family life, his responsible conduct, his education, and his high moral values could save Kevin from turning into a sex predator. Actually, they wrongly believe that the same things are protecting their own kids from sexual abuse.
So, here arises the question: is this really a rare case? What key facts could you tell if you were living in Kevin’s community?
You could tell this fact: Kevin is essentially a typical child sex offender. He is educated, working, married and religious. His case is not unusual.
Many people would tell you this couldn’t be true. But, it is true.
In the Abel and Harlow Child Molestation Prevention Study, researchers asked 4,000 admitted child sexual abusers (men aged between 18 and 80) to answer queries about their lives.
The study brings out that Kevin is a typical child molester.
Kevin is married, like 77% of those (around 4,000) child molesters who participated in the study. Kevin is religious, as were 93% of the study participants. He’s educated like many of them. Over 46% of the participants had received some college education while another 30% had graduated from high school. Like 65% of the child abusers, Kevin had a job.
Several studies of adult victims that sought to link the molested children to lower family income and lower social class have failed to establish such connections. Child abusers and their victims exist almost equally in families from all income groups and social classes. From the recent, more comprehensive studies we know child abusers are as equally educated, married, religious, and employed as the other American males.
Contrasts: Admitted Child Molesters vs. All American Males
||Confessed Child Sexual Abusers
|Married or Previously Married
|Some College Education
|High School Education Only
Sources: The 1999 U.S. Census Statistical Abstract and Abel and Harlow Child Molestation Prevention Study
*The two groups comprised of men aged 25 years or above.
A Careful Examination
Is the profile of a typical child molester something like this: a person who is educated, married, employed, and religious? Yes!
But, we need to be careful and ask the next relevant question: What does this data mean? To answer this question we arrive at another finding of the above stated study.
Being educated, married, working, and religious does not cause a person to abuse children, rather these qualifications only make us more American. It’s vital for everyone to understand the molesters for protecting the children from predators.
A child sex abuser not only looks like Kevin but also like most of the other people around you.
In the study involving the 4,000 child abusers the researchers found that in his apparent characteristics the average child abuser closely resembled the average American man.
Which Ethnic Groups Abuse Children?
Is child molestation exclusive to specific ethnic groups? Most probably not. The Abel and Harlow Study suggests that every ethnic group has child molesters among their ranks. The percentages resemble to the U.S. Census.
Ethnic Groups: Admitted Child Abusers vs. All American Men
||Admitted Child Sexual Abusers
Sources: The 1999 U.S. Census and Abel and Harlow Study
Note: As many as 3,950 men who admitted to sexually abusing kids were compared against American men of different ethnic groups. In the whole sample of 15,500 men, Asians were under-represented. They were 1.2 percent. On the other hand, Native Americans got over-represented. They were 3 percent.
Which Children Are Targeted by Molesters?
Children are at the highest risk from the males in their own families as well as from the adults in the social circle of their parents. As much as 90% of molesters target kids within their families and those who are known to them. Research also suggests that the risk to all the children irrespective of their economic and social situation. Predators belong to every segment of American society and so do the victims.
|CHILDREN OF THE FAMILY
|Stepchildren, Foster or Adopted Children
|Brothers & Sisters
|Nephews & Nieces
|CHILDREN OF THE NEIGHBORHOOD
|Children Left in Other’s Care
|Children of Neighbor or Friend
|Children not know to offenders
Source: The Abel and Harlow Study.
Note: Since child molesters often prey on children in multiple categories, the categories total over 100%. For example, the same molester might have sexually abused his biological kid as well as his stepchild, so, we can’t say the two categories collectively represent 49%, but they do represent a lower figure than the actual.
*Only 11% of the child molesters report that they abused a stranger child.
Now, let’s put these facts together:
- Sex predators who target children belong to every segment of society
- They abuse kids close to them – mostly the children who are in their own family or social circle
- Most molesters (around 90%) report that they knew their victims very well
What to Do If You Catch A Molester?
Sexual abuse is a serious crime. If you believe someone has molested your child or any other child, do not try to handle it yourself! When caught, a predator will always say that it was their “first time” and he will also promise never to do it again. But he will be lying and he is good at it. Call the police and report abuse! The best thing one could for one’s own child and for the other children (past or potential victims of the predator) is to report the crime to the authorities. If a molester has preyed on your child, he will do it to others too unless he’s stopped.