Child Sexual Assault: The Crime No One Wants To Talk About

Child Sexual Assault: The Crime No One Wants To Talk About

By: Amanda Fox

Child sexual assault is the crime no one wants to talk about. As a society, it is the one crime that is abhorred above all others. Even in prison, the child molester is the lowest of the low. No matter how many PSA’s are run reminding people to be cautious and telling children to report inappropriate contact, the problem persists. No matter how inherently wrong this is in the minds of people or how careful parents try to be protecting their children, it still happens,

Accurate statistics regarding the core motivation of child molesters are hard to find with even the most reputable of sources noting that the responses provided by those convicted of child molestation are rarely very honest. In some cases, it is a matter of pedophilia in which the abuser has a sexual attraction to the victim. In others it is about opportunity and ease. What each shares, however, is finding sexual satisfaction over asserting power – no different than any other abuser.

 

Before going to much further, let’s look at the statistics so that we have an understanding of how common this problem is. (Please keep in mind, the numbers are extrapolated estimates made by the DOJ as many cases go unreported or are not disclosed until the statute of limitations has lapsed and the victim is an adult)

 

1. It is estimated that 1 in 6 Americans are molested as children (About 40m people)

2. Prior to the age of 18, about 1 in 4 girls will be molested as well as 1 in 7 boys

3. While abuse covers all ages up to 18, 8-12 years old appears to be the most common range.

4. The abuse is rarely a one time occurrence and normally spans 1-4 years.

5. Somewhere in the area of 75%-80% of all victims are abused by someone they know. About 30% are estimated to be family members.

 

Abuse is not limited to any race, religion, gender, sexual preference or location. Abuse happens everywhere to victims who can be anyone by abusers who can similarly be anyone. Women have molested children, but in the vast majority of cases, the abuser is male. Abuse generally builds, starting with what is termed as “safe” or “friendly” touching and escalating over a period of weeks or even months. Bribes may often be used to try to make the victim feel comfortable with their abuser and to build feelings of guilt for having any negative thoughts toward them. There are, however, plenty of cases where threats of, or actual violence, are used to help insure compliance.

 

What makes the abuse of children in this manner so tricky to spot is that there is no set pattern or type of abuser. There are literally an incalculable number of methods abusers can use to not only get to children but try to cover their tracks. That is compounded by children often being afraid to speak up and all too often by adults that brush of claims of abuse as the child being naughty, looking for attention, misunderstanding the situation or in some cases just not wanting to believe it is possible. This is of course assuming the adult the abuse is reported to is not them self an abuser or some how implicit in the particular case of abuse of the child reporting it.

 

While we could go on and on with statistics and rehashing any of literally thousands of studies related to child molestation, what helps paint a clear picture of how this can happen, a friend of Spicie agreed to allow us to use her story on the condition of anonymity. Names, dates and locations have been changed to protect her privacy, but the account of abuse itself is fully accurate as per her retelling of her ordeal.

Janice was 8 years old, living in a small Midwest town. She was a good student. She loved the same things most kids did and was by all accounts quite average. In her home, her mother was the breadwinner working two jobs, while her father had sporadic employment and spent most of his time at home handling the household. If you thought having a father at home looking after his little girl would provide increased protection for her and her younger brothers, you would be wrong.

Janice was not abused by her father, but her abuse did take place in the home. It began slowly, with a friend of her father that visited regularly telling her how beautiful she was. He would often bring her a small gift, maybe some crayons or a t-shirt or whatever he could pass on that wasn’t expensive enough to draw attention but could be used to elicit a thanks and maybe even a hug and kiss on the cheek. This was, after-all, her father’s oldest and best friend who was considered a part of the family, so she was assured it was okay to give uncle Pete a peck on the cheek.

Over the course of the year, his visits became more regular. It wasn’t at all uncommon for “uncle Pete” to watch Janice for a few minutes in the house alone when her father ran an errand or had to take her brothers to sports practice or something. He always assumed Pete could be trusted because again, this was his oldest and best friend. It is also why once Pete began exposing himself to Janice and asking her to touch where he had a “boo-boo”, or kiss the boo-boo that always seemed to be on his genitals, it was okay. This was “uncle” Pete and he assured her that he loved her and would never ask her to do anything wrong. Over time, the “healing” his “boo-boo” required increased and full sexual penetration slowly began over the course of another several months.

By this time, Janice was getting a little older. She was paying attention to more of what she saw on television as well as gaining exposure to a whole different set of shows that were more grown up. Uncle Pete kept telling her how grown up she was getting so she wanted to act more grown up. Part of that was her starting to watch shows like “Law & Order” on afternoon re-runs. It was then she began realizing, uncle Pete didn’t have a boo-boo and what was happening to her was wrong.

She told him, finally, that it was wrong. She saw on TV where men got in trouble for doing what he was doing to her. He didn’t try to explain it away. He didn’t apologize. Instead, what her told her was he was going to keep doing it anytime he felt like it and if she tried to tell anyone he would kill her brothers the first chance he had, but not her, so that she could live knowing it was her fault they were dead. Janice was undaunted. She spoke up. She told her protector – her father.

After hearing what Janice had to say, her father called her a liar. He said that as punishment for lying, she couldn’t watch TV for 1 month since she obviously got her lies from there. He made her apologize to “uncle” Pete for telling lies about him. Fearing the abuse would continue or her brothers may very well be murdered now that she told on her abuser, she sneaked into her parents room, called her mother at work and whispered the whole story to her. Her mother was home within 20 minutes.

Her mother sent her father out of the house and set her brothers up watching a movie to keep them occupied. She listened to the account of the abuse, in full, convinced beyond all shadow of a doubt it was true. She then took all of the kids to the hospital where she demanded a pelvic exam for Janice. Doctors confirmed there was evidence of extensive penetration including scarring and even a couple fresh abrasions that may have been caused by an object. Her brothers were questioned as well, and related that “uncle” Pete sometimes locked the door to Janice’s room when he was watching them all so that he and Janice could play “a silly game that was for girls only.”

Despite overwhelming physical evidence and the word of his own daughter, Janice’s father refused to believe it was true. The police took statements, but warned Janice’s mother a conviction would be tough to secure. Doubly tough as Pete’s brother was a Lt. Detective on the police force that had jurisdiction, plus, everyone loved Pete. Everyone kept reminding her mother Pete was such a good guy. People loved Pete so much, in fact, that Janice and her mother got dirty looks everywhere they went. How dare they say such awful things about Pete good guy!

Janice’s father still refused to believe her. He became convinced that it was all really some sort of scheme to make him look bad so that when his wife divorced him he’d get nothing because everyone hated him. Never mind there was no impending divorce and everyone seemed to hate his wife for blowing the whistle – somehow it was all about him. Rather than believe his daughter and medical tests, he left his family. He said he couldn’t live among such hateful liars. Several months later, he and Janice’s mother divorced and she moved her family several states away after gaining full custody.

Now a young adult at a northeastern University, Janice is doing much better. It took a few years of therapy and a lot of love, but she is as mended as she feels she can expect to be. She still has trust issues with people and she shared with us that even giving and receiving gifts, no matter how small they are or who they come from, still makes her feel uneasy. Relationships have been problematic for and she finds that she tends to find herself being closest to other abuse victims like herself – a sadly and surprisingly large group of people to choose from now that survivor groups are becoming more common.

As parents, we can look for some of the classic signs of abuse such as regressive and/or antisocial behavior, becoming withdrawn, major changes in dietary habits, nightmares, allusions to a secret, etc… there are a few dozen possible signs of abuse. The best thing to do, however, is talk to your children regularly. You may think they are too young to talk to about sex, but you can certainly talk in terms of good and bad touch and make it known you are to be told of any instance of bad touching. Keep in mind, 8 years old is the low end of the most abused age range of children.

 

Sandusky Sentenced, Image Courtesy of http://www.childhelp.org/

No matter how many petitions we sign, no matter how well protected we try to keep our children, abuse can happen. In almost 10% of reported cases it happens at school. It happens at sports or music practice, scouting, churches, a family get-together and even at home as happened to Janice. It can happen anywhere. This is why it is so important you not only learn the warning signs but pay attention to who your kids are around when not under your direct supervision. Please educate your children and empower them to speak up! Let them understand that should it happen, it is not their fault and that they will not get in trouble for telling you.

 

Our children are the greatest of all our creations. They are born innocent and trusting. It is our job to do everything we can to protect them and bring to justice anyone that would rob their innocence and taint their trust in humankind. Be proactive and be aware. Our children deserve our every effort to protect them.

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  1. Tracy says:

    Thank you for this article Amanda. It is a reminder that we all need to keep in the back of our minds… unfortunately.

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