Juvenile sex offenders are more likely to gain their victims compliance and keep them quiet through threats and violence. This is thought to be because they generally do not have the cognitive abilities or maturity to manipulate and entice. Since juvenile offenders are more likely to use violence than adult offenders, juvenile sex offences can be more harmful.
2. Over half of all child sexual abuse is perpetrated by a juvenile. 3
We typically think of child sex offenders as middle-aged men. However, abuse is more likely to be perpetrated by a minor than an adult.
3. The profile of an average offender is a teenage boy who abuses a ~7 year old child he knows, either a sibling or acquaintance. 4 5
At first glance this does not seem to be an extraordinary fact; however, this should catch the attention of those who have or are considering adopting an older child. Juvenile sex offenders commonly come from dysfunctional families with “poor or nonexistent paternal relationships, familial chaos and marital discord and severe and inconsistent punishment by parents.” 6 It is very likely that a child who is available for adoption has lived in similar environments.
Also, contrary to what you might think younger offenders are almost three times more likely to abuse small children than offenders twelve and older. 7
I bring this up not to suggest that all of these children are abusers or to discourage older child adoption, but to shed light on some of its risks. Parents should take great care when adopting a child who is older than their youngest child.
4. Once treated, young juvenile offenders are not likely to offend again. 8
Early intervention is particularly effective when treating juvenile offenders. This fact brings out the importance of seeking help and not hiding the abuse. While the research I have found does not specifically say what the intervention includes, my experience tells me that interventions must include constant supervision to be effective.
What do the facts tell us?
There are two important things I hope you take away from this list:
- Sexual abuse by a minor is just as harmful as abuse perpetrated by an adult.
- Keeping the abuse a “family secret” will help no one. Seeking help is an extremely important part of ending the abuse and getting help to the abuser and the victim.
For those with older child adoption in mind, these facts will hopefully not only give you pause, but also hope. Finding out that the child you adopted has abused in the past (or present) can seem life changing. It is important to remember that you are not alone and that many other families have gone through the same thing. Seek out an adoption support group for yourself and professional help for your child.
For those who work in children’s ministries, these facts tell us that we need to pay particular attention to how well we supervise children. Children are just as capable as adults of inflicting serious harm. If you work in an orphanage that does not provide 24/7 supervision, I suggest that you read this article: Three Ways Dysfunctional Orphanage Ministries Mishandle or Misunderstand Juvenile Sexual Abuse.
- When the Child Abuser is a Child: Investigating, Prosecuting and Treating Juvenile Sex Offenders in the New Millennium, pg 6, 7 ↩
- Child-on-child sexual abuse: An investigation of behavioral and emotional sequelae ↩
- Mending the Soul, pg 51 ↩
- When the Child Abuser is a Child: Investigating, Prosecuting and Treating Juvenile Sex Offenders in the New Millennium, pg 5, 6 ↩
- Juveniles Who Commit Sex Offenses Against Minors pg 5 ↩
- When the Child Abuser is a Child: Investigating, Prosecuting and Treating Juvenile Sex Offenders in the New Millennium, pg. 5 See footnote 15 ↩
- Juveniles Who Commit Sex Offenses Against Minors, pg 7 ↩
- Juveniles Who Commit Sex Offenses Against Minors, pg 8 ↩