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Sexual Abuse

Morality in sexual relations, when it is free from superstition, consists essentially of respect for the other person, and unwillingness to use that person solely as a means of personal gratification, without regard to his or her moral desires.
Bertrand Russell, Marriage and Morals XI

Children are told to beware of strangers, but the most dangerous place for many of them is their own home. Home is often where a small child is afraid to lie down and close his eyes.

The sexual abuse of a child is an abomination on society and shows the dark side of a human being.

What determines sexual abuse? It is the use of a child or an adolescent for sexual activity. It includes fondling, inappropriate kissing, oral sex, penetration and forced touching.

It may take place between one male and one female, or between two males or two females. When the abuse takes place in the home and with a family member, the child will not say anything to anybody. There is "no safe place" for these children to go. The damage done to these children haunts them for a lifetime.

Any sexual relations up to and including coitus between family members, such as brother and sister or a parent and a child, are incestuous.

At one time, it was normal practice for Egyptian pharaohs and Hawaiian kings to marry their sisters to prevent royal blood from becoming "contaminated." But today it is taboo in all societies.

Studies show that it is unlikely that a human society would survive very long if incest were permitted. It is possible for two close blood relatives to produce a perfectly healthy child, but chances are greater that a serious genetic flaw will be inherited. There are some states that permit two first cousins to marry, but it is outlawed in most.

Incestuous behavior does occur today in America, but it takes place behind closed doors and is seldom reported. Bagley, in 1969, developed several different scenarios in which incest might take place:

Accidental incest: may occur when brothers and sisters share the same bedroom . . . older brothers seduce younger sister.

Incest associated with pedophilia: Psychopathic fathers have a pattern of promiscuity, and incest is a result of this behavior. With others, such as alcoholics or psychotics, incest is a loss of control or inhibitions.

Incest associated with pedophilia: Father has an intense sexual craving for young children, including his own.

Incest associated with a faulty paternal model: Father sets the undesirable example for his son by having incestuous affairs with his daughters. He may even encourage him to do the same.

Incest associated with family pathology and poor marital relations: Family has low moral standards; wife may even encourage the incest.

Most of the time incestuous fathers do not have a history of sexual or other criminal offenses. Quite often, husbands feel threatened or rejected by their wives. 

Are there any traits or factors that would identify a family where incest is likely to happen? There is no "typical incest family," and it happens in every social and economic stratum. The "incest family" may appear to the rest of the world as a devoted, close, stable family. The mother and father have an unspoken agreement to corroborate one another.

A television story depicted sisters in a family who banded together as adults and accused their father of abuse. He was a handsome, successful man, but the straw-that-broke-the-camel’s-back point was reached when one sister feared for her daughter.

Not all incest victims are unwilling participants. They may even enjoy the special attention. Some incestuous relationships go on until the girl leaves the family by going away to college or simply runs away in desperation.

The abuse can be a couple of incidences, or it may last for many years. The abuser can be an older brother, an uncle, or even a grandfather.

Most mothers in a family such as this will insist they had no notion of what was taking place. She may know on one level, but does not want to "rock the boat." When the incest victim decides to tell someone, it isn’t often the mother. It may be a teacher or a counselor, a neighbor or a girlfriend.

Infrequently the abuser is the mother. She may abuse her son or her daughter. "My mother and I had a very special relationship," Arthur said. 
"I knew that we weren’t supposed to be doing the things that we were." Years later, the anger is still in his voice.

When does intimacy and affection become sexual abuse? It is appropriate for a father to bathe his infant daughter, but when he continues to help his nine year-old with her bath, something is wrong. It is inappropriate for him to want to steal glimpses of his teenaged daughter in her underwear.

The psychological effect that an incestuous relationship has on a girl depends on her age at the time and how much anxiety and guilt she experiences. An adolescent girl will experience depression and feelings of guilt because of this behavior. Some girls become promiscuous.

There are people who sexually attack children randomly. These child molesters are called pedophiles. In pedophilia, the sex object is the child. A pedophile is a person whose major interest in life is to find children to use for sexual gratification. Most of the time the molester is male, and his victim can be either male or female. Sometimes the victim is known to the offender. A pedophile doesn’t see himself as a child abuser. He thinks of himself as a "lover of children." He usually preys on children who act as though they don’t get much attention.

A pedophile may use a variety of tricks to persuade the child to go with him. It may be to look for a lost puppy, a bribe of candy, money or treats.

Whatever the ruse, the goal is to engage the child or adolescent in sexual activity.
Pedophiles frequent places such as parks, movies, shopping malls, arcades, any place where children congregate. They may also become active in children’s activities, such as boy scouts or games of sport; they may even be teachers, priests or others in authority.

Sexual abuse and an attack by a molester differs in many ways:

Frequency: The molestation is a one-time experience

Physical harm: The molestor is more apt to hurt the child

Anonymity: Most of the time the molestor is not known to the child, but in an on-going abuse, the abuser is known to the victim.

Opportunity: Molestation is usually a crime of opportunity.

Emotional effects: An attack by a stranger may produce fewer emotional scars; the victim gets a lot of support from others.

Counseling and rehabilitation are not effective with the pedophile. This person is a threat to all children. He is sexually comfortable only with a child.

Another notable difference between a sex abuser and a pedophile is secrecy. A father that sexually abuses his child will bribe, cajole or threaten her to keep "our little secret to ourselves." Pedophiles like to group with other pedophiles and "swap stories." It is reassuring to them to be with other pedophiles. It validates their thinking and their actions. They even form societies whose purpose is to abolish laws prohibiting sex between adults and children. They advocate their form of freedom of expression. They have an interest in the collection of preteen nudes and child pornography.

Pornography encompasses writings, pictures or films that are intended to stimulate erotic feeling by description or portrayal of sexual activity.

Amateur or homemade pornography fuels the fantasies of the pedophile. He spends a lot of time compiling his photographic record. It is hard to comprehend, but sometimes the child’s family initiates and condones this practice for the money they receive. Child prostitution is a problem in our nation that will have far-ranging repercussions. These children have been robbed of their innocence and a chance to live a normal life.

The pedophile is a compulsive keeper of records. The computer is the latest means of getting in contact with other pedophiles. There are "bulletin boards" through which pedophiles can get in touch with each other and with children.

What are the characteristics of a child who becomes involved with a pedophile? The very young child does not know any better and is intimidated because the person is an adult. The older child has absent or inattentive parents. It is a child who has low self-image and does not have many friends his own age. A poor child will get involved for money or material things, such as a new bicycle.

Sexual abuse of a child causes long-lasting emotional problems. Young victims sometimes experience sleeping problems, nightmares, learning difficulties or depression.

Every state has laws requiring doctors, nurses, teachers, counselors, law enforcement officers and others who have contact with children to report suspected cases of physical or sexual abuse to child protection authorities.

A child does not seduce an adult.

Intercourse is not necessary for the incident to be called sexual abuse. Sexual abuse occurs when a person forces, coerces or threatens a child to have any form of sexual contact. 

There is no common profile of a sexual molester. Molesters come in all ages, from all economic groups, at all levels of intelligence, and from all races and religions.

A person who molests children can be male or female. He could be heterosexual or homosexual, married or single.

A sexual molester usually molests many times before he is apprehended.
Any child can be victimized - a friendly, talkative child as well as a quiet, shy one.

A sexual abuser has not learned positive ways to deal with stress. Many times he has trouble with his significant other. He may also abuse drugs and alcohol.

Sexual abuse causes long-lasting emotional problems for the child. Adolescents will sometimes run away from an unpleasant situation and fall prey to other predators.

Sexual abuse does not occur in normal, happy families.
Sexual abuse is an issue of power and control.

The sexual abuser focuses only on his needs. Sexual relations with his own child is the angriest deed one can commit against his spouse.

A pedophile is a threat to all children and cannot be counseled.