Recent stories about a 12-year-old boy being found responsible for raping a 7-year-old girl have stunned Madera County. But, even more surprising, according to experts, is that the prevalence of children sexually assaulting other children is higher than most people could possibly believe.
Reports of children sexually assaulting children seem unfathomable but all over the nation, law enforcement agencies. and therapists are seeing not only an increased in the number of cases but are amazed at what children today know about the subject of sex.
Barbara Vivian of Madera County Victim’s Services said that the crime of children molesting children is more prominent than most people believe and that is only based on the cases reported. Victim’s Services believes many cases are never reported.
Sexual assault advocate with Victim’s Services, Mary Ariz, said, “We are certain that there are many more cases of juvenile sex offenders that are never reported. We know that many adult cases are never reported and it’s less likely that cases involving children would be reported.”
Barbara Vivian, program director for Victim’s Services said, “Even though there is much more awareness today (about adult sex offenses), and there is better training for teachers, doctors, nurses and therapists, there are still many cases that are never reported.”
Detective Tom Burns of the Madera Police Department agrees that the number of juvenile sexual offenders is on the rise.
“Up until the last six to eight months I don’t think I ever heard of any juvenile sex offenders, but lately we’ve had many calls involving 12- to 13-year-old boys raping a younger cousin or family member. We hear many families say, ‘We’ll handle his within the family,’ but what they don’t understand is that if they ‘handle it’ they could be accused of intimidating a witness,” said Burns.
As far away as Australia the number of cases involving juvenile sex offenders are increasing at an alarming pace, officials said. They are “seeing children as young as 4 or 5 years old engaging in coercive sexual behaviors.”
This has led to concerns about the supervision of children, particularly in school toilets, where abuse could occur.
In Palm Beach County, Fla., the rising cases of sex offenders among grade school-aged children has left prosecutors, therapists and the juvenile justice system scratching their collective heads about what to do with children who have gone beyond what could be considered normal sexual curiosity.
There have been reports of 10- and 11-year-old boys raping a 5-year-old girl, another case involved a 9-year-old assaulting a 2-year-old.
One report stated that in 2001-02, Florida received 3,614 calls reporting child-on-child sexual incidents where the perpetrator was younger than 13.
A 1988 Michigan crime report stated that 681 juveniles, who averaged 14 years old, were convicted of sexual assault on children averaging 7 years old.
Jan Hindman, M.S., founder of the Hindman Foundation in Baker, Ore., has worked with both the victims of sexual abuse and their offenders for more than 30 years. She worked with James M. Peters, J.D., the assistant United States attorney in Boise, Idaho, on a study where they interviewed sexual offenders and then asked them the same questions with the help of a polygraph.
The study took place from 1978 to 1994 and was designed to better understand adult and juvenile sex offenders.
The findings of the study may explain why there are so many juvenile sex offenders, mainly because that’s how most adult sexual offenders start.
In the 1994-1999 study, adult offenders were asked how many people they had victimized, had they been sexually abused as a child and did they sexually abuse other children when they were juveniles.
- Average number of victims reported: Before polygraph testing, the average number of victims reported was 2.9. After a polygraph test was implemented, the number grew to 11.6 average.
- Percent reporting being sexually abused as a child: Pre-polygraph, 61 percent of the offenders said they had been abused, but post-polygraph the number dropped to 30 percent.
- Percent reporting sexually abusing others as a child: In the pre-polygraph stage 27 percent of sex offenders tested said they had abused other children when they were a child, but once on the polygraph, the number rose to 76 percent.
This study shows that approximately one-third of adult sex offenders started as juvenile sexual offenders and continued on into adulthood.
The age of offenders appears to be getting younger and therapists say that children today are far more knowledgable about sex than even 10 years ago.
Ariz agrees, “Children learn a lot of things today from television and movies. I have been working here for six years and children today know a lot more than they did just six years ago.”
In New York state, two juveniles were arrested for assaulting as many as five other children. Three other boys were also arrested on suspicion of sexually assaulting other children over a two month period.
In all, they allegedly assaulted nine other children; one was alleged to have repeatedly assaulted an 8-year-old neighborhood boy and other children. It is believed that the boys heard about the sexual offense from an older student and decided to try it for themselves.
Jan Hindman said “A Very Touching Book, “As a society, we abhor the idea of children being sexual. We want them to be innocent.”
Children today are being introduced to sexual matter and information at a younger age than at any other time and the results are children armed with knowledge they don’t know how to handle.