Free «The Effects of Childhood Sexual Assault» Essay Sample

Our constructions of childhood tend to extremes. On the one hand, we hold sentimental notions about the purity and innocence of childhood and endorse Locke's pronouncements about the child's mind as a tabula rasa-a blank slate waiting to be inscribed with cultural sentences about civilized behavior. On the other, we have by no means relinquished Calvinist notions about original sin and Freudian premises about children's oedipal desires and their feelings of murderous hostility toward "loving" parents (Masson, 1990).

All in all, “child-loving” way presents us with a Victorian era which both produces and witnesses the sexualization of the child, but which does not recoil in concerted horror from the idea that desire might be inspired by, or be present in, the child's body. That response, has been reserved for the late twentieth century, and to hammer home his point, he selects for his book's climactic reading the bleak "text" of the Buckey/McMartin scandal. This well-known horror story of the 1980s began when the mother and son owners of a pre-school in suburban Los Angeles and five of their teachers were charged with committing over one hundred crimes of child-molestation. The resulting court case, the longest criminal trial in American history, saw both the number of charges decrease, down to 52, then 13, and then 8, and the number of defendants, until Raymond Buckey stood alone. Eventually a mistrial was called, and Buckey, who had spent five years in prison throughout the ordeal, walked free (Browne et al. 1986).

For this reason, we could speak too soon, that love is a mercurial element that can vitiate the best of malicious intentions. Love topples what hate constructs. Love undermines rejection, softens the sting of anger, and dulls the edge of rage. Love fashions a protective cocoon that shelters the individual from the full force of the blows of fate. Love is insidious, and its workings are invisible to the eye. When love is absent, the child becomes an object like any other%u2015an object to be used or misused as the needs of the parents dictate.

For consent to be morally (and legally) valid, it must be informed and given freely. In view of the asymmetry of knowledge and comprehension, compounded by the difference of meaning the interaction has for the adult and the child, it can be maintained that the willing child is not reasonably informed, and therefore its willingness cannot legitimize an adult's sexual involvement with it. It is also not free enough. The child's lack of freedom by the fact that adults control all kinds of resources that are essential to children %u2015 food, money, freedom, etc. In this sense, the child is exactly like the prisoner who volunteers to be a research subject. The child has no freedom in which to consider the choice. Indeed, the main cause of the child's predicament should be sought elsewhere: in the far-reaching asymmetry of physical and psychological maturity and power, as well as the consequent social standing, between a child and an adult (Pearlin, 1989). Because of this asymmetry and of the way it is acknowledged and reinforced in the course of bringing up children, a child tends to see an adult as something of an authority figure merely by virtue of being adult. It tends to defer to adults, and often finds it very difficult to assert itself against an adult, to say no to an adult's requests and advances. Therefore it can be maintained that a child's willingness to go along is not free enough to license an adult's sexual involvement with it.

Again, society reacts angrily against those who look to young children for sexual gratification, whether the sexual approach be seductive (that is, designed to elicit voluntary participation) or forcible, or indeed merely responsive to the sexual initiative of the child. Legal definitions as to the age groups especially protected differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, as do the very rigorous penalties. The prohibited acts are not spelled out in the laws, but the inclusive language covers all bases from giving a minor an alcoholic beverage, showing him or her obscene pictures, fondling or touching, particularly, but not exclusively, the buttocks or the genitalia, to consensual or forcible sodomy or intercourse. The acts are described under such terms as "carnal abuse of a minor," "impairing the morals of a minor," "sexual assault on a minor," "contributing to the delinquency of a minor," as well as "incest" and "statutory rape." The offenders in this category cover a wide range, from senile old men, through drunken aggressors, to psychotic pedophiles, mental defectives, and adventitious offenders.

It is also found that the child-abusers usually act alone, may use weapons, are indifferent to the physical attractiveness of their victims, and are often unable to complete the coital act. A second variety is the amoral delinquent whose concept of the child is that of an object for his sexual pleasure. He is hedonistic, deficient in social controls, and neither sadistic nor hostile to his victim, although he will use force to overcome resistance. There is, too, the drunken aggressor (the relationship of alcohol to the loss of inhibitions controlling socially unacceptable sex behavior of every variety is well-known, but there is little evidence that narcotics, other than cocaine and perhaps methamphetamine, have a similar effect) (Turner et al., 1995).

Moreover, rape is sometimes committed as an explosive act by men for whom such sexual aggression is sudden and seemingly inexplicable, although thorough study often discloses evidence of psychosis. In the area of sexual functioning, case studies report the presence of psychosexual disorders among the different personalities of patients with multiple personality disorder among abusers. Those perpetrators are reported to often have subpersonalities which maintain the ability for sexual enjoyment. On the other hand, abusers who do not dissociate will use the more common defenses of denial and repression, presenting with a variety of sexual dysfunctions and/or anhedonia.

Thus, the majority of aggressors against children may be succinctly described as criminally inclined men who take what they want, whether money, material, and their sex offenses are by-products of their general criminality. Aside from their early involvement in crime, there are no outstandingly ominous signs in their pre-sex-offense histories; indeed their heterosexual adjustment is quantitatively well above average. There are occasional hints of underlying violence and sadism, but these are manifest in only a minority of individuals. In the sex offense itself, however, one can frequently see a basic pathology revealed by unnecessary violence, bizarre behavior, and self-delusion. Minorities of aggressors against children are not the amoral and anti-social individuals often involved in criminal activities, but are seemingly rather ordinary citizens leading conventional or even restrained lives (Widom, 1984). Actually many are suffering from personality defects and stresses which ultimately erupt in a sex offense.

Hence, the Lolita-like "teeny-boppers" and adolescent (even preadolescent) prostitutes attract males so socially inept as to be uncertain of their capacity to approach or satisfy adult females; the prepubescent, non-sexually aggressive or adventuresome girl may awaken biological urges by her uninhibited affection for a male relative, acquaintance, or neighbor who, if his social inhibitions are weak because of loneliness, depression, alcohol, or other emotional state, may respond sexually. The aggressive pedophile who uses or threatens force to secure the child's compliance with his sexual approaches is considered to be the most heinous of all sex offenders. These men are less likely to be senile or sociosexually underdeveloped (Russell, 1983). Many of them are alcoholics or at least heavy drinkers, usually of low socioeconomic status, from broken homes, and manifesting mental pathology or mental defect. Their adult sexual activity, not overly frequent, is largely confined to prostitutes. They are, as a group, asocial, with a high recidivistic potential. In the prison community, the sex assailant of children ranks lowest in the pecking order and is himself likely to be subjected to sexual assaults by other prisoners as retribution.

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In addition, the major emphasis should be directed toward an understanding of the dangerous child-molesters. The exhibitionists and child-molesters create nuisances and psychological insecurities among both adults and children, and their activities must be restrained by the police. There is no evidence that the immature, largely passive and ineffective, sometimes mentally defective offenders in these categories escalate to more violent and more serious sex misconduct. Like the obscene phone-caller and letter-writer, they achieve minimal sexual gratification by peeping, touching, or showing, and have no compelling need for more complete sexual expression. These men (females are seldom involved in this type of activity) benefit little from penal confinement (nor does society). Out-patient psychiatric care, group psychotherapy in a voluntary setting, and commitment to specialized psychiatric facilities for recalcitrant cases would seem indicated. But, often there is a strong sadomasochistic element (Trankell, 1998). Generally there are castration fears, excessive masturbation, a dominant fantasy life, and desire for incestuous gratification, sometimes of a homosexual nature. The fetishist is frequently aggressive, assaultive, obsessively guilt-ridden, concentrating on a substitute sex object as but one manifestation of a highly pathological mental state.

To be sure, not every sexual involvement among adults takes place on an equal footing. An adult's consent to sex may be morally (and perhaps also legally) invalid, or flawed, because it is extorted by a threat, or procured by a coercive or exploitative offer, against a background of significant power inequality (Ryan, 1989).

Presently, researchers are starting to examine the practices involved in the victim-perpetrator cycle. For example, a study had been conducted, which compared questionnaire responses from parents of children who had been sexually abused in day-care settings. The researchers compared reports of 32 children who had been short-term abused with 35 who had been long-term abused. Long-term abused children experienced more types and a greater amount of abuse at the hands of a greater number of abusers than short-term abused children. Children who had the long-term effects were more likely to have experienced the following: ingestion of drugs to make them drowsy (74% vs. 28%); use of physical restraints (71% vs. 37%); consumption of excrement (51% vs. 25%); sexual activity with other children (94% vs. 43%); and threats of death (85% vs. 56%), dismemberment (37% vs. 15%), or the death of their parents (94% vs. 75%) than were short-term abused children (Ketring et al., 1999). All of these differences were found to be statistically significant.

Generally, the preference for younger children seems to be based on the notion that a pedophile can have a more profound effect on a young child's belief system. Children are trusting and easy to handle, offer financial gain through pornography.

Furthermore, the difficulty in accepting such clinical material as reality is the therapist's first challenge. Relegating sexual assault material to the realm of fantasy or untruth may be the reflexive response. What is known about the fantasy play of children suggests that they do not make up stories in which they are the humiliated and helpless victims. Instead, children make up stories which invest them with the power to overcome fear and make them feel more autonomous and powerful (Freyd, 1996). On the other hand, sexually abused children give reports which indicate feelings of helplessness, victimization, humiliation and shame, and these come only after great care is taken to make the children feel safe from the perpetrators. Despite their forced participation, many victims of the long-term sexual assault, report shame and guilt for their behaviors. Young children believe that they are bad and will go to jail (Mullen et al., 1993). Perpetrators use elaborate techniques to create and maintain fear to keep the children from telling others about the abuse. Victims are told that their parents will be killed and their house will be burned down. Perpetrators will dress up as policemen during the abuse, and the children will be told that all policemen are "bad people". Children will also be given sedatives, and when they wake up they will be covered with blood and told that a bomb or a monster has been placed inside them, which will kill them if they ever tell.

While the symptoms of child abuse are already well documented, there are additional signs and symptoms which may serve as indications of long-term abuse. Children who have been victims of long-term abuse may have problems associated with:

1. Sexual behavior and beliefs: preoccupation with sexual topics, age-inappropriate knowledge about sex and/or sexualized behavior; compulsive masturbation; references to sexual activities between others or between self and others; pain in the genital area and fear of having their genitals washed; etc.

2. Toileting and the bathroom: avoidance of using the bathroom; acting out inappropriate toileting behavior; preoccupation with urine and feces; discussion of urine and feces at mealtime; using words for bodily wastes which are not used in the home; drawing pictures of self or others urinating or defecating; etc.

3. The supernatural, rituals, occult symbols, religion: fear of ghosts, devils, monsters, vampires, evil spirits and occult symbols; singing odd songs or chants; etc (Polusny, et al., 1995).

4. Small spaces or being tied up: fear of closets or other small spaces and of being locked in same; fear of being tied up: trying to confine or tie up others; fear of being hung upside down; etc.

5. Death: fear of death or the death of family members or friends (Burstein, 1984).

6. The doctor's office: fear or mistrust of doctors; extreme fearfulness of shots, blood, or blood tests; fear of death from shots, blood, or blood tests; sexual behavior on the examining table (e.g., appears to expect sexual contact with doctor); etc.

7. Certain colors: fear or strong dislike of black or red (sometimes orange, brown, purple); stating that black is their favorite color; referring to ritual use of the colors that are inconsistent with what has been experienced in family religious practices; etc.

8. Eating: eating disorders; refusal to eat foods because they are red or brown; etc.

9. Family relationships: fear that parents will die; fear of abandonment; fear of being kidnapped; fear that parents want to kill them; child seems distant to parent; avoidance of close physical contact; child attacks or initiates sexual contact with others; child puts excrement on a sibling, parent, or pet; etc (Widom, 1997).

10. Play or peer relations: destroying toys; hurting other children; acting out themes of death, mutilation, occultism, sexual perversion, excretion, cannibalism, and burial; play involves themes of drugging, threats, humiliation, torture, bondage, magic; etc.

11. Other fears, disclosures or strange beliefs: fear of being put in jail and/or having the house broken into, robbed or burned down; fear of robbers, "bad people," "strangers," and police; discussing drugs, pills, and drug-like effects; discussing unusual places like cemeteries, mortuaries, church basements; belief that something foreign has been put inside of their body such as a bomb, Satan's heart, a monster; alluding to having nude pictures taken of them; striking provocative poses; etc.

Besides, on the streets of many third world countries, children as young as eight years old are in demand to work as prostitutes. Customers think children are AIDS-free, according to doctors, social workers, and even adult prostitutes who recently attended a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) meeting about human rights and the sex trade. Besides, the number of children being treated with sexually transmitted diseases and injuries caused by sexual abuse has jumped in the past decade, doctors from Asia, Latin America, and the United States report. For instance, most of those children are below the age of 14. UNESCO studies report about 800,000 teenagers and children in Thailand and about 10,000 boys between 6 and 14 years in Sri Lanka work as prostitutes. However, the researches and the former ambassador of Sri Lanka say those figures are high, estimating that about 2,000 young boys work as prostitutes in Sri Lanka (Kruttschnitt et al.,1994) . Although estimates vary, child prostitution continues to be a tremendous problem.

It is been estimated at tens of thousands to 2.4 million. It is hard to come by reliable numbers, but that ought not to matter. The point is there are a large number of children. It is an international problem that has to be addressed. Pimps market children as "clean virgins" who may not have the AIDS virus, and customers often are willing to pay more for this security. But the belief that the children do not carry diseases is a "ridiculous assumption". AIDS is not the only cause for the demand for child prostitutes. Certain cultures have always viewed young virgins as desirable "conquests". This interest is supported by "sex tours" of Asian and Latin American cities, where children are often the main attraction (Gusfield, 1996). Moreover, some U.S. and Canadian citizens use the Dominican Republic for sex tourism. Because the market is based on tourists, the problem is difficult to control. Unfortunately, we cannot go around following every tourist to see whether they're a pedophile or not. In most countries, prostitution of minors is prohibited, but the laws are not always enforced. Child prostitution is also caused by poverty, when parents are forced to sell their children. One pediatrician from Vietnam said he treated an 11-year-old girl whose father forced her to work as a prostitute to support her family. Her young age, the father told the doctor, was advantageous%u2015she was still too young to become pregnant. The problem is that the temptations are so strong. The parents say “okay”, they do not think it is going to leave a really great psychological mark on him, and what he is doing helps feed them and his brothers and sisters. Could we argue with that? To confront this issue, it must be said that governments need to address the root problem: underdevelopment and poverty. But this may be difficult in countries where the economy is based on tourism and stringent visa requirements do not exist. So it should be suggested to control the problem in the pedophile's home country. The Australian government is already doing so by cracking down on travel agencies catering to pedophiles. Germany may pass a law by the end of the summer that would punish patrons of foreign child prostitutes, as is already done in France and the Scandinavian countries.

Though, some defenders of pedophilia reject the argument from the asymmetry of power between adults and children sexually involved with them. They argue that the initial imbalance of power is redressed by the fact that "any minor has the potential power to send an adult partner to jail for half of his or her life" (Finkelhor, 1986). This defense fails for two reasons. First, it is clearly not true of all adult-child sex: in some cases the child is much too young to even conceive, let alone carry out, such a feat. Second, to the extent that this particular "potential power" indeed exists, it is conferred by the very laws the apologists of pedophilia seek to abolish (Ortner et al., 1989).

Likewise, the role of the victim in attracting, even enticing, the sexual attack has been inadequately studied. Were we to apply the civil law doctrines of contributory or proportionate negligence in many rape cases, either the victim would incur punishment equal to that of the perpetrator or the latter would have imposed upon him a much reduced sentence. In many cases of carnal abuse of minors, incest, or statutory rape, the initiative in the act was taken by the "victim," frequently for financial reward. Certainly, the young male prostitute who solicits actively for customers or the husky young serviceman who makes himself obviously available for solicitation by frequenting "gay" bars is not a blameless victim implicitly in need of the law's solicitous protection (Howitt, 1992). On the other hand, the patron who is robbed or assaulted by a prostitute is not entirely blameless for the manner in which the ephemeral relationship terminated, although he certainly is in need of the protection of the law.

To conclude, the child-molesters must be considered as a special class of offenders. The nature of the acts is personally invasive in a way that differs from other crimes of violence. Rape and sexual child abuse tend to be more psychologically harmful than other crimes. In nonclinical samples, sexual assault is the potentially traumatic event that produces the highest rates of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Among teenagers in the general population, children who suffered any kind of sexual experience, as well as kidnapping, have more posttraumatic stress symptoms than people who suffer other types of victimization. Treatment programs for adult high-risk offenders present both clinical and policy complications. In addition, psychopathy is an important predictor of sexual recidivism in actuarial prediction models, yet there are currently no treatments known to reduce the recidivism rates of psychopaths.


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