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Young Offenders – What are we to do?

In the Irish Examiner 17th February 2018, Seán Mc Cárthaigh reported that Juveniles committed 45% of sex offences in 2016 and that Juvenile offenders were responsible for almost half of all sexual offences recorded by Gardaí in 2016.

I have to say that when I first heard the statistics on young offenders I was in total shock and disbelief.  Having come from a background of Childhood Sexual Abuse I simply found it impossible to absorb or even consider.  I really didn’t know how to come to terms with this information.  I was baffled to think that young people could be part of what I previously considered the adult arena of crimes of a sexual nature, and yet here we are.  Things are worse that anyone could have imagined.  How did we get here? And what can we do about it?

It was also reported that sexual offences are one of the few crime categories where offending rates by young people are on the rise with an increase of 39% from those figures reported in 2015.

Does no one find it frightening that this report is not on the front page of every newspaper or shown on every news station. Is it because we don’t care?  Maybe it’s because we just don’t want to think about it, or perhaps it is because we do not have any idea what to do with these children.

It is heart breaking to think of a child being sexually abused and the only thing worse than that is discovering it was by another child.  Imagine for one moment getting the news your child is an abuser……. where can you go? ……. who can you tell?… who would help you or your child?  What hopes have you now for your child’s future?

YOUNG ABUSERS

The vast majority of young people who sexually abuse are male. There are said to be two ‘peak’ ages for male sexual offenders to abuse. One being around 14 years and the second being in the mid-to-late 30’s.  Recent Australian figures suggest that 23% of young people who are in treatment for their sexually abusive behaviours are aged 10-12 years and 70% are 15 years or younger.

What should terrify us is that without intervention it is likely these teenagers will adapt to a life of paedophilia by the time they reach adulthood, as most paedophiles begin to act on their sexual desires before they are 18.  However, there is a strong possibility that their lives could be turned around with the proper interventions, saving many children from having the life we had.

VICTIMS FIRST

There is a possibility that these children who committed rape were victims of abuse themselves. I have heard of so many cases where a sexual predator claims they were abused themselves. To be honest, my first thoughts are usually ‘so what’, so was I and I didn’t sexually abuse anyone.  This must not and cannot be seen as an excuse to carry out the behaviours that will leave its victims with lifelong impacts.

However, there are many factors that can lead to inappropriate sexual behaviour and they all must be investigated and considered.  Making sure that the victims in these cases are supported is our priority. We must then explore how to also help the perpetrators, or we will never stop child abuse.

WHY HELP THEM

Although this is the year of the woman, we believe it is also time to consider how men process their emotions and their experience of sexual abuse.  It is not news women process differently than men and this begins at a very young age.  It is also far more common to hear of men acting out their pain in a more physical way.

It is our belief that prisons are filled with men who have committed crimes as a direct result of their experience of childhood abuse.  We need to help victims of abuse regardless of their gender.

I am not trying to excuse nor condone their behaviour in any way. But if it is not addressed I have no doubt we will be dealing with the issue of juvenile sexual abuse for generations to come.

OUR RESPONSIBILITY

We have a duty to discover where these young offenders learned that sexual assault is okay. We need to understand how and what treatment they need to interrupt their behaviours before it’s too late. Simply locking them up is not stopping the problem just ensuring these children become more damaged and furthermore go on to damage others.

I feel we have a responsibility to look past the behaviour and deeper into the why our young children are acting out. It is time to get serious about changing things around sexual crimes. To do this we need to open up to the possibility that a lot of those that abuse children can be helped. We have to be willing to discover what works and encourage our young children to come forward and seek help prior to acting on their urges.  I firmly believe a lot of these young people can be reached before it is too late. It is our responsibility to do all we can before we lose more children to the impacts of abuse.  When abuse occurs, there are no winners.

Are our families and communities so damaged that we cannot hear the cries for help from our children? Children need nurturing and with the growing pressure on parents to both work to make ends meet and our lack of affordable childcare, more and more children become vulnerable to negative influences.

The crime of children abusing other children is only a symptom, not the cause.  It represents a much broader problem. These children who abuse are growing in numbers and will not go away on their own.  We must consider what needs they have that are not being met and address them, sooner rather than later.

 

Joyce 19th February 2018

Published inSex Offenders

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