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Chapter 11 Child Victimization (Supplement)

Statistical Overview

  • An analysis of the FBI's National Incident-Based Reporting System indicates that babysitters are responsible for 4.2% of all offenses against children under age six (Finkelhor and Ormrod 2001).

  • Children most at risk of physical assault by babysitters are ages one through three and children most at risk of sexual assault are ages three through five (Ibid.).

  • Males make up the majority of sex-offender babysitters reported to the police (77%) and females make up the majority of the physical assaulters (64%) (Ibid.).

  • In 1999, child protective services received reports on 2.97 million maltreated children. The allegations in 29% of the reports were substantiated, and 52% of the victims were female (HHS 2001).

  • In 1999, substantiated rates of maltreatment were highest among African-American children (25.2 per 1,000), followed by Hispanics (12.6 per 1,000), whites (10.6 per 1,000) and Asian/Pacific Islanders (4.4 per 1,000) (Ibid.).

  • Eighty-seven percent of the victims were maltreated by one or both parents; 47% involved a mother acting alone (Ibid.).

  • Children under the age of six accounted for 86% of the fatalities caused by child abuse and neglect, and children under one year accounted for 43% (Ibid.).

Federal Legislation


Title III of the Violence Against Women Act of 2000 provides for grants to states, local governments, and Indian tribal governments to enter into or expand existing agreements with entities to ensure that supervised and safe visitation and exchange of children takes place in situations involving parents with issues related to domestic violence, child abuse, sexual assault, or stalking. It authorizes appropriations for court-appointed special advocate programs, child abuse training programs for judicial personnel and practitioners, and grants for televised testimony.

Title III also directs the Attorney General to conduct a study of child custody laws, including provisions related to protection orders, and the effect of those laws on child custody when domestic violence is a factor. It requires the Attorney General to examine the sufficiency of defenses to parental abduction charges available in domestic violence cases, and the burdens encountered by victims of domestic violence arising from the requirements of the Parental Kidnaping Prevention Act of 1980. Furthermore, it amends the Federal code to provide that a child custody determination made by the court include an emergency protection for the child when the child, a sibling, or a parent has been subjected to or threatened with mistreatment or abuse (P.L. 106-386).

Supreme Court Decision on Virtual Child Pornography

In a six to three decision on April 16, 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Child Pornography Protection Act of 1996 that provides up to fifteen-year jail terms for people who produce or sell computer-generated images that look like real children engaged in sexual activity. Justice Kennedy, who wrote the court's opinion, said that the law's prohibitions were too broad and might punish legitimate forms of expression, including certain award-winning Hollywood films as well as actual child pornography. Supporters of the law feel that the Act was helping to stamp out the market for actual child pornography, noting that some virtual child pornography is indistinguishable from the real thing (Lane 2002).

Internet Crimes Against Children

More and more frequently, law enforcement and victim service providers are facing the challenge of serving child victims of Internet crimes, and in the process, considering the best way to respond to their needs and those of their families. According to CyberStats at the Federation of American Scientists, there are forty-five million children and teenagers online today and by 2005 there may be as many as seventy-five million (FSA 2001).

A recent bulletin developed by the Office for Victims of Crime entitled Internet Crimes Against Children addresses issues relevant to child victims of online predators in terms of types of victimization, the unique characteristics of cybercrime, and a statistical overview of types of cybercrime.

(The following sections are excerpted from Internet Crimes Against Children published by the Office for Victims of Crime at the U.S. Department of Justice, May 2001.)


Children and teenagers are contacted through the Internet by criminals who:

  • Entice them for purposes of engaging them in online sexual acts.

  • Produce, manufacture, and distribute child pornography.

  • Expose them to child pornography and encourage them to exchange pornography.

  • Exploit them for sexual tourism for commercial gain and/or personal gratification.


  • Physical contact between the child and the perpetrator does not need to occur for a victimization.

  • Repeated, long-term victimization may occur without the victim's knowledge, such as in the case when a child's sexually explicit photograph is displayed on the Internet indefinitely.

  • Internet crimes transcend jurisdictional boundaries complicating law enforcement's work. Geographic location is not a limitation for an Internet predator.

  • Victims of Internet crimes do not disclose and may not realize that they have been victimized.

Youth Internet Survey. A youth Internet survey commissioned by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and conducted by Finkelhor at the Crimes Against Children Research Center interviewed 1,501 youths ages ten to seventeen who use the Internet regularly. Finkelhor looked at four types of online victimization occurring within a twelve-month period: sexual solicitation and approaches; aggressive sexual solicitation involving offline contact; unwanted exposure to sexual material; and, harassment including threats or other offensive content.

  • One in five youths had received a sexual approach or solicitation.

  • One in thirty-three had received an aggressive sexual solicitation.

  • One in four had had unwanted exposure to sexually explicit material.

  • One in seventeen had been threatened or harassed (Finkelhor, Mitchell, and Wolak 2000).

Finkelhor found that most youths were not disturbed by the online victimization, although a few were very distressed. Few incidents were reported to the police. Youths tended to tell parents about viewing unwanted sexually explicit material (45%) more than they told them about sexual overtures online (25%). Researchers believe that family dynamics play a role in a youth's willingness to acknowledge the crime, and denial among children who unwittingly participate in online crimes is seen as common. Of considerable concern is the fact that youths may believe that they can safely and anonymously "fool around" or experiment with strangers on the Internet and find out later that the photographs that they sent off in exchange for gifts have been commercially distributed as child pornography on the Internet.

The challenge for victim service providers operating in the frontier of Internet crime is to learn to identify child victims, to protect their privacy, and to serve them as they would other child victims and prevent revictimization.

Worldwide Commercial Sex Exploitation of Children

Besides the Internet, which is a prominent point of contact in First World nations for youth and sexual predators, the underlying causes that give rise worldwide to commercial sex exploitation of children are far broader. Poverty, gender discrimination, wars and political instability, organized crime, the drug trade, globalization, family dysfunction, and what appears to be a growing demand all contribute to this horrendous crime. The facts and figures are alarming and high. In a new report from the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) entitled "Profiting from Abuse" it is estimated that one million children enter the multi-billion dollar commercial sex trade every year. The definition of commercial sexual exploitation of children is the use of a child for sexual purposes in exchange for cash or favors. It includes child prostitution, trafficking and sale of children across borders and within countries, and child pornography (UNICEF 2001).

  • In Lithuania, 20% to 50% of prostitutes are believed to be minors.

  • In a Cambodian survey of 6,110 sex workers in the city of Phnom Penh and eleven provinces, 31% of those interviewed were youths between the ages of twelve and seventeen.

  • UNICEF estimates there are at least 244,000 women and children who are part of the commercial sexual exploitation trade in the United States.

  • There are between 400,000 and 500,000 child prostitutes in India.

  • Debt bondage—paying off loans given to their parents or guardians—is often the way young girls enter prostitution in India, Nepal, Myanmar, Pakistan, and Thailand (Ibid.).

The sex trade in many countries involves young boys who are offered to European, American, and Asian tourists, sometimes as part of vacation packages:

  • Twenty to thirty thousand of Sri Lanka's child prostitutes are boys who are "rented" to tourist pedophiles.

  • Other countries known for tolerating an active sex trade of young boys for visiting tourists are the Dominican Republican, Haiti, Egypt, Morocco, and Tunisia (Ibid.).

While there are many reasons cited that permit this phenomenon to thrive in some countries, circumstances that accompany poverty such as illiteracy, lack of marketable skills, and family dysfunction increase the possibility that a child will be sold, given up, or taken for financial gain or remuneration. During civil wars in some countries, the sexual exploitation of the vanquished after a battle is also a common practice. Children often become the targets during wartime because they are believed to be disease-free or too young to have contracted HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.

UNICEF calls for the enforcement of international laws concerning the sexual exploitation of children to combat this crime, improvement in access to and quality of education (particularly in the countries where child exploitation is common), consciousness-raising in communities, and advocacy for victims. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child states that a child has the right to be free from abuse, to receive an education, and to play. The International Labour Organization Convention 182 bans severe forms of child labor, and the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child prohibits the sale of children, child prostitution, and child pornography (Ibid.)..

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Chapter 11 Child Victimization June 2002
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