Sexual assaults against children; with adult and juvenile offenders

Introduction

Child sexual assault/abuse (CSA) falls under the larger context of child abuse. An act qualifies to be child sexual abuse when for purposes of stimulation an adult or older juvenile engages in an activity that can be deemed sexual. Within the above-defined context, child sexual abuse is takes numerous forms. It includes exposure of children to pornographic material or using juveniles in the production of materials with adult content. It may also include physical contact and exposure of juveniles’ genitals.

Additionally, it may include coercion or pressuring a juvenile into engaging in sexual acts, mild o otherwise with or without her/his consent. Additionally, CSA includes selling if children sexual services and pressuring a child to engage in sexual activity with or without her/his consent and regardless of the outcome.

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According to Tracy (2008, p. 56) child sexual abuse is especially complicated because of the psychological impacts it has on the victims. The effects of child sexual abuse include but not limited to, low self-esteem, nightmares, insomnia, and fear of the things that are associated with or that remind the child of the abuse, sexual dysfunction, fatalities, pain, anxiety and depression.

Others include posttraumatic stress order, mental illnesses that include a wide range of personality disorders and suicidal thoughts. In some cases, sexually abused children grow up to become abusers themselves.

One of the most consistent characteristics of child sex abuse in many researches is the fact that the abusers are close people who are normally trusted by the child. Strangers do account for a significant portion of the abusers but over 80% of the molesters are family members and friends including baby sitters, family friends, and neighbors (Hunter, J.A et al., 2003, p. 276).

The problem is widely prevalent and it’s believed statistics have not yet effectively captured the true picture. Many cases still go unreported owing to the shame and guilt that is associated with it. Estimates show that close to 15% of men and 25% of women in the United States did experience sexual molestation when they were children.

Causes of child abuse are as complex as the problem itself. It’s important to note that most offenders act on their own. However, the extent to which operations of the criminal justice system and the failure of the social justice system cannot be overlooked when examining the causes of the problem.

The widely prevalent vice of sexual assault against children has reached alarming rates. It has therefore necessitated the need to come up with a new approach using sociology, law, psychology, and ethics to find a lasting solution that will help eradicate the vice besides the existing legal mechanisms.

An already existsing mechanism that draws information from the mentioned disciplines is doing a good job. However, there is no doubt that there needs to be an overhaul to the established strategies of combating child sexual abuse.

In the US, the criminal justice system is closely linked to the social justice system through the constitution. Child sexual offenders are accorded rights through established mechanisms that are expected to help their reintegration to the community. This approach has however fallen short of reducing child sexual abuse by the levels envisioned.

That is why it’s important to consider drastic measures that ill curtail child sexual offender rights and basic liberties. The main point behind this move is to rid society of the pedophiles and deter would be offenders. The harsh sentences and measures will deny CSA offenders the basic rights that prisoners are accorded and will ensure CSA offenders express genuine remorse and desire to change and get reintegrated to the community.

Most of the measures entail both community and legal systems that incorporate elements of the legal systems and healthcare that CSA offender will be accorded. It will leave them little maneuver to use the existing legal loopholes to secure freedom. The measures are the resolutions that will discussed in greater detail in the last section of this paper.

Owing to the fact that the mechanisms that have been put in place seem to be overwhelmed, it’s important to consider establishing a parallel system that addresses all issues in the social and criminal justice systems that help in the reduction of the instances of the vice. The legal justice system supersedes the other systems and in a way it determines how they operate.

It’s therefore imperative that the legal system incorporates sociology, law, psychology, ethics measures that will address the issue. The epitome of this paper will be a proposal of a comprehensive solution to the problem of child sexual abuse incorporating all the elements mentioned above.

Definition of terms

Throughout the paper, CSA will be used to refer to child sexual abuse. Additionally, the terms sexual abuse and sexual battering will be used repeatedly and will stand to have the same meaning in this context.

Incidence and demographic characteristics

According to a Department of Health and Human Services report to congress in 2006, the prevalence of child sexual abuse has experiences a significant drop compared to where it was ten years earlier. The report titled National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect concluded that reported CSA crimes had shown a decline of 38%.

In 1993, the CSA cases stood slightly over 217000. The number had dropped to slightly over 135000 in 2006, according to community professionals and other stakeholders. The report however cites lack of reporting from victims and close members of the family as still highly rampant. Close to 70% of the cases are unreported especially when the abuse is going on.

Despite the apparent drop in the cases of CSA, it’s important to bear in mind that the number of unreported cases are higher than the reported cases. Therefore the picture painted by the report can easily be changed if all factors were taken into account (Hunter et al., 2003, p. 276).

The frequency with children are sexually abused is not clearly known because the vice i often hidden. A report by (Hanson, R.F., et al., 1999, p. 67) says that one in three girls and one in seven boys are likely to be abused in their childhood.

The prevalence of the voice is also captured by the organization Stop It Now where in a telephone poll found out that 29% of women and 14% of me who were surveyed reported to have been sexually abused as a children. In 2006, 78,000 cases of CSA were reported to authorities and substantiated. This however represents 12%-30% of the cases that are reported.

The majority of the cases are not reported. This therefore translates to between 260,000-650,000 cases of CSA in any given year. An important point to note and that is indicative of social trends as far as CSA is concerned is the fact that CSA found to be common in all racial backgrounds, religions, ages and ethnic groups and social economic levels.

Many reports point to the fact that the victims of CSA know their attackers. In fact 93% of victims personally know the person(s) that commit the abuse, according to Douglas & Finkelhor (2005, p. 14) 47% of the abusers are family of extend family members while 85% of the time the children are bused close member of the family or friends in general.

Offenders once caught and punished or rehabilitated, show signs of reduced likelihood of committing the offense again. CSA offenders who have been held accountable for their crimes show a high rate of recidivism.

The rates for recidivism range between 15-20% without treatment while it falls to as low as 12% in cases where the perpetrators are held accountable and accorded treatment (Hanson et al, 2002, p. 28). It’s important to note that treatment is quite effective in rehabilitating the offenders hence it will form one of the solution incorporated to the expanded mechanism later on in this paper.

Another interesting statistical trend about CSA is commission of CSA by other children or juvenile offenders. Whereas adults commit the bulk of the offences of child sexual abuse, some reports have identified a consistent pattern where up to 50% of CSA offenders are under the age of eighteen years (Hunter et al, 2003, p.13).

When these young adults commit these crimes, it automatically makes them juvenile offenders, which also are captured in the title of this paper. Failure to accord effective rehabilitation and treatment to juvenile offenders may result in the juveniles themselves becoming abusers in adulthood.

For instance, according to Hunter & Becker (1998, p. 20), 20-50% of teenagers who have committed CSA were in their childhood sexually abused. It’s therefore safe to conclude that a majority of juvenile offenders have in some way been victims of CSA. That is why acknowledgement and accordance of effective treatment to these children is necessary to prevent reoccurrence in future.

Many adults especially those that are parents are not well informed to detect when children have been sexually abused. That is 88% of all CSA cases are never reported to the authorities (Hanson et al, 1999, p.259). There is need therefore of rolling out program that will target parents and other adults to educate them in ways of detecting CSA in their children.

Causes and patterns of sexual assaults against children

Not many studies have come up with the actual causes of CSA. Rather, the causes of CSA are observed through the wider context of causes of sexual abuse that happen to both adults and children (Sedlak, et al. 2010, p. 304). The thinking behind this is that all sexual offenders are driven by common factors to committing the offense to children or adults. There may be cases where pedophiles have emotional drives that make children easy prey but they as well are found in the general cases of sexual abuse.

Its important to note that this section does have clear links between social and criminal justice systems and their failures that lead to breeding of CSA offenders. These causes vary greatly and range between nature vs. nurture factors that involve biological factors e.g. physiology, drug abuse and psychopathology and environmental factors that include gender roles, motives behind pursuit of power, social learning and social dynamics involving relationships.

One of the causes of sexual abuse is physiology and neurophysiology of human beings. In the bodies of CSA offenders are hormones and other chemicals that are imbalanced hence give the offender uncontrollable desires to molest children (Berkowitz, 1992, p. 176). For instance there is a relationship between testerone levels and aggression which may include sexual abuse. Similarly, head trauma and abnormalities in the human brain may also lead to an effect in hormones and sexual violence.

Another factor is alcoholism and substance abuse. There is enough evidence that alcohol and other intoxicating substances lead to physical aggression (Berkowitz, 1992, p. 178). In the cases of children, CSA offenders may attempt to drug children before actual abuse takes place. A good example is the case involving the late pop star Michael Jackson where prosecutors alleged that he drugged children with wine before sexual abuse took place.

Psychopathology and personality traits also account for good number of CSA cases (Briere & Eliot, 2003, p. 254). Men and women who have been diagnosed with antisocial personality disorders display psychiatric and disorders that breed coercive behavior, irresponsibility and lack of concrescence.

More often than not, many CSA offenders have attitudes and gender biases that for some reason they believe are true. These offenders have myths about rape and children abuse and use the vice as a strategy in resolving problems. For instance there have been reports of men sexually abusing children in some societies with the belief that they will be healed of HIV/ Aids and other ailments.

Sex and power motives also do cause people to commit CSA (Berkowitz, 1992, p. 180). More often than not, men or women who commit CSA have power and anger motives. Many a times these men are reported to have felt rejection from the opposite sex hence the drive to relieve their anger on weaker opponents who most likely are children.

In other bodies of knowledge, there seems to be consensus that socio-cultural factors contribute to sexual abuse against children (Douglas & Finkelhor, 2005, p. 45). The theories suggest that the societies in which these offenders live in subtly encourage sexual immorality through history and the media that give impetus to offenders.

Fro instance numerous communities in the world are known to accept marriage of girls as young as twelve years. The practice more often than not is institutionalized and accepted as normal and men and women who engage it see nothing wrong since they are paying within the accepted standards.

Another element of the culture that promotes sexual abuse is the family (Berkowitz, 1992, p. 185). It’s thought that children who grow up in violent families are likely to engage in intimate sexual violence when they are adults. Besides, they may engage in CSA if help is not sough early on.

Proposed solutions through the application of information from sociology, law, psychology, ethics

It’s important that any solution that is sought to the vice reflects the realities that characterize the social and criminal justice systems that exist in human societies today. The solutions that will be suggested below will be done on the backdrop of the analysis of the social and criminal justice theories and the laws that govern us as enshrined in the US constitution.

As earlier said the problem of CSA has reached proportions that had not been anticipated. It’s important that law enforcement agencies are given credit for their efforts in combating crime and social ills such as CSA. However, no one can deny that problems such as CSA have persisted at a time when law enforcement budgets are stretching both the federal and state governments.

Nevertheless, to lay the blame solely on the failure of the criminal justice system will myopic and will not lead to anywhere in the search for a solution. The blame therefore should be share with society as well. There sufficient evidence that social justice is in short supply and people who make up society have been caught up a web of inconsistencies by both systems that crime and other social ills have become a scapegoat (Robinson, 2009, p. 68).

Scholars have criticized justice agencies as far as criminology, criminal justice and other related disciplines are concerned. There has been concern that these systems are not meeting their goals especially in achieving justice.

Social justice deals with the efforts that have been out in place to ensure equal access to opportunity and good life as defined by the written and unwritten rules of the community. The main function of the criminal justice system is to optimally meet its goals of dispensing justice so that social justice can be achieved.

That said, it’s important to note that there are people like CSA offenders who don’t deserve the benefits that are pursued by the systems described above (Robinson, 2009, p. 70). The United States constitution offers every citizen basic freedoms that allow him/her to freely live in the country and do what he/she needs to do to achieve the American dream.

Rawls explains social justice through his theory of Justice as equality while Miller put the same contest through the theory of convention and social equality and justice. The US constitution in pursuit of universal liberty and freedom creates the conditions necessary for the realization of the above principles.

Rawls says that the systems operate on constitutional essentials and helps establish background institutions that help people in their pursuit of social and economic justice through freedom and equality that is guaranteed by the constitution. In the pursuit of success social ills CSA have come up that have necessitated society, criminal justice custodians and they custodians of the constitution to take a hard look at the situation.

The solution for CSA is for the society and authorities to mandate drastic actions that dwell on the inconsistencies that exist in the criminal justice systems and social justice systems and curtail basic liberties of all CSA offenders (Robinson, 2009, p. 75). Curtailment of liberties and other rights under the constitution will take place on the existing guidelines but only on a larger extent than before. The curtailment of freedoms will be done through the ways discuses in the following section.

These ways take into account and recommend inclusion of constitutional inconsistencies in addressing CSA. The inconsistencies include enforcement of biased laws by the police and the courts and the correctional agencies, unequal access to defense by the suspected offenders as well as unequal application of sanctions and punishments by the correction agencies.

There also should be elimination of plea-bargaining for suspected CSA offenders and determinate and mandatory sentencing by the courts of the people suspected to have committed CSA. Within the severely restricted environment where the offenders will be operating, mandatory medical and mental treatment will b accorded to the offenders as well as experimental community reintegration and supervision.

Correctional facilities should also be enabled to limit access to satisfy needs by CSA offenders in their custody. The second part of the solution will entail increasing the efficiency of the monitoring and reporting systems that are in place. The fact that over 80% of cases go unreported means that many of the offenders are still walking free in the community.

Therefore enhancing the criminal justice systems to easily facilitate reporting and speedy arrest will complement the curtailing of freedom that in the combat of CSA. The measures will discourage offender from committing the offenses again awhile at the same time acting as a deterrent for the would be offenders. Because the legal justice system supersedes all other systems, it should be designed in a way that ensures the above is implemented through the following categories of solutions (Hanson, et al. 1999, p. 56).

Legal/ Justice Solutions

They are referred to as tertiary measures which normally apply after the actual crime has taken place (Hanson et al. 2002, p. 208). Proponents of orthodox approaches don’t advocate for this approach because they reason the damage has already been done by the time a person is taken to court.

That is why the approach of drastic curtailing of freedom and basic liberties for the CSA offenders comes in handy. Moreover the public and policy attention that these strategies will command will go a long way in deterring would be offenders from committing the offence. Looked at from a different perspective the drastic measures suggested above will ensure primary prevention of the vice through theoretically the deterrent factor will be implemented through fear of sure and serious punishment by the justice system.

The above likely effect coupled with the statistics that show CSA offenders not likely to commit the offense again will effectively curb child sexual abuse. One of the factors informing the above drastic justice measures is the fact that many child sexual molesters are likely to be educated people rather than criminal who specialize in the offence. The fear of losing a good life that is defined by education and status is likely to deter these “undercover” molesters.

Lifetime incarceration for CSA offenders is unlikely to work in that face of the reduced freedoms accorded to criminals and suspected criminals. The drastic criminal justice policy that suggested above will accept albeit sparingly the reintroduction of offenders into the society still with reduced liberties and increased monitoring through registration systems that will keep track of their activities.

In essence the drastic plan proposes “caged freedom” from the released offender. They include offender registration, mandatory registration, residency restriction and civil commitment and sentence lengthening.

Offender registration

Currently all states have offender registries that are electronic. The systems allow for raid apprehension of the offenders incase recommitment of the crime any crime related to CSA (John, 2005, p. 87).

Some advocates have argued that requirement that the offenders wear electronic surveillance chops affects their reintegration to society and violated the rights of the offenders who have already served their terms. After the implementation of the registration in late 1990’s studies that followed suggested little drop in the sex related crimes.

This was moistly attributed to non-compliance on the part of the offenders. In some states the rate of sex crimes especially on children remained the same while in one state-California it went up that is why the drastic plan suggested above will be seeking to legalize the implantation of electronic surveillance chips into the bodies of offenders up to the time when the authorities feel one is in a apposition not to commit the offence again

Community notification

This provision acts on the basis of the Megan law of 1996 that informs of neighbors and other interested parties of the whereabouts of a released offender. Community notification while it aims to protect neighbors and people around offenders, will be seeking to isolate the offenders till they decide to seek reintegration through expression of remorse.

In the suggested solution some requirements for the offender to end his/isolation will include volunteering to educate his/her community on CSA and the implications it carries for the victims. The drastic plan will demand that the offender shows some initiative towards reintegration upon release in any form of deviant behavior will result into incarceration without the basic rights as outlined earlier on.

Mandatory background checks

Mandatory background checks have almost become the norm in organizations when applying for work or volunteer positioning organizations. Many employers have relied on public registries for information on potential employee’s criminal records. The main reason for these checks will be to bar dangerous people with a record of molesting children from serving in positions where they can easily commit the offence again.

The measures outlined earlier will go further and suggest that guidelines be introduced that will limit the types of jobs that a released offender should be allowed to apply for. They guidelines should be specific that the offenders should never be employed in situations where they come to private contact with juveniles either directly or indirectly.

Residency Restriction

Residency restrictions exist in many states and localities. The statutes that have introduced the laws are specific where released CAA offenders can visit. The main aim to prevent them from getting closer to areas frequented by children. These areas include daycare centres, churches, and schools. The law is already drastic as it is. It has been reported by sex offender management authorities that released sex offenders have difficulty securing descent residences owing to the fact that they are classified as CSA’s.

However, the measures outlined earlier should include among other restrictions the possibility of offenders loosing some of their rights as citizens of the state if they are convicted and if they don’t show any progress towards reintegration and reformation. The threat to deny them basic state rights will be a big deterrent to the would be offenders and the released one who are likely to engage in the ice again.

Sentence Lengthening and Civil Commitment

This involves meting out of long prison sentences to sex offenders. Though many states have increased the length of prison terms for sex offenders there is need within the proposed solution of drastic measures to include a life sentence for offenders who show no remorse or who may be determined through assessment to be danger to the community.

Already some states still hold offenders they deem dangerous even after the completion of their term in prison. Possibility of life in prison without parole for sex offenders will rid the community of the dangerous elements and CSA crimes will considerably reduce.

Enhanced reporting, detection and arrest

It’s important that law enforcement put in place mechanisms that will nab free CSA offenders. The programs will entail elaborate measures that will be available to vulnerable groups and interested parties like parents that will enable them report crimes relating to CSA.

Psychological solutions

Mental health treatment

Many CSA offenders have been found to mentally unstable. Psychological solutions including therapeutic treatment will be recommended. However, even then, they will still some basic freedom that they may be enjoying currently. This is to deter people who may be of sound mind from committing CSA offenses and feigning mental instability afterwards. Mental treatment will be provided but within the confines of the drastic solution measurers as may be applicable.

Sociological solutions

Community Prevention of Offending

Community prevention offending will be taking place within the proposed framework where there will be reduced liberties for CSA offenders in both the criminal justice and social justice systems. There is the possibility of that the free CSA offenders may not one caught due to one reason or the other. There is therefore need to launch programs that will utilize the proposed measures to encourage offenders who need help to come forth. The programs will promise help to the offenders who freely confess and exemption to some extent from the drastic measures that caught CSA offenders will go through.

The CPO programs will work with law enforcement and community organizations and may involve establishment of confidential lines where the offenders will call and can be counseled anonymously. Efforts will be, made to detect the addresses of the offenders though no arrests will be made. They offenders will be urged to surrender in return for the above promised treatment from authorities.

Within the drastic measures, policy makers should consider introducing mandatory education to parents and other stakeholders on ways of identifying sexual offenders and ways thorough which on can tell that a child has been sexually abuse. Currently, taking the courses is not mandatory, but voluntary for those that want to do so. Moreover, it’s not paid for by the state. Requirements will also from local authorities to run adverts to that effect.

Ethical solutions

In many professions there is normally a code of conduct that governs the behavior expected of each member. Client privacy is highly regarded in the professions especially in the medical field. While its requirement by the law that every citizen report crimes he/she witnesses.

Very often these professionals do come in contact with lawbreakers including CSA offenders who confess of their crimes. While they are required by law to report the crimes, they are also bound by the code of ethics that may equate such exposure to breach of doctor patient confidentiality. The dilemma that the professionals find themselves in does little to help in combating CSA offenses. It’s important to note that professionals in this fields are in custody of critical information that can lead to the arrest and incarceration of CSA offenders.

Reconciliation of standard and legal requirements to aid reporting

One of the ways to address the above problem is through a reconciliation of the standard practice and legal requirements to allow professionals who would want to report such crimes to do so. In fact when the drastic measures are solution is considered, the professionals will be required to report any such occurrence so that the course of justice can take place.

It can be argued that ethics will entail being true to what the society believes in right. Therefore reporting of crimes including CSA will be an obligation of any professional who comes across any in the course of practice. The laws will be seeking to propose penalties for professionals who may not adhere to the requirements.

Conclusion

The solution and the components under it were developed with the sole aim of enhancing community and victim safety. After going through the drastic measures that have been outlined above, one may be tempted to ask if they will work. Well there still is need to conduct further research on the issues before actual implementation takes place. However, hypothetically, the measures are bound to produce significant results on deterrence and prevention if CSA offenses.

One of the assumptions that the solution assumes is the availability of resources that will be committed to implementing the drastic measures. The measures are also aimed at preventing reoffending hence the proposed strict incarceration and denial of basic rights measures. Finally the solutions will succeed if there is sufficient information regarding CSA crimes e.g. facts on incidence, prevalence and victim information. Additionally there should be information on sex offenders and the behaviors that are associated with them.

Furthermore, the solution will succeed if there is education on the prevention and risk reduction measures among the population. The authorities should also while implementing the solution ensures there is enough information on the availability of resources for victims’ families and communities affected by the vice.

Finally there should be social campaigns that promote responsible behavior to promote respectful interaction between people and to minimize the chances of CSA happening. There is no perfect solution to the problem of CSA offenses. However, there is always room for the improvement of the existing laws to accommodate the new trends that the criminal activities like CSA are taking. The solution proposed here seeks to deny offenders and would offenders that every free person values.

The assumption is that offenders who have been convicted and released after going through proposed system will lack the will to commit the crime again. Additionally, the proposed solution envisions a situation where would be offenders are deterred from committing any CSA crime given on the face of increased penalties. The solution is drastic in such a way that it seeks the enactment of statutes that will make the implementation of the measures mandatory by the federal and state agencies.

References

Berkowitz, A. (1992). College Men as Perpetrators of Acquaintance Rape and Sexual Assault:A Review of Recent Research. Journal of American College Health, Vol. 40, 175-181.

Briere, J. & Eliot, D.M. (2003). Prevalence and Psychological Sequence of Self- Reported Childhood Physical and Sexual Abuse in General Population: Child Abuse and Neglect.

Douglas, E.& Finkelhor,D. (2005). Childhood sexual abuse fact sheet. Retrieved 28th July fromhttp://www.unh.edu/ccrc/factsheet/pdf/childhoodSexualAbuseFactSheet.pdf. Crimes Against Children Research Center.

Hanson, R.K., et al. (2002). First report of the Collaborative Outcome Data Project on the effectiveness of psychological treatment for sexual offenders. Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment, 14 (2), 169-194

Hunter, J.A et al., (2003). Juvenile sex offenders: Toward the Development of a typology. Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment, (2003) Volume 15, No. 1).

Hanson, R.F., et al. (1999). Factors related to the reporting of childhood sexual assault. Child Abuse and Neglect. Pp.i23,559-569).

John, Q. (2005). Preventing Sexual Violence: How Society Should Cope with Sex Offenders Washington: American Psychological Association

Robinson, M. (2009). Justice blind? Ideals and realities of American criminal justice (3rd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Sedlak, A.J. et al. (2010). Fourth National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect (NIS–4): Report to Congress. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families.

Tracy, V. (2008). The Pursuit of Safety: Sex Offender Policy in the United States. New York: Vera Institute of Justice.

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