At a kid’s price! The ugly truth about child molestation

Apr 4, 2024 | 0 comments

By Barbara Brosco

Mary lies in her bed at night crying a faint-hearted whimpering cry.  While she sleeps, she scratches the sides of the wallboard with her fingernails, repetitively peeling away the wallboard leaving indentations as if left by chickens scratching. Upon arising in the morning, Mary is haggard, and tired looking for her young age.  Mary is 11 years old and her world is empty of emotion.

Sturdily built as if this 8-year-old boy was more like 16, Shawn has a delightful horse smile from ear to ear, and a bright handsome face.  Shawn readily hugs and kisses you as he wraps his arms around you in a bear hug fashion.  If you are a female, he will nozzle his face into your breasts and inappropriately kiss you on each.  Shawn verbalizes the street talk of the most experienced, promiscuous young adult.  He is precocious and seductive with adult women as well as with his playmates.  Slang terms and sexual jargon are language by-products of Shawn’s early years.

Mary and Shawn are both victims of a most hideous crime.  Both Mary and Shawn have been molested by people they knew and trusted.  Each has also been molested by others known outside of their immediate families.  By the age of 3, Mary had been multiply sexually abused by her mother’s boyfriend, uncle, father, and grandpa.  Shawn, on the other hand, had missed most of his first grade of schooling while his mother kept him home to meet her own sexual desires and dependency needs.

For Mary, and Shawn, and thousands of other children around the world who fall victim to child molestation, childhood has become a tragedy.  A tragedy that will shadow their lives for many years to come.  Never was this idea more powerfully expressed than when Ned O’Gorman wrote, “Childhood is a gift of the gods given to children.  It is as precious as the rubies they give the earth and the sun that gives the spheres.  It is each child’s absolutely — as rare as a unicorn or a phoenix.  One childhood to every child.  No two childhoods are alike.  Childhood is the form that upholds each child’s life forever.  If a man or a society taints a child’s childhood, brutalizes it, strikes it down, and corrupts it with fear and bad dreams, then he maims that child forever, and the judgement on that man and that society will be terrible and eternal.”

The definition of a molested child brings a wide range of descriptions under investigation. Just what entails the actual abuse seems to be summed up by experts to mean a variety of different behaviors.  Everything from fondling a child by an adult, verbal sexual suggestions by an adult to a child, oral copulation or forcible sexual intercourse (rape).  Regardless of the degree of involvement, these children have without choice, been brutalized, struck down and become filled with great fears and burdensome pains.

Child molestation has become a problem at all levels both local and national.  Increases in confirmed cases of incest in the U.S. are rising from 50 percent to 500 percent a year, depending on location.

The U.S. National Center on Child Abuse in 2021 estimated that at least 600,000 cases of neglect and sexual abuse occurs every year.  One researcher says between 1980-2022, in the United States, 15 percent of the population is involved in incest with another estimating 20 percent.

In 1986, The Christian Science Monitor asked the question, “How widespread is abuse in the United States?”  There is abroad range of estimates.  The National Committee for Prevention of Child Abuse (NCPCA) say the figure is somewhere between 200,000 and 600,000 which is a 200 percent increase over a decade ago.  But the NCPCA admits if does not know whether this trend reflects a growing number of cases or merely better reporting.

In the International Law Review, Mollie McSweeney reports in recent article, in Ecuador many victims or sexual assault  are not protected by the government and many allegations are not reported.  Of the 69 percent of reported molestation cases in both Quito and Guayaquil, it is said the girls’ average age was 10 to 19 years.  Again, stating the boys are also victims, but less data was available.

Although statistics continue to show an increase of child molestation, the greater problem is the one that surrounds the actual trauma and overlay of emotional problems when a child has been molested.  Currently, studies are analyzing molestation according to its type, duration of the event, and the age of the child victim.  Many experts are suggesting that the younger the child is when the molestation ceases, the less severe the future trauma.  For example, children under the age of 3 years do not have much of a past so time, therefore, is often on their side.  When a child is under 3, it appears that with comfort, time and a nurturing situation, time can somewhat outweigh the memory of the sexual abuse, providing the child has not suffered repeated physical assaults.

In time, certainly by the age of 5, development of sexual identity has put molestation in a new light.  Now it is more difficult for the developing child to set aside the molestation and go on with life.  Girls between the ages of 7 and 12 have begun to experience and form many different feelings that have begun to take root.  When a girl has been sexually molested, she often begins to feel isolated.  She feels very alone and ashamed because of what has happened to her.  She also now feels different from other girls her own age.  She may feel tainted, worthless, and in general experience very low self-esteem.  Her low self-esteem may later be acted out by her use of drugs, rebellion or by becoming promiscuous during her teen years.

As time passes, she grows to hate not only her oppressor, but herself as well.   In most cases the girl is depressed, frightened, and feels guilty and ashamed of herself.  She is overwhelmed by the circumstances that surround her situation and is gripped by fear almost to the point of paralysis.  While the molestation is occurring it is common for her to not want to tell anyone what has happened.  The secret may be kept for a very long time.  She fears exposure and worries greatly about what could happen to her or her family if anyone was to find out.  Some girls may stay in a state of being victimized for a long time, or at least until they become older and less afraid of family consequences.

Adolescent girls often find certain stimuli — objects, liquids or colors repulsive as they serve to recall by association the molestation event.  In later years, it is common knowledge that when women victims of sexual abuse form serious relationships, they often have problems relating sexually with their partners because of their past experience.  As stated in “Father Daughter Incest,” author, Judith Lewis Herman comments, “the memory of incest was intrusive and often paralyzing.”  Women complain of disturbing “flashbacks” or memoirs of the incestuous sexual acts in the midst of their lovemaking with a new partner.

With no certainty of long-range results, the traumas are many and are disguised in the varying side-effects associated with women who have been molested.  Studies indicate a life of prostitution oftentimes follows, along with a repeated history of illegitimate pregnancies.  Startling data also indicated that some women who were molested over a long period of time have grown to reject heterosexual relationships altogether, replacing them with the preference for the same sex.

Because molestation is so often thought of as a crime against girls, it is remarkable that it is so easy to push under the carpet the devastating impact upon the boy who has been molested.  In Shawn’s case history, the molestation has occurred for approximately a year and a half without revelation.  Emotional damage from the incident has left Shawn with poor social relating skills that are very inappropriate. Unclear and unaware of what is and isn’t appropriate behavior for an 8-year-old, Shawn acts out in confusion and promiscuity with other children and adult women caretakers.

Confusion of sexual identity can also be seen in other examples, such as revealed by one foster mother in, “A Child’s Journey,” wrote “her abused son was isolated from his peers and disinterested in the normal activities of typical boys.  Instead, he enjoyed making clothes for his Barbie dolls with which he played for hours on end.  He often folded his arms high on his chest in an attempt, he said, “to imitate breasts.”  Confused with his sexual identity, this little boy will need years of consistent role modeling and counseling to help him sort through and correct the feelings and ideas associated with his thought process regarding his own male identity.    It is said that boys are compelled to secrecy even more so than girls and are much less likely to disclose the incest”

It is possible that culturally and socially we have made this exposure less easy for the boys because of the general sexual attitude amongst males regarding their macho-bravado masculinity.  However, any understudy of these facts associated with the molestation of a boy would easily disprove the idea that boys are not as troubled by the event.  Boys also suffer much guilt from the trauma.  Boys seem to be very apprehensive and often distrust others which was much the case with Shawn.  They lack confidence in themselves and have trouble establishing relationships of any kind.  Boys seem to always be distracted and tormented emotionally.  They act out their mixed-up feelings of anger and in some cases regress by becoming withdrawn and somewhat socially retarded in their interactions with the opposite sex.  In Shawn’s case he had already established a very dependent overly involved relationship with his mother.  He had already become the competent breadwinner by stealing food when necessary to care for her.  He had become the adult child taking over the role of the adult male by meeting mother’s sexual desires as well.  Mother and son became interdependent in areas that are not suitable for a 7-year-old.

Shawn is a hypervigilant child, always on the lookout for the next move whether good or bad.  He is intense in every situation and demonstrates this by watching out for himself to avoid any low blows that life may bring.  Shawn’s caretakers, when is finally out of the abusive relationship, work with him to correct his interactions with adult women and his playmates by setting examples of what is appropriate behavior when interacting with others.  Distinctions and examples are drawn for Shawn because for loving of another means physical involvement of a sexual nature.  Shawn has to be reassured often by his caretakers that he is loved.  He often experiences a deep since of mixed-up love-hate feelings since the sexual victimization of him by his natural mother who is now imprisoned.

As with girls, it is noticed that molestation of young boys often leads them onto the path of prostitution.  Books published on prostitution suggests that there are nearly 300,000 boys working the streets in the U.S.  Many believe that a large percentage of these young male prostitutes have opted for life “on the streets” primarily as a result of having been sexually abused in their homes or by known others.

You have heard the saying, “take two aspirins and go to bed, and when you wake up in the morning you will feel better.”  This certainly not true in cases of molestation.  Even in the early stages of fondling or sexual suggestion, the flirtations of the moment seldom leave the child’s memory, unless the child is very young and under the age of three.  It would be so nice to have a magic pill or aspirin that would aid in the treatment of a child’s confused and tainted mind.  But as we have seen there are no magic pills that one can take at any given moment because the psycho-dynamics taking place in sexual assault is manifold.

In the past several decades we have come to know more and more about the actual physical abuse of our children in society.  We have become enlightened through books, newspaper articles, social media presentations and witnessed mass arrests in cases of child molestation rings.  We have witnessed many indictments against various day care centers, throughout the country.  Teachers, coaches, priest, bankers and neighbors have been exposed as pedophiles.  The child molester does not have a picture profile that is easily identifiable.  He may be as common as your friendly, upright neighbor… and that, my friend, is the ugly truth about child molestation!

Although, we have come to a more complete state of awareness of sexual crimes against children, it is not completely clear that we really know what to do about it or how to handle the problems associated with the events.  Have we really been able to help the victims with a treatment plan that works — or is the treatment plan just an illusion and wishful thrinking?

In general, treatment is a word we will use to describe attempts at processing whatever information social workers and psychologist or the victims themselves have learned through their various experiences with molestation.  In addition, we will consider medical, psychological, and physical care deemed necessary to aid in the care of the individual child who has been molested.

The treatment itself starts from the beginning when a child has been molested and it has been discovered.  Treatment begins immediately with the first contacts of intervention.  Perhaps this first step of intervention is the most important.  The supportive actions of family, friends or professionals can have lasting effects.  It can also have a calming, safe feeling for the child victim.  Sensitivity, straight-forwardness, and the right person to talk with is a step in the right direction.

When a child has been molested or raped, medical attention is immediately necessary.  It is not uncommon at this time for doctors to feel a little uneasy with their victims.  Although medical attention is usually superb in the realm of physical care, it not unheard of that doctors fall short in other areas that effect treatment, according to Sandra Butler in “The Conspiracy of Silence: The Trauma of Incest.”  She points out “for most sexual abuse victims, the hospital services presently fall short of providing the supportive, non-threatening atmosphere vital to a victims emotional needs.  Some of the reasons she confers is that child molestation is the least popular diagnosis, and that it hits to close to home and therefore, anyone who becomes too concerned with this particular aspect must be prepared to cope with a very high degree of resistance, innuendos and even harassment from some.  It is easier to ignore or cover up the situation, rather than treat the whole person. “

Involvement in the sexual assault of a child is difficult and, at times, equally as hard for the therapist or counselor who treats the family and the child.  Oftentimes the patterns of treatment are already in the making by the time a therapist has become involved with the child victim and the family.  The child has already been diagnosed and labeled.  It’s possible that prosecution of the offender is already underway.  Possibly the child has even been removed from the home for protection.  Regardless of the point of transition many experiences; both good and bad have taken their toll on the young victim and the family.

Many variables are at work which involve the cooperation of the entire incestual family during therapy.  In order for treatment to work correctly, new patterns of displaying affection must be established between the parent and child.  Acceptance of the wrong done must be acknowledged by the perpetrator so the child can be relieved of any blame the child may feel.  Many treatment plans will also include stress reduction as well as working with the marriage partners to strengthen and learn more about each other’s needs so as to give better balance in the home and marital relationship.  Goals are set and contracts are often written up to aid in the success of the treatment plans.  Much care and personal counseling is given to help the child feel once again that they are important, worthwhile, and have the ability to rise beyond their circumstances.

All these areas of treatment encompass the vital issues that need to be dealt with in a treatment plan.  However, the rate of success can only be determined on an individual basis.  Success in treatment is an area that remains somewhat illusive; who can really determine, if over a lifetime, whether a child who has been molested will grow up with “flashbacks” interrupting their daily lives.  How can we really know success without experiencing the child’s life as they grow into an adult?  As an offender, is it really possible to change the patterns of thinking and to find other viable, healthy ways of expressing needs without the damage and exploitation of children?  It is conceivable that success is possible in certain instances where desire and determination for help supersedes any guilt or shame the victim or offender has experienced.

Social agencies, psychologist, and doctors are making attempts to aid in the success of treatment plans in our changing times, and it is not unlikely that success will more and more be achieved through a greater understanding that accompanies molestation.  But for now, as we consider all the relative data on child abuse and molestation an honest evaluation would entail that treatment is just an illusion of progress — an illusion that all of society would like to see become a reality.
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Barbara Brosco was spokeswoman for the Alameda Country, California Foster Parent Association where her duties included assisting social workers and providing training for new foster parents. She was a foster parent herself, taking in “Awards of the Court” for 10 years. She hosted children aged 7 to 16 in her home. Most of those she served were victims of multiple sexual abuses, abandoned and without legal guardianship. She has lived in Cuenca for 15 years.

“At a kid’s price! The ugly truth about child molestation” is available on Amazon.

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