I think everyone agrees that CSA is a major problem, and that it needs to be fixed. However, I beleive that a lot of our laws and policies designed to stop it are poorly designed, and, to be fair, are jumping the gun a little. Hear me out here, I will explain what I mean. Almost anything worth doing is worth doing well, and CSA prevention is definitely something we want to do right. However, most laws designed to protect victims are very ineffective. Why is this, might you ask? Well, I would like to argue that the biggest reason is polarization. At least in my country, almost all of politics has an “us vs. them” and people are mopre often than not, willing to overlook facts if it pays them well enough (be it with money, social acceptance, or giving an excuse to engage in bigotry or harm another person). We need to get priorities straight. A government’s number one priority should be to it’s people, especially those most at risk. Here are some numbers courtesy of: https://www.nsvrc.org/sites/default/files/publications_nsvrc_factsheet_media-packet_statistics-about-sexual-violence_0.pdf
- One in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18 years old
- 34% of people who sexually abuse a child are family members
- 12.3% of women were age 10 or younger at the time of their first rape/victimization, and 30% of women were between the ages of 11 and 17
- 27.8% of men were age 10 or younger at the time of their first rape/victimization
- More than one-third of women who report being raped before age 18 also experience rape as an adult
- 96% of people who sexually abuse children are male, and 76.8% of people who sexually abuse children are adults
- 325,000 children are at risk of becoming victims of commercial child sexual exploitation each year
- The average age at which girls first become victims of prostitution is 12 to 14 years old, and the average age for boys is 11 to 13 years old
With all of that, how can we deny that preventing CSA is more important than our party affiliations or personal beliefs? Certain things shouldn’t cause divisions among us, and keeping our children safe should be one of them. So what are some of the things we (as a society) currently do “to protect minors”? Well I’m glad you asked.
First, there is the sex offender registry, which studies show doesn’t do anything to reduce re-offense rates, and may actually increase them. When I was in juvenile corrections, I was reading our unit’s college level textbook on criminology when I found that gem out. The largest thing we do in the name of protection is ineffective and may be putting our children at increased risk
Next there are the people who harass MAPs. This is one of the most counter-intuitive things I have ever seen. If your priority is protecting children (not enacting vigilante justice to satiate your own aggression) everything you do in regards to people with a higher risk to offend (and if MAPs even meet that category is debatable and not researched thoroughly enough) should have an emphasis on reducing that risk to offend. Let me be clear here, I mean offend as in “commit a sex offense” not “make people feel uncomfortable”. Now, last I checked, it’s been shown that people experiencing stress and/or duress are at a greater risk to make risky decisions, including commiting crimes. Then there is the fact that stigma causes many people to see themselves as monsters. That puts them just a hop skip and a jump away from the idea of “well if I am a monster I have no reason to keep people safe”.
Next there is sex offender treatment, which I myself am receiving. I am not saying that treatment, when done right, doesn’t reduce CSA, but I am saying that, more often than not, sex offender treatment is done incorrectly. The most commonly used sex offender treatment book is Pathways, 4th edition by Timothy J. Khan, which was published in 2011 by Safer Society Press. However, with the fact that it was released 9 years ago, a lot of the information within it is (understandably) inaccurate. Not to mention how much it glosses over the ideas of healthy sexuality. The chapter entitled “Controlling and Expressing My Sexual Feelings in Positive Ways” is 14 pages long if you discount the chapter quiz and 2 blank pages for completing an assignment on, making it the shortest of the 14 chapters in the 368 page book. The vast majority of that chapter is on arousal control techniques such as covert sensitization, which (as someone who is experienced in such matters) looks like some very harmful hypnosis programming. Throughout the book the most useful skill it offers youth offenders is “thought-stop-switch” which tells youth to shift their focus onto non-sexual things while they are aroused so as to reduce arousal. Have these people never heard of how fetishes start to develop? There is also a part of the book that makes me extremely uncomfortable as someone hoping to prevent CSA. On page 18 of the book (in chapter 1 of a book that primarily targets adolescent males) it goes into a 14 year old girls description of what it feels like to masturbate herself. Now, don’t get me wrong, Pathways does indeed have some good and well researched aspects inside of it, but a lot of the oversights are glaring, especially considering how it assumes everyone is cisgendered, and mentions homosexuality for maybe two paragraphs in the entire book.
So what do we do? We reaffirm our priorites, and take actions that reflect them. Many of our current policies and practices are band-aids, they aren’t going to fix the gaping hole inside of our community. We need to foster an environment of research, accountability, and safety. We need to all sit down, and agree on what’s important; sexual violence is bad and we need to address where it comes from so we can adress it more effectively.