Sadly, our children are becoming sex offenders (Opinion)

Posted on April 2, 2013, in Children, Opinion, Sexual Violence, Teens

Publication Information

Title: Sadly, our children are becoming sex offenders
Publication: Calgary Herald
Author: Susan Martinuk
Date: 20130402

Over the past month, the eyes of North America have been focused on the rape trial of two high school football stars, aged 16 and 17, in Steubenville, Ohio.

They were found guilty of raping a drunken, passed-out, 16-year-old girl, as they literally dragged her unresponsive body from party to party. The crime was exposed as text messages and online photos/videos surfaced, revealing the teen onlookers to be amused, laughing and unwilling to help her or to call for help.

Meanwhile, across the pond, Britain witnessed the trial of a 15-year-old boy who bound, gagged and raped a 14-year-old girl. He too laughed while he (and a younger friend) locked her in a cupboard, tied her to a chair, put plastic bags over her face and tightened a scarf around her neck. His goal was to re-enact a sadistic porn scene that he had viewed on the Internet.

At trial, it was revealed that, in the months preceding the attack, the boy had watched hours of hard-core pornography each day. During sentencing, the judge blamed pornography, saying it had “heightened” his sexual interest, yet left him “unfulfilled” and wanting to “experiment.”

It’s easy to be shocked by the young age of the offenders and the callousness of their actions. But a recent report suggests that, far from being a social anomaly, such events are becoming far too common.

Child-on-child sex abuse and rape are a growing phenomenon in Britain, and there’s no reason to suggest that the statistics would be any different for Canada or the United States.

The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children used a freedom of information request to obtain data from police districts across Britain. Over a three-year period (2009-2012), 4,562 children/young teens (under the age of 18, and some as young as five) committed 5,028 sexual offences against others under 18.

However horrific these statistics may be, they represent only the tip of a very, very large iceberg.

The real numbers have to be significantly higher since the statistics only cover reported assaults. Most sexual assaults go unreported and many are not acted on by authorities. According to the report, one in three sexual offences against children (by children) had been previously reported, but no action taken. In addition, nine of 43 police districts (including the three largest) did not provide data.

Even without those numbers, British police must now deal daily with at least five children who are accused of being sex offenders. Not child victims; child offenders.

So teenage rapists may not be the biggest social problem; children rapists are. The report describes a 10-year-old boy forcing other children to have sex with him and to perform sex acts on him. Where on Earth does that come from?

This is a learned behaviour. Children have to see it or experience it, to mimic it. If they see kindness and love, they mimic that. But the corollary is also true and, according to Patrick Trueman, former chief at the U.S. Department of Justice Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, “when they see sexual violence, domination, rape … they will act those out.”

It’s not too hard to figure this out. There are several factors that can lead children to such behaviour.

First, the victim can become the offender. Children who are sexually abusive have often been sexually abused themselves.

Second, a spokesperson for the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children says that while more research is needed, “technology and easy access to sexual material is warping young people’s views of what is ‘normal’ or acceptable behaviour.”

Television, music, cellphones, tablets and the Internet are constants in the lives of young people — and each technology offers full, unhindered access to sex scenes and violent, degrading, hardcore porn.

This widespread availability teaches kids that violent sex is an acceptable behaviour, so they act on what they see. Forty per cent of teens now use sexting — sharing explicit photos (often of themselves) with others via cellphones — and a 2012 British parliamentary report found that most boys learned about sex from pornography, and this caused them to focus on sex instead of looking at it in the context of a relationship.

Pornography not only focuses the mind on sex, it is also a trigger for action. A 2010 study from the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society showed that exposure to pornography makes boys more likely to harass girls and “increases their likelihood of perpetrating assault.” In the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children report, one therapist described a 13-year-old boy who raped his five-year-old sister after developing a “complex fantasy world” through “two years of constant porn use.”

The sexual abuse of children has come to the forefront over the past few decades, and we have now become a society that is almost obsessed with searching for the signs of sexual abuse in children. But these statistics suggest it’s time for us to go beyond that obsession and look at children in a different way — believing not just in the signs of sexual abuse, but also in the signs that suggest a child may become a sex offender.

 

Susan Martinuk’s column appears regularly in The Herald.

Read Article Here

April 2, 2013

By Susan Martinuk, Calgary Herald

 

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