I’m Taking The Stand Will You??

Tonight I broke two rules: I stayed up late on a work night and watched Law & Order SVU.

Anyone who knows me knows that I support anything bringing awareness to Domestic Violence. Tonight’s episode was about just that. The weird thing is that I just posted a blog about pop stars Rihanna and Chris Brown last week.

The plot was similar to their relationship. Two pop stars were entangled in an abusive relationship. Not only did I see some of Chris Brown and Rihanna, I watched a few chapters from my own life. In the show was a young lady who was very pretty, had a nice career, was disconnected from her family and really only depended on her abuser.

The guy was nice looking and a typical ladies man. He was famous and loaded with money. He was a charmer, a “wine and dine you” type of guy. He would send flowers and even gave a public apology about how he loved her and he was sorry. I think we’ve all heard that before.

The police had all the proof they needed but NO witness to help with the case. The girl wouldn’t press charges out of fear of what would happen with her career that was just taking off. They had a duet ready to be released. She wasn’t trying to miss that money. It reminded me of some of us who stay for financial security.

When he went to court the Judge placed a TPO to protect the young lady who was abused. No doubt about it. After his apology in front of America she invited him to her hotel room. Just as they were about to get it on, the police come busting in the door. The only reason he got caught was because she was Tweeting and the detectives saw the room.

There is a lack of trust victims and survivors have with police officers. Even though I am a survivor I have felt intimidated by police doing the investigation period. What they don’t seem to understand is chances are he has been yelling at you. At this point you don’t want another man in your face yelling.

Words hurt just like blows and we sure don’t want to hear the threats about felony charges being brought up against me. After all I am the victim right? So why are you yelling and putting pressure on me? Yes I realize you have a job to do. Let me collect my thoughts and get my head right. You yelling and threatening me doesn’t make me feel any safer.

Yes, I understand your level of frustration. How do you think I feel when he has a history of this and the judge keeps setting his bond low enough for him to get out. His history shows that someone is always bailing him out. Where is the stand for me? You let him out and yes I am going to let him back over. He said he was sorry and didn’t mean to do it. Your low bail made me believe you thought I wasn’t in any real danger.

You’ve seen my kind plenty of times in your years of practice. Chances are we have history together and God forbid we have children together. He will use whatever he can to make it my way. My emotions are all over the place and do I help him violate the TPO you placed?

I do maybe not because I wanted to, but I already know he is coming one way or the other. I don’t have a safe haven. He knows where all of my friends and family live. We were in love, he went to all the family functions with me. I am scared of putting others in danger. I allow him in to torment me whether it’s physically or sexually. Chances are he will find some way to seduce me, if that fails he will force himself on me. Now I am being raped by the man who abused me. That is the real pattern for most, of not all victims.

Where do we break the cycle? How do we build trust? When do we say enough is enough?

The sad ending to this SVU episode is he killed her manager who was like a Father to her. Her charming abuser was still working his hand, and took her on her a trip. His phone rang, she asked who it was, the coward in him raged up. She got tense because she knew what’s coming next it’s his pattern. Most abusers have a pattern. They find her body floating in the water on this beautiful resort.

According to statistics every 9 seconds a women is beaten. It’s time for us to take a stand and say enough is enough. We have to come together as one standing united on this issue. We can’t continue to stay divided and think we’re going to get results. It’s going to take survivors and law enforcement coming together with the ability to be open and honest. Then we can take the steps to forward.

Also if you’re reading this post please visit http://www.NoMore.org and help take a stand on Domestic Violence and Sexual Abuse!

Peace, love and hugs to all.

What is Sexual Abuse

Home » Child Sexual Abuse: Intervention and Treatment Issues » Child Sexual Abuse: Intervention and Treatment Issues: Definitions, Scope, and Effects
Email Share
Author(s): Child Welfare Information Gateway
Year Published: 2012
You are in section:
Definitions, Scope, and Effects of Child Sexual Abuse

Definitions
Most professionals are fairly certain they know what child sexual abuse is, and there is a fair amount of agreement about this. For example, today very few people would question the inclusion of sexual acts that do not involve penetration. Despite this level of consensus, it is important to define what sexual abuse is because there are variations in definitions across professional disciplines.

Child sexual abuse can be defined from legal and clinical perspectives. Both are important for appropriate and effective intervention. There is considerable overlap between these two types of definitions.

Statutory Definitions
There are two types of statutes in which definitions of sexual abuse can be found – child protection (civil) and criminal.

The purposes of these laws differ. Child protection statutes are concerned with sexual abuse as a condition from which children need to be protected. Thus, these laws include child sexual abuse as one of the forms of maltreatment that must be reported by designated professionals and investigated by child protection agencies. Courts may remove children from their homes in order to protect them from sexual abuse. Generally, child protection statutes apply only to situations in which offenders are the children’s caretakers.

Criminal statutes prohibit certain sexual acts and specify the penalties. Generally, these laws include child sexual abuse as one of several sex crimes. Criminal statutes prohibit sex with a child, regardless of the adult’s relationship to the child, although incest may be dealt with in a separate statute.

Definitions in child protection statutes are quite brief and often refer to State criminal laws for more elaborate definitions. In contrast, criminal statutes are frequently quite lengthy.

Child Protection Definitions
The Federal definition of child maltreatment is included in the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act. Sexual abuse and exploitation is a subcategory of child abuse and neglect. The statute does not apply the maximum age of 18 for other types of maltreatment, but rather indicates that the age limit in the State law shall apply. Sexual abuse is further defined to include:

“(A) the employment, use, persuasion, inducement, enticement, or coercion of any child to engage in, or assist any other person to engage in, any sexually explicit conduct or simulation of such conduct for the purpose of producing a visual depiction of such conduct; or

(B) the rape, molestation, prostitution, or other form of sexual exploitation of children, or incest with children;…”15
In order for States to qualify for funds allocated by the Federal Government, they must have child protection systems that meet certain criteria, including a definition of child maltreatment specifying sexual abuse.

Criminal Definitions
With the exception of situations involving Native American children, crimes committed on Federal property, interstate transport of minors for sexual purposes, and the shipment or possession of child pornography, State criminal statutes regulate child sexual abuse. Generally, the definitions of sexual abuse found in criminal statutes are very detailed. The penalties vary depending on:

the age of the child, crimes against younger children being regarded as worse;
the level of force, force making the crime more severe;
the relationship between victim and offender, an act against a relative or household member being considered more serious; and
the type of sexual act, acts of penetration receiving longer sentences.
Often types of sexual abuse are classified in terms of their degree (of severity), first degree being the most serious and fourth degree the least, and class (of felony), a class A felony being more serious than a class B or C, etc.

Clinical Definitions
Although clinical definitions of sexual abuse are related to statutes, the guiding principle is whether the encounter has a traumatic impact on the child. Not all sexual encounters experienced by children do. Traumatic impact is generally affected by the meaning of the act(s) to the child, which may change as the child progresses through developmental stages. The sexual abuse may not be “traumatic” but still leave the child with cognitive distortions or problematic beliefs; that is, it is “ok” to touch others because it feels good.

Differentiating Abusive From Nonabusive Sexual Acts
There are three factors that are useful in clinically differentiating abusive from nonabusive acts – power differential; knowledge differential; and gratification differential.

These three factors are likely to be interrelated. However, the presence of any one of these factors should raise concerns that the sexual encounter was abusive.

Power differential. The existence of a power differential implies that one party (the offender) controls the other (the victim) and that the sexual encounter is not mutually conceived and undertaken. Power can derive from the role relationship between offender and victim. For example, if the offender is the victim’s father, the victim will usually feel obligated to do as the offender says. Similarly, persons in authority positions, such as a teacher, minister, or Boy Scout leader, are in roles that connote power. Thus, sexual activities between these individuals and their charges are abusive.

– Power can also derive from the larger size or more advanced capability of the offender, in which case the victim may be manipulated, physically intimidated, or forced to comply with the sexual activity. Power may also arise out of the offender’s superior capability to psychologically manipulate the victim (which in turn may be related to the offender’s role or superior size). The offender may bribe, cajole, or trick the victim into cooperation.

Knowledge differential. The act is considered abusive when one party (the offender) has a more sophisticated understanding of the significance and implications of the sexual encounter. Knowledge differential implies that the offender is either older, more developmentally advanced, or more intelligent than the victim. Generally, clinicians expect the offender to be at least 5 years older than the victim for the act to be deemed predatory. When the victim is an adolescent, some persons define the encounter as abusive only if the offender is at least 10 years older.16 Thus, a consensual sexual relationship between a 15-year-old and a 22-year-old would not be regarded as abusive, if other case factors supported that conclusion.

– Generally, the younger the child, the less able she/he is to appreciate the meaning and potential consequences of a sexual relationship, especially one with an adult. Usually, the maximum age for the person to be considered a victim (as opposed to a participant) is 16 or 18, but some researchers have used an age cutoff of 13 for boy victims.17 Apparently, the researchers felt that boys at age 13, perhaps unlike girls, were able to resist encounters with significantly older people and were, by then, involved in consensual sexual acts with significantly older people. However, clinicians report situations in which boys victimized after age 13 experience significant trauma from these sexual contacts.

– Situations in which retarded or emotionally disturbed persons participate in or are persuaded into sexual activity may well be exploitive, even though the victim is the same age or even older than the perpetrator.

Gratification differential. Finally, in most but not all sexual victimization, the offender is attempting to sexually gratify him/herself. The goal of the encounter is not mutual sexual gratification, although perpetrators may attempt to arouse their victims because such a situation is arousing to them. Alternatively, they may delude themselves into believing that their goal is to sexually satisfy their victims. Nevertheless, the primary purpose of the sexual activity is to obtain gratification for the perpetrator.

– In this regard, some activities that involve children in which there is not a 5-year age differential may nevertheless be abusive. For example, an 11-year-old girl is instructed to fellate her 13-year-old brother. (This activity might also be abusive because there was a power differential between the two children based on his superior size.)
Sexual Acts
The sexual acts that will be described in this section are abusive clinically when the factors discussed in the previous section are present as the examples illustrate. The sexual acts will be listed in order of severity and intrusiveness, the least severe and intrusive being discussed first.

Noncontact acts

Offender making sexual comments to the child*

– Example: A coach told a team member he had a fine body, and they should find a time to explore one another’s bodies. He told the boy he has done this with other team members, and they had enjoyed it.

Offender exposing intimate parts to the child, sometimes accompanied by masturbation.

– Example: A grandfather required that his 6-year-old granddaughter kneel in front of him and watch while he masturbated naked.

Voyeurism (peeping).

– Example: A stepfather made a hole in the bathroom wall. He watched his stepdaughter when she was toileting (and instructed her to watch him).**

Offender showing child pornographic materials, such as pictures, books, or movies.

– Example: Mother and father had their 6- and 8-year-old daughters accompany them to viewings of adult pornographic movies at a neighbor’s house.

Offender induces child to undress and/or masturbate self.

– Example: Neighbor paid a 13-year-old emotionally disturbed girl $5 to undress and parade naked in front of him.

Sexual contact***

Offender touching the child’s intimate parts (genitals, buttocks, breasts).

– Example: A father put his hand in his 4-year-old daughter’s panties and fondled her vagina while the two of them watched “Sesame Street.”

Offender inducing the child to touch his/her intimate parts.

– Example: A mother encouraged her 10-year-old son to fondle her breasts while they were in bed together.

Frottage (rubbing genitals against the victim’s body or clothing).

– Example: A father, lying in bed, had his clothed daughter sit on him and play “ride the horse.”

Digital or object penetration

Offender placing finger(s) in child’s vagina or anus.

– Example: A father used digital penetration with his daughter to “teach” her about sex.

Offender inducing child to place finger(s) in offender’s vagina or anus.

– Example: An adolescent boy required a 10-year-old boy to put Vaseline on his finger and insert it into the adolescent’s anus as initiation into a club.

Offender placing instrument in child’s vagina or anus.

– Example: A psychotic mother placed a candle in her daughter’s vagina.

Offender inducing child to place instrument in offender’s vagina or anus.

– Example: A babysitter had a 6-year-old boy penetrate her vaginally with a mop handle.

Oral sex****

Tongue kissing

– Example: Several children who had attended the same day care center attempted to French kiss with their parents. They said that Miss Sally taught them to do this.

Breast sucking, kissing, licking, biting.

– Example: A mother required her 6-year-old daughter to suck her breasts (in the course of mutual genital fondling).**

Cunnilingus (licking, kissing, sucking, biting the vagina or placing the tongue in the vaginal opening).

– Example: A father’s girlfriend who was high on cocaine made the father’s son lick her vagina as she sat on the toilet.

Fellatio (licking, kissing, sucking, biting the penis).

– Example: An adolescent, who had been reading pornography, told his 7-year-old cousin to close her eyes and open her mouth. She did and he put his penis in her mouth.

Anilingus (licking, kissing the anal opening).

– Example: A mother overheard her son and a friend referring to their camp counselor as a “butt lick.” The boys affirmed that the counselor had licked the anuses of two of their friends (and engaged in other sexual acts with them).** An investigation substantiated this account.

Penile penetration

Vaginal intercourse

– Example: A 7-year-old girl was placed in foster care by her father because she was incorrigible. She was observed numerous times “humping” her stuffed animals. In therapy she revealed that her father “humped” her. There was medical evidence of vaginal penetration.

Anal intercourse

– Example: Upon medical exam an 8-year-old boy was found to have evidence of chronic anal penetration. He reported that his father “put his dingdong in there” and allowed two of his friends to do likewise.

Intercourse with animals.
Circumstances of Sexual Acts
Professionals need to be aware that sexual acts with children can occur in a variety of circumstances. In this section, dyads, group sex, sex rings, sexual exploitation, and ritual abuse will be discussed. These circumstances do not necessarily represent discrete and separate phenomena.

Dyadic sexual abuse. The most common circumstance of sexual abuse is a dyadic relationship, that is, a situation involving one victim and one offender. Because dyadic sex is the prevalent mode for all kinds of sexual encounters, not merely abusive ones, it is not surprising that it is the most common.

Group sex. Circumstances involving group sex are found as well. These may comprise several victims and a single perpetrator, several perpetrators and a single victim, or multiple victims and multiple offenders. Such configurations may be intrafamilial (e.g., in cases of polyincest) or extrafamilial. Examples of extrafamilial group victimization include some instances of sexual abuse in day care, in recreational programs, and in institutional care.

Sex rings. Children are also abused in sex rings; often this is group sex. Sex rings generally are organized by pedophiles (persons whose primary sexual orientation is to children), so that they will have ready access to children for sexual purposes and, in some instances, for profit. Victims are bribed or seduced by the pedophile into becoming part of the ring, although he may also employ existing members of the ring as recruiters. Rings vary in their sophistication from situations involving a single offender, whose only motivation is sexual gratification, to very complex rings involving multiple offenders as well as children, child pornography, and prostitution.18

Sexual exploitation of children. The use of children in pornography and for prostitution is yet another circumstance in which children may be sexually abused.

Child pornography. This is a Federal crime, and all States have laws against child pornography.19 Pornography may be produced by family members, acquaintances of the children, or professionals. It may be for personal use, trading, or sale on either a small or large scale. It can also be used to instruct or entice new victims or to blackmail those in the pictures. Production may be national or international, as well as local, and the sale of pornography is potentially very lucrative. Because of the availability of video equipment and Polaroid cameras, pornography is quite easy to produce and difficult to track.

– Child pornography can involve only one child, sometimes in lewd and lascivious poses or engaging in masturbatory behavior; of children together engaging in sexual activity; or of children and adults in sexual activity.

– It is important to remember that pictures that are not pornographic and are not illegally obscene can be very arousing to a pedophile. For example, an apparently innocent picture of a naked child in the bathtub or even a clothed child in a pose can be used by a pedophile for arousal.20

Child prostitution. This may be undertaken by parents, other relatives, acquaintances of the child, or persons who make their living pandering children. Older children, often runaways and/or children who have been previously sexually abused, may prostitute themselves independently.21

– Situations in which young children are prostituted are usually intrafamilial, although there are reports of child prostitution constituting one aspect of sexual abuse in some day care situations.22 Adolescent prostitution is more likely to occur in a sex ring (as mentioned above), at the hand of a pimp, in a brothel, or with the child operating independently. Boys are more likely to be independent operators, and girls are more likely to be in involved in situations in which others control their contact with clients.23

Ritual abuse. This is a circumstance of child sexual abuse that has only recently been identified, is only partially understood, and is quite controversial. The controversy arises out of problems in proving such cases and the difficulty some professionals have in believing in the existence of ritual abuse.24

– As best can be determined, ritual sexual abuse is abuse that occurs in the context of a belief system that, among other tenets, involves sex with children. These belief systems are probably quite variable. Some may be highly articulated, others “half-baked.” Some ritual abuse appears to involve a version of satanism that supports sex with children. However, it is often difficult to discern how much of a role ideology plays. That is, the offenders may engage in “ritual” acts because they are sadistic, because they are sexually aroused by them, or because they want to prevent disclosure, not because the acts are supported by an ideology. Because very few of these offenders confess, their motivation is virtually unknown.

– Often sexual abuse plays a secondary role in the victimization in ritual abuse, physical and psychological abuse dominating. The following is a nonexhaustive list of characteristics that may be present in cases of ritual abuse:

costumes and robes: animal, witch’s, devil’s costumes; ecclesiastical robes (black, red, purple, white);

ceremonies: black masses, burials, weddings, sacrifices;

symbols: 666, inverted crosses, pentagrams, and inverted pentagrams;

artifacts: crosses, athames (daggers), skulls, candles, black draping, representations of Satan;

bodily excretions and fluids: blood, urine, feces, semen;

drugs, medicines, injections, potions;

fire;

chants and songs;

religious sites: churches, graveyards, graves, altars, coffins; and

torture, tying, confinement, murder.
Most allegations of ritual abuse come from young children, reporting this type of abuse in day care, and from adults, who are often psychiatrically very disturbed and describe ritual abuse during their childhoods. Issues of credibility are raised with both groups. Moreover, accounts of ritual abuse are most disturbing, to both those recounting the abuse and those hearing it.

Scope of the Problem of Child Sexual Abuse
Clinicians and researchers working in sexual abuse believe that the problem is underreported. This belief is based on assumptions about sexual taboos and on research on adults sexually abused as children, the overwhelming majority of whom state that they did not report their victimization at the time of its occurrence.25 Moreover, it is probably true that situations involving female offenders as well as ones with boy victims are underidentified, in part because of societal perceptions about the gender of offenders and victims.

Estimates of the extent of sexual abuse come from three main sources – research on adults, who recount their experiences of sexual victimization as children; annual summaries of the accumulated reports of sexual abuse filed with child protection agencies; and two federally funded studies of child maltreatment entitled the National Incidence Studies. In addition, anecdotal information is supplied by some convicted/self-acknowledged offenders, who report sexually abusing scores and even hundreds of children before their arrest.

Prevalence of Child Sexual Abuse
Studies of the prevalence of sexual abuse are those involving adults that explore the extent to which persons experience sexual victimization during their childhoods. Findings are somewhat inconsistent for several reasons. First, data are gathered using a variety of methodologies: telephone interviews, face-to-face interviews, and written communications (i.e., questionnaires). Second, a study may focus entirely on sexual abuse, or sexual abuse may be one of many issues covered. Third, some studies are of special populations, such as psychiatric patients, incarcerated sex offenders, and college students, whereas others are surveys of the general population. Finally, the definition of sexual abuse varies from study to study. Dimensions on which definitions may differ are maximum age for a victim, the age difference required between victim and offender, whether or not noncontact acts are included, and whether the act is unwanted.

The factors just mentioned have the following effects on rates of sexual abuse reported. Face-to-face interviews, particularly when the interviewer and interviewee are matched on sex and race, and multiple questions about sexual abuse may result in higher rates of disclosure.26 However, it cannot be definitively stated that special populations such as prostitutes, drug addicts, or psychiatric populations have higher rates of sexual victimization than the general population, because some studies of the general population report quite high rates.27 28 Not surprisingly, when the definition is broader (e.g., inclusion of noncontact behaviors and “wanted” sexual acts) the rates go up.

Rates of victimization for females range from 6 to 62 percent,29with most professionals estimating that between one in three and one in four women are sexually abused in some way during their childhoods. The rates for men are somewhat lower, ranging from 3 to 24 percent,30 with most professionals believing that 1 in 10 men and perhaps as many as 1 in 6 are sexually abused as children. As noted earlier, many believe that male victimization is more underreported than female, in part because of societal failure to identify the behavior as abusive. However, the boy himself may not define the behavior as sexual victimization but as sexual experience, especially if it involves a woman offender. Moreover, he may be less likely to disclose than a female victim, because he has been socialized not to talk about his problems. This reticence may be increased if the offender is a male, for he must overcome two taboos, having been the object of a sexual encounter with an adult and a male. Finally, he may not be as readily believed as a female victim.31

The Incidence of Child Sexual Abuse
Incidence of a problem is defined as the number of reports during a given time frame, yearly in the case of sexual abuse. From 1976 to 1986, data were available on the number of sexual abuse cases reported per year to child protection agencies, as part of data collection on all types of maltreatment. These cases were registered with the National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect, and data were analyzed by the American Humane Association. Over that 10-year period, there was a dramatic increase in the number of reports of sexual abuse and in the proportion of all maltreatment cases represented by sexual abuse. In 1976, the number of sexual abuse cases was 6,000, which represented a rate of 0.86 per 10,000 children in the United States. By 1986, the number of reported cases was 132,000, a rate of 20.89 per 10,000 children. This represents a 22-fold increase. Moreover, whereas in 1976 sexual abuse cases were only 3 percent of all reports, by 1986, they comprised 15 percent of reports.32

Striking though these findings may be, their limitations must be appreciated. First, current data are not available. Second, cases included in this data set are limited to those that would warrant a CPS referral, generally cases in which the abuser is a caretaker or in which a caretaker fails to protect a child from sexual abuse. Thus, cases involving an extrafamilial abuser and a protective parent are not included. Third, the data only refer to reported cases. This means those cases that are unknown to professionals and those known but not reported are not included. Moreover, these are reports, not substantiations of sexual abuse. The national average substantiation rate is generally between 40 and 50 percent. Substantiation rates vary from State to State and among locations.

The National Incidence Studies (NIS-1 and NIS-2) provide additional data on the rates of child maltreatment, including sexual abuse. Information for these studies was collected in 1980 and 1986; thus, they do not provide annual incidence rates, as the Child Protection data do. In addition, these studies project a national rate of child maltreatment based on information from 29 counties, rather than using reports from all States. Nevertheless, these studies do allow for some analysis of trends because data were collected at two different time points. Moreover, one of the most important features of the NIS studies is that they gathered information on unreported as well as reported cases.

Differences between the first and second studies indicate there was a more than threefold increase in the number of identified cases of sexual maltreatment.***** An estimated 42,900 cases were identified by professionals in 1980 compared with 133,600 cases in 1986. These figures represent a rate of 7 cases per 10,000 children in 1980 and 21 cases per 10,000 in 1986.33 Despite the fact that the 1986 number and rate are quite close to the figures for suspected sexual abuse reported to child protection agencies in 1986, only about 51 percent of cases identified by professionals in the National Incidence Study were reported to child protective services (CPS). Furthermore, the proportion of cases identified but not reported to CPS did not change significantly between 1980 and 1986.34

It is clear that available statistics on the prevalence and incidence of sexual abuse do not completely reflect the extent of the problem. However, they do provide a definite indication that the problem of sexual victimization is a significant one that deserves our attention and intervention.

The Effects of Sexual Abuse on its Victim
Concern about sexual abuse derives from more than merely the fact that it violates taboos and statutes. It comes principally from an appreciation of its effects on victims. In this section, the philosophical issue of why society is concerned about sexual abuse and documented effects will be discussed.

What’s Wrong About Sex Between Adults and Children?
It is important for professionals, particularly if they dedicate a substantial part of their careers to intervening in sexual abuse situations, to distance themselves from their visceral reactions of disgust and outrage and rationally consider why sex between children and adults is so objectionable.

Organizations such as the North American Man Boy Love Association (NAMBLA) and the René Guyon Society challenge the assertion that sexual abuse is bad because of its effects on children. These organizations argue that what we label as harmful effects are not the effects of sexual abuse but the effects of societal condemnation of the behavior. Thus, children feel guilty about their involvement, suffer from “damaged goods syndrome,”35 have low self-esteem, are depressed and suicidal, and experience helpless rage because society has stigmatized sex between adults and children. If society would cease to condemn the behavior, then children could enjoy guilt-free sexual encounters with adults. Such organizations also argue that we, as adults, are interfering with children’s rights, specifically their right to control their own bodies and their sexual freedom, by making sex between children and adults unacceptable and illegal.

How can we respond to this argument? It is true that many of the effects of sexual abuse at least indirectly derive from how society views the activity. However, the impact also reflects the experience itself. The reader will recall the earlier discussion of differentiating abusive from nonabusive encounters on the basis of power, knowledge, and gratification.

Because the adult has more power, he/she has the capacity to impose the sexual behavior, which may be painful, intrusive, or overwhelming because of its novelty and sexual nature. This power may also be manifest in manipulation of the child into compliance. The child has little knowledge about the societal and personal implications of being involved in sex with an adult; in contrast, the adult has sophisticated knowledge of the significance of the encounter. The child’s lack of power and knowledge means the child cannot give informed consent.36 Finally, although in some cases the adult may perceive him/herself providing pleasure to the child, the main object is the gratification of the adult. That is what is wrong about sex between adults and children.

The Impact of Sexual Abuse
Regardless of the underlying causes of the impact of sexual abuse, the problems are very real for victims and their families. A number of attempts have been made to conceptualize the effects of sexual abuse.37 38 39 40 In addition, recent efforts to understand the impact of sexual abuse have gone beyond clinical impressions and case studies. They are based upon research findings, specifically controlled research in which sexually abused children are compared to a normal or nonsexually abused clinical population. There are close to 40 such studies to date.41

Finkelhor,42 whose conceptualization of the traumatogenic effects of sexual abuse is the most widely employed, divides sequelae into four general categories, each having varied psychological and behavioral effects.

Traumatic sexualization. Included in the psychological outcomes of traumatic sexualization are aversive feelings about sex, overvaluing sex, and sexual identity problems. Behavioral manifestations of traumatic sexualization constitute a range of hypersexual behaviors as well as avoidance of or negative sexual encounters.

Stigmatization. Common psychological manifestations of stigmatization are what Sgroi calls “damaged goods syndrome”43 and feelings of guilt and responsibility for the abuse or the consequences of disclosure. These feelings are likely to be reflected in self-destructive behaviors such as substance abuse, risk-taking acts, self-mutilation, suicidal gestures and acts, and provocative behavior designed to elicit punishment.

Betrayal. Perhaps the most fundamental damage from sexual abuse is its undermining of trust in those people who are supposed to be protectors and nurturers. Other psychological impacts of betrayal include anger and borderline functioning. Behavior that reflects this trauma includes avoidance of investment in others, manipulating others, re-enacting the trauma through subsequent involvement in exploitive and damaging relationships, and engaging in angry and acting-out behaviors.

Powerlessness. The psychological impact of the trauma of powerlessness includes both a perception of vulnerability and victimization and a desire to control or prevail, often by identification with the aggressor. As with the trauma of betrayal, behavioral manifestations may involve aggression and exploitation of others. On the other hand, the vulnerability effect of powerlessness may be avoidant responses, such as dissociation and running away; behavioral manifestations of anxiety, including phobias, sleep problems, elimination problems, and eating problems; and revictimization.
Our understanding of the impact of sexual abuse is frustrated by the wide variety of possible effects and the way research is conducted. Researchers do not necessarily choose to study the same effects, nor do they use the same methodology and instruments. Consequently, a particular symptom, such as substance abuse, may not be studied or may be examined using different techniques. Furthermore, although most studies find significant differences between sexually abused and nonabused children, the percentages of sexually abused children with a given symptom vary from study to study, and there is no symptom universally found in every victim. In addition, often lower proportions of sexually abused children exhibit a particular symptom than do nonabused clinical comparison groups. Finally, although some victims suffer pervasive and debilitating effects, others are found to be asymptomatic.44

In addition, a variety of factors influence how sexual maltreatment impacts on an individual. These factors include the age of the victim (both at the time of the abuse and the time of assessment), the sex of the victim, the sex of the offender, the extent of the sexual abuse, the relationship between offender and victim, the reaction of others to knowledge of the sexual abuse, other life experiences, and the length of time between the abuse and information gathering. For example, the findings for child victims and adult survivors are somewhat different.

It is important for professionals to appreciate both the incomplete state of knowledge about the consequences of sexual abuse and the variability in effects. Such information can be helpful in recognizing the wide variance in symptoms of sexual abuse and can prevent excessive optimism or pessimism in predicting its impact.

* When children are victims, sexual comments are usually made in person. However obscene remarks may be made on the telephone or in notes and letters.
** Activities in parenthesis are not illustrative of the sexual act being defined.
*** Sexual contact can be either above or beneath clothing.
**** The offender may inflict oral sex upon the child or require the child to perform it on him/her or both.
***** These statistics from the revised second National Incidence Study reflect the revised definition of child abuse and neglect, which includes the combined total children who were demonstrably harmed and threatened with harm.

previous You are in section:
next
This material may be freely reproduced and distributed. However, when doing so, please credit Child Welfare Information Gateway.

Email Share

What is Domestic Violence

Home » Systemwide » Laws & Policies » Definitions of Domestic Violence
Definitions of Domestic Violence

Email Print (PDF 464 KB) Share
Rate This 5.0/5, 1 Reviews
Series: State Statutes
Author(s): Child Welfare Information Gateway
Year Published: 2011
Current Through February 2011

This brief introduction summarizes how States address this topic in statute. To access the statutes for a specific State or territory, visit the State Statutes Search.

The definition of domestic violence varies depending on the context in which the term is used. A clinical or behavioral definition is “a pattern of assaultive and/or coercive behaviors, including physical, sexual, and psychological attacks, as well as economic coercion, that adults or adolescents use against their intimate partners.”1 Legal definitions across the States generally describe specific conduct or acts that are subject to civil and criminal actions, and the specific language used may vary depending on whether the definition is found in the civil or criminal sections of the State’s code.

Civil Laws
Approximately 46 States, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands define domestic violence in their civil statutes.2 These statutes typically are found in domestic relations laws but also may be found in family or social services laws, and they provide a means for victims of domestic violence to obtain civil orders of protection and other protective services.

Domestic violence can be defined as “attempting to cause or causing bodily injury to a family or household member or placing a family or household member by threat of force in fear of imminent physical harm.”3 Other terms used across the States include “abuse,” “domestic abuse,” and “family violence.” While the specific language used by States to define domestic violence varies considerably, 24 States, American Samoa, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands define domestic violence as the occurrence of any of the following acts:4

Causing or attempting to cause physical or mental harm to a family or household member
Placing a family or household member in fear of physical or mental harm
Causing or attempting to cause a family or household member to engage in involuntary sexual activity by force, threat of force, or duress
Engaging in activity toward a family or household member that would cause a reasonable person to feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, threatened, harassed, or molested5
Approximately 40 States, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands list in their statutes specific acts that constitute domestic violence.6 Most common among these are sexual assault, assault or battery, causing physical harm or serious injury, threatening or placing a victim in fear of harm, harassment, stalking, trespassing, damage to property, kidnapping, and unlawful restraint. Approximately 11 States and Puerto Rico include child abuse in their civil definitions of domestic violence.7 The civil definitions in Colorado include violence or threatened violence against an animal that is owned by a victim of domestic violence, and injuring or killing an animal as a means of harassing a person is considered domestic violence in Nevada.

(Back to Top)

Child Abuse Reporting and Child Protection Laws
Most States do not address the issue of domestic violence within their child abuse and neglect reporting laws. Montana includes “commission of acts of violence against another person residing in the child’s home” in its definition of psychological abuse or neglect.8 West Virginia defines an abused child, in part, as a child whose health or welfare is harmed or threatened by domestic violence.9 Approximately 22 States and Puerto Rico address the issue of children exposed to domestic violence in their homes in civil or criminal codes other than child protection laws.10

(Back to Top)

Criminal Laws
Approximately 34 States, American Samoa, Guam, and Puerto Rico define domestic violence in their criminal or penal codes.11 These definitions generally describe acts that can lead to arrest and misdemeanor or felony prosecution.

In criminal laws, domestic violence may be defined as “any criminal offense involving violence or physical harm or threat of violence or physical harm” committed by one family or household member against another.12 Other terms used across the States include “domestic assault,” “domestic battery,” “domestic abuse,” or “assault against a family or household member.” The specific language and terminology used by States in criminally defining domestic violence varies considerably.

Approximately 16 States, American Samoa, and Puerto Rico list in their statutes specific acts that constitute domestic violence.13 Most common among these are assault or battery, sexual assault, harassment, stalking, trespassing, kidnapping, and burglary or robbery. Arizona, Utah, and American Samoa include child abuse in their criminal definitions of domestic violence. Animal cruelty is included in the criminal definitions in Arkansas.

(Back to Top)

Persons Included in the Definitions
In all States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. territories, the statutes specify that only persons who have some sort of personal relationship are protected by the domestic violence laws. The most common relationships listed include spouses and former spouses, persons who are currently living together, who have previously lived together, are involved or were previously involved in a dating or intimate relationship, or who have a child in common, whether or not they have ever lived together.

Approximately 34 States, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands include children as a class of protected persons within their definitions of domestic violence.14 Most commonly, a child who is a member of the household or a child of either adult in the relationship is protected. Seven States and Puerto Rico specifically include grandchildren as protected persons.15 Four States include foster children.16 Foster parents are included as protected persons in seven States.17

To access the statutes for a specific State or territory, visit the State Statutes Search.

(Back to Top)

1 Susan Schechter and Jeffrey Edelson, Effective Intervention in Domestic Violence and Child Maltreatment Cases: Guidelines for Policy and Practice (Reno, NV: National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, 1999), 122-123. back
2 The word approximately is used to stress the fact that States frequently amend their laws. This information is current only through February 2011. States that do not define domestic violence in their civil laws include Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Oklahoma. Delaware defines domestic violence only within the context of title 13, chapter 7A, Child Protection from Domestic Violence and Sex Offenders Act. back
3 See Arizona Rev. Stat. § 36-3001. back
4 Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Indiana, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wyoming. back
5 See Michigan Comp. Laws § 400.1501. back
6 Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. back
7 Alabama, Colorado, Hawaii, Maryland, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, and Vermont. back
8 See Mont. Code Ann. § 41-3-102.West Va. Code Ann. § 49-1-3(a)(4). back
9 See West Va. Code Ann. § 49-1-3(a)(4). back
10 As of November 2009, the States included Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, and Washington. For more information, including citations and summaries of laws, see the Information Gateway publication, Child Witnesses to Domestic Violence: http://www.childwelfare.gov/systemwide/laws_policies/statutes/witnessdv.cfm back
11 Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. back
12 See, for example, Utah Ann. Code § 77-36-1. back
13 Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. back
14 Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia. back
15 Arizona, Kentucky, New Mexico, North Carolina, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia. back
16 Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, and Texas. back
17Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Texas. back

This publication is a product of the State Statutes Series prepared by Child Welfare Information Gateway. While every attempt has been made to be as complete as possible, additional information on these topics may be in other sections of a State’s code as well as agency regulations, case law, and informal practices and procedures.

This material may be freely reproduced and distributed. However, when doing so, please credit Child Welfare Information Gateway.

Email Print (PDF 464 KB) Share

Why NoMoreBlows….

Why do I believe in NoMoreBlows?

I’m a 32 year old Domestic Violence survivor. I am now walking in what God has created me to do.

The thought of starting from the ground up may not be a good idea for some people. God has deposited this in me; it is not anything I’ve done.

I’m not your normal advocate, I’ve lived the life of Domestic Violence. I know what it is like to be robbed of your hymen. I don’t follow a textbook of rules to diagnose people. I want to tell you the reality of the “game”. Time is up for service providers who make women feel less than because they have never walked in these shoes. Some advocates only have textbook knowledge.

I know what it’s like for someone to control your moves. I was 18 the first time a threat was placed on my life. The young man I dating answered my mother’s phone. He says it was a guy on the other end. 16 years later I still can’t tell you who it was that called.

He got in his car and went fleeing to his mother’s house to get his gun. He told his mother he was coming to hurt me because I was cheating on him. She wrestled him down and called 9-1-1. They detained him. He spent a few days on the 4th floor at Good Samaritan Hospital. Every phone call that came in was him telling me it was all my fault.

I told him “my mother has had this SAME number for years.”

That number was old and people would call it as they pleased. Not to mention I had a daughter with another man before this new relationship with him.

I know what it’s like to stand on the other side of a gun fully loaded and ready to shoot. I know what it is like to have your life threatened on a regular basis. I’ve heard the “if I can’t have you NO one will.”

I had a friend who would pick me up from the corner store. If she didn’t answer I would leave a detailed message on her answering machine saying, we just got into it if anything happens to me he did it. Yep, several times I had to leave those messages and go back in fear of what would happen if he finally got the courage to act on his word.

Thinking about a blink of an eye and your life can be gone. God was the only reason the trigger wasn’t pulled. And I am thankful for that. My now 17 year old daughter would have had to witness the whole thing. I held her hand as we ran to some form of safety.

Like most of you I’ve thought about harming my abuser as a way of escape. I didn’t know how to shoot a gun, so I thought of burning the house down. That was after years of being tired of running to safety looking for a place to stay.

I also know what it’s like to play sleep hoping and praying he wouldn’t come in wanting sex. It would only end up with him rubbing his penis across my face forcing it into my mouth. Eventually I would be rolling around in the sheets against my will thinking of the guns in the closet. I had better comply no matter the time of night. The fresh scent of soap on his penis meant he just washed it. I didn’t hear any water, just the keys hitting the table.

Would you say he didn’t have the nerve to shoot me? Not at all. On the day my daughter and I went running to safety it changed my life forever. He did fire the gun as we ran down the street. I’m not sure where the bullets went. He fired it again later, shooting a female cop in the neck. She was paralyzed and died two years later, he was shot eight times and died ten years later.

Yes, I would say I am a blessing. That’s why NoMoreBlows is important to me. I was only 19 when my life was turned upside down. I felt hopeless an alone in a world where other women have walked in my shoes.

My passion is to help young ladies, so I don’t want another young lady to stay when she doesn’t have to stay. I don’t want another young lady looking down a gun praying the trigger isn’t pulled. I don’t want another young lady being used as a personal porn star. Rape is rape no matter how you look at it.

We as women have to have the nerve to not just call the police but press the charges when the case is made. I want to be the advocate who goes to court with the ladies who take a stand.

As someone who walked in your shoes I will stand. I’ve been scared to all 9-1-1 and prayed that a neighbor didn’t hear what was going on in the house. You know the thought that “if he goes to jail his family is going to blame you”. It’s rare to have the support of his family when it’s time to do what’s right.

Had I left my abuser in jail I don’t know how the story would have ended. I cleaned out the newly opened CDs at the bank and put my house up to get him out of jail. I want to be the advocate where women NO longer have to make that choice.

Today I’m asking all survivors around the world to take a stand with me and say NoMoreBlows to women of all religious beliefs, races, social classes and educational levels!

Are you willing? If so send submission. I will share them on my blog or I can share my testimony with you! The goal is NOT to compete but to swallow pride and realize we have the same mission.

I now know what this verse means;
We are assured and know that [God being a partner in their labor] all things work together and are [fitting into a plan] for good to and for those who love God and are called according to [His] design and purpose. (Romans 8:28 AMP)

Yes, even my hardship will work together for my good! Remember there is NOTHING too hard for God!

Please join me in taking the NoMoreBlows Challenge! If you’re advocate keep doing what you are doing. If you know someone who needs one, I have a list of resources on my blog.

Peace and Love to all!

Sweet Dreams

May the Lord answer you when you are in distress; may the name of the God of Jacob protect you. May he send you help from the sanctuary and grant you support from Zion. May he remember all your sacrifices and accept your burnt offerings. May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed. May we shout for joy over your victory and lift up our banners in the name of our God. May the Lord grant all your requests. Now this I know: The Lord gives victory to his anointed. He answers him from his heavenly sanctuary with the victorious power of his right hand. Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm. Lord , give victory to the king! Answer us when we call! (Psalm 20:1-9 NIV)

20130222-221311.jpg

Rihanna is Grown…

We sure know how to pick silly battles in this world….

Rihanna has made the choice to make public appearances with Chris Brown who beat her a few years ago. Yes, we all viewed the pictures as they went viral across the web, tabloids, and every news station. There is NO doubt something happened inside of the car the two were in.

What happened? According to the pictures she was beat, her face was black and blue.

Rihanna has been called a ton of names because she has made the choice to have some form of relationship with Chris again; to our knowledge she is not being forced. She willingly goes where she pleases.

This is my question to those who are upset and outraged about her decision.

Where is that rage when women who can’t afford to get up and leave are forced to stay? Where is the compassion for them?

Every day a woman is forced to stay with a man who beats her. Sorry, there are no pictures to show you, her abuser isn’t famous. Night after night she prays for someone who will rescue her.

Now your other possible question may be, why can’t she leave? Chances are he has her money on lock, he drives her where she needs to go, and he might even monitor her phone conversations.

The point is we put too much thought into people we don’t know and people who are able to help themselves. I was once controlled by a man. He dropped me off, picked me up and needed to know all the moves I made.

I was young and silly. I thought that man loved me that much. That’s NOT love – it’s another form of control. It is a way to monitor who you might share details of what goes on behind the doors at your castle.

I want to challenge you to reach out to someone who may have distance because of a relationship. Chances are things could be just fine but then again, the distance might be a silent cry for help.

Send a card, a text or just make a phone call. You don’t have to ask a ton of questions. Just keep it simple let her know you’re thinking of her and miss the times y’all used to share!

If she is being abused in any way, that message will brighten up her day. Offer to meet for dinner away from the house. These are just a few little tips you can try to reach out to your loved one. We all need someone.

Was I upset when the news hit about Rihanna? Yes, I was upset. When I looked at the pictures I thought about the time I had a concussion and an ugly bruise on my face.

I thought “she should leave that joker, she deserves better than that and I hope she never goes back.” As an advocate for women who want to leave, I wanted her out of the relationship.

This situation showed us a few things, friends and family have NO power to control a woman. A woman is going to stay with who she wants NO matter what we think of them.

When this happens you don’t have the right to say she is dumb, stupid or silly. According to statistics 1 in 4 women will experience DV in her lifetime. And if you’ve been blessed and NEVER been abused do you part to keep it that way.

The other victims may not be Rihanna and her Boo. They may not have Chris Brown or Rihanna’s money BUT she still needs a voice. If you need a visual of what intimate partner violence looks like, google a picture of Rihanna and pretend she is your friend or a close family member.

Tonight let us pray for those wanting a safe way of escape. Take a stand with me and say No More Blows!

Peace and Hugs to all:-)

20130222-175357.jpg

A Cry For Reeva…

Heartache! All the way from South Africa, I felt the news of Reeva, the girlfriend of South African athlete, Oscar.

You may remember Oscar from the Summer Olympics, he was the guy from South Africa with the blades. His legs were cut off as a little boy and his parents made the decision to amputate them via the advice of medical experts.

Once again we have people coming out saying there have been domestic calls made to this house prior to the case. I’m not sure why he lived in such a secure area and still felt the need to have so many guns.

When the news first broke, reports were that he thought someone was breaking into his house. Let’s say that is the truth, my mind still tells me that you would have to see your target before you shoot. There would have been something about her familiar face and small frame that would say she wasn’t breaking in to his house.

Reading the reports about murders like this upsets me for two reasons:
1.) We will NEVER know both sides of the story. The victim is dead unable to speak and tell his or her side of the story.
2.) When the accused has a story, good or bad, the media always finds a way to avoid the topic at hand.

The way I look at this we have another victim of Domestic Violence who will be laid to rest. All because a man was unable to exercise self-control. My heart breaks. This could have been me. My heart hurts for her family.

Another report says a neighbor heard arguing coming from the house before the shooting. If that is true my mind also tells me that was a clear indication he then realized his home wasn’t being broken into.

We all have tons of questions at this point. Some will NEVER be answered. What I would like is for all of us to stand united in prayer. Ask God to have His way and get the glory.

This should come as another lesson to all of us. If you have a male or female friend being abused, we as survivors must stand together for them. Abuse is never acceptable.

The reality is often when sex is a factor sexual soul ties are real. There is something about the act the blinds some of us. We’ve all played the fool a time or two. Can you share how you stopped playing the fool for sex?

Speaking out after the murder has to stop. We have to love our friends enough to tell the truth while he or she is still living. We must start taking a stand while he or she can hear! If you’re not the person to talk to, find out where the resources are and connect with the right people. Understand that you don’t have the power to help everyone. GOD has given you someone to help.

I ask you to keep Reeva’s family in your prayers. I know the pain of having a child taken tragically. I do not know what it is like to have a famous person with tons of money to be the accused perpetrator of the crime.

Keep Oscar and his family in your prayers as well. I don’t know how it feels to be looking at life in prison. He and his family will need the prayers.

The bottom line: let’s speak up and take a stand before a fatality occurs.