Howard N. Snyder (in Sexual Assault of Young Children as Reported to Law Enforcement) found that the
Age profile of the victims of sexual assault, 1991–96
All sexual assault
Sexual assault with object
SOURCE: Howard N. Snyder, "Table 1: Age Profile of the Victims of Sexual Assault, 1991–96," in Sexual Assault of Young Children as Reported to Law Enforcement: Victim, Incident, and Offender Characteristics, U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, July 2000
0 to 5
6 to 11
12 to 17
18 to 24
25 to 34
abusers of young victims were more likely than the abusers of older victims to be family members. Sexual abusers whose victims were children five years old and younger were family members nearly half the time (48.6%), a number that decreased for those ages six to eleven (42.4%), and further decreased for victims ages twelve to seventeen (24.3%). (See Table 6.4.) More female victims (51.1% of those five years old and younger and 43.8% of those ages six to eleven) were abused by family members, compared with their male counterparts (42.4% of those five years old and younger and 37.7% of those ages six to eleven). (See Table 6.5.)
David Finkelhor and Linda Meyer Williams, in The Characteristics of Incestuous Fathers (Family Research Laboratory, University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH, 1992), found that, generally, incestuous fathers had lonely childhoods (82%). Almost half (47%) had not lived with their own fathers and had changed living arrangements (43%), perhaps as a result of parental divorce or remarriage. Their own parents' alcohol problem, however, was no different from that of the nonabused comparison group. Incestuous fathers were far more likely to have been juvenile delinquents and to have been rejected by their parents. The researchers also found that the sex education of incestuous fathers while growing up did not come from friends or peers, but from being victims of sexual abuse. About 70% had a history of sexual abuse, with 45% having multiple abusers. Nearly three of five were sexually abused by nonfamily adults.
INCESTUOUS FATHERS' MOTIVES TO OFFEND. Carolyn Copps Hartley observed that, while incestuous fathers may share some common characteristics, there does not seem to be a single profile of these offenders. Hartley sought to explore "incest offenders' perceptions of their own motives for sexually offending" ("Incest Offenders' Perceptions of Their Motives to Sexually
Victim-offender relationship in sexual assault, 1991–96
SOURCE: Howard N. Snyder, "Table 6: Victim–Offender Relationship in Sexual Assault," in Sexual Assault of Young Children as Reported to Law Enforcement: Victim, Incident, and Offender Characteristics, U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, July 2000
0 to 5
6 to 11
12 to 17
18 to 24
Offend within Their Past and Current Life Context," Journal of Interpersonal Violence, vol. 16, no. 5, May 2001). Study participants were eight incestuous fathers or father figures. Three were biological fathers, four were stepfathers, and one was an adoptive father. All victims were females who were between the ages of six and fifteen when the sexual abuse was revealed. The offenders were undergoing treatment when they participated in the study. Seven were white and one was Hispanic. The duration of the sexual abuse ranged from several incidents within six months to ongoing contacts spanning five years.
All participants reported that sexual gratification was part of their motive for sexually abusing their daughters. Half of the men gave sexual gratification as their primary motive, saying that sex was very important in their lives. All fathers reported being dissatisfied with their lives when the abuse began; however, just three men said their abuse of their daughters was an outlet for that dissatisfaction. Three fathers thought they sexually abused their daughters because they were angry with their wives or to get back at someone because they themselves had suffered sexual abuse during childhood. Half of the fathers felt they had sex with their daughters out of affection, perceiving the girls as adults.
Hartley also explored how the incestuous fathers perceived their motives to sexually offend within the context of their childhood and current life circumstances. While the men felt their life circumstances at the time of the abuse might have influenced their decision to abuse their daughters, they could not make a connection between their unstable childhood environments and the sexual offense against their daughters. The men reported that, at the time of the abuse, they were experiencing marital/partner problems. As children, the participants had little or no relationship with their fathers. Although they reported having more of a relationship with their mothers, their mothers were physically present but not nurturing. Half
Victim-offender relationship in sexual assault, by victim gender, 1991–96
SOURCE: Howard N. Snyder, "Table 6: Victim–Offender Relationship in Sexual Assault, by Victim Gender, 1991–96" in Sexual Assault of Young Children as Reported to Law Enforcement: Victim, Incident, and Offender Characteristics, U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, July 2000
0 to 5
6 to 11
12 to 17
18 to 24
0 to 5
6 to 11
12 to 17
18 to 24
reported childhood physical abuse, and six men reported emotional abuse. The author noted that research has shown that these childhood experiences may result in poor attachment (failure to form meaningful relationships in early age) and low self-esteem that may be factors in the sexual offending of children.
Women Who Abuse
Until recently, experts thought female sex abusers were uncommon. When women were involved in abuse, it was thought to be a situation in which a man had forced the woman to commit the abuse. Some experts postulate that women are more maternal and, therefore, less likely to abuse a child. Women are also thought to have different attitudes toward sex. While a man ties his feelings of self-worth to his sexual experiences, a woman is supposedly less concerned with sexual prowess and tends to be more empathetic toward others.
Some researchers have proposed that the abusive behavior of women is influenced by severe psychiatric disturbance, mental retardation, brain damage, or male coercion. C. Allen studied female offenders in A Comparative Analysis of Women Who Sexually Abuse Children (Final Report to the National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect, Iowa State University, 1990) and found that their lives involved particularly harsh childhoods marked by instability and abuse.
Comparing male and female offenders, Allen found that the women reported more severe incidents of physical and emotional abuse in their pasts, had run away from home more often, were more sexually promiscuous than male offenders, and had more frequent incidents of being paid for sex. Both male and female offenders reported that their victims were most often members of their own families.
Because they perceived child sexual abuse as a great social deviance, female offenders were less likely to admit guilt. They were less cooperative than men during the investigations and were angrier with informants and investigators. Following disclosure, they also appeared to experience less guilt and sorrow than male offenders.
MOTHERS. Sexual abuse by mothers may remain undetected because it occurs at home and is either denied or never reported. Mothers generally have more intimate contact with their children, and the lines between maternal love and care and sexual abuse are not as clear-cut as they are for fathers. Furthermore, society is reluctant to see a woman as a perpetrator of incest, portraying the woman as someone likely to turn her pain inward into depression, compared with the man who acts out his anger in sexually criminal behavior.
Sibling incest is another form of abuse that has not been well studied. Some experts, however, believe that sibling sexual abuse is more common than father–daughter incest. Vernon R. Wiehe believed that the problem of sibling incest had not received much attention because of the families' reluctance to report to authorities that such abuse is happening at home, the parents' playing down the fact that "it" is indeed a problem, and the perception that it is normal for brothers and sisters to explore their sexuality ("Sibling Abuse," Understanding Family Violence: Treating and Preventing Partner, Child, Sibling, and Elder Abuse, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc., 1998).
Wiehe also felt that a very serious factor is that the victim may be living with threats of real harm from the abusive sibling. Indeed, in the author's nationwide survey of survivors of sibling abuse, the incest victims reported an interaction of physical abuse and incest, such as threats of physical harm, or even death, if the parents were told. An interaction of emotional abuse and incest might involve constant humiliation of the victim from the sibling perpetrator, such as comments that the victim was no longer a virgin.
Wiehe believed that sexual abuse by a sibling should be considered a crime of rape because the perpetrator uses aggression, force, or threats. Moreover, the consequences to the victim are the same whether the sexual abuse takes the form of fondling or intercourse.
Sex between educators and students is nothing new. However, except for sensational cases, such as that of Washington teacher Mary Kay Letourneau who was charged with child rape of her twelve-year-old student and served a seven-and-a-half-year term, other cases have not received much attention. Some experts have observed that there seems to be a double standard in cases involving a female teacher and a male student. They point to an example in New Jersey. In 2002 Superior Court Judge Bruce A. Gaeta refused to sentence Pamela Diehl-Moore to prison for pleading guilty to sexual assault and instead ordered probation. The teacher admitted having sex for six months with a thirteen-year-old student. The judge claimed he saw no harm done to the student and that the relationship might have been a way for the boy to satisfy his sexual needs. Gaeta received public reprimand for his comments. Diehl-Moore was sentenced to three years in prison upon appeal.
In 2004 Charol Shakeshaft, a professor of educational policies at Hofstra University in Huntington, New York, reported that no national study of public school educators who have abused students had even been done. In compliance with the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (Public Law 107-110), the U.S. Department of Education commissioned Shakeshaft to conduct a national study of sexual abuse in schools. After identifying about nine hundred literature citations that discussed educator sexual misconduct and contacting over one thousand researchers, educators, and policymakers on the issue, Shakeshaft found just fourteen U.S. and five Canadian/British empirical studies on educator sexual misconduct. (Empirical studies are based on practical observations and not theory.) With scant empirical studies on hand, she based her conclusion on two American Association of University Women (AAUW) Hostile Hallways surveys conducted in 1993 and 2000 involving about 2,065 public school students in grades eight to eleven. Both were the author's own work. In addition, Shakeshaft used her 2003 reanalysis of the surveys for additional data on educator sexual misconduct.
In Educator Sexual Misconduct: A Synthesis of Existing Literature (U.S. Department of Education, Office of the Under Secretary, Washington, DC, 2004), Shakeshaft projected the numbers in her surveys to the whole public school system. She concluded that 9.6% of public school children, accounting for 4.5 million students, experienced sexual misconduct by educators. Educators included teachers and other school officials, such as principals, coaches, counselors, substitute teachers, teacher's aides, security guards, bus drivers, and other employees.
The studies Shakeshaft analyzed did not reveal the number or proportion of educators who were perpetrators of sexual misconduct. However, Shakeshaft's surveys showed that students reported sexual misconduct by 18% teachers, 15% coaches, and 13% substitute teachers. Principals accounted for 6%, and school counselors made up 5%. The author observed that teachers whose jobs involve dealing with individual students, such as coaches and music teachers, are more likely than other educators to sexually abuse students. With regard to the gender of the perpetrators, the different studies showed a range of 4% to 43% for female educators and a range of 57% to 96% for male educators.
Deputy Secretary of Education Eugene W. Hickok wrote in the preface of the report that Shakeshaft's use of the terms "sexual abuse" and "sexual misconduct" interchangeably might be confusing to the reader. The law that mandated the study used "sexual abuse," a term that has a specific definition under the law and carries a penalty of a fine or imprisonment, or both. Moreover, he noted that Shakeshaft included several types of inappropriate behaviors under "sexual misconduct," ranging from telling sexual jokes, to showing pictures of a sexual nature, to sexual intercourse. Some critics claimed the report is based not on a synthesis of several studies but only on studies by the author. Some teachers' unions believe the report is misleading and will harm their profession. Shakeshaft believed that the AAUW studies provided the most reliable data on educator sexual conduct across the nation. She recommended that the Education Department should revisit the issue and that educators should play an active role in examining the problem.
As more and more working parents depend on outside help to care for their children, law enforcement has recognized the importance of collecting information about these caregivers. Although the Federal Bureau of Investigation National Incident-Based Reporting System will eventually replace its Uniform Crime Report program as the national statistical database of crimes reported to law enforcement, it has not yet evolved into a complete national system. Nonetheless, its four-year (1995 through 1998) compiled data about the offenses against children committed by babysitters showed more than 1,435 victimizations.
In Crimes against Children by Babysitters (U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Washington, DC, September 2001), David Finkelhor and Richard Ormrod reported that about two-thirds (65%) of babysitter offenses reported to police were sex offenses. Forcible fondling comprised 41% of the sex offenses, followed by 11% of sodomy, and 9% of rape. Another 3% represented sexual assault with an object. (See Figure 6.6.) In comparison, simple assault accounted for approximately 25% of babysitter offenses, and aggravated assault accounted for another 9%.
Overall, 63% of babysitters reported for offenses against children were male and 37% were female. Males were more likely to be involved in sexual offenses, accounting for 77% of these cases. A majority (71%) of
male sex offenders victimized females and more than half (54%) victimized children under six years of age. Female sex offenders, however, nearly equally victimized female (46%) and male (54%) children, and more than two-thirds (68%) of their victims were younger children ages zero to six. (See Figure 6.7.) Babysitter sex offenders were generally teens (48%). Nevertheless, while female sex offenders were more likely to be adolescents ages thirteen to fifteen (67%), male sex offenders tended to be adults (58%).
Sexual Abusers of Boys
Dr. William C. Holmes's review of 149 studies of boys and young male adolescents who experienced sexual abuse revealed that more than 90% of their abusers were male ("Sexual Abuse of Boys: Definition, Prevalence, Correlates, Sequelae, and Management"). Male abusers of older male teenagers and young male adults, however, made up 22% to 73% of perpetrators. This older age group also experienced abuse by females, ranging from 27% to 78%. Adolescent babysitters accounted for up to half of female sexual abusers of younger boys.
More than half of those who sexually abused male children were not family members, but were known to the victims. Boys younger than six years old were more likely to be sexually abused by family and acquaintances, while those older than twelve were more likely to be victims of strangers. While male perpetrators used physical force, with threats of physical harm increasing with victim age, female perpetrators used persuasion and promises of special
favors. One study reviewed by Dr. Holmes found that up to one-third of boys participated in the abuse out of curiosity.
At one time, a pedophile was stereotyped as a lonely, isolated man who generally sought employment that permitted contact with children. Experts now know that men or women, heterosexual or gay, married or single, may be pedophiles. Examples include the pediatric dentist who anesthetized his patients and photographed them in lewd positions. Another molester was a high school teacher who had sex with her students during tutoring sessions at her home. Still another was a police officer who made more than one thousand videotapes of young boys performing sex acts.
PEDOPHILES ON THE INTERNET. Many pedophiles have found that the Internet gives them easy access to children. According to the Office for Victims of Crime of the U.S. Department of Justice, child predators who look for victims in places where children typically congregate, such as schoolyards, playgrounds, and shopping malls, now have cyberspace to commit their criminal acts (Internet Crimes against Children, February 2001). The Internet presents an even more attractive venue because predators can commit their crimes anonymously and are able to contact the same child on a regular basis. They may groom children online for the production of child pornography. They have been known to prey on vulnerable children, gaining their confidence online, and then traveling for the purpose of engaging their victims in sex acts.
Increasingly large numbers of children use the Internet (A Nation Online: How Americans Are Expanding Their Use of the Internet, U.S. Department of Commerce, Economics and Statistics Administration, National Telecommunications and Information Administration, February 2002). In 2001 more than thirty-two million children ages three to seventeen used the Internet, up from about eighteen million in 1998. More than three-fourths (75.6%) of those ages fourteen to seventeen used the Internet at some location, up from 51.2% in 1998. Among children ages ten to thirteen, the proportion of those using the Internet rose from 39.2% (1998) to 65.4% (2001). Even children ages five to nine more than doubled their Internet use, from 16.8% (1998) to 38.9% (2001). (See Figure 6.8.)
Julian Fantino, chief of police of the Toronto Police Service of Ontario, Canada, noted that more and more younger children were being used in child pornography, with a large proportion being infants and preschool children ("Child Pornography on the Internet: New Challenges Require New Ideas," The Police Chief, International Association of Chiefs of Police, Alexandria, VA, December 2003). Offenders form secret clubs, sharing modes of operation and protecting one another's identities. According to Fantino, in 2003 more than 100,000 Web sites contained child pornography.
FIRST NATIONAL SURVEY ON THE ONLINE VICTIMIZA OF CHILDREN. In the first national survey on the risks children face on the Internet, researchers found that nearly one of five youths (19%) using the Internet in the last year had received an unwanted sexual solicitation or approach. Sexual solicitations involved requests to do sexual things the children did not want to do, while sexual approaches involved incidents in which persons tried to get children to talk about sex when they did not want to or asked them intimate questions (Online Victimization: A Report on the Nation's Youth, David Finkelhor, Kimberly J. Mitchell, and Janis Wolak, Crimes against Children Research Center, University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH, and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Alexandria, VA, June 2000). In addition, one of four children (25%) reported at least one unwanted exposure to sexual material (pictures of naked people or people having sex) while surfing the Web the past year.
TEENS COMMUNICATE WITH STRANGERS ONLINE. A study released by the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that adolescents who have Internet access do communicate with strangers they meet online (Amanda Lenhart, Lee Rainie, and Oliver Lewis, Teenage Life Online: The Rise of the Instant-Message Generation and
the Internet's Impact on Friendships and Family Relationships, Washington, DC, June 20, 2001). About three of five (60%) of online teens (ages twelve to seventeen) surveyed by Pew reported that they had received e-mails or instant messages from strangers. About 63% of those who had received e-mails or instant messages from strangers had answered such messages. Teens also said that they had lied about their age to get on a Web site with pornography. Boys (19%) were more likely than girls (11%) to have done so.
On July 23, 2003, Massachusetts Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly released a report, The Sexual Abuse of Children in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston: A Report by the Attorney General, describing the culture of secrecy involving the sexual abuse of an estimated one thousand minors in the Archdiocese of Boston since 1940. Reilly's eighteen-month investigation found, "There is overwhelming evidence that for many years Cardinal [Bernard] Law and his senior managers had direct, actual knowledge that substantial numbers of children in the Archdiocese had been sexually abused by substantial numbers of priests."
Attorney General Reilly started the investigation in March 2002 soon after John Geoghan, a former priest in the Archdiocese of Boston, was sentenced to nine to ten years in prison for sexually abusing a ten-year-old boy. Reilly's investigators found that starting in 1979 the archdiocese had received complaints of child sexual abuse against Geoghan. Some 130 more people had brought accusations against the priest. Church documents, which had previously been sealed, revealed that the church not only moved him from parish to parish but had also paid settlements amounting to $15 million to the victims' families. Reilly reported that the archdiocese's own files showed that 789 persons had brought sexual complaints against the Boston clergy. The attorney general believed the actual number of victims is higher. About 240 priests and church workers had been accused of rape and sexual assault.
EXTENT OF CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE BY PRIESTS. In June 2002 the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops commissioned a study of the nature and scope of the problem of child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. The John Jay College of Criminal Justice of the City University of New York (New York, NY) conducted the study based on information provided by 195 dioceses, representing 98% of all diocesan priests in the United States. The researchers also collected data from 140 religious communities, accounting for about 60% of religious communities and 80% of all priests in the religious communities.
A report of the study was released on February 27, 2004. The Nature and Scope of the Problem of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests and Deacons in the United States (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Washington, DC) covered the period 1950–2002. Of the 109,694 priests and deacons (collectively referred to as priests) who served during this time period, 4,392 (4%) allegedly abused children under age eighteen. Most of the priests (55.7%) had a single allegation of abuse. Nearly 27% had two to three allegations, 13.9% had four to nine allegations, and 3.5% had ten or more allegations.
The survey showed that 10,667 individuals made allegations of child sexual abuse by priests between 1950 and 2002. About 81% of the victims were male and 19% were female. About half (50.9%) were between the ages of eleven and fourteen. More than a quarter (27.3%) were fifteen to seventeen years old, 16% were ages eight to ten, and 6% were younger than seven. One survey question asked whether or not a sibling was also allegedly abused. Of the 6,350 individuals that provided this information, 1,842 answered "yes."
The largest number of allegations were made in the 1970s (35.3%) and the 1960s (26.1%). At the time of the allegations, most of the priests were serving in the capacity of pastors (25.1%), associate pastors (42.3%), and resident priests (10.4%). About 7.2% of the priests were teachers, 2.7% were chaplains, and 1.8% were seminary administrators or faculty members. The remaining 10.5% were bishops, vicars, cardinals, chancellors, deacons, seminarians, priests performing other functions, and priests who were relatives of the victims.
Most of the abuse occurred in the priest's home or parish residence (40.9%), in church (16.3%), and in the victim's home (12.4%). Nearly half (49.6%) of the priests socialized with the alleged victim's family, mostly (79.6%) in the family's home.
Please include a link to this page if you have found this material useful for research or writing a related article. Content on this website is from high-quality, licensed material originally published in print form. You can always be sure you're reading unbiased, factual, and accurate information.
Highlight the text below, right-click, and select “copy”. Paste the link into your website, email, or any other HTML document.