Confronting Child and Adolescent Sexual Abuse

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Edited by: Cynthia Crosson-Tower

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    Acknowledgements

    For Jamie who was with me throughout, ever believing in his Mom.

    Preface

    I didn’t know what children did with their fathers. Mine told me that his nightly trips to my room for what he called “goodnight loves” were what every girl did with her father. I didn’t want his groping touch, his hot breath that reeked of garlic and sometimes booze. I didn’t want to keep those things that we did from my mother or brother. No, I didn’t want to have my father tell me that I was special because I let him touch me. Let him? I didn’t know that I had a choice. I just wanted him to protect me. I just wanted to be loved.

    I wanted to live with you. You were such a good teacher, and I was sure that your home was happy and that I could be happy there. I knew that in your house I would not have to listen to my father and mother scream at each other or endure my father’s whispers as he told me about their fights and caressed me. But after we had a program about abuse in your class, I learned that what my father and I did under the covers at night was wrong. I felt dirty and alone. I knew that it must be my fault. I knew then that I couldn’t be like the other children. I had just wanted you to think I was special.

    I thought that you were God when you stood up there on Sunday morning. Everyone spoke of you with such reverence. My parents told me that I must always be respectful. When you began to take an interest in me, I was overjoyed. When you asked me to join the youth program and began to give me special treats, I thought that I was so special. When you began to “counsel me” alone in your office, I loved the special attention. I told you all about what my father had done, and you comforted me. I didn’t ask for you to fondle me. I believed you when you said that if I told anyone, I would go to hell. I didn’t want that. I just wanted to feel comforted.

    You really seemed to understand when I first saw you. You told me that you knew what my father had done to me. I wanted to tell you about our priest too, but I was too ashamed and didn’t want to go to hell.

    We hear the lament of abused children in many ways. We are not always aware of what we have heard, but their cries linger in the air—the cries of the children who just want to be loved, to feel special, to feel comforted. There are the constant echoes of the children who are ashamed of what they perceive were their wrongdoing and who are frightened that, because of it, some terrible ill will befall them. We must learn to listen to these children and protect others from the abuse that will add their voices to the echoes.

    Every year, thousands of children are sexually abused by parents, caretakers, acquaintances, and strangers. The recent crisis in the Roman Catholic Church brought to our attention that even the most trusted in our society may be sexual offenders. Each time I teach a class in child sexual abuse, parents in the classes beg for answers about how to protect their children from sexual abuse. Survivors recount their stories, and we wonder where the abuse will end.

    When I spoke at and attended conferences on child maltreatment in the 1980s, there was just a smattering of books addressing various aspects of child sexual abuse. In fact, the first books that raised this type of maltreatment as a current problem were not written until 1979. Today, when I attend conferences seeking to discover what is new on the subject, I find that the writings have multiplied from very few to so many that the space on my bookshelf or limitations of my pocketbook will not allow me to purchase them all. They address every aspect of the phenomenon of child sexual abuse possible. These writings alert us to the fact that over several decades, we have been painfully aware of child sexual abuse, have trained professionals in how to intervene, have established treatment programs, have instituted prevention programs, and have attempted to raise the consciousness of the general public. And although some experts report that the rate of child sexual abuse has diminished, it remains a national problem.

    As I wrote this text striving to highlight the information that we have learned about sexual abuse, I found that much of our knowledge was based upon theories postulated years earlier. Therefore, many of the references outlining the important aspects of child sexual abuse appear to be several decades old. Only as new crises arose did the literature begin to reflect our renewed search for understanding. For example, the crisis of abuse by clergy gave rise to a myriad of texts that made a sincere attempt to analyze the culture of the Catholic Church (see specifically ***Cozzens, 2002; Crosson-Tower, 2014; Frawley-O’Dea, 2007; Hidalgo, 2007; Jenkins, 2001b; Sperry, 2003) as a way of explaining why priests and other clergy have been found to be abusive.

    My search for the most current books in the area took me to British, Canadian, and Australian publications and helped me to recognize that Britain and much of Europe and Australia are in the throes of what the United States experienced in the 1980s and 1990s. In those parts of the world, sexual abuse is now a source of much concern and an increasingly researched problem. Although some of our classic writings on child sexual abuse are now a decade or two old, writers from Britain and Europe are taking a fresh look at this subject. I have made use of the writings from these countries when possible and applicable.

    As I continue to teach about child sexual abuse to psychology, social work, and divinity students, as well as to practicing educators and clergy, and as I survey the voluminous writings on all different aspects of child sexual abuse from both the United States, Canada, and abroad, I feel the need for a comprehensive text that will begin the student on his or her journey toward understanding this societal problem. Yet I begin this book with some sadness. It is sad that such a text is necessary. But until we strive to understand the complexity of child sexual abuse, we cannot hope to stem the tide. We should not need another book addressing this heart-wrenching problem.

    But the fact is that we do. And we also need to train future professionals so that they will understand how to deal with the victim, the perpetrator, the nonoffending parent, the systems that seek to intervene, and the society that provides the backdrop for the sexual abuse of children. And it is also my intent, through this book, to help the student gain an affective perspective as well as a cognitive one. Child sexual abuse is so far out of the frame of reference for most of us that learning about it can have a profound emotional impact. For those who have had personal experience with abuse, different issues arise, making the study of this type of maltreatment an emotional as well as an intellectual endeavor.

    The Design of the Book

    It is with all of the preceding discussion in mind that I sought to draw from the magnitude of writings available on the subject today and present a comprehensive overview of the subject of child sexual abuse. As I wrote this book, I asked myself the question that so many are asking today: How do we confront child sexual abuse? How can we protect our children? The answer lies deep within our culture. To fully understand how we must protect children from sexual abuse in the future, we must consider the past as well as the present. We must understand not only the concept of sexual maltreatment but probe the psychology of the abuser, the victim, and those who appear to be bystanders. We must dissect the complex network of helping to explore how we can improve the services to children and their families. Only by fully understanding can we hope to improve the way in which we protect children from sexual abuse.

    This book is designed to give the reader an overview of child sexual abuse from the historical beginnings of our knowledge of the problem to delving into the personalities of those who are affected, both directly and indirectly, by abuse. And we will explore the existing services that are offered to abused children and their families.

    Chapter 1 looks at child sexual abuse historically as it came to the attention of professionals and mandated that we determine ways to intervene. Chapter 2 discusses the definition and dynamics of child sexual abuse. Chapter 3 identifies some of the models that have developed to explain sexual abuse and sexual offending. These models are continuously evolving, and an introductory knowledge is crucial to understanding the field and its changes. The victimology of child sexual abuse is the subject of Chapter 4, including how abuse affects the victim’s development and what types of symptoms a victim might exhibit. Chapter 5 looks at the offender against children and why someone might want to sexually abuse children. Chapter 6 delves more deeply into intra-familial abuse or incest, looking at not only the offender but how the victims and nonoffending parents are influenced by him or her.

    Child sexual abuse outside the family is considered in more detail in Chapter 7, exploring how pornography and the Internet influence sexual offending as well as child prostitution. It is not only adults who commit sexually abusive acts against children. Chapter 8 discusses how children and teens may act out sexually against other young people. Chapter 9 addresses how offenders against children may be those in such respected roles as educators, day care providers, and therapists, whereas Chapter 10 looks more closely at sexual abuse by clergy.

    Chapter 11 looks at initial intervention into child sexual abuse by the helping systems and the roles of the various helpers involved. Chapter 12 progresses to the next steps of intervention, those of assessment of and treatment planning for abused children and their nonabusive family members. The treatment of victims and families is spelled out in Chapter 13, whereas the treatment of sexual offenders is the subject of Chapter 14. Chapter 15 addresses the treatment of adult survivors of child sexual abuse.

    And finally, the book concludes with a look at what it might be like to work in the field of child sexual abuse by considering the individual worker’s perspective and some thoughts about agencies (see Chapter 16) and an overview of prevention (see Chapter 17). Review questions at the end of each chapter aid you, the student, in assessing what you have learned and in preparing for tests and exams.

    Any text on child sexual abuse should include a note of caution to the reader. Some sections of the book are particularly graphic—a necessity in seeking to explain this phenomenon. At the same time, I am well aware that some readers will have personal experience with sexual abuse and may find this material particularly disturbing. It is important to monitor your own feelings and perceptions, taking time away from the material to process. If the subject matter triggers memories or becomes too disturbing, it is important to talk with someone about your concerns. Or it may be wise to seek professional counseling as a form of self-care.

    It is my hope that, by the completion of this book, you, the reader, will be ready to consider how we might more effectively protect children from sexual abuse. It is also my hope that you will want to take up the challenge and be part of the solution.

    Acknowledgments

    This book has been a long time coming, and there are many who have helped me along that journey. Thanks go to my family for putting up with me while I was in writing mode and not always available. Special thanks to my son, Chay, for his assistance in some of the editing, and to my friends and colleagues Stephanie Flynn and Pat Quinlin for cheering me on when it was much needed. And I am especially grateful to my dear friend Tony Rizzuto for his consultation and support. Thanks to my research assistant, Peggy Prasinos, who, despite her own illness, was always there to help. I would also like to extend a special thank you to Jeanne Braham who, through her editorial assistance and friendship, helped to bring this project to fruition. And I cannot express how appreciative I am to my editor Kassie Graves and the staff at SAGE who were enthusiastic about a book that needed to be published.

    We would also like to thank the reviewers of this text:

    Annalease M. Gibson, Albany State University

    Barbara J. Nowak, Albany State University

    Beth Walker, Western New Mexico University

    Ed FitzGerald, Indiana University East

    Katya V. Shkurkin, Saint Martin’s University

    Kimberley L. Wacaster, Idaho State University

    Kniesha Primes, Clark Atlanta University

    Nancy DeCesare, Chestnut Hill College

    Yan Dominic Searcy, Chicago State University

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    About The Author

    Dr. Cynthia Crosson-Tower is a national expert on child abuse and neglect and the author of numerous books and publications including Understanding Child Abuse and Neglect, Exploring Child Welfare: A Practice Perspective, When Children Are Abused: An Educator’s Guide to Intervention, Secret Scars: A Guide for Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse, Homeless Students, A Clergy Guide to Child Abuse and Neglect, and How Schools Can Combat Child Abuse and Neglect. In addition, she has authored several monographs including Designing and Implementing a School Reporting Protocol: A How-to-Manual for Massachusetts Teachers for the Children’s Trust Fund in Boston and An Educator’s Guide to School Reporting Protocol for Catholic Schools.

    Dr. Crosson-Tower is a Professor Emerita at Fitchburg State University where she taught for 24 years and also founded and served as the Director of the Child Protection Institute there. She also served on the subcommittee to develop protocol for the Cardinal’s Commission of the Archdiocese of Boston as part of the church’s effort to address the sexual abuse crisis. She later consulted to the Archdiocese as part of the Implementation and Oversight Committee of the Archdiocese’s Office of Child Advocacy.

    Dr. Crosson-Tower serves on the Board of Directors for NEADS/Dogs for Deaf and Disabled Americans and created the Trauma Assistance Dog Program (TAD) of the Canines for Combat Veterans Program. TAD, for which she now serves as psychiatric consultant, places specially trained service dogs with veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.


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