Child molestation is a sexual crime that has not always been an open topic of discussion for many families, religious groups, and communities. Over the years, many people have been unwilling to speak of such a silent monster, and child molesters have been able to escape years of ridicule and shame through the force of intimidation and threats on their young victims. In addition, there are many reasons people believe that child molesters offend young children, but there is no scapegoat that conceals the fact that this sexual crime has destroyed both the esteem and hope of numerous children. With an increase of children finally gaining the courage to speak of their encounters with child molestation, and the startling findings of who their perpetrators can actually be, the silent monster is being surfaced. Its sufferers are surprisingly found to be from a variety of races, religious groups, and social classes. In order to prevent child molestation from occurring in families, religious groups, and communities of our society, it is important to understand the facts and statistics, discover ways for the victim to experience freedom of this dreadful experience using his/her voice, and to prevent cases of child molestation from continuing to be one of the silent monsters of the 21st century.
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Sexual crimes range from an array of offenses, but one that appears to be quite common in families, religious groups, and communities of the United States today is child molestation. Child molestation, which is also known in psychiatric terms as pedophilia, is a crime that involves indecent sexual relations between an adult and a child. Of all things, it definitely should be considered a silent monster of the times, because it causes a great deal of fear and pain in the minds and hearts of its victims which can linger throughout their lives. Several young victims do not find the courage or strength to speak about their offenders; the offenders are often those who are respected members of their families, religious groups, or communities. In an attempt to protect the child molester, the juvenile victim may wait for years to thrash out about the atrocious and humiliating experiences of their sexual experiences with his/her offender. Unfortunately, the silence continues for years and some gain the courage to expose the ghastly nature of their sexual offender while others may believe that a discussion of the molestation will create even more pain and shame.
Understanding the Facts
To make an effort to understand the severity of such an awful sexual crime, it is important to understand the facts. According to the Child Molestation Research and Prevention Institute (2010), “It is estimated that at least two out of every ten girls and one out of every ten boys are sexually abused by the end of their 13th year.” With this startling information, it is vital that adults find as many opportunities to speak with their children at an early age, to strongly monitor the adults that their children interact with on a daily basis, and to inform the child that this issue is very much prevalent in today’s time and world. According to National Child Abuse Statistics (2010), “90% of child sexual abuse victims know the perpetrator in some way; 68% are abused by family members” (“National Child Abuse Statistics,” 2010). Adults must make children aware of the fact that a child molester can be a member of even their close circle of family and friends. Often, children that are victims of child molestation are fearful of reporting information, because their offender is a relative or person of a respected position in the church or community. Therefore, adults must continuously emphasize that the ‘silent monster’ can appear from places a child may least expect. In addition, “About 30% of abused and neglected children will later abuse their own children, continuing the horrible cycle of abuse” (“National Child Abuse Statistics,” 2010). So, the possibility of the cycle of child molestation continuing over family generations can likely increase if the molested child does not reveal how he or she was sexually offended. Repression of this appalling crime can later cause other innocent children to fall victim to child molestation.
Possible Causes of Child Molestation
Many people question how an adult could possibly allow themselves to offend a young, vulnerable child through forceful, sexual acts. Moreover, society often perceives the child molester as a ‘monster’ or a person who is greatly sickened both mentally and emotionally. Without surprise, the stigma of ‘child molester’ on an adult can remain with them for a lifetime despite the fact that he/she may have chosen to transform their ways. When an adult is exposed as a child molester, their lives can become absolute turmoil. For example, some may often hear stories of child molesters that have been harassed greatly in federal prisons after they have received their sentences as punishment by the judicial system. Although there are many other horrendous crimes, even those that are imprisoned for extreme offenses consider the child molester to be one of the greatest criminals.
According to Fuller (1998), some of the few causes for molestation include, “heightened arousal to children, early childhood experience, hormone imbalance, sexual anxiety, unresolved conflicts, child pornography and advertising, sexual addiction, alcohol and drugs, and cultural tolerance.” Although there are many potential causes for child molestation, there is no apparent justification for adults that delve into this are of sexual crime. Several adults from many ethnic backgrounds, religions, and social classes have come forth in some cases to speak of their experiences as victims of child molestation. Both common and famous people reveal to the world everyday stories of the evils of child molestation and the memories that still remain in their minds and hearts, and their beliefs and reasoning for the child sexual abuse often stem from one of the above causes of child molestation.
Child Molestation in the Church World
Allegations of cases of child molestation in the church have increased drastically over the past years. Although the Catholic Church seems to be one that has been in the media for some time now with accusations of clergy taking sexual advantage of young boys, it is obvious that the topic of child molestation in the church reaches far beyond the Catholic Church.
Recently, there have been accusations in the media of adults coming forth and discussing how they were sexually molested as children by their spiritual leaders. As Clowes and Sonnier (2005) state, “The church has always had a small number of priests and other religious who have taken advantage of their positions of authority and influence in order to gain sexual favors or to take advantage of the helpless.” As a result, child molestation becomes widespread in many churches, because the young victims are either intimidated by the role of the clergy member that is abusing them or they begin to fear the demise of the level of respect the members of the church have for the person that has violated them sexually.
Since many of the religious leaders in the church are predominantly men, the topic of homosexuality, as it relates to child molestation, arises. Most of the victims that experience child molestation by clergy are young males. Henceforth, it is apparent that those religious leaders that partake in child molestation are dealing with issues of homosexuality as well. It has been found that, “In fact, a number of studies performed over a period spanning more than half a century—many of which were performed by homosexuals or their sympathizers-have shown that an extremely large percentage of sexually active homosexuals also participate in child molestation” (Clowes & Sonnier, 2005). Some of the young males that have experienced child molestation by esteemed clergy members of the church also often question their sexual orientation as time passes, because they are being molested by a member of the same sex.
Targeting the Signs of Child Molestation
Many children that are victims of child molestation often display signs to adults that are not recognized or even ignored. If the signs are acknowledged early on, adults can go forward to try to bring criminal charges to the sexual offender and bring some sense of peace and relief to the young child that is being sexually abused. There are some signs that are not made evident immediately while there are others that adults can pinpoint very early.
Some signs that adults need to become aware of are many. According to Williams (2001), a few of the warning signs of child sexual abuse are:
extreme mood swings
acting out inappropriate sexual activity
school or behavioral problems
bruises, rashes, cuts, limping, multiple or poorly explained injuries
Although these warning signs can also be related to other behaviors, these should serve as things that adults should continuously be aware of. A child’s behavior, once they have been sexually abused, can reveal a great deal of what stage they are in the sexual indecent acts done by their sexual offenders. The key to prevention is to find the willingness to accept and be proactive towards the warning signs. This could be the difference between saving a child’s life or having the sexual crime continue.
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Ways to Prevent Child Molestation
Child molestation is a sexual crime that many families, churches, and communities desire would not come to their doors. For those that are severely affected by child molestation, they may suffer their entire lifetimes with scars from the indecent sexual experiences with their adult offenders. Even though child molestation is a devastating problem and issue for all of those involved, there are ways to prevent child molestation.
It is strongly encouraged that adults create avenues for children to speak openly about fears they may have of being sexually abused or to discuss encounters they may have already experienced as a victim of child molestation. According to”Why Should Kids Tell?” (2008):
Perhaps the greatest defense against childhood sexual abuse is to help both children and adults become more comfortable discussing it. We can bring about a paradigm shift so that children will not think twice about confiding sexual abuse to an adult in their life who they trust. If we encourage enough children to tell, and teach enough adults what to do, we can change the repetitive cycle of childhood sexual abuse: studies show that 87% of all sexual abusers were themselves sexually abused as children.
In addition, there are other preventive measures that adults can take to ensure that their children are safe from the harm of child molestation. According to the child molestation prevention organization Darkness to Light (2008) some ways to prevent this sexual crime is to learn the facts, minimize opportunity, talk about it, stay alert, make a plan, act on suspicions, and get involved.
Child molestation is definitely a problem of today’s times. It is a sexual crime that must be actively approached in order to prevent children’s lives from being destroyed. The predators of this crime can be a close family member, an elite church representative of the clergy, a coach for a sports team, etc. Nevertheless, adults must be cautious of all other adults no matter whom they are or where they are from. Victims of child molestation can be any race, come from any social class, and even be male or female. The statistics show that this is an ever-increasing problem, but the measures for prevention do offer a sense of hope for those that are wronged by the sexual crime of child molestation. All in all, it is one a ‘silent monster’, and it will continue to be until children find the courage to speak out against their adult offenders along with adults discovering the strength to address the situation proactively no matter how much pain may surface before a resolution is provided. Sexual crimes are common to many in the United States, along with other parts of the world, but there is the opportunity to bring justice to those that choose to destroy the dignity of all those aggrieved—one being the precious, young children of the world who have the right to have their innocence and childhood protected.