Increasing Problem Of Child Molestation Essay Research

Increasing Problem Of Child Molestation Essay, Research Paper

In July 1994, Jesse Timmendequas, 35, confessed to strangling, and raping seven year old Megan Kanka, his neighbor in Hamilton Township, New Jersey. He had pleaded guilty twice before to sexually assaulting small children. In 1981 a judge had labeled him a compulsive, repetitive sexual offender. (Glaberson A1 1996). The killing of Megan generated enormous public outrage. New Jersey legislature responded by proposing Megan s Law; a series of statues aimed at protecting the community from sex offenders. While these statutes are currently in constitutional limbo, many states are wondering how to handle the ever increasing problem of child molestation.

It is hard to say with accuracy how many child molesters exist. There are several reasons why reliable statistics are not available. Consistent standards have not been used in most studies (Barnard et. al. 3). The greatest problem is detecting and confirming that child molestation has occurred.(Barnard et al. 4). Rough estimates in the United States range from 100,000 to 500,000 cases of child sexual abuse per year.(Barnard et al. 3). It is estimated that 30% of males and 35% of females have had experiences as victims of sexual deviates (Capozzella 120). Again these are rough estimates.

Despite public outrage over child molesters many laypersons hold cognitive distortions about children and sex. This is evident in a study conducted by Hayashino, Wurtele, and Klebe, where laypersons in adult education classes were surveyed about their attitudes regarding children and sex. At least a quarter of the laypersons group believed that a child who does not resist an adult s sexual advances wants to have sex with the adult, that a child flirting with an adult means she or he wants to have sex with the adult, and that sexual intercourse between a child and an adult will prevent the child from having sexual hangups in the future (Hayahino et al. 114). Also, 19% of the laypersons surveyed reported some likelihood of engaging in sexual contact with a child if assured they would not be punished (114). This evidence, while limited to one study, is truly sad and only adds to the anxiety that most parents and most of society have towards child molestation.

There is no universally accepted definition of child molestation. There is, however, a broad definition that has been accepted by those involved in the clinical and legal aspects of child sexual abuse. Child molesters can be defined as older persons whose conscious sexual desires and responses are directed, at least in part, toward dependent, developmentally immature children and adolescents who do not fully comprehend these actions and are unable to give informed consent (Lanyon 176). Child molestation hurts the child s well-being and also has been shown to damage their psychological, moral, and social development.

The Council on Scientific Affairs of the American Medical Association states that child sexual abuse can be defined as the sexual exploitation of a child for the gratification or profit of an adult (798). The Council also adds that child sexual abuse often does not involve sexual intercourse. Child sexual abuse can range from fondling and exhibitionism to intercourse, or use of the child in the production of pornography (798).

Frequently, pedophilia is equated with child sexual abuse. This is an erroneous connection. Pedohilia, which means love of children, implies that a mental disorder is present in the individual, where as a child molester refers to a general sexual maltreatment and a mental illness does not exist (Barnard et al. 8).

According to DSM IV a person meeting these criteria may be considered a pedophile:

A. Over a period of at least 6 months, recurrent intense sexual arousing fantasies, sexual urges, or behaviors involving sexual activity with a prepubescent child or children (generally 13 years or younger).

B. The fantasies, urges, or behavior cause clinically significant distress, or

impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.

C. The person is at least age 16 years and at least 5 years older that the child

or children in criterion A ( 528 ).

To sum up, all pedophiles are child molesters, but not all child molesters are pedophiles.

There are many myths and misconceptions about child molesters. The child molester is often thought to be a stranger lurking behind bushes, a dirty old man, a retardate, a crazy man, an alcoholic/drug addict, a sex fiend, or someone predisposed to antisocial behavior (Barnard et al. 6). It is important to realize that attempts to describe the typical child molester are ambiguous, variable, and frequently misleading. There is much difference in personality structure among child molesters.

In a study conducted by Tingle, Barnard, Robbins, Newman, and Huchinson, incarcerated child molesters often shared the following characteristics: physical and /or sexual abuse growing up; alcohol or substance abuse; preoccupation with sexuality; ignorance, confusion or guilt about their own sexuality; societal and peer pressure to be macho, aggressive, controlling or violent; marital stress; interpersonal deficits; either no or few friendships while growing up; the absence of moral development; and feelings of anxiety, powerlessness, fear, inadequacy, anger and low self esteem (Barnard et al. 36). The study also concluded that the molester typically experienced chaos in his home situation (36). There was also an absence of a close relationship with the father, parental abandonment, parental separation or divorce, neglect, physical and or sexual abuse, and family violence. Barnard et al. reports the research results of Abel and his associates which shows that non incarcerated sex offenders come from every socioeconomic stratum and are usually well educated. Their potential deviant interests and fantasies have surfaced by 12 or 13 years of age (6). According to Lanyon s assessment, the child molester is most commonly a respectable, otherwise law-abiding person, who may escape detection for exactly that reason (177). The offender may be heterosexual or homosexual, and involve both sexes as either perpetrator or victim. Most molesters fall in the age group of thirty to forty with an average age of 37(Capozzella 123).

Most child sexual abuse is primarily perpetrated by male, however many experts believe that female child molesters are underestimated (Barnard et al. 41). This may be the case because victims of female abuse may be less willing to report the offense, also women can hide their acts more easily than men (41). Barnard et al. report that sexual abuse by women does in fact occur, however, child sexual abuse is primarily perpetrated by men (42).

Historically, the offenses of child molesters against children have been seen as nonviolent. Molesters have been described as timid, childish, and passive (Stermac et al. 450). Some see child-adult sex relations restricted to kissing, fondling, and other nonviolent forms of contact that occur in a loving context (450). Beliefs such as these have led to stereotypes about child and adult sexual relations, as well as the belief that the nature of sexual contact is nonviolent. Child molesters themselves often believe that they are the victims of seductive and aggressive children and that sexual contact with children is not harmful to the child (Stermac et al. 451).

Several studies have challenged these views and have revealed evidence of violence between adults and children. A study by Marshall and Christie (1981) examining the penitentiary files of 41 incarcerated child molesters revealed that 29 of them had used threats of physical violence, or actual violence, in the commission of their offenses (Stermac et. al.). Seventeen cases involved the use of excessive force resulting in observable injuries. Evidence of damage to genital areas from attempted penetration was found in 29% of the cases (Stermac et al. 451). Stermac et al. also report a study conducted by Erickson, Walbeck, and Seely (1988) which investigated the sexual behavior of 299 convicted child molesters. They discovered a high rate of vaginal contact (41.5%) with female victims and anal contact (33.3%) with male victims among this population (451). These are extreme techniques used to subdue children. In a study conducted by Stermac, Hall and Henskens (1989) they reviewed patients referred to the Clarke Institute of Psychiatry over a five-year period who were charged with a sexual offense against a child 13 years of age or younger. (29 incest offenders and 37 non familial offenders were reviewed.) Details of the index offenses revealed that both groups of offenderes had penetrated victims in over half of the cases, had used physical force (such as beating) in 89% of cases, and had used verbal threats in 26% of cases (Stermac et al. 450). This was a small sample, however these studies challenge the stereotype that offenders are non-violent.

Men who engage children in sexual activity have been known to hold distorted beliefs and cognitions about their behavior (Hayashino et al. 106). Hayashino et al. see cognitive distortions as self-statements molesters use to deny, minimize, justify, and rationalize their behavior (106). Hayashino et al. report that Gore (1988) found that child molesters were likely to see children as wanting to engage in sexual intercourse with them, as being unharmed by these actions, and to view adult-child sex as socially acceptable(106). Barnard et al. report a study by Abel, Becker, and Cunningham-Rather which shows that child molesters have been known to hold the following distorted beliefs: That a child who doesn t physically resist wants to have sex, having sex with a child is a good way to teach the child about sex, a child doesn t tell anybody about the sex with an adult because they enjoy it, society will someday condone sex with children, unless an adult has actual intercourse with a child no harm is being done, when a child asks about sex it means the child wants to have sex, and finally the relationship between a child and adult grows as a result of sex (Barnard et al. 34).

Holmes (1983) reports three different types of molesters (60). The immature child molester desires to fondle, touch, or caress the child. This type of molester has never been able to establish a positive relationship with his peers and only feels comfortable around children. A second type of offender is the regressed child molester. This type experienced a fairly normal childhood and good relationships with his peers. He also has had positive sexual relations with others. Feelings of self-doubt and inadequacy developed later in his life, causing poor social and sexual performance and resulted in some cases of alcoholism and poor working performance. The sexual act against the child is usually precipitated by some substantial jolt to the offender s sense of sexual adequacy. The offense is usually impulsive, and an attempt to deal with certain life stresses. A third type of offender is the aggressive child molester. This is the most dangerous type. He is often sadistic and violent in his need for stimulation and sexual excitement. The attacks are vicious and aggressive in nature, consisting of anal and oral sex, often resulting in harm to the child. For this type of molester, the child symbolizes everything that the offender hates about himself and the child becomes the object of punishment (Holmes 60,61).

Schwartz and Cellini report a FBI typology developed by Lanning (1986) which includes seven subgroups. This classification system is primarily used to facilitate criminal investigations. The group includes: the regressed offender, who may suffer a brief period of low self-esteem fostering their sexual acts with children, the morally indiscriminate offenders who are antisocial and abuse children because they are vulnerable, the sexual indiscriminate offender likes to experiment with almost any type of sexual behavior, the inadequate offender is a social outcast and use children to satisfy their sexual needs, and the offender who shows a strong sexual preference for children, which has stayed with him throughout his life. This last subtype includes, Seduction-who have exclusive interest in children. Introverted-this group has an interest in children but lack the skills to seduce them. Typically, they molest strangers. Lastly is the Sadistic offender. This group is dangerous but rare. They like to inflict pain on children (Schwartz and Cellini , 3-24).

Why do adults sexually abuse children? Most authorities now agree that there is no single cause. There is a complicated mixture of organic, psychological, cultural, environmental, and sociological factors(Barnard et al. 22). Whole books have been written devoted to determining the causes of child sexual abuse. To sum up, psychiatrists have suggested numerous reasons for child sexual abuse to include: sexual inadequacy, lack of confidence with the opposite sex, adult ridicule of small organs; unhappy martial relations; mental sex block, an unfortunate childhood sexual experience, older men trying to recapture their youth, particularly when impotent; a period of senility where the molester begins to revert back to his childhood; and people who are sickly, crippled, and unable to attract adult attention and thus turn to children (Capozzella 126).

Although this paper is focusing on the child molester, it is important not to forget the victims. Molestation can have a tremendous impact upon a child. O Connell, Leberg, and Donaldson (34) report effects of sexual abuse to include: traumatic sexualization, where the child s sexuality is shaped in a way that is inappropriate to their age level of development. Emotional and behavioral problems can result from this traumatazation. As they grow up, many abuse victims become sexually promiscuous. Other abuse victims are turned off by sex, and view sexual activity with negative emotions and memories, leading to problems with adult relationships. Stigmatation can also develop where the victim sees the abuse as his or her own fault. Victims are left with feelings of worthlessness due to the abuse. Many victims will want to be left alone. One way to isolate yourself from others is through the use of drugs or alcohol and many victims become dependent upon drugs and alcohol (O Connell et al. 23). O Connell et al. also report feelings of betrayal and powerlessness as consequences of sexual abuse(24). Clinicians in the public health community must realize that victim treatment is needed not only to reduce psychological trauma but also to provide preventive intervention ( Barnard, 7 ). According to Barnard et al. as many as 50 to 60% of incarcerated sex offenders have reported that they themselves were victims of sexual abuse as children and continued this victimization in adult life as abusers (7).

The number of incarcerated sex offenders has risen dramatically in the last several years ( Schwartz and Cellini, 4-3). In the United States the number increased by 48% between 1988-1990 (Schwartz and Cellini, 4-3). During the same period the total United States prison population increased by 20%( Schwartz and Cellini 4-3 ). Overall in 1990, 12.3% of the total U.S. prison population was incarcerated for sex offenses (Schwartz and Cellini, 4-3 ). A majority of these sex offenses were for child molestation.

As a result of the increased reports of child molestation, criminal justice agencies have expanded resources to apprehend, prosecute, and punish child molesters. Consequently, resources to incarcerate offenders have become strained. There is also a growing general perception that incarceration alone does not deter these offenders from committing new crimes upon release. Some experts believe that offenders need to be treated.

There is disagreement about whether sex offenders can be treated. According to Barnard et al. the primary goal of the treatment of the child molester is to control the deviant behavior patterns, impulses, and preoccupations that impel the sexual exploitation of children (71). They further state that these characteristics must either be internally or externally inhibited to reduce the risk of repeated offenses (71). Langevin and Lang point out that clinicians cannot change the child molester s preference for children (403). The molester may not want to give up the behavior that triggers child victimization because the actual act is linked with the molester s sexual identity, and, is valued by the offender. Barnard et al. cite Krafft-Ebing who describe how difficult and tiring it is to treat child molesters and that treatment is often a waste of time (71). He believes the best measure is to keep molesters away from children (71). Society currently favors ostracism and supports incarcerating known child molesters. Incarceration however, at best is an incomplete and temporary solution, since most imprisoned molesters are later released into the community. According to the most recent Bureau of Justice report, the national average sentence for convicted violent felons was less than eight years, of which they served less than four in prison ( Vachss A13).

Individual state policies, court orders, legislative mandates, and/or consent decrees may demand treatment be offered to everyone who doesn t refuse it. Some molesters who sincerely want to change their behavior, will benefit from therapy.

There appears to be a real backlog in the treatment profession for sex offenders ( Holmes 70). Many treatment facilities are filled to capacity in hopes of rehabilitating the offender.There are a wide range of treatments that are practiced. Behavioral modification, aversion therapy, sociodrama, peer group sessions, and psychotherapy are all available alternatives. Prisons, hospitals, halfway houses, and outpatient programs are all institutional alternatives.

I believe that there needs to be a more strigent criteria for offenders eligible for treatment programs. Too many offenders are being treated who are not appropriate candidates and will not benefit. This is a waste of time, as well as resources. Holmes, believes that for successful rehabilitation several things are essential. First of all, the offender must admit his guilt. Secondly, the molester must be held accountable for his actions. Third, the offender must be made aware of the possible circumstances that lead to his deviant sexual behavior, so he can detect early warning signs. The molester must also be willing to develop other ways of relating to children in a nonsexual matter (70).

Schwartz and Cellini report that Rosen listed the following criteria for successful

treatment : younger, first offense, no previous treatment failure, high IQ, ability to express self and good abstract thinking, socially well adjusted, depression, shame, disgust, and guilt related to deviant fantasy or action, healthy social environment, married, desire for cure, and a sincere effort to control behavior (8-3 ).

Schwartz and Cellini also report Marcus criteria used to identify potentially dangerous offenders who would be inappropriate for treatment: bed wetting, firesetting and/or cruelty to animals, delinquent acts between ages 8-13; escalation of sex offenses, interrelated criminality with sexual offenses, sustained excitement prior to and at the time of the offense, no remorse for the victim, explosive outbursts, lack of human warmth or humanitarian depth, and lack of social know-how (8-3).

Treatment does not eliminate all sex crimes. At best, there are indications that it cuts the recidivism rate somewhere between 10 and 30% (Schwartz and Cellini 8-3). How does this benefit measure against the cost of treatment?

Prentky and Burgess looked at the cost of treatment in the Massachusetts program that has operated for years in the state hospital in Bridgewater, Massachusetts. They compared 129 child molesters treated in that program and released with a control group of untreated child molesters from Canada (111). In both cases, they looked at charges on new sex offenses in a five-year follow-up. They found that 25% of the treated child molesters were charged with a new sex offense which compared favorably with 40% of the untreated abusers being charged with a new sex offense (111).

Prentky and Burgess also computed the cost for a scenario in which there was a new, detected sexual crime against one victim. They estimated that the cost for investigation, arrest, prosecution and incarceration for an average of 7 years and no treatment for the offender would total $169,029 (113). Expenses for the victim, which included treatment and cure came to $14,304 (113). This assumes one victim. Most likely there were other offenses for which they were not caught. This assumes the person goes to prison for seven years on what might be a second or third conviction. In some states he may go to prison for a much longer time.

This expense was compared with the cost of treating the offender in the Bridgewater program. In Massachusetts prior to 1991, those who were released from treatment were in confinement for an average of five years instead of seven years in prison. It turned out that the cost of treating one offender for five years in the hospital based program was $118,146, which is less than the cost of one new sexual offense which came to a total of $183,333 (113).

The fact is that many studies have been conducted with varying results. The majority show that successful treatment is cheaper than having an offender recidivate. Also, successful treatment will protect society because eventually even the untreated offender will be released from prison. The key however, is successful treatment. As shown earlier, treatment at best is shown to cut recidivism rates between 10-30%. Incarcerated offenders should be carefully screened to determine if they will benefit from treatment . Again, too many offenders are being treated who are not appropriate candidates and will not benefit from the treatment. For example, Brooks reports that for many years the administrators of Avenal, New Jersey s prison/treatment center, have ignored the fact that some offenders will not benefit from treatment and have purported, without success but with stubborn perseverance, to treat hundreds of offenders who leave Avenel completely unaffected by the inadequate treatment provided there (65). Brooks believes that individuals who will not benefit from treatment belong in prison for a much longer duration than what they usually serve (65).

Whether treated or not, eventually offenders are released from prison. Most of those releasedare put on parole, while others are sent to community based outpatient programs. Community based programs are used to treat the offender and protect

society, while the offender makes the transition from prison to freedom.

Schwartz and Cellini report on Nichololas Groth who offered several suggestions for evaluating the dangerousness of pedophilic offenders for purposes of placing them in community programs ( 8-7 ). Groth suggests that the evaluation must disclose (1). How much of the offender s criminal behavior is the result of external situational factors and how much is due to psychological determinates and (2). The circumstances under which the assault occurred and the chances and conditions of recurrence ( 8-7 ). In order to evaluate these questions, Groth says that one must determine: Frequency of offending, appropriate sexual outlets, questionable sexual outlets ( e.g. pornography or prostitution), history of misdemeanor sex crimes, access to victims, and specificity of victims ( 8-7 ). Any drug or alcohol problems should be evaluated and then taken into account.

Family, friendships, and employment also may be major factors in determining risk. An offender with no means of supporting himself, or with drug or alcohol problems is less inclined to pursue or benefit from treatment.

Upon release from prison, treatment, or parole, child molesters are free in society. The 1990 s may be characterized as a time of growing public and political impatience with criminals in general, and with sex offenders in particular. Currently, state legislatures around the country are drafting legislation that responds to the public outrage. Often these crimes are committed by an offender paroled or released from the corrections system after serving their maximum sentence. Washington became the first state to pass a law which notified the community when a sex offender was being released into that community. It was called the Community Protection Act of 1990. After the brutal murder of Megan Kanka, New Jersey s state legislature drafted a series of laws known as Megan s Law which is aimed at protecting the community from sex offenders. Currently, Megan s Law is in constitutional limbo. It appears that certain provisions will pass constitutional guidelines while others will not. Highlights of Megan s Law include: registration of sex offenders, community notification, and civil commitment . Again, all of these proposals are coming under constitutional and civil rights issues.

New Jersey s registration act is the least questionable of the three enactments. New Jersey s Supreme Court and the federal Third Circuit Court of Appeals have both upheld their constitutionality.

Law enforcement authorities belief that the benefit to society of registration statues is substantial in that registration helps in the investigation of sexual crimes, establishes a legal ground for detaining known sex offenders who are found in suspicious circumstances, and tends to deter some registered offenders from committing new sexual crimes because they know they can easily be traced (Brooks, 57). Registration takes little time or effort, does not unduly invade privacy, and does not publicly stigmatize offenders or make it difficult for them to adjust to community living, so civil rights are minimally intruded upon (Brooks, 57).

The community notification law is highly controversial. The statue establishes three different levels of notification, based on the degree of risk of further offenses for each individual sex offender (Brooks ,58). The first level is for the lowest risk offenders, and requires only notification to the victims and law enforcement agencies that are likely to encounter the offender ( Brooks,58). The second level is for moderate risk offenders and requires notification only to such community organizations as the Boy Scouts, educational institutions, and day care centers (Brooks, 58). The offenders with the highest risk of reoffending are assigned to level three. This level has generated the most controversy. Level three says that the entire community that is likely to encounter

an offender may be notified (Brooks,58). This notification may take place through the use of posters and placards, and similier material. This level of notification can have a tremendous impact on the offender. Brooks reports that factors considered in placing an offender in level three include compulsive and repetitive behavior, a sexual preference for children, a failure to respond to treatment, or refusal of treatment, a failure to show remorse or denial in having committed the offense, failure to comply with conditions of supervision, and a history of recent threats (59).

The third statue in Megan s Law provides for the indeterminate civil commitment of mentally ill sex offenders who are regarded as too dangerous to be at large even though they have completed prison sentences for sexual crime (Brooks,62). There is only a small minority of offenders who fall into this category. Brooks states that the involuntary civil commitment of violent sexual predators is based on the well-established police power of the state to civilly commit persons who are both mentally disordered and dangerous (62). Especially those with the inability to control their sexual behavior (62).

The registration statue now seems fairly well accepted. There are delays in the community notification statue and the civil commitment statues. The major constitutional argument against these statues is that that deny the sex offender substantive due process of law.

Obviously, there is not a perfect solution to the problem of preventing sex offenders from recommitting crimes upon release into the community. I feel that Megan s Law and laws proposed similar to it are a good idea. However, these proposals are meeting constitutional and civil rights scrutiny.

Brooks provides several suggestions as to how criminal justice systems can reduce the problem of child molestation. He believes that there should be a broad attack on the problem of sexual offenders which should involve issues not yet dealt

with either by legislatures or the judiciaries (65).

Brooks points out that one problem is plea bargaining, which not only commonly results in inappropriately sharp reductions of sentences, but also in serious

sexual crimes being downgraded to non-sexual ones (65). For example, Jesse Timmendeques; Megan s killer, should have received a 30 year sentence for his second sex offense but by plea bargaining served only a 6 year sentence.

According to Brooks, other areas that should receive attention include the tracking and monitoring of repetitive sex offenders who are regarded as dangerous (65). In addition, the practice of giving lenient sentences should be evaluated (65).

My conclusions are that child molesters should receive more severe punishments. Make the punishment fit the crime. Each case should be looked at separately and the circumstances of the offense should be evaluated. Repetitive offenders should be locked up as long as possible. It is my opinion that our safety is worth the cost of locking them up. Repetive offenders who will not benefit from treatment should remain incarcerated for life terms. Recently in the news, a man repeatedly convicted for child molestation said the only way he won t harm any more children upon his release is if he is put to death. I am not advocating the death penalty for child molesters however, offenders such as this cannnot be released from prison. Treatment programs should be offered to offenders, however, offenders should be carefully screened to see if they will benefit from such treatment. It should be determined whether an offender is amenable and motivated to accept treatment. Statues such as Megan s Law are a good idea, however I don t believe that these type laws will withstand constitutional standards.

Finally, the issue of sexual crimes has many dimensions, involving the criminal justice system and the mental health field. An effective approach to preventing sex offenses should involve not only the legislature, but also police, prosecutors, judges, treatment personal, and researchers. All of these agencies must work together to reduce the problem of child molestation.


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