All Child Sexual Abusers Are Monsters

Any mention of child molesters usually elicits images of society’s lowest rung. They are creeps, perverts, monsters—and not our family members, neighbors, friends, or co-workers. They lack traditional values, have no work ethic, and have low moral turpitude—they are not upstanding members of our community. They come from neighborhoods and communities with violence, poverty, and inequality. They are not in our communities. It is misleading to suggest that child sexual abusers are somehow different from the general population. In one of the most comprehensive studies of child sexual abusers, Abel and Harlow (2001) compared a sample of over 4,000 admitted child molesters to the general U.S. population on a number of characteristics, including education, employment status, marital status, and religious observance. The results were clear—when compared to the general population of U.S. men, child molesters were no different. Table 4.2 displays an overview of male child-molester characteristics, compared to the general population of American men. What do these numbers mean? Is it simply that the typical child sexual abuser is married, educated, employed and religious? In a way, the answer is “yes,” but with an important caveat. Education, employment and religion do not cause individuals to commit sex crimes against children. Do parents and caretakers need to be aware of what a child sexual abuser looks like? To an extent yes, but the reality is that they look a lot like the rest of us. In equating abusers with society’s rejects, we create a false sense of security that our families and children are insulated from child sexual abuse. To reiterate, the only obvious thing that sets child sexual abusers apart from the general population is that they abuse children.

What was your perception of sex offenders before reading this chapter? Has it changed any?

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