Mum's boyfriend - the worst sexual risk to children

Great article that succinctly puts a point of view based on research.

The most likely perpetrator of sexual abuse on children lurks not in public institutions, but in the family home.

... children whose single parent had a partner in the home were 20 times more likely to be sexually abused than those in a two-biological-parent family.

This statistic should not be used as a club to bash non-traditional families but it is something that needs to be discussed. Single mothers should be acutely aware of the issue and constantly on their guard. They should educate their children in body safety as a matter of the highest priority.

Perhaps the saddest aspect of this risky state of affairs concerns the biological father - the divorced dad who fears his child might be at risk from new men in his former partner's life.

I've heard so often from men in this situation who desperately report their concerns to the government departments supposedly protecting children, only to be dismissed as jealous nutcases.

And yet fathers still are regularly accused of child sexual abuse in Family Court battles, while dangerous strangers are allowed unlimited, unmonitored access to their children.

Sammut calls for a public education campaign to end the silence on this issue. Let's bring it on.

Indeed.  Bring it on.

 

Experts say children sexually abusing children is not that rare

For all too many stranger danger is mistakenly thought of as the greatest danger to our children when it comes to sexual abuse. For those of us who have moved on past that self-serving myth our attention is usually focused on step fathers, uncles, coaches, priests, and biological fathers. Often overlooked and not on the proactive parent's radar is the very statistically significant  threat of other children. 

Pre-teen and teenage boys account for more than one-third of sexual crimes involving other children reported to police in the United States, according to a 2009 U.S. Department of Justice study about juveniles who commit sex offenses against children.

The study also found that over 90 percent of juvenile perpetrators of child sexual crimes are boys, and that when the victim is a boy, he is usually younger than 12. This is because male juvenile offenders “tend to focus on much younger and sexually immature boys rather than their peers.”

The good news is:

“With effective treatment, the recidivism rate is extremely low.”

'I am a real victim of child pornography and it affects me every day and everywhere I go'

This victim impact statement is of course disturbing but it does provide insight to how grooming works and the central role of secrets in child sexual abuse.

My uncle started to abuse me when I was only 4 years old. He used what I now know are the common ways that abusers get their victims ready for abuse and keep them silent: he told me that I was special, that he loved me, and that we had our own ‘special secrets’.

And while secrets are the abuser's most powerful tool, pornography is a central and seldom absent element that is part tool in this case and part cause. Pornography is a sort of self fulfilling prophecy. It is both a reflection of some (many?) men's attitudes to women as well as  a powerful force which helps form and transform individuals attitudes as well. Seldom for the better.

How to talk to your preschooler about private parts

An often overlooked and under appreciated point: 

Many popular sex abuse prevention programs focus on teaching kids about "good touch-bad touch", but the words of one adult survivor of sexual abuse must be heard: "No one ever tells a child that a wrong touch might actually feel good!" In fact, molesters often count on a child not knowing this critical fact of life, and use a child's physical response to convince him or her that they were a willing participant.

Further:

Comfort, knowledge and language about the sexual parts of the body are crucial to the foundation of sexual health and safety for our kids. Children with knowledge and language are less appealing to molesters, who seek out kids lacking the tools to speak up. Children who know the fundamental difference between healthy privacy ("I can do it without Mom or Dad watching") and secrecy ("Mom and Dad can't know about this") are less likely to be sworn to the silence that provides cover to people who sexually abuse children.

Exactly. 

Comfort, knowledge and language about the sexual parts of the body are crucial to the foundation of sexual health and safety for our kids. Children with knowledge and language are less appealing to molesters, who seek out kids lacking the tools to speak up. Children who know the fundamental difference between healthy privacy ("I can do it without Mom or Dad watching") and secrecy ("Mom and Dad can't know about this") are less likely to be sworn to the silence that provides cover to people who sexually abuse children.  

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/healthy_kids/The-one-fact-of-life-that-kids-must-learn-early.html#uudZ5oG6ut8opkVe.99

Stop asking my daughter to give you a kiss

Kasey Edwards:

This message is too subtle for a four year old to grasp. It can only be understood in absolutes. Which means that Violet needs to know that if she doesn’t want to kiss somebody then she shouldn’t. She also needs to understand that I will always back her unequivocally, no matter how embarrassing this will be to me, or the person asking for a kiss.

I suspect this message will be too hard for many adults to grasp. Much head shaking and scoffing will no doubt ensue. There was a tinge of that in my own reaction on first scan. This article deserves a more careful read and some thought. I think she is right.

Personal boundaries are taught — and they should be taught — early and consistently.

This is the central tenant of Body Safety and should not be taught in isolation.

The family trap: how the Royal Commission is missing many abuse cases

Sarah Dingle on Radio National speaking about the family.

It's the institution in which the vast majority of child sexual abuse occurs but the victims won’t be able to tell their stories at the current Royal Commission. Children who are sexually abused by family members suffer the ultimate betrayal of trust, with nowhere else to go and no-one else to turn to. 

...

Criminologist and psychologist Professor Stephen Smallbone says the family home is by far the most common location for children to be sexually abused. Interfamilial adult offenders are overwhelmingly males, with the peak age of offending the 30s and 40s.
The offenders are usually in some sort of authority role—like a father, a boyfriend, or a grandfather.

I think we should not overlook siblings and other (often older) children. I believe they constitute a significant percentage.

‘It's not only that more sexual abuse occurs in homes than organisations but it's also true that kids who are abused in homes tend to be more harmed than kids who are abused in other settings,’ Professor Smallbone says.

Freda Briggs:

... the decision to exclude interfamilial abuse from the Royal Commission is short-sighted.
‘... the institutions in which they were abused—they were often boys homes, children’s homes—they closed down long ago.’
‘We should be looking at what's happening here and now. So I can see if the Royal Commission can't tackle the current setup I fear that there'll be another Royal Commission in ten years' time.’

Fear?  Weird, but I can only hope given there is no way the government was prepared to tackle that one now. Still 10 years is a lifetime for a child.

I suspect there are two major reasons why the Royal Commission's Terms of Reference where narrowed down to institutional abuse only.  

One. Institutional abuse by itself is so broad that many doubt that it can be concluded in a reasonable time-frame anyway. It was an pragmatic attempt to keep it achievable. It was the narrowest net to cast that was politically acceptable. They had to go after the churches but they could not single them out which is fair enough. The catholic church gets justifiable bad press but they don't have a monopoly on appalling immoral behavior.

Two. The government is directly responsible for many child care institutions and is legally as well as morally accountable. As this plays out I think they are going to 'pay' in one form or another.

While the above two reasons are solid enough I also suspect that Julia Gillard did not want to hold up a mirror for us to take a good hard look into. The major problem with confronting child sexual abuse is that the evil is too close to home and we are not yet ready to acknowledge that. We like to blame external factors which is why the myth of stranger danger is so palatable and popular. Institutions are external to us as well and hence something the electorate is happy enough to shine a light on. Shining a light on the family is probably politically one step too far. Will we be ready in ten years? Certainly after the Royal Commission has run it's course I think we will be closer and that can't be bad.

 

Increase in child sexual abuse cases in Upstate a big worry

While this article starts with an appalling case it largely deals with increase in child sexual abuse prosecutions ("... up about 30 percent from several years ago ...") and the resulting issues. 

“I think most people would rather not know that this is happening and not know that it’s happening at such a high rate,” Galloway-Williams said. They also “would not want to know that it’s happening in their own backyards, in their own churches.”
“This is a real problem. It’s a real problem in Greenville,” she said. “There are no boundaries to it. It can impact anyone, all walks of life.”

It's not only a problem in Greenville.  If all the facts were known and appreciated it would be judged significant 'news' if it wasn't happening in Greenville.

To counter the opinion that all crimes should be treated evenly this argument is made:

To those who would argue that cases of children killed by drunk drivers or women killed by their husbands should receive the same attention, Wilkins said, “They’re all very important. But they don’t involve individuals who had no ability to protect themselves.”

That is the difference. Children are the perfect victims. Only adults can speak for them and some adults let children down so badly. It is up to our society to look out for them and so strengthen our community. By looking after them we look after ourselves.

“Ideally, we would never want it to happen in the first place,” Wilkins said. “Education and prevention is obviously the most preferred mechanism. However, reality is that these occur.”      

Absolutely. We need to fight child abuse on two fronts. Prosecute the guilty to the nth degree. I don't have a problem with that. But we need to dry up the supply of vulnerable victims. Reduce the pool that they feed in by educating children in body safety.

 

 

Cameron tells web companies to block child sexual abuse searches

Prime minister warns of legislation if Google and other providers fail to blacklist 'sick and malevolent' terms

... 

In a major speech on Monday he will call for search engines to block any results being displayed for a blacklist of terms compiled by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (Ceop).  

Hard to know where to start with this. Motivation wise maybe he is sincere in his desire, maybe it is just a cynical political move. Doesn't really matter. Practically speaking it is plain stupid and poorly thought out.

On this site we see some very 'dubious'  search terms used that apparently search engines link to us. I look at them and wonder sometimes. Is this a pervert looking for examples of 'boy sex" or a concerned parent or educator looking for resources? The pervert is going to get a nasty shock when they figure out what this site is about but the parent is hopefully going to find some useful information about child sexual abuse prevention.

A list of banned terms will lead to legitimate searches failing, people not finding educational resources they need and it will not prevent unsavory ones succeeding. People who want this stuff will find dark sites to satisfy their perversions and a new list of euphemisms for them will crop up. The euphemisms will probably gain broader adoption and then get added to the blacklist. More euphemisms will come into use and around we will go. Soon half the English language will be on the list and search engines will be useless.

A list of banned sites would be a better idea but would have practical issues of it's own. Who would maintain it? What would the criteria for inclusion be? The internet is a big place and when you consider the massive range of cultural norms involved it is debatable if much of the net would be left accessible. I don't know this for a fact but I bet there are cultures where kids in swimsuits would be considered pornographic. A company selling bathers to kids could be knocked off the net. Extreme example I know but it is a continuum and my point is that each culture would draw the line in a different place and consensus would be next to impossible.

I'd take the reverse perspective on this. This is an opportunity. People who dial these kinds of search terms into a search engines are providing a wonderful chance to law enforcement. They are essentially putting up their hands and saying "Hey, I have some problems that could bare investigation and appropriate action." Pass a law where incidents of 'dubious' search are logged and forwarded onto the police. All the Snowden related revelations recently show that they have the capacity to capture and monitor all activity on the net. Widen the search from just 'terrorists' and do something useful with this information. Kids are much, much, much, more likely to be victims of sexual abuse than terrorist plots.

We should be asking Mr Cameron and all our leaders the tough question.  "What is your relative spending on terrorist/security related matters to child sexual abuse prevention? That would be an interesting ratio indeed.

PS. Lots of comments on the original site that are worth a look.

NSPCC charity in 'pants' campaign against child sex abuse

The problem in a nutshell:
The charity says a survey it commissioned showed that half of parents asked had never spoken to their children about the issue.
A total of 1,200 parents took part in the research by YouGov and of those who said they had talked to their children, 43% said it had been a difficult conversation.

Ok. By the numbers. 57% of the half that did have the conversation, did not find it a difficult conversation. That works out at 28.5% of the entire population. The goal then is to support the other 71.5% so that they feel that it is not an insurmountable issue.

Children's minister Edward Timpson said: "Simple conversations can help keep children safe from sexual abuse. This is a great campaign to help parents and carers feel more comfortable explaining difficult issues to their children."

Yes it is a great campaign. Yes too to it being a simple thing. We need to educate the population at large so that they come to see that it is a simple conversation. A conversation that also needs to be ongoing. One that reinforces the original message and builds on it as the child becomes developmentally ready for it.  

Spotlight on children abusing children

This very short news report has a powerful series of quotes that should put the idea of stranger danger in an even more unpalatable perspective.  

A report for the Australian Crime Commission in 2010 found that between 40 to 90 per cent of the sexual abuse of children is perpetrated by their peers.
"A significant proportion of it obviously takes place in families."
The conference also heard the internet is playing a big role in the sexualisation of children.
"The sexual knowledge that children have today is actually quite staggering and the internet has played a significant role in delivering that information.
"This needs to be not taboo any more, it needs to be be acknowledged so that the children aren't left isolated."
Ms Little says there should be a national education program.

Damn right there should be a national education program!

The other aspects that these quotes illustrate is that child sexual abuse is an issue that needs to be tackled on many fronts. Significant contributors to the problem include poor or non existent sex education, the sexualisation of children through the media for commercial gains, and adolescents forming their views of appropriate sexual behavior (and relationships) from online pornography.

Why do these problems exist? I suspect it is because most adults are uncomfortable discussing sex, having sex, possibly even thinking about sex. I fear that many adults wince to varying degrees when they even see the word printed.

SEX, SEX, SEX.   There. Get over it. 

96 Percent of Children Who Report Sexual Abuse Are Telling the Truth

This article provides some interesting facts and insights. From a parent's perspective the final paragraph provides a great practical point to remember if a child does start to share a 'strange' story.

Something else to keep in mind is that children do not generally spill out the whole story—it may take several hours or even days for them to share everything. What they do is, they tell you a little bit, and then they stop. The reason is because they’re waiting to see how you react: Are they going to get in trouble for sharing this story? Do you believe them? Once they see you believe them and they won’t get in trouble they feel safe enough to share a little bit more. What people need to know is that, according to the literature on the subject, if a child discloses abuse, about 96 percent of the time some sort of abuse did occur. That’s the figure—around 96 percent.

Listen carefully to your children. Always praise them for sharing. Let them tell it in their own words. Believe them. Reassure them. They must believe they can  tell you anything.


Eight common myths about child sexual abuse

I love it when myths meet facts. Some myths strengthen our society providing the shared understandings that bind us.  Others are poisons that make us sick and weak. These eight common myths facilitate child sexual abuse and therefore do massive damage to the  quality of our lives.

The myth that I think does the most damage and is central to the problem is that people feel they would recognise a molester and consequently a molester is not present in their circle and their child is consequently safe and therefore no 'unpleasant' discussions are necessary. This quote should make people rethink that one but I fear not.

I want to describe a child molester I know very well.  This man was raised by devout Christian parents.  As a child he rarely missed church.   Even after he became an adult he was faithful as a church member.  He was a straight A student in high school and college.  He has been married and has a child of his own.  He coached Little League baseball.  He was a Choir Director at his church.   He never used any illegal drugs.  He never had a drink of alcohol.   He was considered a clean-cut, All-American boy.  Everyone seemed to like him.  He was a volunteer in numerous civic community functions.  He had a well-paying career job.  He was considered "well-to-do" in society.   But from the age of 13-years-old he sexually molested little boys.   He never victimized a stranger.  All of his victims were friends.  . . I know this child molester very well because he is me!!!!

Read the facts.  Internalise the facts. Share the facts. 

The Case for Teaching Kids 'Vagina,' 'Penis,' and 'Vulva'

As part of the growing movement to implement abuse prevention in schools and other youth-serving organizations, Rohdenburg and other educators believe that teaching what linguists call "standard" dialect for body parts -- rather than euphemisms and colloquialisms -- is important. Teaching children anatomically correct terms, age-appropriately, says Laura Palumbo, a prevention specialist with the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC), promotes positive body image, self confidence, and parent-child communication; discourages perpetrators; and, in the event of abuse, helps children and adults navigate the disclosure and forensic interview process.

Evidence shows nothing but good can come of quality sex ed. Why some adults have to treat the subject as taboo is a mystery to me. Making the whole thing a deep dark secret only has negative consequences. 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 7 boys could tell you that!

Tell children early about recognizing sexual abuse

Dr. Martin A. Finkel posts what I think is one of the most succinct and accurate summaries of the issues of child sexual abuse prevention. Definitely worth a couple of minutes of your time. Among the many great points he makes is this:

Admittedly, we don’t know for sure that talking to children about personal space and privacy will be the magic bullet of prevention. But we do know that children armed with information about personal space and privacy will be six to seven times more likely to develop protective behaviors and to feel empowered to disclose abuse.

The bottom line:

Child sexual abuse thrives in silence. Our discomfort can’t be reason enough to keep us from talking to children about it.

Amen!

Storytelling program 'combats child abuse'

I have no knowledge of this bar what is written here, but it certainly sounds promising.

A Federal Government department has found a pilot program based around storytelling has been remarkably effective at helping children to protect themselves from abuse.
"To actually be able to have kids [realise], when they get butterflies in their stomach, when their hands are trembling, when they feel all these emotions rushing through their body that they're actually feeling unsafe, and that when they're feeling unsafe they need to do something about that and need to talk to someone and they can get help," she said.
Associate Professor Jenny Hudson, from Macquarie University's Department of Psychology, says there was evidence that programs like the Tamworth program increased children's knowledge about risk and protective behaviours.
"This pilot program shows that children's knowledge did increase, which is a good thing," she said.

Damn good!

What Parents Need to Know about Sexual Abuse

Resources located at The National Child Traumatic Stress Network

Caring for Kids: What Parents Need to Know about Sexual Abuse
Caring for Kids: What Parents Need to Know about Sexual Abuse is a consumer-focused resource kit that contains information and fact sheets for parents, caregivers, and adolescents.
The kit provides parents and caregivers with tools to help them support children who have been victims of sexual abuse, information on the importance of talking to children and youth about body safety, and guidance on how to respond when children disclose sexual abuse. Also included is advice on how to cope with the shock of intrafamilial abuse and with the emotional impact of legal involvement in sexual abuse cases.
Caring for Kids provides adolescents with information about the prevalence of acquaintance rape and tips to help reduce their risk for abuse. It also offers guidance on what to do if they are a victim of acquaintance rape including disclosure, medical attention, and professional counseling.

This series of guides is well produced, comprehensive and accessible. If you are a concerned parent looking for a free download that will get you up to speed on the issues fairly quickly, this is it.

Boys abuse in home first: sex study

Adrian Lowe at theage.com.au:

... the occurrence of sibling incest could most likely be linked to the availability of victims to the perpetrators, and for a child who had experienced many types of abuse, a response to that trauma may be overly sexualised behaviour.

'There were certainly cases where the child was jealous and angry towards their sibling but there seemed to be some very strong indications that those children were very, very angry with their parents, and the way to get at their parents was to abuse the other children.''

Of the jealous anger conclusions, Professor Quirk said: ''Within the limitations of this particular study, what [that] suggests is that the children … who had grown up in a difficult environment, one of the ways of managing difficult emotions for them are the behaviours that they have either been subjected to themselves, or they have witnessed, or that they have learnt to engage in.''

But boys who sexually abuse siblings because of a jealous anger were less likely to offend in the community.

Researchers also concluded that sibling incest was the most common form of family sexual abuse, at least five times more common than parent-child incest.

It is remarkable how much of a child's behaviour is modeled on even their parent's most negative and destructive behaviour. Then again it's probably the most natural thing in the world when you think about it. Children of smokers, smoke; drinkers drink; abusers abuse. If we could stop these behaviours for one generation they would hopefully disappear.  If.

Media coverage of child sexual abuse

Ms. Foundation for Women, press release:

The report, “Breaking News on Child Sexual Abuse: Early Coverage of Penn State,” found that less than one-third of the general news coverage of the Jerry Sandusky case included a mention of a potential solution or policy measure to reduce or prevent future abuse.

 “Media coverage increases the visibility of societal problems and fuels our nation’s collective response. Coverage that is absent of solutions denies us an opportunity to prevent child sexual abuse for the one in four girls and one in six boys who are sexually abused each year,” said Rahman.

Among the articles mentioning solutions, the most frequently cited ones focused on actions after the abuse had been committed, such as reporting abuse, rather than measures intended to prevent abuse from occurring.

“The report highlights that prevention continues to get short shrift in news coverage of child sexual abuse,” BMSG Director Lori Dorfman said. “Journalists and advocates can work together on stories like this to help the public and policymakers understand the need for prevention policies.”

Not so surprising unfortunately. The media's goal is to secure readers and thus revenue, not work for the greater good. It has been frustrating to see the reaction to the Penn State scandal revolve around things such as universal mandatory reporting and removing the statute of limitations on child sexual abuse cases. While it is not bad to investigate such measures it does reek of closing the stable door after the horse has bolted. Where is the focus on prevention? How can we push this issue forward?