The Scope of The Issue
It’s more widespread than you’d think, with around 275,000 cases of child sex abuse every year in the US. The approximate number of US sex abuse survivors exceeds 60 million. These numbers may sound shocking, and they should- because this is the size of the issue that we’re facing. We don’t have exact numbers as to the number of cases juveniles are the cause of, however, it’s estimated to be around a fifth of all cases.
Juvenile Sex Offenses
When it’s children or youth who commit the sexual offense, it’s no different than when an adult does. It is considered any behavior that is sexually abusive. It is contact that occurs without consent, and is sexual in nature. It can be as a result of deception, manipulation, coercion, or game-playing.
It can also include behavior that is often brushed off, such as exposing private parts, obscene phone calls, rubbing against someone, and other types of harassment. Most offenses by adolescents are more serious, though, and are generally an attempt to have intercourse.
The perpetrator’s age shouldn’t be ignored, or dismissed. Sexually aggressive behavior, is sexually abusive behavior. Flashing, groping, and other “less” severe actions should not be dismissed as the typical boys will be boys type of behavior. These are all signs of a potential abuser, or an abuser.
Cause & Pattern
There are a variety of theories as to why some children and teenagers may sexually abuse other children or teens. While there is no clear formula as to why, because offending behaviors are complex, the theory that has been most widely accepted is learning theory. This is that the behavior is linked to a variety of factors, which includes their own sexual victimization, an early exposure to violence and sexuality, substance abuse, an exposure to child pornography, a heightened arousal to children, as well as being around aggressive adults, or experiencing violence in their own families.
These theories suggest that juvenile sex offenders are moving through an expected progression. This cycle sees a significant event cause a negative emotional response in the juvenile. It’s an attempt on the part of the juvenile to gain control of the response, however, it fails. This then results in rage and anger, resulting in fantasies of overpowering someone else, as well as thoughts of retaliation, which then result in an assault.
This cycle may be too rigid, as interviews with juvenile sex offenders have shown that any series of problems in life could trigger the feelings that result in an offense. Regardless of why or how the offenses are triggered- what may start as a hands-off behavior, often escalates to assault.