For those of you following along with this series I'm writing about Child Molestation, I apologize for taking a few weeks off. I was having a hard time feeling overwhelmed by the reality of it all. I felt it best for my emotional well being to just take a breather. I'm now ready to get back to the nitty gritty. Today we'll be discussing a bit about the theory on how people become sex offenders.
Monday, September 14, 2009
It is pretty easy to imagine that those that end up abusing children sexually are pretty messed up individuals. Common characteristics include:
-Deviant arousal or interests.
-Over identification with children.
-Use sexual behavior as coping mechanism.
-Have adverse family background.
-Social competency problems.
-Inadequate coping skills.
-Poor impulse control.
I'm sure you aren't too surprised by anything on that list. It all makes a lot of sense, but how do people take those characteristics, and become a sex offender? Here's a few things we know to be true in a sex offender's background:
-Early exposure to pornography, sexual behavior or abuse.
-Repeated contact with other children that was stimulating and arousing.
-Childhood sexual behavior problems were not identified early and there was no intervention.
-Adults overreacting to normal sexual play.
-No healthy sex education and guidance.
Remember, 3/4 of all adult child molesters started offending when they were children or adolescents, but nearly all children engage in sex play that is normal and never goes any further. What most offenders tell us is that for them, the sex play becomes excessive. maybe they felt it was something "sneaky" or "naughty", and it became a game to them. The more activity, the more they conditioned themselves to be sexually aroused by children, to think that children enjoy sex, and that it's normal and not harmful. Some people call this process "imprinting". As the child/adolescent continues to engage in sexual activity with other children, they reinforce the arousal pattern and gain skills in seducing and manipulation younger children.
It is important to note that around 3-5% of children ever develop these problems but , if you have or know a child that seems to be heading in this direction, the sooner they get help the better.
The best thing an adult can do if they catch children engaging in overt sexual behavior with other children is to remain calm, and ask, with a big smile, "Gee, what are you guys doing, and where did you learn that?" (we'll be speaking more about this later in the series.)
Some offenders say that they received negative messages about sexuality or their parents overreacted when they caught them masturbating or doing normal, healthy sexual exploration. For those offenders, the strong/negative reaction actually increased their interest in acting out. Some examples include early incidents of exposing in which someone walks in on a youth while they are masturbating or playing sexual games. If that person overreacts, it can lead to more incidents and the child may learn that he/she likes the shock value or negative attention they receive.
Some offenders actually get "stuck" sexually attracted to a certain age range of children, and as the offender ages, his/her sexual attraction does not progress with them. For instance, if a child of 10 starts having repeated exposure to sexual activities with another 10 year old child, they may ALWAYS be attracted to that age of child. 10 years later, the 20 year old offender is still seeking out children around the age of 10. The 40 year old offender, is still attracted to the 10 year old body.
If the offender was originally exposed to a certain sex, or both sexes, they will quite possibly be attracted to that particular sex or both sexes as he/she ages. It has been discovered that adult sexual orientation has very little to do with which sex of child a person molests. An adult male, who very much identifies himself with a heterosexual lifestyle may very well be attracted to male children, based on his early sexual experiences with other young males.
It isn't clear why some folks are so easily "imprinted" while others are not. One sex offender, who very much enjoyed the act of exposing himself in public, vividly recalls his first 'offense'. As a child as young as 3 years of age, he as being quickly bathed in a large sink near a window. When his mother turned him toward the window, a few neighborhood children were in view outside. They started pointing and giggling. He liked the attention, and instinctively shook his penis in their direction, which brought hoots of laughter from the kids, and a shocked scolding from his mother. From that day forward, he got great pleasure from exposing himself. He proceeded to find opportunities to continue this behavior throughout childhood, and into his adult years, until he was quite literally obsessed with exposing himself nearly everyday. What started off as an innocent child experience, eventually ruined his life.
All this to say......people just don't wake up one day, and want to have sex with children. They have been on a path in this direction for a long time, and they can not stop themselves. It is up to society to not only protect the children from being abused, but to do our very best keep the next generation from becoming child molesters as well.
Thank you for taking the time to educate yourself in this very difficult subject. It isn't easy, but knowledge is power. If you are just coming in on this series, I'd encourage you to go back and read the previous posts as well.