This paper addresses child sexual abuse as a crime that impacts the victim psychologically, leading to long-term devastating consequences. Over the last three centuries, the number of children who have experienced sexual abuse is staggering. Also, there are many unreported cases mainly incest. Importantly, child sexual assault in the U.S. emerged as a social problem due to the high number of assault reports and lack of policies to curb the vice (Goodyear-Brown, 2011). Traditional laws were only protective as opposed to contemporary legislation that punishes the offenders. Also, children protective agencies didn’t address the issue of incest like it has been addressed in the modern laws.
Child sexual abuse is a subject that is discussed widely around the world and receives attention from government officials, human rights groups, and private individuals. According to Long, Burnett and Thomas (2006), 28-33 percent of females and 12-18% of males have been victims of childhood sexual abuse. However, Maltz (2002) insists that the number may even be large since sexual abuses that involve touch are less reported. Evidently, a significant population around the world is a victim of childhood sexual abuse either through contact or sexual intercourse.
The purpose of this essay is to show how child sexual assault causes severe psychological damage that can have a long-term destructive impact.
The social problem
There are different kinds of child sexual assault which are rampant in the U.S. and in other parts of the globe. Abuse can be seduction by a close relative or violent action perpetrated by strangers. Ideally, defining child sexual can be challenging since children face various forms of abuse in different situations, and the frequency even varies. Maltz (2002) defines sexual assault as an occurrence when an individual overpowers and mistreats another through a sexual action. Regardless of the definition, child sexual abuse is rampant, and it has adverse effects on the victim.
Child sexual abuse is characterized by manipulation of the child by a trusted person, the abuser being a caregiver. Also, the assault can occur several times; it can be repeated episodes and in most accounts, the abuse is incest. The factors that make children susceptible to sexual assault include poverty, conflicts, lonely kids, stepchildren, broken marriages, drug abuse, and the health status of a child.
Importantly, there are many barriers to reporting of child sexual abuse, making the act a severe crime. One of the chief impediments is that the abuser is a trusted person not only by the child but also by the community. Second, the abuser can use gifts to lure the child into committing the act; that way the kid may feel special and fail to report the incidence. Third, most of the offenders usually threaten children not to report the case (Nichols, 2002). They use threats such as the child will face troubles in case they say, the family will abandon them, or no one will believe them.
Statics of child sexual abuse
According to Finkelhor (1984), one out of four girls and one out of 20 boys has faced sexual assaulted at one time during their childhood life. He holds that 20 percent of adult women and 5-10% of men have memories of childhood sexual abuse, and 16% of teenagers aged 14-17 are sexually assaulted each year. According to the study, children aged seven to thirteen are more susceptible to sexual assault.
Three out of four adults were sexually abused by a family member or a person they trust (U .S. Department of Justice, 2003). This study also indicates that 1.6 percent of children aged 12-17 experienced rape.
Incest is the most widespread form of child sexual abuse according to Maltz (2002). The effect of the assault varies from one victim to another. Women who experienced familial abuse when they were children seem to be more depressed than those who were abused by strangers. Importantly, the level of assault also determines the nature and intensity of impact. Premature pornography, internet abuse, and capturing pornographic images are some of the ways through which young children are abused sexually.
How child sexual abuse emerged as a social problem
A child may face psychological or physical issues after sexual assault. Physical problems include health complications such as gynecological disorders that may be long lasting. However, mental issues are more common among sexually abused children. These include anxiety, lack of self-esteem, inability to associate socially, drug abuse and depression.
Child sexual abuse is a significant social problem since it is against human rights. Besides, kids should have sexual exposure at the right time where they can control the situation. Also, the impacts of sexual abuse are very devastating, and a child may be emotionally and mentally unstable due to early exposure to sexual materials. Thus, child sexual abuse causes severe psychological damage affecting the social life of the victim.
History of the problem and policy
In the United States, child sexual assault is be traced to the 1800s. Ideally, children have continually faced assaulted either from their parents or other mature people in their community. Also, in the early 1800s, there were no laws to protect children from sexual abuse. Additionally, there were no policies to punish the offenders. Until the mid-1800s, children were still viewed as a property of their dads while females were a property of their husbands (Oldham, 2005). During this time, child abuse was rampant since the English Common Law protected the men as the custodians of the family and community, giving them the power to manipulate the females.
For a better part of the 20th century, minor assaults were seen as an abnormality committed by people who had psychological problems (Berger n.d.). Thus, the vice was not given much legal attention. Also, there was no a specific definition of child sexual abuse. While some people insist that it was culturally right, others saw it as taboo or offense. The emergence of various theories in the 20th century brought a new understanding of child sexual abuse.
Different social, economic and political factors led to the rise of minor sexual assault in the U.S. Social aspects include cultural beliefs that promote incest, lack of enough shelter especially in the colonial time, race, and psychological issues. Ideally, some fathers sexually abused their children with the belief that kids were a property with no right to choose good and evil. Also, this notion promoted incidences of early marriages, which is also a form of child sexual abuse. During the colonial time, children slept in the same rooms with adults due to the lack of enough shelters. That practice promoted sexual assault, which came from the fellow slaves. Importantly, colonial masters also committed child sexual assault. In the U.S., race is a key factor that led to the emergence of minor sexual assault. The black children were more assaulted sexually as compared to their fellow whites. That trend attributes to the fact that white men felt more superior to the black, and there were also cases of racial discrimination. Due to the racial discrimination, rape was the most rampant form of sexual abuse.
Economic factors that led to the emergence of child sexual abuse include poverty, presence of middle-class families, and desire to acquire wealth. Poverty mainly among the black in the United States led to the emergence of sexual abuse. The black would practice various forms of prostitution at a tender age with an aim of acquiring material things, a practice that is still very rampant in Africa. The middle class had material possessions, and they were the common perpetrators of child sexual abuse.
Importantly, there was no political will to protect children from sexual abuse by the adults and especially their family members. Political differences among states and leaders also promoted child sexual abuse. Evidently, the United States’ soldiers raped children and women from the south during wars. Thus, politics was a key cause for the emergence of child sexual assault.
Evidently, from the above discussion, minor assault isn’t an issue that emerged in the recent past; it has roots in the history of the United States. In the late 19th century, the U.S. social workers knew of childhood sexual abuse yet the most common form was incest. At this time, numerous children protection agencies were founded to address cases of incest. However, these organizations were not successful in resolving the matter. Ironically, these groups portrayed themselves as children-savers. In the 20th century, the same agencies stopped emphasizing the impacts of incest. There were reports of familial cases, but the victims and offenders continually concealed such reports. Ideally, most child sexual abuse was happening among closely related relatives and family members. The vice went from family to strangers and finally to the streets. At that time, the children protection agencies got a new description of child sexual assault.
In the 1960s, minors’ sexual assault was a social problem and the Congress took the matter in the 1970s. There was a debate in 1973 to address childhood sexual abuse. The result was the introduction of the Children Abuse Protective and Treatment Act (About CAPTA, 2011). That was a significant milestone in the fight against childhood sexual assault, and the state was sure of eradicating the issue. However, kid abuse was deep rooted in the history, making it hard to eliminate. The CAPTA gave the federal rule the power to protect children from sexual assault and also to establish an office to deal with the issue. Further, the act advocated for the allocation of funds that will treat the victims of sexual abuse. Essentially, the bill also encouraged victims to report cases of abuse and also empowered parents to inform on family members who assault their children.
I think child protection agencies and federal Act came into effect due to the rampant cases of sexual abuse. In particular, they both emphasize, reporting incest and also taking actions against such situations. The history of child sexual abuse helps us to understand why sexual assault exists in the modern world. Also, it helps us know how various agencies and the state has dealt with the issue in the past. Importantly, it links to the contemporary policies against the act and how the laws can be effective. In the light of the history, child sexual abuse can cause serious problems to the victims. That is even true since the issue dates back to 1800s and there are still not strict policies to address the vice.
Discussion on contemporary policy strategies
The modern policies that address sexual abuse in the United States came into existence due to the Child Protection, which is a provision of the United Nations. This law specifically deals with all forms of child abuse. The minor sexual assault legislation in the United States includes Maltreatments, Kansas v. Hendrik, child incapacity to consent, and incest.
Importantly, minors’ sexual abuse is classified as sort of children maltreatments in the United States federal laws from the debate on children abuse in 1973 (U S Department of Health, 2014). However, the children protection policies differ from one state to another. Nevertheless, most aspects of the abuse and the penalties applied are similar to all States.
Kansas v. Hendrick
The United States high court, ruling on the above matter; sexually abusing a minor is against the constitution and the offender stands to face constitutional laws. This policy also encourages victims to report cases of assault. Also, family members who are aware of a sexual offense should report the issue to the federal courts. Additionally, this policy advocates that there should be a register containing information about all offenders.
Minor’s incapacity to consent
Mostly, the sexual activities between mature individuals are not offenses, except if one of the parties doesn’t agree on the action. On the other hand, a minor is not in a position to offer consent as per the federal laws. Ideally, ‘minor’ can’t make right decisions regarding legal matters due to their age (James, 1960). Nevertheless, the legislation relating to the age of a minor varies between various states. An adult who engages in any sexual action with a child, who is yet to reach the age above a “minor”, commits an offense even if there was consent. Various punishments apply to such an offender and still vary from one state to the other (Perelman, 2006). In most states, there may be an exception when two minors engage in sexual action. Also, if the age difference between the two is a few years, there may be an exception.
In many states in the United States, incest is a crime. Importantly, a person who commits incest may face incest laws rather than child abuse (Vachss, 2005). Solving incest cases usually take place in family courts, even though there are no policies that bar criminal proceedings. If an offender faces the state's laws, they may get less punishment than when facing family courts. Some states have recognized that evasion and amended their laws to suit all offenders. Also, all abusers face similar laws.
Punishments for minors’ sexual assault
The penalties for committing the crime vary with the particular crime for which the abuser is facing. A crime punishment includes imprisonments, fine, restriction of the abuser and registration as a sexual culprit. Civil penalties include compensation for damage, injunction or loss of parent right. Even though the punishment for sexual offenders continues to increase, human rights agencies and the general public is always against the death penalty.
These contemporary policies have been chosen since they are more efficient than the traditional laws. Also, the types of sexual abuse committed in the modern and traditional days are different. The definition of minor sexual assault continues to change, and there was a need to formulate policies that can address the changes. Additionally, in the traditional days, there was more sympathy for sexual offenders, which is not true at present. Above all, the federal policies seek to be superior and protect the children regardless of their race, class and political affiliation.
Evaluation of the policy
Importantly, the contemporary policies against child sexual abuse are preventive. They also encourage victims to report cases of assault while some call for severe punishment of the offenders. Children Maltreatments’ specifically classifies minor sexual assault as unconstitutional. Thus, an offender can face criminal penalties due to engaging in sexual action with a child. This policy proves effective in protecting children from abuse by either strangers or relatives. However, this policy has a loophole since the definition of abuse differs from one state to another. It implies that an action can be considered as an assault in one state while in another the same action is not a crime.
Minor incapacity to consent is so far the most effective policy to guard children against sexual abuse. This law helps to define the difference between a juvenile and adult. It specifically clarifies that a minor is innocent and can’t make a decision regarding legal matters. Thus, any adult who abuses a child sexually commits a crime even if there was consent. Nevertheless, this law has its own downsides since some states define a minor as one who is below 13 years while in other States is 16 years. Besides, some victims don’t report cases victimization.
The policy whereby one faces punishment for engaging in incest is not effective as compared to the others. Ideally, most victims don’t report when they face sexual assault from family members. Also, the existence of family courts and criminal courts compromises the proceedings. That happens since an offender can get a less intensive penalty from one court as opposed to another.
Hence, child sexual abuse continues to affect a large population due to the loopholes in the laws. In a case when one gets a lesser penalty or is not reported, the victim will suffer as well as fail to get justice.
Future recommendations and conclusion
As discussed earlier, historical policies were only protective, and there was no justice for the victims. Also, child protection agencies didn’t address the matter of incest despite its popularity. Further, there were no strong federal laws to protect victims and punish the offenders. All these issues existed since there was no clear definition of sexual abuse. While some states thought of abuse as rape, others included both incest and rape. On the contrary, contemporary policies seek to both protect the victims and also punish the offenders. There are strict federal laws that bar adults (relatives and stranger) from abusing minors sexually. Besides, the penalties for engaging in such as action are severe and shameful.
However, the instances of minor sexual assault are high despite the implementation of the policies. According to Heisler (2012), there were about 62,939 incidences of children sexual assault in 2012. This statistics calls for more strict measures to protect children from abuse. I would propose several strategies such as capital punishments for serial offenders, creation of a national database that contains information on all child abusers and long prison terms. I think these strategies would help lower the cases of child sexual abuse.
This paper offers concrete evidence that child sexual abuse causes severe psychological damage that can have long-term devastating effects. Hence, innovative measures should be put in place not only to protect children from sexual assault but also to punish the abusers.
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