In 2005, there were 897 cases of child sex abuse reported in the state of MN. I knew this because I was a volunteer guardian ad-Litem in MN & writing a book about it, INVISIBLE CHILDREN.
I was only one of five hundred MN guardians IN 2005, and knew this number to be just a fraction of the true number as I personally counted fifty sexually abused children in my caseload & the court system I was working in at the time.
Here’s what I’ve learned about child sex abuse in Minnesota & how it applies to child sex abuse at Penn State.
1) No One Wants To Talk About It. Even trained social workers are uncomfortable with this topic and reporting it can mean the fall-out impacting them – it’s easier to let it go. I have witnessed non-reporting & under-reporting by people working in the field of policing, education, child protection & a friend who admitted years after the fact that he lived near a five year old girl that was being prostituted. I tell the story in my book of a seven year old girl that was prostituted and not taken out of the home during 48 police calls to her home.
2) No One Understands. Very few people understand the lifelong impact the rape of a child has on that child and the adult that child becomes. Suicides and dysfunctional lifelong lifestyles are common to untreated child rape victims. I have visited 4 year old’s in suicide wards & written about a 7 year old who hung himself and left a note.
3) This May Surprise You; Our courts are almost incapable of dealing with child rape. Children make a less than useless witnesses in their own defense. Brain development of a child guarantees that a good defense attorney will “confuse the witness” which destroys the case. I have attended conferences at both William Mitchell law school & Hamline University on this topic and listened to judges & prosecuting attorneys (the child’s defender) also admit to confusing the witness in these cases. *In none of the child rape cases in my caseload (about 25) were the molesters ever brought to trial (because the child is not a useful witness – no witness, no case). If it is not seen and reported (it did not happen—see the problem?)
I predict that many of Jerry Sandusky’s sodomized victims will not come forward because of the serious stigma attached to rape and sex abuse in this nation.
A friend bought me lunch when I wrote INVISIBLE CHILDREN and told me why he had never talked about and would never report his being molested by a priest when he was a young boy. He also told me what it was like to discover at age 45 the impact of that rape and how it had wrecked two marriages and three business partnerships before he realized his need for help. He began therapy at 45 & now 70, still seeing the same therapist.
Americans don’t like to talk about sex in even a healthy manner & will further punish people that come forward to talk about it. Boys almost never do, and only a small percentage of women do. The stigma is real & we fear becoming part of a messy deal. Then there’s the history of blaming the victim (even when she’s seven years old) makes reporting so much harder than it should be – see Penn State.
Children don’t have much of a chance in America.
Molesters like Sandusky destroy the lives of hundreds of children over their lifetime. The child remains severely damaged year after year until help comes from somewhere (usually nowhere). I’ve said about several of the sex abuse children in my caseload that this child has never had a nice day in her life.
Anxiety, terror, Prozac & Ritalin are predictable parts of the life of an abused child. They feel dirty and often blame themselves for the crime. Not being able to function normally in school makes life miserable and too often criminal or sexually active & a preteen mother or father. Just how does one un-teach sexual behavior to a nine year old without professional help?
Predicting the impact in human life years for each Sandusky type abuser, using my 70 year old friend as an example, if only 33 of my friends years are considered (from age 12 to 45), multiplied by just 100 victims (not a high estimate in a case like Sandusky’s) = 3300 years of damage & pain that is rarely reported and even more rarely treated.
In my 12 active years as a guardian ad-Litem, there was almost no effective therapy for the sexually abused children I worked with.
One sad family of four very young and sexually abused children, each had to be placed in separate foster homes because when they were together, the children would sexualize their behavior & at the time, nothing could be done about that. These children were terribly abused in their birth homes & again by a court system that offered them a fig leaf. The molester was left in the home and continued his evil behaviors. The pain these children suffered was immense; the molester once kicked the seven year old so hard she went into convulsions.
How many children had been victimized by Sandusky before 1998 when he was first questioned by police for molesting a boy in a shower? How many children did he molest from 1998 to today?
Child sex abuse in our communities is a huge problem that affects many of the three million children reported to child protection services in America each year. Cases like Sandusky are rarely identified and even more rarely reported.
Millions of children are impacted for life and this will continue until you and I began to better understand its impact and find our voice for reporting and helping children recover.
*I’ve had extensive arguments with a judge & my supervisor about a singular violent and extended rape of young children in a family and the cruelty of leaving this molester in the home (8 years later he was still practicing his criminal behaviors on a four year old boy).
**National Center For Victims Of Crime www.ncvc.org