A recent study revealed information that many parents may find troubling: nearly one in 10 young people have engaged in some type of sexual violence, by either coercing or forcing some type of sexual contact upon someone else. The study also suggests a connection between this behavior and being exposed to violent pornographic images. Michael Rich, MD, MPH, Boston Children’s media expert and director of the Center on Media and Child Health, shares his thoughts on what parents need to take away from this eye-opening report.
Investigating a health risk behavior once thought to be restricted to adults, research published last week in JAMA Pediatrics found that nearly 10 percent of adolescents reported having forced sex with others or committing sexual violence. The most frequent age of first committing sexual violence was 16; 98 percent of those who first committed sexual violence at 15 or younger were male, but by 18 and 19, males (52 percent) and females (48 percent) were equally involved.
Those who reportedly committed sexual violence were significantly more likely to have used media that portrayed violent sex (hurting a partner while having sex), sexual situations (kissing, fondling and non-violent sex) and non-sexual violence (fighting, shooting and killing), as opposed to those who reported not committing sexual violence.
Research on the effects of violent media has shown that while “copycat” imitation of media may be rare, exposure to media violence shifts expectations about violence for many users who come to accept it as a means of resolving conflicts, are more likely to use it and are less likely to defend its victims. …
For the past week the nation’s attention has been focused on the child sex abuse scandal engulfing Penn State’s football program. It’s a heartbreaking story that has triggered feelings of anger and horror in millions of people. It also has many parents wondering about the safety of their own children.
Unfortunately, sexual abuse of female and male children is more prevalent than many people realize and many cases go unreported. Children stay silent about their abuse for a number of different developmental, social or psychological factors. In some instances the victim is too young or otherwise unable to tell anyone what has happened, and may have some confusion about what has taken place. Other times the child may be afraid their abuser will hurt them or their family if they tell anyone, or they are embarrassed, ashamed or blame themselves for what happened.
As troubling as it may sound, there are also many victims who never come forward because they are protecting the person who hurt them. It’s not unusual for the abuser to have a bond with the child so strong that the victim is unwilling to identify him or her for fear of getting the perpetrator in trouble. If the abuser is a person of high regard— like a respected authority figure, or popular coach or teacher—the victim may think no one will believe the story, or be angry with them for accusing a respected person. …