Criminal Justice: Occurrence and Consequences of Child Rape

Introduction

Child rape could be defined as sexually violating a minor (female or male) through touching his or her genitals, indecent exposure or sexual contact for gratification. It is outlawed in many lands and bleaching the law as in the case of pedophiles is followed by great legal repercussions, which may include capital punishment or lifetime sentences. The act where a mature person has sexual contact with a child who is less than the legal consent age is called statutory rape. The U.N Convention on the rights of the child (CRC) safeguard children’s rights and directs the nations to safeguard children from sexual assault which encompass rape, sodomy or object penetration for sexual gratification, child  sexual exploitation through pornography, prostitution, abduction or trafficking and sexual grooming or child-on-child assault e.g. through the internet or cyber rape (Hodgson & Kelly, 2002).

Many children are sexually assaulted by close and familiar people and not by strangers, who use subtle force or tricks for bribery using little money, gifts or particular privileges. This means that the offender possesses more knowledge, resources and control as compared to the victimized child, in which he or he exploits (Becker, 1994).  Child rape is a rising case worldwide and its consequences are so amplified than the act itself since, a child undergoes a rather permanent psychological trauma. Child rape triggers not only triggers legal issues but most importantly, ethical and moral aspects that are rather sensitive. This is a great crime and an antisocial behavior of animosity that is prevalent in the so called civilized world (Hodgson & Kelly, 2002).  Its dire consequences are psychological and physical, which may trigger emotions regarding anger, fear, low self image, neglect, depression, and shame, which may haunt the victims for the rest of their lives. It is the right of all mankind to enjoy privacy and freedom on when, how and who touches his or her body, an aspect that is violated by sexual offenders (Hopper, 2010). This paper shall give a detailed discussion on the prevalence, forms, and most importantly, the social, psychological and physical consequences of child rape to the victim (Hopper, 2010).

Prevalence and Incidence rates of Child Rape

In twelve states of the U.S, 51% of female sexually assaulted victims were juveniles below eighteen (Langan & Harlow, 1994). Child rape reports adds up to over ninety thousand cases annually in the U.S alone but those cases that go unreported are so many since the child is  afraid of disclosure or due to tiring legal procedures. Its estimated that one in four girls  and one in six boys will undergo child rape when less than eighteen years of age. Besides, child rape added up to 67% of all cases of sexual assault recognized by law where 34% of total victims were below twelve years of age. Out of seven victims, only one was below six years (NCVC, 2008). Significantly, child assault cases occur from familiar and trusted persons where boys have a higher probability of facing sexual assault out of homes. A research conducted in three states pointed that ninety six percent of total reported child sexual assaults were familiar with the offender. In this study, 4% were strangers, 2% fathers, 16% relatives, while 50% were friends (NCVC, 2008).

Child rape has been the core of exceptional public attention since the previous decade. This is marked by aspects like District of Columbia’s 50 states enacting laws to refer to child sexual assault as a crime. This is because one in four victims of sexual assaults cases in the region was below sixteen years (Langan and Harlow, 1994). Here, child sexual assault crime includes sexual engagements such as voyeurism, sexual conversation, fondling, caressing the genitalia, oral, anal or vaginal penetration and child pornography and prostitution. The perpetrators of this crime emerge from variant age, gender, ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds. Females, sexually assault children but their numbers do not exceed that of men since they add up to a third of the juvenile offenders. The offenders coerce their victims through gifts or through manipulative acts or both (Becker, 1994).  From a recent study, it is notable that “child molesters are frequently aggressive. Of 250 child victims studied …50% experienced physical force, such as being held down, struck, or shaken violently” (NCVC, 2008)

From the studies conducted on child rape, there has been no significant difference of assaults with respect to social status of ethnicity in the U.S. All the same, parental inadequacy, domestic violence, and poor relationship between a child and a parent are some of the crucial aspects that were noted as risk factors. Girls are the most victims of child sexual assault where they exceed the boys by close to three times. However, boys suffer more serious injuries and may even die as a result of being sexually assaulted. The vulnerable age of a child to fall a victim of sexual assault is between the age of seven and thirteen years (NCVC, 2008). From a different study in incest “intrafamily perpetrators constitute from one-third to one-half of all perpetrators against girls and only about one-tenth to one-fifth of all perpetrators against boys (Finkelhor, 1994). There is no question that intrafamily abuse is more likely to go on over a longer period of time and in some of its forms, particularly parent-child abuse, has been shown to have more serious consequences”  (Finkelhor, 1994)

Symptoms

There are currently an estimated sixty million survivors of juvenile sexual assault victims in the U.S (ICAN, 1999). Sexually assaulted children manifest physical, emotional as well as behavioral signs. Physical ones include pain along the genitalia, discharge from the genitals or trouble while urinating. Victims of familiar and close perpetrators may manifest reduced physical trauma since they are afraid of attracting attention. Behavioral signs come prior to physical signs, which could be used to assess sexual assault in a child. They entail aggressiveness, hostility, depression, nervousness directed to adults, anxiety, sexual provocation, and engagement in drug and substance abuse especially in boys. Boys manifest more aggression due to sexual assault as compared to girls. As adults, the children may have poor interpersonal relationships due to mistrust which may be transmitted to other family members (ICAN, 1999).

Consequences of Child Rape

Child rape is characterized by short and long-term distresses such as psychopathology through sociality, alcoholism, Post Traumatic Stress Disorders (PTSD) among others as they grow, which makes them to have a higher need for medical care thus increasing their health care expenses. However, the effects depend on assault nature, use of force and weapons, previous history and the relationship of the offender and the victim. In some societies, rape is greatly stigmatized and victims may be seen as social outcasts and may become isolated, disowned or murdered, a process referred to as secondary victimization. It causes more trauma as people responds to them thorough language, victim blaming or post-assault actions (Hopper, 2010).

Moreover, child rape may result to contracting a sexually transmitted infection such as HIV especially in instances where there is a forced and injurious vaginal penetration which may create portal routes for the virus. Susceptibility is enhanced in childhood rape since the vaginal mucosa has not yet had the required cellular density to prevent entry of pathogens. This also enhances an abused child to engage in multiple spouses, unprotected sex, commercial sex and drug abuse (Hopper, 2010). Effects vary from chronic depression and low self image and in most cases there is sexual malfunction for the abused individuals. With regard to child rape, the American Medical Associations points out that a fifth of child sexual assault become psychologically affected.  The psychological problems may involve PTSD, confusion, flashbacks, and venereal disease (AACAP, 2010). Sexually assaulted children are predisposed to become criminals at an older age, their chances of engaging in delinquencies in future is up to forty percent. Besides, they may also want to reiterate and therefore become sexual offenders as well. It is estimated that 40% of sexual offenders had an experience of sexual assault when young. Moreover the sexual assaults victims have twenty seven point seven chances of incarceration as a result of prostitution in adulthood as compared to those who did not undergo such experiences. This is possible because sexually assaulted victim’s ends up into prostitutions since they cannot properly relate with others but on sexual grounds (NCVC, 2008).

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