The molestation of children is an ugly reality in this sick world. Lear’s magazine said: “It affects more of us than cancer, more of us than heart disease, more of us than AIDS.” Awake! thus feels an obligation to try to alert its readers to this danger and what can be done about it.—Compare Ezekiel 3:17-21; Romans 13:11-13.
IN RECENT years a global outcry has arisen over the molestation of children. But the media attention, replete with celebrities who have publicly disclosed their own experiences of childhood abuse, has led to some popular misconceptions. Some believe that all this talk about attacks on children is simply the latest fad. In truth, though, there is little new about such sexual assault. It is nearly as old as human history itself.
An Ancient Problem
Some 4,000 years ago, the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were famous for depravity. Pedophilia was apparently among the region’s many vices. Genesis 19:4 describes a sex-crazed mob of Sodomites ranging “from boy to old man” seeking to rape Lot’s two male guests. Consider: Why would mere boys be inflamed with the idea of raping males? Clearly they had already been introduced to homosexual perversions.
Centuries later, the nation of Israel moved into the region of Canaan. So steeped was this land in incest, sodomy, bestiality, prostitution, and even the ritualized sacrifice of little children to demon gods that all these vile acts had to be expressly forbidden in the Mosaic Law. (Leviticus 18:6, 21-23; 19:29; Jeremiah 32:35) Despite divine warnings, rebellious Israelites, including some of their rulers, adopted these despicable practices.—Psalm 106:35-38.
Ancient Greece and Rome, however, were far worse than Israel in this regard. Infanticide was common to both, and in Greece it was a widely accepted practice for older men to have relations with young boys. Boy brothels flourished in every ancient Greek city. In the Roman Empire, child prostitution was so prevalent that special taxes and holidays were set up specifically for that trade. In the arenas, girls were raped and forced into acts of bestiality. Similar atrocities were prevalent in many other ancient nations.
What about modern times? Is mankind too civilized for such horrible sex acts to flourish today? Students of the Bible cannot accept this notion. They well know that the apostle Paul characterized our era as “critical times hard to deal with.” He detailed the rampant self-love, the love of pleasure, and the disintegration of natural family love that overrun modern society and added: “Wicked men and impostors will advance from bad to worse.” (2 Timothy 3:1-5, 13; Revelation 12:7-12) Has child molestation, so often perpetrated by “wicked men and impostors,” got worse?
An Urgent Problem
Assaults on children are often cloaked in secrecy, so much so that they have been called perhaps the most unreported of crimes. Even so, such crimes have evidently spiraled upward in recent decades. In the United States, a survey on the subject was conducted by the Los Angeles Times. It found that 27 percent of the women and 16 percent of the men had been sexually abused as children. Shocking as these statistics are, other careful estimates for the United States have run considerably higher.
In Malaysia, reports of child molestation have quadrupled over the past decade. In Thailand, some 75 percent of the men in one survey admitted to using child prostitutes. In Germany, officials estimate that as many as 300,000 children are sexually abused each year. According to South Africa’s Cape Times, the number of reports of such assaults soared by 175 percent in a recent three-year period. In the Netherlands and Canada, researchers found that about one third of all women had been sexually abused as children. In Finland, 18 percent of the ninth-grade girls (15 or 16 years old) and 7 percent of the boys reported having had sexual contact with someone at least five years their senior.
In various countries disturbing reports have surfaced about religious cults that abuse children with sadistic sexual practices and torture. Often, those who report that they were victims of such crimes are treated with incredulity, not compassion.
So child molestation is neither new nor rare; it is a long-standing problem that is epidemic today. Its impact can be devastating. Many survivors suffer profound feelings of worthlessness and low self-esteem. Experts in the field have listed some common aftereffects of incest on girls, such as running away, drug and alcohol abuse, depression, attempted suicide, delinquency, promiscuity, sleep disturbances, and learning problems. Long-range effects may include poor parenting skills, frigidity, distrust of men, marriage to a pedophile, lesbianism, prostitution, and child molestation itself.
These aftereffects are not inevitable for a victim; nor could anyone rightly excuse wrong conduct solely on the grounds of having been assaulted in the past. Abuse does not predestine its victims to be immoral or delinquent; nor does it dissolve all their personal responsibility for the choices they make later in life. But these common outcomes for victims are real dangers. They add urgency to the question, How can we protect children from molestation?