Minor-on-Minor Sex Abuse

Picture 18The AP has an excellent feetch this weekend on minor-on-minor sex abuse in America. It's an ugly problem, and a big one: more than a third of child sex abuse cases in America involve perps who are under 18. From the article:

For many of the therapists and attorneys who deal with them, these juvenile offenders pose a profoundly complicated challenge for the child-protection and criminal justice systems. It's a diverse group that defies stereotypes, encompassing a minority of youths who represent a threat of long-term danger to others and a majority who are responsive to treatment and unlikely to reoffend.

… While some youths commit violent, premeditated acts of sexual assault and rape, others get in trouble for behavior arising from curiosity, naivete, peer pressure, momentary irresponsibility, misinterpretation of what they believed was mutual interest, and a host of other reasons.

But there's no mechanism with which to deal with this relatively inoffensive majority, and a lot of kids are unfairly penalized, or subject to traumatic experiences. The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, signed by President Bush in 2006, demands that some sex offenders as young as 14 be listed in public registries. Some states find this too lenient, and have even tougher registry laws: In the article, the AP reports that "Delaware recently had a 9-year-old on its registry." Nancy Arnolt, who works for a victim-services agency in New York called Safe Horizons, recalls investigations of seven-year-olds, and the arrest of an eight-year-old.

This overzealousness has caused much misery. Jay Deppeler, who runs a treatment center for offending male youths in Pennsylvania, has been in the field long enough to witness it firsthand:

Deppeler recalled one autistic young man who came through Edison Court as an outpatient. He had committed a sex offense as a 14-year-old and later – after turning 18 – committed a property-related offense that sent him to the adult criminal justice system. As a result, the young man became obligated to apprise prospective employers of his full record, including the juvenile sex offense – making him "virtually unemployable."

"Long term, I fear his prospects are quite bleak," Deppeler said. "What do we end up doing with a guy like that?"


  1. jdb says

    I am a victim of minor-on-minor sex abuse. It has taken me years to even be able to admit it, and the shame of it haunts me even today. Jailing/registering the offender would have been both impractical and not very useful. As a minor raised in a very anti-sex, anti-gay family it was hardly any more his fault than it was mine.

    I don’t honestly know, with our culture of shame surrounding sex, how it could have turned out different for me. I do know that it’s our responsibility to not teach our kids that sex is bad or shameful, because that only helps victims convince themselves that they are at fault, that they are dirty, and that no one will help them because of what they think they did.

  2. Peter says

    “Feetch” is an abbreviation of the term “feature” (cf., “natch” for “naturally”). I like Brandon’s voice as a writer, but these kind of modern abbreviations rub me the wrong me. But, then again, I am a bit of a curmudgeon when it comes to matters regarding language, grammar, and syntax.

  3. Paul R says

    Probably a quarter of my friends growing up were victims of such abuse, usually by a family member. Another quarter were victimized by adults. This problem is huge.

  4. Caliban says

    It’s hard to say without knowing the specifics of each case. How many were sexual assaults involving violence? How many were “playing doctor,” one child got blamed as the instigator, and the parents flipped out? (And don’t dismiss that as a real possibility because I’ve read articles where that seemed to be the case.)

  5. William says

    “Feetch”? Andy, your substitutes have gotten bad. They over-editorialize (not necessarily in this post, but generally), and also use lame jargon like feetch. Your site was good because it served content without telling visitors what to think–and it was well written. Can we get back to that?

  6. Bill Michael says

    This just drives me nuts. WTH is “minor on minor sexual abuse”? Who defines it as such? I’ve learned that kids get together, just like I did when I was a kid, and experiment as a natural part of growing up. When did this part of everyone’s childhood become defined as a “crime” so bad that it has to involve a criminal record that follows one for life? Aren’t we going too far? Are we not over-reacting? I remember having had sexual relations as young as nine and it hasn’t harmed me in any way that I am aware of. The commenter above who identified as a “victim” should explain how they were traumatized by the experience. If mere “guilt” was their issue then they should have made peace with themselves long ago and stopped listening to people who preach that all sex is “dirty”. I don’t see sex as a bad thing unless one party was forced or taken advantage of. Am I off base? Do I need therapy? I am serious. I do think there are people in our society that have become fixated and are off on a witch hunt to root out any and all sexual activity as if it were “bad” when there really isn’t anything wrong going on in the first place. I hope I never live to see the day when a “first kiss” could land one in jail and forever marked in a sex registry.

  7. redball says

    ‘feetch’ is totes awk preteen-speak.

    just say no, brandon! (and leave the preteen jargon for your off-time w/ your friends, like i do…don’t be unprofesh 😉 )

  8. FrankD says

    When I was 12 I was prosecuted as a sexual deviant. Nothing more than playing doctor type things ever happened. I made the mistake of telling my bishop about a sin I committed. This was at a time when the church was turning in any possible sex offenders to authorities (because of recent adult predator problems that the church had gotten in trouble for).
    I was handed over to authorities and was charged with and found guilty of a list of charges. I was then put into a 3 1/2 year sexual predators rehabilitation program. Three times a week I was at the local children’s hospital where several aversion techniques were used on me.
    One of the techniques used was for me to write an erotic story. At the time I had a very small vocabulary and understanding of sexuality, so the doctors “helped” me write the erotic fantasy. Then I was to take home a tape recorder and read the fantasy (every night) and record it. Then when I brought back the tape that week we would re-write the letter (together). This exercise went on for over a year. Each time the story was written it was made more and more explicit (with the help of the doctors).


    For me and many others like me I think the punishment did not fit the “crime”.

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