CORRECTING THE MYTHS
The mere mention of child molestation strikes us
with fear. Our first response is likely to be one of denial: this could
never happen in my family - I don't have to be concerned about this in
my community. We have been using denial, as individuals and as a
society, to escape the truth, at great expense to our
When faced with a medical epidemic in this
country the Centers for Disease Control will take immediate steps to
educate the public against the spread of the disease. An epidemic of
child molestation is spreading across America yet few people are aware
that 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 7 boys will be molested before age 18.1
And molestation is never a one-time incident for the victim. Children do
not get over molestation as they do a virus. We are a country populated
by millions of adult victims who continue to bear the emotional scars of
childhood sexual abuse, and the casualties of this generation of
children increases daily.
We would do well to draw upon the wisdom of the
English statesman, Disraeli, who once told Queen Victoria, "The one with
the most knowledge has the greatest advantage." There is no better place
to apply this logic than in the protection of our children - no better
place to begin than correct the myths which contribute to our false
sense of security until someone we love is affected.
- Molestation occurs in all income and racial
groups, from infancy through adulthood.
- The majority of molesters are known by their
- You may never know that your child is a
- Children are not likely to lie about sexual
- Children do not outgrow the traumatic
effects of molestation.
Molestation occurs when an adult or person
significantly older than a child engages in sexual activity with a
minor. The abuse can be over an extended period of time, or a one time
incident, and includes touching, fondling, kissing in a sexual manner,
oral sex, masturbation, digital or penile penetration of rectum or
The 1992 rape survey conducted by the National Victim Center
reported that 29% of all rapes occurred when the victim was less than
eleven years old, another 32% occurred between the ages of 11 and
CHILD MOLESTERS - WHO ARE
It is not enough to warn a child to stay away
from strangers. The majority of children are molested by those they know
and trust - but may not be known by other family members. We also have a
lesser known but growing category of molesters: children who perpetrate
sexual crimes upon children younger than themselves.
- The U.S. Department of Justice reported four
million child molesters reside in this country.2
- Almost half of all sex offenders are under
- Ten years ago we had twenty-two
rehabilitation programs for juvenile sex offenders - we now have
- New York rape arrests of thirteen year old
males increased 200% between 1986 and 1988.5
- 57% of child molesters were molested
themselves as children.6
- A typical molester will abuse between 30 to
60 children before they are arrested - as many as 380 during their
The current threat
and what lies ahead of us as a nation is staggering. We owe it to our
children to remember that the next generation of molesters is coming out
of this generation, and to act accordingly.
- Can have adult sex partners, but children
are primary sex object.
- Have lifestyles which give them easy access
- Target specific gender, age, hair and eye
- Use threats to manipulate and control
victims - or bribe them with gifts, love or promises to lure victims
into their confidence before victimization takes place.
- May commit first offense when in
- Continue behavior even after conviction and
- Are mostly males, but females also
- May video or photograph sexual activity with
children to exchange with other molesters and/or shame child into
not telling anyone of the abuse.
- Some molesters network with pornographers
and their pictures are used for commercial child pornography.
Pictures are also traded with others interested in sex with children
and become part of the cottage child pornography industry.
ATTITUDE OF MOLESTERS
- Have no trouble legitimizing their actions,
but may demonstrate remorse if arrested although they actually see
nothing wrong with what they have done.
- Have no thought for the emotional/physical
impact on a child.
- Blame the child for wearing inappropriate
clothes, acting in a certain way, or say that because the child did
not resist they consented.
Molesters gain access to children through volunteer
and professional occupations as well as their own neighborhoods. They
are skilled at developing relationships with children, often supplying
needs which are not being met at home. Children are easily seduced into
believing that it is okay for adults to have sex with children - it is a
good way to learn about sex - and it is normal for adults to show
affection this way.
All forms of pornography (magazines, videos,
comic books, trading cards and computer porn) are widely used to
condition the victim and legitimize the sexual behavior.
An abductor preys upon
- take shortcuts to school
- look depressed
- are loners
- appear unkempt, neglected or
- frequent video arcades
Abductors often use uniforms and badges of
authority to convince a child to go with them, using statements such as
"your parents have been in an accident and you are wanted at the
The most often used traps include asking for help
in finding a lost puppy, carrying books and groceries, or asking for
directions. Young children are lured by money, toys, candy, or promises
of puppies and kittens, older children by money, drugs, alcohol and
promises of movie careers.
Molesters take advantage of the fact that
children are taught to look up to authority figures and respect and obey
adults. A child is not prepared when a relative, neighbor or other
acquaintance makes sexual advances. The best way to deal with the
problem is before it occurs.
We can alert our children to danger without
frightening them. Explain that most adults are dedicated to their
protection and welfare, but there are some people who are not. Telling a
child to look both ways when crossing the street does not create a fear
of cars - it prevents serious injury. As parents we are obligated to
give our children survival skills in all areas of life.
INSTRUCT YOUR CHILDREN
1. Always check with parents or
person in charge before going anywhere, even with someone they know,
to state where they are going, who is going with them, and exactly
when they will return.
2. Always check with parents before
accepting any type of a gift: money, candy, toys.
3. Use the buddy system when they are
going places or playing outside. Stress safety in numbers.
4. Say no to anyone who tries to touch
them any place a bathing suit would cover - get away from that person
- and tell you if anyone violates this rule. Be sure they understand
that no one should expose or touch their private parts, ask them to do
the same, or force them to handle body wastes.
5. Report any incidents of anyone asking
to take their pictures.
6. Never open the door when they are
home alone. Make sure they have a neighbor's phone number in case
someone tries to get inside the house.
EXPLAIN THE FOLLOWING SAFETY
1. When separated from parents
in a public place a child should find a cashier, security guard or
manager and ask for help in finding their parents.
matter what anyone tells them, children do not have to keep secrets if
anyone touches them in a way that is not okay, or if anyone makes them
feel uncomfortable by what they say or do. People who want children to
keep secrets from their parents are not safe to be
3. Explain that adults should ask other adults for
help - not children - and if asked by someone in a car for directions
they should keep walking and never approach the car. If the driver
gets out of the car they should be prepared to scream and run.
4. Show your children how to call 911
and make periodic checks to see if they remember their address and
5. If approached by a policeman,
children have the right to call the Police Department to verify that
person's credentials, and any legitimate officer will honor this
6. Instruct your children to tell you if
they see anything that frightens or disturbs them. Younger children
are often introduced to pornographic material by older children and
later act it out on children younger than
A January, 1986 poll of Women's Day readers
indicated that nearly one-half said they felt their children had been
harmed by exposure to pornography.
TIPS FOR PARENTS
1. Network with your child's friends and
their parents to safeguard all children in your community.
2. Insist that all slumber parties be
3. Never leave children unattended,
especially in a car.
4. Notice when a stranger pays attention
to your child and find out why. Question the motives of adults or
older children who want to spend time alone with your children.
5. Do not let your child spend time in
an unsupervised home, and know who their friends are.
6. If your child prefers to spend a lot
of time at a neighbor's home, find out why.
7. Play "what if" games: "what if a
stranger offers you a ride home or asks you to help find a lost
puppy?" A Portland, Oregon news reporter tested children in a park by
asking to help him find his lost puppy. Had he been a child molester,
he could have abducted over 80% of the children because that many were
willing to go with him.
8. Screen baby-sitters and other care
givers carefully - both male and female.
9. Be alert to unexplained toys or
money. Find out who gave them to your child and
Develop and maintain open communication with your
children so you can talk about any subject comfortably.
WHAT TO DO IF YOUR
CHILD IS MOLESTED
1. You do not want to further
alarm the child. Stay calm. Your reaction and attitude will play a key
role in your child's healing.
2. Call the police or
sheriff's office immediately. The one who molested your child has
probably molested before and will molest again.
3. Never confront the molester
4. Respect the child's privacy. Find a
private place and listen to their story. Encourage your child to talk
about what happened. Record name, dates, times, and locations so you
don't have to rely on your memory when passing on information to the
authorities. This will spare excessive questioning which can make a
child feel that the adult does not believe him or her.
5. Share the information only with those
who need to hear about it. Sexually exploited children are extremely
vulnerable to comments from relatives and friends.
6. If some time has lapsed since the
abuse, don't ask "why didn't you tell me before?" Molesters are
experts at manipulation. Children are often threatened not to tell
anyone and need assurance. Affirm that you are going to protect
7. This is not the time to scold, no
matter how often the child has been warned about strangers or told not
to go anywhere without permission. Never express anger or punish a
child - even if they have disobeyed your orders by being at a location
they have been warned about.
8. Continue to affirm the child and
explain that they have done nothing wrong. Children easily assume the
guilt and responsibility for what happened. They can be easily enticed
or tricked and later blame themselves because they feel they should
have been stronger or smarter.
9. Get immediate medical attention.
Sexual abuse must be documented if charges are to be pressed. Sexually
exploited children often have physical injuries, and more children are
getting sexually transmitted diseases today than were affected by the
polio epidemic of the late 40's and early 50's.
10. Get counseling/therapy for the
child. Children are not emotionally equipped to deal with the trauma
of sexual abuse. Get the best professional help available. Look for a
professional who is experienced in cases of molestation. Don't try to
handle your feelings alone. All family members need attention when one
member is victimized.
11. Do not vent your anger or other
feelings in front of your child who may feel at fault for upsetting
you and regret reporting the abuse.
12. Children seldom lie about acts of
sexual exploitation because of the shame and guilt associated with it.
Take what they say seriously.
13. Don't be surprised - or upset - if
your child reports to someone outside the family. Children become very
concerned about a parent's reaction.
14. Keep the lines of communication
open. Never forget that the child is a victim - the molester is a
CHOOSING A DAYCARE
One of your best resources when looking for
daycare is through the recommendation of friends and neighbors who can
speak from first hand experience. Lists are also available from your
local department of social services and local schools and community
resource centers. Call your local police and social services departments
to determine if any reports have been filed against the specific
facility you are considering.
Choose a licensed daycare center
- Parents are free to come and go without
- No areas are off limits to
- Bathrooms do not contain areas where
children can be isolated (two thirds of all daycare sexual abuse
takes place during visits to the bathroom).
- There is adequate supervision during
- Criminal checks are made on all employees
who will be interacting with children - including volunteers or
- Safety measures are taken to prohibit the
release of your child to anyone without your written
Once you decide on a facility and your child is
old enough to respond, ask what happened during the day. Communication
is the key to safety.
INDICATORS OF SEXUAL
Not all of the following indicators will mean
your child has been victimized - some can be part of normal development
or signs of stress. The greater the number of signs, and the more
sudden, severe and frequent they are, the more reason you have for
concern. Physical evidence in genital and rectal areas must be taken
seriously and treated immediately.
In Preschool Children:
- displaying inappropriate sexual activity or
showing an unusual interest in sexual matters
- mood swings, withdrawal,
- bed wetting, nightmares, fear of going to
- pain, itching, bleeding, discharge, or
rawness in private areas
- regressive behavior: baby talk, sudden
- sudden unexplained aggressiveness or
- inserts objects into genitals or rectum -
acts out sexual behavior on dolls or stuffed toys
- sudden fear of specific things, people,
Elementary School Age Children:
- may display same signs as preschool children
as well as the following:
- stomach aches, headaches, and other
- unusual knowledge and interest in sex beyond
- sudden drops in grades, difficulty
- serious depression
- inability to trust others
- self-destructive behaviors: alcohol and/or
drug use, eating disorders
- promiscuity and self inflicted
- pseudo maturity
- serious confusion regarding sexual
- aversion toward opposite sex
- sexual interest in younger children
Remember, victims are intimidated by their
abusers and are more likely to deny the abuse than disclose it. They
will be more willing to talk if an atmosphere of trust and open
communication has already been established in the home. Contact a
professional who is trained in assessing child sexual abuse if you have
THE ROLE OF
PORNOGRAPHY IN MOLESTATION
We have more evidence to link pornography to
sexual crimes against children than we do cigarette smoking to cancer.
The Surgeon General's Report on Pornography and Public Health (1986) and
the Final Report of the Attorney General's Commission on Pornography
(1986) attest to the harms of pornography - as do numerous other studies
by experts in the field. We have more outlets for hard core pornography
than we do McDonald restaurants, and our 12 to 17 year old boys are
among the biggest consumers.
Dr. Frederick Wortham, a psychiatrist who treats
troubled children who have done terrible things, tells us that a child's
mind is like a bank - what goes into it comes back ten years later with
interest. We see this illustrated in the results of a Kansas City survey
of high school students which revealed that 60% of the boys thought it
was all right to rape a girl if they thought they were going to marry
We are reaping the harvest sown by pornography's
consistent theme that reduces children and women to sexual toys -
subservient to those able to control them. It bears repeating that 29%
of victims of rape are less than 11 years old, another 32% between 11
and 17, and rape has risen 523% since 1960.
The following are just two of the cases which
further demonstrate how pornography is poisoning the minds of our youth:
A 10 year old boy raped and sodomized four younger children in an
apartment complex. When asked by police where he got such an idea, the
boy showed them his parent's pornography. One 16 year old boy was forced
to seek counseling for an addiction to dial-a-porn. He came to his
mother in tears, asking why she never warned him about the effects of
Protecting Children from a Modern
Since many children today spend time on the
electronic superhighway "surfing the net," it is not surprising that
child molesters go there to look for victims."Chat rooms," have become
the "playgrounds" of the 90's. A molester engages a child in a chat room
by posing on-line as a child himself. Once an on-line relationship is
established the molester will often suggest a conversation in a "private
room," ie. a chat room for only two. Then language becomes sexually
explicit, pornography can be transmitted electronically, and the
relationship becomes abusive.
Although most information found on the Internet
is helpful, the most deviant, perverse, and violent pornography is also
available. Images that feed the minds of molesters and would-be
molesters include everything from soft-core nudity to hard-core sex
acts, bestiality with almost every animal on Noah's ark, torture and
mutilation, defecation and urination on women and children for sexual
pleasure, and child pornography. In addition there are stories that
glorify sexual abuse of children. Playboy's Web site averages 5 million
hits a day.8
In addition to pornography freely available on
the Web, there are over 1000 pornographic Bulletin Board
Pornographic CD-ROM's include not only live
action pornography, but also games where the object is rape.
Safeguarding Your Children:
- Learn about computers so you can monitor
your child's use.
- Spend quality time with your children,
thereby preventing them from depending on computer technology for
recreation, communication, and companionship.
- Keep the computer in a public area of the
- Don't EVER allow a child to give out
personal information on-line, not real name, address or phone
- Don't allow a child to meet someone
face-to-face they have met on-line.
- Remember that people on-line may not be who
they seem, a "12-year-old-girl" may actually be a 40 year old
- Though they are not fool proof, consider
purchasing and installing a pornography blocking software package
such as CYBERsitter, SurfWatch, Cyber Patrol, Rated-PG or Net
- Periodically check the Web sites your
children are visiting and look at files they are storing.
"You can no more leave your children alone to
travel the information superhighway than you can leave them in Times
Square in New York."
Len Munsil, Exec. Dir., National Family Legal
Each of us must decide whether we are going to be
part of the problem (by ignoring the issue) or part of the solution. The
lives of our children and their offspring depend on what we, as
individuals are prepared to do about the epidemic of molestation.
1. "Answers to Important Questions About
The Scope and Nature of Child Sexual Abuse." 1993 David Finkelhor,
Professor, University of New Hampshire, Family Research
2. Network News, Fall Edition, 1985
3. 1991 FBI
Uniform Crime Report
4. Philadelphia Inquirer, 1/18/93
Gore, "Hate, Rape and Rap," The Washington Post, 1/8/90.
Goldstein-Harte Study 1973; Carter et al, "Use of Pornography in the
Criminal and Developmental Histories of Sexual Offenders," 1984.
"The Effects of Pornography on Children and Women," Hearing before the
Subcommittee of Juvenile Justice, Committee on the Judiciary U.S. Senate
(testimony of John Rabun, for the National Center for Missing and
Exploited Children, 9/12/84).
8. U.S. News and World Report,