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Child predators

93% of young children know abuser; nearly half are related

June 30, 2012
By Kevin Pierson - The Marietta Times ( , The Marietta Times

When she was a little girl, "Sarah" found herself receiving some unwanted attention from her father.

Anytime the young girl needed a bath, her father wanted to join her and have her wash him in ways the little girl never understood.

Years later, Sarah, 27, of Parkersburg, began to understand that she was one of the thousands of victims of child sexual abuse, and it came from within the home and the people trusted to raise her.

"I will never understand how my mother could have allowed that, or how he could have done that," said Sarah, who asked to not reveal her real name.

Cases like the one involving Sarah aren't nearly as uncommon as many people believe, law enforcement officials say.

Just over 93 percent of all children under the age of 12 who are victims of sexual abuse know the offender, and of that total 47 percent are related to the offender, according to figures from U.S. Department of Justice.

Fact Box

About this series in The Marietta Times

Inside, Page B1: The psychology of abusers and why they single out certain children; the signs of sexual abuse to look for; and the impact of abuse on the victims.

Monday: A look at the reactions to abuse parents often have and why. Also, an examination of the role of law enforcement in child sex abuse cases.

Tuesday: Solutions for families to heal and resources that can help.

Statistics on sex offenders for the state of Ohio

There were 7,426 people in Ohio prisons for sex offenses, including 7,296 men and 130 women, according to the last review completed in January.

The most common sex offense is rape, with 4,364 individuals incarcerated on the charge.

Sex offenders constitute the second highest demographic in Ohio prisons, trailing only crimes against a person excluding sex offenses.

Source: Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.

Sexual abuse of children has been in the national spotlight recently, with the conviction last week of former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky, who was found guilty of abusing 10 boys over 15 years. Sandusky had served as a mentor and surrogate parents to the children.

Locally, it's those same type of people committing the offenses against children as most are fathers, stepfathers, brothers, uncles, neighbors or friends of the family.

"It's not the stranger off the street or the abduction kind of thing," said Washington County Sheriff's Maj. Brian Schuck. "It's someone close to the family."

The fact that the man who abused her was her father made life for Sarah particularly difficult, as she received medication for depression as a young child.

For Sarah, the abuse began when she was 5 and lasted until she was 12, prompting her to try running away from home and even attempting suicide.

"I felt like that was the way life was going to be forever," she said, crying.

Assistant Washington County Prosecutor Kevin Rings, who has prosecuted several high profile sexual abuse cases, said the majority of time he sees the perpetrator of sexual abuse in the home where the child resides.

It is not always the father, but often Rings said he sees sexual offenders as the stepfather or boyfriend of the mother of a child in a broken home.

Most abusers are men.

According to a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services report made to Congress in 2010, 97 percent of the non-biological parent or partners responsible for sexual abuse of a child were men. Eighty percent of biological parents who sexually abused a child were male and 86 percent of non-relatives were also male, the report says.

There were 55,313 substantiated reports of sexual abuse against children in 2010, the most recent statistics available from the Department of Justice.

State numbers weren't available for cases, but a review earlier this year in Ohio found there were 7,426 people incarcerated in Ohio for sex-related offenses - the second highest total for any demographic.

Sexual abuse of children covers a broad scope of actions, including fondling, making a child touch an adult's sexual organs, penetrating a child, exposing children to pornographic material, deliberately exposing a child to the act of sexual intercourse, masturbating in front of a child or using a child to film, photograph or model pornography, according to the Department of Justice.

While most cases of child sexual abuse take place within the home, there are other offenders including teachers, coaches, family friends and mentors, police said.

In the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services report, 40 percent of the perpetrators to sexually abuse a child were not related, either as a biological parent or non-biological partner.

Several prominent cases locally involved men who served as "friends" to large groups of young boys. They had access to the children in the neighborhood, whom they befriended and groomed into becoming victims, police explained.

"It's all about accessibility to the victim," Schuck said. "That's why it's normally somebody close to the victim."

The grooming process is one of the keys for the acquaintance-type sexual offender, police said.

According to the Department of Justice, offenders who are not in the home will typically spend a longer time on the seduction process of a child. Perpetrators often engage in activities where they will hug or roughhouse with a child in front of the parents, thereby making the child believe the actions are acceptable.

"There's usually that long seduction process," Rings said. "They are remarkably good at getting the kids not to say anything."

Offenders who are not in the home also tend to have more victims.

The National Institute of Mental Health reports that offenders who are not biologically related to the victim or don't reside in the same home molest an average of 117 children, most of whom do not report the offense. Rings said he believes the number of victims for serial molesters who are not related to the victim is more like 80 to 100.

For 2008, there were 40 victims of sexual abuse under the age of 18in Washington County. That number dropped to 27 in 2011, but those figures can be misleading as several cases involved multiple victims.

A Beverly man was believed to have molested more than 20 children while a Marietta man was sentenced to 70 years in prison after he was convicted of abusing more than 10 boys at his home.

"The ones who are fixated on children as sexual objects, those are the dangerous ones," Rings said.



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