Children are most often sexually abused
by someone they know and trust
. The majority of sex offenders are adult and adolescent adult males. They come from all backgrounds, races, religions, and cultures. They may be poor, rich, educated, uneducated, employed, or unemployed. They are usually heterosexual, and they usually have girlfriends and wives. Who are perpetrators?
They may be husbands, partners, siblings, other family members, someone in the neighborhood or community, or a stranger. Most
sex abuse is perpetrated by a family member or someone close to the child. Read about the eight most common myths of child sexual abuse
Sex offenders provide warning signs
that can alert you to the possibility of a person being a risk to have around your children. Behaviors and personality characteristics can be red flags. Perpetrators plan the abuse in order to gain access to victims. Be aware of grooming
behaviors and intervene immediately. Non-family offenders sometimes target single mothers for potential victims. The grooming process includes adults involved in the child's life as well as the child victim. Offenders assess the mother's vulnerability when determining ease of access to the child. Family members, such as fathers, have easy access, are in positions of power in the home, and have fewer barriers to grooming child victims. They are able to separate the potential child victim from the family, bribe, and manipulate the family environment and family members.
Sex offenders fall into different categories or types
. Some are higher risk than others. However, all offenders are a potential risk to your child. Pedophiles are offenders who prefer to have sex only with children and usually have a preferred age and sex.
Most sex offenders have a sexual addiction
. Sexual abuse is an addictive, compulsive, progressive behavior. Offenders are usually addicted to pornography. They may engage in other sexually deviant behaviors such as exhibitionism. Research shows that incestuous fathers usually act out sexually with non-family members. Treatment
has been found effective for low-risk offenders. Theories
have been developed regarding how a person becomes a sex offender and how to undo this learned behavior. It is clear that not all sex offenders are amenable to treatment. Many will abuse children as long as they have access and think they can get away with it without consequences. The Addiction Model
is a conceptual model that addresses the motivation, characteristics, and behaviors of sex offenders.
Most sex offenders have cycles which go from masturbation and fantasy to acting out the fantasy with a child. Part of the work of treatment is for offenders to identify their unique cycles, determine points in the cycle where they could increase awareness of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and stop the forward progress in the cycle.
Finkelhor (1984) developed a model of sexual abuse which includes offender characteristics
, barriers in the environment, and the victim. He names four preconditions of sexual abuse as:
- Motivation - the perpetrator is motivated to abuse a child because the sexual activity is viewed as emotionally and sexually satisfying when other sources of satisfaction are not available or are not as satisfying to the perpetrator.
- Internal inhibitions - the perpetrator is able to overcome internal inhibitions against sexual activity with children (taboos, laws).
- External inhibitions - the perpetrator is restrained from abusing a child when effective barriers exist in the environment. These include the presence of family, neighbors, and supervision which protects the child from his access.
- Resistance - perpetrators select potential victims who appear unable to resist their advances. Children are more vulnerable if they are emotionally needy, have no friends, lack support, are young, are without sexual knowledge, or lack physical affection from adult caregivers.
Sexual abuse never happens by chance. It occurs because of the offender's sexual desire for the child. A perpetrator consciously manipulates people and situations so that abuse can occur. The child is never responsible for the abuse. The mother is never responsible for the abuse unless she is the offender.