It is natural to ask why after a disaster or traumatic event. Often, understanding why something happens is the first step to preventing it in the future. Why people sexually abuse children is a question that has plagued many parents, psychologists, and criminologists for years. While there is no simple answer, there are a few “top reasons” that appear most often during studies and investigations. Learning about the minds of sexual abusers may help detect and stop abuse against children before it happens, as well as ease feelings of fear and shame many victims feel when they blame themselves.
#1. Wield Power Over Someone Else
One of the common features present in child sexual abuse cases is that the abuser is a person who has a position of power or influence over the child. Parents, family members, and teachers are examples of people who have power over children. When someone in a power position develops a sexual interest toward the child, abuse can occur. It is up to the individual not to act on these impulses – to listen to the barriers that should prevent him or her from betraying the child’s trust. When the person in power succumbs to these thoughts, he or she may act on sexual impulses toward the child, using the position of power as a way to influence and control the child.
#2. Take Advantage of a Position of Trust
Statistics show that the most common perpetrators of sexual abuse (60%) are people the child knows and trusts but are not family members. This might include babysitters, neighbors, family friends, and childcare providers. In about 30% of child sexual abuse cases, the abuser is a family member. In the other 10%, the perpetrator is a stranger. Abusers take advantage of their non-sexual relationship with the child to get close to the child and then betray the position of trust. Sexual offenders can be male or female, young or old, married or single, but they are most often people regularly involved in the child’s life, in a position of trust.
#3. Confusion About Sexual Relationships
Many studies conclude that people who sexually abuse children are deeply confused in terms of love, respect, and sex. They have basic human needs like everyone else, but they have massive confusion as to how to meet these needs. Often, sexual abusers have experienced abuse themselves and don’t know how to reconcile what happened to them. Histories of abuse can become recurring chains of behavior. The abuser may believe he or she has the right to sexually use the child. Children who abuse other children often have general confusion or misunderstandings about sex.
#4. Circumstances that Break Resistance Barriers
In all sexual abuse situations, there is a point at which the abuser manages to overcome the internal and external barriers that would otherwise prevent him or her from abusing the child. Learning what leads to breaking down this barrier can help people identify when it might happen. Circumstances that could allow an abuser to ignore mental and physical boundaries might include extreme stress, use of drugs and alcohol, use of child pornography, depression, and other circumstances that make the abuser stop resisting his or her sexual fantasies toward children.
Understanding why people sexually abuse children is not about forgiveness or making excuses. Rather, shedding light on the circumstances and reasons that increase the likelihood of a child or adult wanting to use a child sexually can help keep everyone safe.
If you need quick council about child sexual abuse, call the 24-hour National Center for Exploited Children at 1-(800) 843-5678. And if you need legal representation about suspected child abuse, please contact Estey & Bomberger, LLP today for a free, private consultation by calling (800) 925-0723.