FOR the young mother, it was a nightmare come true. When her four-year-old daughter complained of abdominal pains, she took her to see a doctor. The doctor, after a thorough examination, gravely told the mother that her little girl was the victim of sexual molestation. She had been raped. The mother informed the New York City authorities, who quickly determined that the abuse occurred at a Bronx, New York, day-care center.
Investigations at the center yielded horrifying results. First one, then another, then still another child revealed that they, too, had been molested. At least 30 children eventually claimed that they had been abused in that same center. One of them had gonorrhea. Then reports surfaced that children had been molested at another day-care center. Then at another. Eventually seven day-care centers had to be investigated in the New York City area alone.
As each new case was publicized, reports of child molesting started coming in from other parts of the country. The scandal spread. Parents asked one another: “What’s happening?” What indeed! Was this just a freakish rash of molestation incidents? Or was it something very widespread that was only now being noticed?
A Widespread Problem
The fact is, sexual molestation of children has been going on for a long time and today it is widespread. In 1983, the head of New York City’s Advisory Task Force on Rape reported ‘a dramatic increase in the number of young children who are victims of rape, incest, and other forms of sexual abuse.’ Dr. David Finkelhor of the Family Violence Research Program at the University of New Hampshire conducted a large-scale study of the subject. He found that the children of 9 percent of the parents interviewed had been sexually abused. Fifteen percent of the women and 6 percent of the men had themselves been sexually abused as children!
Exact statistics are difficult to come by. In the United States, the National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect has records of 55,399 cases of children being sexually molested in one year. But these are only cases of incestuous abuse. Abuse by friends, neighbors, teachers, and so forth—as well as by strangers—would increase that figure to a considerable extent. And a spokesman for the Child Welfare League of America told Awake! that “the figures we have are only the tip of the iceberg.”
A report in the magazine Ladies Home Journal estimates: “Sexual abuse of young girls is four times more common than rape of adult women. Between the ages of five and 13, one in four little girls falls prey to some form of sexual abuse by adults—whether it be exhibitionism, inappropriate fondling, rape, or incest. Although young females are the most common victims, 20 to 25 percent of those attacked are little boys.”
Doctors are convinced of the harmful and long-term effects of such abuse. Hence, parents wonder: ‘Are my children at risk? What steps can I take to protect them? What sort of person would try to harm them?’