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Author Topic: 8 year old arrested for sexually abusing an 10 year old
scifibum
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Quite a post, Earendil! I enjoyed reading it.

I think you've put some real issues into relief, there. There are certainly many cases that seem to demonstrate an overly Puritanical, freaked-out response to things that are almost certainly innocent.

However, it seems as if you're convinced that it is all overreaction - and I'm not with you there. For any number of kids who are pushed into "remembering" some kind of abuse that triggered inappropriate acting out, there are still some kids who really were abused, and attempt to process the experience by reenacting it in ways that harm other kids*. The idea that kids who act out sexually were abused before didn't arise out of nothing.

I also think you're indulging in a straw man when you claim that "If that happened today, oh lord, it would be insane." Not necessarily. Not even likely, in my opinion. I've seen plenty of spontaneously disrobing kids in random situations, with very little fallout. (Same with the bathtub photos, MightyCow. There are examples where such things got blown out of proportion, but they are rare.)

I'm going to post more (*mostly about the nature and causes of the harm, unless I change my mind) but, for some reason, I want to get a short response in before the thread moves too much further.

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scifibum
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So what about the harm that supposedly comes if kids play around doing things that look sexual to us?

First, I want to note that I don't think 5 year olds being curious and touching each other or whatever is necessarily "sexual." So, there would be a difference between freaking out over a child exploring their sexuality, and a child exploring their own body or someone else's body. Even if there is physical arousal! The experience of sexuality requires some sexual maturity, in my opinion. But sexuality is not the only powerful context that can frame such actions.

So no, I don't think we need to consider any kind of childhood interaction that involves sex organs some kind of abuse, or necessarily traumatic. (I hesitate to be so obvious and blunt, but we all know that parents and medical personnel sometimes have good reasons to touch kids' genitals in ways that are not 'sexual' nor abusive.) If that's the default reaction to any such interaction, I'm on board calling that ridiculous.

If we overreact like that, we probably will cause harm. Perhaps more than we prevent, if we go far enough. I think Earendil already enumerated a lot of the reasons why. I won't repeat.

But I do firmly believe that some such interactions can be harmful. And part of that is recognizing and working within the societal parameters we've got. If an experience leads a kid to act out in ways that society will then punish, there are two ways to avoid that punishment. One is to change society. The other is to avoid that pattern of behavior.

While we can decry overreactions, we cannot divert the entire social response to certain behaviors, not in the short term. And we can't entirely control how that affects the child (and the later adult).

Now if a child is abused, is faced with the denial of her own personhood to serve as the object of someone else's urges, I think she will need some way to account for that experience. I believe the body of experts who indicate that some of the time, the attempt to deal with such a powerful and strange experience is to attempt to repeat it, and sometimes those attempts will involve other children. Now, given the motivation for the behavior, it's more likely that the newly involved child will experience the same charged affect. (If the original trauma involved force, that is likely to surface later. etc.). So I do believe that it can propagate, in a way that is directly traumatic.

But then you have these victims of a trauma - which may be more or less severe - developing and maturing into a society that abhors some of their formative experiences. And shame and punishment get tangled up with involuntary reward mechanisms in the brain and body, and that's just never good.

Some of the time that results in permanently bent people whose sexuality is never normal enough to be exercised in a socially responsible way. But not all the time. (ETA: I suspect it's quite unlikely (2nd edit: replaced "rare" with "unlikely").)

So, back to confronting the reality of the social response - some of the kids who are involved in those experiences will have more direct trauma and some a lot less. But somewhere on the spectrum between child rape and playing doctor is a tipping point. Where being drawn into a questionable experience will cause harm, but only because it tips the kid into a developmental path that toxically combines with society's overreaction. Where if society relaxed, the kid would be OK. But in that zone, since we can't flip a societal switch, how do you balance the harm that will very likely result with the recognition that it isn't necessary?

For me, the line is pretty darn murky. I think bathtub pictures and "I'll show you mine if.." are on the safe side of that line; I don't see a need to try to prevent such things. Kids acting out in a way that seems sexually charged or power-oriented - that may be motivated by their own past trauma - is on the other side of the line, for me. Even if the kids seem happy enough to be involved, it's likely enough to have some fallout later on, for them or for others, that I'd rather put some protections in place that discourage it.

And in the gray area, I do hope we avoid nonsense like labeling a little kid a sex offender. Recognition of the chance of harm should motivate us to try to prevent harm, not cause it. If a kid is acting out in ways that just aren't socially acceptable, he deserves a lot of chances and a lot of help to adjust, before he grows up, and before he gets shunted into a niche that might have been avoidable.

[ January 22, 2010, 11:54 PM: Message edited by: scifibum ]

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scifibum
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After all that let me note that I appreciate Orincoro's reminders that we simply cannot know the details of the specific case...we have lots of room to discuss an interesting problem, but probably not much leeway to determine the proper course of action in this case.
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Earendil18
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O hai, I didn't see this second page for a while. [Smile]

I think it's important, however, that these things are discussed in the first place. It's fine that we're doing so here, but I'm not seeing much discussion going on, just fear-driven legislation continuing to grow and criminalize larger amounts of people, instead of going after truly violent individuals. 30 years ago, you could find images of teens and kids in the buff right off a magazine rack. There was even a book for kids about sex, showing kids engaged in sexual activity called Show Me! and was celebrated as the best educational tool for kids, and won several awards IIRC. One Christian organization had pedophile information pamphlets for parents that were not hysterical and didn't demonize a scapegoat group. Gay literature is filled with fond memoirs of gay teens' first experiences with an older individual.

So compare that with today, and I wonder just how much of all this is manufactured, because the definitions have changed so much. Right and wrong continue to evolve through the generations.

Despite the fact that anthropologists studying world cultures have noted "sexual rehearsal behavior" in every one of those cultures for kids as young as 5, because puritanical America has such a weird relationship to nudity, sex, etc. we run around scared.

I think you hit some valid points regarding cases of actual abuse, for I do not doubt that these exist. And you're also right, "flipping a societal switch" won't happen overnight either. [Smile]

I just wanted to wake people up to the fact that this growing hysteria, and the fact that a lot of important people are not engaging in dialogue, and more and more non-violent people are being criminalized, are not good trends, especially with the larger amount of kids and families being put through the wringer. As current law stands now, the majority of fanfiction writers and artist communities, can now be registered sex offenders for writing slash fiction about underage Harry and Draco's sexual adventures. That's how ridiculous it's gotten in this country. It's only a matter of time, before someone who has no idea what they're dealing with, looks at these stories and rings the bell, and the authors are put into the wood grinder.

Blowing things out of proportion may be rare (I think it's becoming more common), but once accused of being a sex offender, it's not "innocent until proven guilty", due process goes out the window in most cases. In some cases, there was no abuse, only an angry kid who wanted to hurt his parent, but the damage is done. It's a modern day witch hunt, and once accused of being a witch, life essentially ends for these people.

And when due process fails us, we really do live in a world of terror.

Points to whoever gets that reference. ^^

Orincoro's right, we simply cannot know the details of the specific case, and that's why I don't think large headlines describing a murky situation should be striking fear into the hearts of parents, or dictating legislation which hurts more kids and families than protects them.

[ January 23, 2010, 05:55 PM: Message edited by: Earendil18 ]

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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by scifibum:
After all that let me note that I appreciate Orincoro's reminders that we simply cannot know the details of the specific case...we have lots of room to discuss an interesting problem, but probably not much leeway to determine the proper course of action in this case.

Thanks. I'm feeling a little stifled and frustrated by the chorus of what-ifs I'm hearing. I think people are set to subconsciously deny and avoid the prospect that children are capable of abusing each other, and not just being "innocently curious." Abuse seems to happen exclusively with children who have themselves been abused and who's boundaries have been eroded by adults or other kids. I'm not talking about "playing doctor" either- the stories you don't hear about are unmistakeably grave. Judging from my own experience, they seem also to be common.
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Earendil18
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I understand your frustration, and I believe what you say is true. Anyone who's been a kid knows that kids can be just as cruel, perhaps crueler, than adults.

I just think in order to solve these cases, there's a lot more collateral damage being done than needs to be.

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Orincoro
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I think the individual discussion of cases provides a poor platform for a discussion about the culture's sexual ethos.
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Earendil18
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Ah, you're right.

Where would be a good platform? How/Where would this issue be best discussed? Like I said earlier, it appears like there isn't any discussion about this, and if there is, it's usually after some story about abuse.

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Orincoro
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This board thrives on news-byte oriented discussions with a lot of conjecture involved. I think if you wanted to have this discussion, it would have to be as part of the discussion of an actual study or book relating to the subject.
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DDDaysh
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What Rabbit brought up was the first thing that struck me about this case. Well, actually the second thing.

The first thing I thought was, "How on earth did it take the girl 2-years to decide she'd been molested by a boy younger than she was?" I know there are lots of possible explanations, but I'm very curious as to which one fits with this scenario. Alas, as others have said, we shall likely never know.

The second thing that struck me, however, was that the child was probably arrested for his own good. As difficult as it might be to get a warrant to arrest a 10-year-old for a crime they committed as an 8-year-old, it's usually more difficult to quickly find cause to remove a child from his parents home - even when that needs to happen.

I suspect there is far FAR more going on in this case than we can see on the surface shown in the article.

And while I do think sometimes our society goes over the brink to deny sexuality, I also believe that police don't go around arresting children for "bathtub picture" level behavior.

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Earendil18
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quote:
Originally posted by DDDaysh:

And while I do think sometimes our society goes over the brink to deny sexuality, I also believe that police don't go around arresting children for "bathtub picture" level behavior.

Absolutely, we may never get the details to this particular story, and as Orincoro pointed out, this isn't the best platform to discuss wider issues.

In regards to the above quote, parents have been arrested: http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2009/09/22/family-vacay-pics-deemed-child-porn-by-wal-mart-at-center-of-lawsuit/

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CT
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quote:
Originally posted by Earendil18:
quote:
Originally posted by DDDaysh:

And while I do think sometimes our society goes over the brink to deny sexuality, I also believe that police don't go around arresting children for "bathtub picture" level behavior.

...

In regards to the above quote, parents have been arrested: http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2009/09/22/family-vacay-pics-deemed-child-porn-by-wal-mart-at-center-of-lawsuit/

That incident may better serve as a counterexample than an example. When the bathtub photos story referenced in the last link above first made the rounds of the web, a lot of people were outraged at the presumed overreaction by authorities. (I don't think the parents were "arrested," but the children were removed from the home while there was an investigation.)

However, as DDDaysh points out -- and as I consistently remind myself -- those too-outrageous-to-be-true stories often are told without full context. One of the news stations local to the story printed the full public police report, and I don't think these were what one would call typical toddlers in the bathtub photos:

quote:
The media reports of the situation gave the impression the pictures were simply of their three daughters in the bathtub during a family vacation. Their attorney did say some genitalia was visible, but then you would expect that in a bathub picture.

Under the category, things are not always what they appear to be, the Peoria, Arizona police has now released their case report on the Demarees. From the report.

quote:
The next photo shows the youngest child and one of the two older girls [5 years old], lying on the floor on top of the pink towel (#7). Both girls are facing away from the camera, with the youngest child on her knees and elbows, exposing her anus and buttocks to the camera. She has her legs spread apart and is exposing her buttocks and vagina to the camera. Neither of the girls has any clothing on. The photo is taken from a distance of about four to five feet.
Mike Tellef, Media Relations Officer for the Peoria Police and Fire Departments said they released the report to local media but only KFYI.com posted the report on their website.

It is a 57-page report which describes the pictures and also video taken from the home in explicit detail. The report is another reminder that jumping to a conclusion based on one side of a story, is never a good idea. You can judge for yourself.

Download DemareesReport (pdf)

-- from the blog of from Elana Centor, Blogher Contributing Editor

Heck yes, I'd want that situation investigated. [added: In looking around for more information, I see that one of our longtime HR posters used to work at a photoshop and saw child pornography brought in to be developed. It certainly does happen, and that is why there are procedures and policies in place.] My understanding is that these parents were cleared of wrongdoing by people trained to do such clearing, which is also fine by me. (and good news) But I wouldn't want a Walmart employee not to report the photo described above, and I would fault the authorities for not doing a thorough investigation.

Of note, though, according to the BlogHer editor, only one news outlet printed the full context. And that context is what made the story not too-outrageous-to-be-true, in my opinion.

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Earendil18
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Damn the media. Nothing's ever as it seems. :/ Thanks for that info!
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CT
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It is a disappointment, agreed.
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