Why and Who commits sexual violence against children?
Child abusers exist across races and gender. Understanding what is behind sexual abuse can help us more effectively prevent sexual violence. As well as just give victims power and understand what their abuser was doing.
Note: None of this is meant to be seen as excusing behaviour.
Motivators of Abuse
Not all child sexual abusers are what we conceive as paedophiles, some abusers are considered situational offenders. They have an overall preference to interact sexually with adults but sublimate their violence on children. These people have fewer victims and are more likely to abuse family members. These romantic relationships they do have can also be abusive themselves but some have only covert abuse as having the “perfect” family hides their abuse. (12, 13, 14,n17, 18)
Abusers who meet the definition of paedophilia are likely to have more victims and for them to be acquaintances or strangers. The abusive behaviour of paedophiles tends to begin earlier than the situation offenders. (18)
Abusers report that they search out young people for their gratification because they feel like they don’t otherwise have power. They feel powerless in life and/or have a history of being a victim of abuse and a lack of autonomy. They offend to get this need for control and power met. This does not excuse behaviour at all, but this is a reason people report. (11)
Compartmentalization is seen in people who commit CSA and any forms of SA. Brains are very good at putting barriers around emotions, thoughts, and urges. Then abusers can build schemas where they are good people separate from the harm they do. (11, 12, 13)
There are also heavy cognitive distortions seen in abusers. They convince themselves they are not hurting someone. This and compartmentalization answer why they can go around like nothing is happening. They might also believe that they are owed sex, that they deserve to do this, that the child is somehow sexual or that the child has to be sexually abused for some reason. (13)
Some studies in forensic psychology show that there are low rates of victims becoming victimizers. There was a higher occurrence of the abused becoming abusers was higher in males but was not the majority. Hurt people indeed tend to be the ones to hurt other people, but when it comes to CSA the children who were abused are not likely to abuse others. (17)
Hierarchical families and systems are more likely to produce sexual abusers. Systems like patriarchy or cultures where children are meant to be “seen and not heard.” can tighten to risk of sexual violence (24)
Relation To Victim:
- Over 90% of children who are victims of sexual abuse know their abuser. (2,16)
- In up to 60% of child sexual abuse, the perpetrator is someone to whom the child is related and may depend upon for care. (24)
- Of those who abused children under the age of 6, 50% of the abusers were direct relatives of the victim. (16)
- 23% of those who abused children ages 12-17 were family members. (16)
- 7% of victims who are in the school system are abused by members of the education system. (23)
Demographics of Abusers:
- 47,000 men and 5,000 women were the alleged perpetrators throughout the study in 2016 (1)
- Homosexual [gay/lesbian] individuals are no more likely to sexually abuse children than heterosexual individuals. (4)
- In 88% of the sexual abuse claims that CPS substantiates or finds supporting evidence of, the perpetrator is male. In 9% of cases, they are female, and 3% are unknown(1)
- Perpetrators of abuse that was digital or began digital before becoming contact CSA were mostly men (7,8,9, 10)
- 76% of adult abusers were married (16)
- Only 35% of male perpetrators follow the “cycle of abuse” narrative and were victims of CSA themselves. (23)
- Juveniles make up 20% of those arrested for sex offences (3)
- Up to 1/3 of child sexual abuse is perpetrated by another minor in USA & UK (5)
- In England and Wales police between 2017 and 2020 out of a sample size of 11,840 incidents of intrafamilial sexual abuse, 24% were between siblings. 73% of the siblings who were harmed were female and 26% were male; 74% of the siblings who committed harm were male and 7% were female (6)
- 43% of the offenders of sexual assault against children under 6 are minors. Of these offenders, 14% are under 12 (19)
- 1/8 of juvenile offenders are younger than age 12. (20)
- Juvenile offenders against other children are more likely than adult offenders to offend in groups and offend at schools. They also tend to have younger and more male victims. (21)
- United States Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Children’s Bureau. Child Maltreatment Survey, 2016 (2018).
- Finkelhor, D. (2012). Characteristics of crimes against juveniles. Durham, NH: Crimes against Children Research Center.
- Hanson, R., Harris, A.J.R., Helmus, L., & Thornton, D. (2014). High-risk sex offenders may not be high-risk forever. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 29(15), 2792-2813. doi:10.1177/0886260514526062
- Jenny, Carole, Roesler, Thomas A. , Poyer, Kimberly L. (1994) Are children at risk for sexual abuse by homosexuals? Pediatrics, Vol. 94 No. 1
- Yates, P., & Allardyce, S. (2021). Sibling sexual abuse: A knowledge and practice overview. London: Centre of Expertise on Child Sexual Abuse
- Adams, A., & Crosby, E. (2022). Establishing the prevalence of sibling sexual abuse as reported to and recorded by police forces across England and Wales. RCEW National Sibling Sexual Abuse Project.
- Aslan, D. and Edelmann, R. (2014). Demographic and offence characteristics: a comparison of sex offenders convicted of possessing indecent images of children, committing contact sex offences or both offences. The Journal of Forensic Psychiatry & Psychology, 25(2), 121-134
- Buschman, J., Wilcox, D., Krapohl, D., Oelrich, M. and Hackett, S. (2010b). Cybersexoffender risk assessment: an explorative study. Journal of Sexual Aggression, 16(2), 197-209.
- Tener, D., Wolak, J. and Finkelhor, D. (2015). A typology of offenders who use online communications to commit sex crimes against minors. Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma, 24, 319-337.
- DeMarco, J., Sharrock, S., Crowther, T., & Barnard, M. (2018). Behaviour and Characteristics of Perpetrators of Online-facilitated Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation. Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA).
- Walker, K., Pilinger, C., & Brown, S. (2018). Characteristics and motivations of perpetrators of child sexual exploitation. Child Sexual Exploitation Perpetrators Research Programme. Retrieved January 1, 2023, from https://www.csacentre.org.uk/documents/characteristics-motivations-cse/
- California Department of Justice, & M. and F. A. S. A., California Megan’s Law (2017). California Government. Retrieved January 7, 2023, from https://www.meganslaw.ca.gov/mobile/Education_MythsAndFacts.aspx
- Office of Justice Programs, Faupel, S., & Przybylski, R., Chapter 2: Etiology of Adult Sexual Offending (2015). SMART. Retrieved January 7, 2023, from https://smart.ojp.gov/somapi/chapter-2-etiology-adult-sexual-offending
- YouTube. (2019). Types of Sex Offenders: A Forensic Psychologist’s Perspective. Dr. Jeff Kieliszewski, Forensic Psychologist. Retrieved January 7, 2023, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fqgADTRHndo&list=WL&index=10&ab_channel=Dr.JeffKieliszewski%2CForensicPsychologist
- University of Kent. (2016). Sexual Offending: Measuring and understanding paedophilic sexual interest. YouTube. Retrieved January 7, 2023, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CrVlyahXoOg&list=WL&index=11&ab_channel=UniversityofKent.
- YWCA. (2017). WWV-CSA-Fact-Sheet-Final.pdf. YWCA, org.
- Glasser, M., Kolvin, I., Campbell, D., Glasser, A., Leitch, I., & Farrelly, S. (2001). Cycle of child sexual abuse: Links between being a victim and becoming a perpetrator. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 179(6), 482-494. doi:10.1192/bjp.179.6.482
- Abel, G. G., Mittleman, M. S., & Becker, J. V. (1985). “Sex offenders: Results of assessment and recommendations for treatment.” In M. H. Ben-Aron, S. J. Hucker, & C. D. Webster (Eds.)Clinical Criminology: The assessment and treatment of criminal behaviour (pp. 207–220).
- Snyder, H. N. (2000). Sexual assault of young children as reported to law enforcement: Victim, incident, and offender characteristics. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics. Retrieved January 12, 2009 from http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/pdf/saycrle.pdf
- Finkelhor, D., Ormrod, R., Chaffin, M. (2009) Juveniles who commit sex offences against minors. Juvenile Justice Bulletin, OJJDP, Office of Justice Programs
- Greenfeld, L.A. (1997). Sex Offenses and Offenders An Analysis of Data on Rape and Sexual Assault. U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, NCJ-163392
- Hassan, Mona & Gary, Faye & Killion, Cheryl & Lewin, Linda & Totten, Vicken. (2015). Patterns of Sexual Abuse among Children: Victims’ and Perpetrators’ Characteristics. Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma. 24. 400-418. 10.1080/10926771.2015.1022289.
- Milenkovic, D. (2022, March 21). 23 horrific Child sexual abuse statistics. Safe at Last. Retrieved March 3, 2023, from https://safeatlast.co/blog/child-sexual-abuse-statistics
- Wings. (2022, June 30). Intrafamilial sexual abuse or incest. Wings Foundation. Retrieved March 3, 2023, from https://www.wingsfound.org/resource/intrafamilial-abuse/