. Seven-year-old Carrie told her mother that her sixteen-year-old cousin, Brent, gave her “a bad touch”. When Carrie’s mother questioned her for more details, Carrie revealed that Brent forced her to have “adult sex” in the family bathroom. Carrie’s mother reported the incident to Social Services and the police. When she took Carrie to a doctor who specializes in sexual abuse examinations, the results showed that penetration had occurred, and Carrie stated it happened on more than one occasion.
. Seventeen-year-old Scotty is in juvenile court today for performing oral sex with his three younger brothers. A Child Protective Services investigation revealed that the abuse had been going on for years, and all the children stated that their father had sexually abused them from the age of two or three. The father was arrested and jailed, the three younger brothers placed in a therapeutic foster home, and Scotty was ordered into a sex offender treatment program for adolescents.
. Ten-year-old Judy begins crying in class. When her teacher asks her what is wrong, Judy says she is afraid to go home with her babysitter, Barbara. After more questioning, Judy relates that Barbara holds her down on the bed, forcibly kisses her, and fondles her without her consent. Judy’s teacher reports this to the school counselor, who in turn reports the incident to Judy’s mother and Social Services. During the Social Services investigation, Judy’s mother minimizes the incident: “It’s just kid stuff. Experimenting. Don’t kids do that when they’re learning about sex?”
Sexual contact can happen between an older child/teen and a younger child/teen almost anywhere, like homes, schools, restrooms, churches, malls, parks, etc. Sexual abuse happens among family members as well as total strangers. If abuse in a family has been proven, in most cases it is required by officials that either the perpetrator or the victim has to leave the home until the case is investigated and resolution is set in motion.
Question: Why should we be concerned about young sex offenders?
Answer: Most adult sexual offenders begin offending in adolescence.
Answer: Your child may be exposed to a young sex offender.
Answer: Your child or a child you know may exhibit characteristics of a young offender.
It’s a subject that is difficult for most parents to think about or read about, but it is a facet of sexual abuse that is often denied, overlooked, misunderstood, or in some cases, dismissed.
. Adolescent males commit approximately 20% of the sexual assaults against other adolescents and adults.
. Fifty percent of the sexual assaults against children are committed by sexually aggressive teenagers.
. Behavior thought to be “exploration” or “boys will be boys” or “girls will be girls” is actually criminal behavior that causes devastating fallout for its victims.
. A sexually aggressive teenager who goes without treatment can commit almost 400 sexual crimes during his life.
. Five percent of youthful sex offenders are female.
. A small number of offenders are under 12.
There is a difference between normal, healthy sexual curiosity, and sexual abuse. Normal sexual curiosity–playing “doctor”, “show me yours, I’ll show you mine”, usually takes place between children of the same age group and involves no cajoling, manipulation, bribery, coercion, or force. Normal “sex play” between children isn’t defined as sexual abuse, and by itself shouldn‘t raise suspicion.
Although there is no fixed profile for the youthful sex offender, there are some characteristics common to young perpetrators. One or two characteristics alone in one child or teenager doesn’t constitute a youthful sex offender, but multiple characteristics on a reoccurring or continual basis should raise a red flag:
–The average age of a juvenile sex offender is 14.
–The average age of a juvenile offender’s victim is 6.
–The average number of victims per perpetrator is 7.
–Most offenders come from two-parent homes.
–Has himself been a victim of child sexual abuse.
–Has an alcohol or drug problem.
–May have a history of non-sexual criminal behavior.
–May or may not have a known or secret history of “sexually acting out” or inappropriately touching others at home, school, or social situations.
–Performs poorly in academics.
–Lacks a strong bond to family and same-age peer group.
–Uses cajoling, manipulation, bribery, coercion, or force when perpetrating against another child.
–Witnesses domestic violence in the home.
–Often plays with, identifies, or socializes with younger children.
–Possesses poor impulse control and anger management skills.
–Lacks positive and accurate sex education.
–Uses sexual language beyond his or her age level.
–Is preoccupied with the nudity of others and their own, and attempts to undress children and adults.
–Often has a fascination with fire.
–Often has a history of animal cruelty.
–Exhibits abusive behavior at an early age.
–Acts of sexual abuse by a young offender range from fondling to violent rape.
–Can easily persuade, trick, or force a younger child into a sexual act.
–The perpetrator’s victim can be family, friends, neighbors, classmates, casual acquaintances, or total strangers, but are usually a younger relative or friend.
–The victims can be male or female, but are usually female.
–Almost half of adult sex offenders admit that they had deviant sexual fantasies before the age of 18.
–Most juvenile sex offenders perpetrate before the age of 15, and about 25% exhibit behavior that is sexually abusive before the age of 12.
–May or may not have a history of psychiatric and behavior difficulties.
–Sexual abuse carried out by a young person isn’t the same as pedophilia. Pedophilia involves sexual abuse by persons at least 16 against prepubescent children.
–40% of pedophiles begin perpetrating before the age of 12.
–About half of youthful offenders have had consensual sexual relations before they began to sexually abuse.
–Some young offenders were exposed to pornography as small children.
Victims of sexual abuse should get all the help that is available to them, and so should sexual offenders, because abuse will not stop unless the treatment of offenders becomes as important as the treatment of their victims. A sad but true fact is that young sex offenders rarely stop offending on their own. There are some very good sex offender treatment programs, local and national. Check with a doctor or social services agency about a referral for an evaluation if you feel that your child has offending tendencies, has been victimized by another youth, or is suspected of having inappropriate sexual contact with another child.
With proper treatment, the youthful sex offender can understand the abuse cycle, control his impulses, redirect his offending thought processes, and stop his behavior.
It’s a cliché that bears repeating: The victims of today become tomorrow’s predator–without intervention and treatment.
Sex offender treatment programs focus on:
. Acknowledging the offensive behavior.
. Increasing empathy with their victims.
. Impulse control.
. Redirection (releasing urges in socially acceptable ways).
. Establishing same-age, positive, appropriate social relationships.
. Family therapy.
. Anger issues.
. The prevention of recidivism.
What is sex abuse?
Sexual abuse is defined in a variety of ways. It can include but is not limited to:
–Physical contact of private areas (usually defined as parts of the body covered by a bathing suit).
–Physical sexual abuse can be defined as fondling or assault.
–An older child exposing a younger child to sexually explicit material such as pornography or sexually explicit media.
–Exploitation via verbal or written proposition.
If you find yourself thinking that your child’s victimization may be the cause of his or her acting out against others in a sexual manner, the time to intervene is now. Sweeping it under a rug or pretending that nothing is happening is the worst thing you could do, for your child and for your child’s victim. In some cases parents are held responsible when they are aware of the sexual abuse of a minor and fail to report it. This sexual behavior can be as confusing to the perpetrator as it is to the victim. Often a young offender doesn’t connect the dots—that is to say that he or she doesn’t connect the cause and effect of their own victimization, nor the cycle of abuse.
It’s an issue that is far beyond a child’s understanding. Sometimes adults don’t even understand it. But it needs professional attention. This may be the only way to help an offending youth. The problem won’t go away on its own. Left unaddressed, the youth will offend again.
The Good News:
Young offenders are easier to treat than adult offenders once they are confronted and admit that they have committed offences, and there are hundreds of facilities equipped to provide adolescent offenders with appropriate treatment.
Family, group, and individual therapy is available for those who want or need it. You will find that you aren’t alone, and the support you receive will help you deal with emotions and situations as they arise. Some youthful offenders are placed on a registry, and are often court-ordered to receive sex offender treatment.
For more information on young sex offenders, contact local and national agencies and other professionals via phone or web:
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