Sunday, October 7, 2012

When Kids Kill

What does it say about a society when a thirteen year old child is capable of sexually abusing another child, and then murdering yet another?  Moreover, both victims were the perpetrators younger brothers.  Florida was rocked when Christian, an abused child, beat his 2-year brother to death; and also sexually abused  his 5-year old brother. I spoke with …

Karen DeSoto — former prosecutor, public defender, active lawyer and on-air legal analyst — noted that “It’s shocking to the senses, but at the same time, unfortunately, common. In all the cases I’ve seen in my career, over and over again that violence begets violence…and victims beget victims. And this can result in children that kill”
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 19% of violent State prison inmates committed their crime against a child; 78% of those convicted of sexual assault had abused a child, with 50% 12 years old or younger.
Characteristics of offenses against children:
  • An estimated 18.6% of inmates serving time in State prisons in 1991 for violent crimes, or about 61,000 offenders nationwide, had been convicted of a crime against a victim under age 18.
  • 1 in 5 violent offenders serving time in a State prison reported having victimized a child.
  • More than half the violent crimes committed against children involved victims age 12 or younger.
  • 7 in 10 offenders with child victims reported that they were imprisoned for a rape or sexual assault.
  • Two-thirds of all prisoners convicted of rape or sexual assault had committed their crime against a child.
In the paper Children and adolescents: victims who become perpetrators by Arnon Bentovim & Bryn Williams, they note that“Irrespective of whether one considers official statistics, the proliferation of clinical referrals, research initiatives, review articles or even media attention, the problem of children and adolescents who sexually abuse other children has become a subject of increased attention. Given the proportion of young abusers who are themselves victims of sexual abuse, understanding the continuities
between sexual victimization and sexually abusive behavior has been important.”
While they go on to note that the majority of victims do not become predators, it does note that “Adolescent boys who sexually abuse other children represent an important challenge for mental health professionals and for those working within the child protection system. Adolescent abusers are estimated to be responsible for 30% of reported abuse.”
Clearly as a society we need to  (a) better protect our children from a first time abuse, and (b) develop better awareness and counseling for those that have been abused.
“Instead of society accepting responsibility for an obvious failure, the Florida prosecutor instead charges the child as an adult. However, to allow a child to rot in jail doesn’t for his reaction to being victimized doesn’t resolve or hide our failure as a society. It only serves as a reminder of what happens when child victims are left to be repeatedly abused, unprotected and unsupervised.” stated Karen Desoto.
The failures are too many to list, but while you shake your head in disgust, you can be assured that this story is not the first … and sadly will likely not be the last until we as a society commit to solve the problem, not just prosecute kids after-the-fact.
As the economy dwindles so does services, treatment and oversight of both victims and predators. let’s hope the economy continues to move forward — based on recent encouraging news — so that services can be tweaked to better serve these kids.

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