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Innate Resistance to Sexual Abuse

 

Innate Resistance to Sexual Abuse

by William Katzhaus

 

 

 

Copyright © 2016 by William Katzhaus

All rights reserved

 

Cover photograph, copyright © 2006 by William Katzhaus

 

 

 

Contents

Introduction

Scope of the Problem

Evolutionary Questions

Cultural Realities

Conclusion

Bibliography

Introduction

The hypothesis that sexual abuse among humans is innate, that it is related to reproduction tends to persist. Arguments promoting the assertion rely on questionable, if not poor science, and have been repeatedly dismissed. Nevertheless, scholars on both sides of the issue have focused almost exclusively on the rape of women. If more attention was paid to the sexual abuse of children, who cannot bear children, it is possible the issue of innateness may have never been raised.

The debate has, however, initiated serious scientific inquiry into the issue of sexual coercion, as it is known among biologists and anthropologists when studying our genetically closest cousins, chimpanzees and bonobos. Comparisons of human behavior to these species show that only human beings sexually abuse children, and only human beings and chimpanzee males coerce females into having sex.

Anthropological studies indicate that it is culture that accounts for the presence or absence of rape. Specifically, those hunter-gatherer cultures that are nearly rape-free have managed to maintain a traditional way of life independently of advanced cultures and have deep traditions of respect for women and nature. Close examination of hunter-gatherer cultures have also found very strong resistance to all forms of domination. There is greater evidence to support the hypothesis that resistance to sexual abuse is innate.

Scope of the Problem

There are several levels of causation for sexual abuse. While some cases may be related to genetic dispositions, birth defects, and brain injuries, the vast majority are related to culture and upbringing. Here, we focus only on culture and upbringing.

As few as 1 in 20 (about 5%) cases of child sexual abuse (CSA) in the US are reported or identified. The statistics presented below are underestimates (Hall & Hall 2007 p460). Unless otherwise noted, all data is from the US, but similar statistics can be obtains about most other countries.

Victims

While all statistics for CSA reflect under-reporting. Boys especially are less likely to report being abused than are girls (Hunter 1990) and this remains true for grown men (Sorsoli et al. 2008). Thus, statistics for males are even less reliable than females. This has important implications for both prevention, detection, and treatment (Hunter 1990).

There are a number of obstacles to reporting sexual abuse of boys, including:

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p<>{color:#000;}. A Freudian legacy within the mental health community that assumes memories are mere fantasies.

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p<>{color:#000;}. Many mental health professionals lack training in getting boys (or men) to talk about their experiences of abuse.

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p<>{color:#000;}. When the abuser was a woman, many boys and men understand what happened but do not think of it as sexual abuse.

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p<>{color:#000;}. Homophobic stigma if the abuser was male (Hunter 1990 p27-34; Hall & Hall 2007).

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p<>{color:#000;}. Potential physical danger from speaking out.

In the US, one of every five girls (20%) and up to one of every ten boys (10%) is sexually abused according to David Finkelhor (1994), who has conducted extensive research in this area. Data collected by the US Department of Health & Human Services shows similar results, broken down by age group (2012):

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p<>{color:#000;}. 0-2: 2.6%

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p<>{color:#000;}. 3-5: 14.0%

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p<>{color:#000;}. 6-8: 17.2%

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p<>{color:#000;}. 9-11: 18.4%

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p<>{color:#000;}. 12-14: 26.3%

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p<>{color:#000;}. 15-17: 20.9%

International data show very similar results. A meta analysis of 22 countries shows that at least 19.2% of girls and at least 7.4% of boys are victims of some form of sexual abuse before age 18 (Pareda 2009; Badkhen 2012).

Among the population as a whole, the lifetime prevalence of PTSD (the likelihood that anyone will develop PTSD at some point in their lives) in the US is 6.8%. For comparison, the lifetime prevalence of anxiety disorders is 28.8%, mood disorders 20.8%, impulse-control disorders 24.8%, and substance abuse disorders 14.6% (Kessler et al. 2005).

For victims of CSA, the effects include but are not limited to PTSD, depression, and suicide (see Katzhaus 2015). A meta analysis shows that CSA is correlated with these effects (Oddone Paolucci 2001):

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p<>{color:#000;}. PTSD: 0.40

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p<>{color:#000;}. Depression: 0.44

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p<>{color:#000;}. Suicide: 0.44

(Values range from -1.0 to 1.0. The farther away from 0, the stronger the relationship.) Note that alcohol and substance abuse, eating disorders, self-mutilation, and other effects were not included in this analysis.

For many children, the abuse has detrimental affect on the physical development of their brain (Perry 1995).

Children that are not related by blood to their caregivers, such as orphans and children of step parents, are at higher risk for sexual abuse (Korbin 1987).

In the US in 2013, 43.8 million adults over 18 (18.5%) had a mental illness, almost one in five. An estimated 9.3 million adults aged 18 or older (roughly 4% assuming there are 250 million Americans over 18) had serious thoughts of suicide, 2.7 million (1.5%) made suicide plans, and 1.3 million (0.5%) attempted suicide (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration 2014). In other words, 1 American in every 200 attempted suicide in 2013.

Perpetrators

Between 70% and 90% of the perpetrators are in the child's circle of trust. When the victims are girls, between 33% and 50% of the perpetrators are members of the immediate family. For boys, the perpetrators are members of the family in 10% to 20% of the cases (Finkelhor 1994). The perpetrators are usually neighbors, teachers, members of the clergy, coaches, and others that children are normally expected to trust. “Pedophiles often intentionally try to place themselves in a position where they can meet children and have the opportunity to interact with children in an unsupervised way” according to Hall & Hall (2007 p461) and many studies have found consistent evidence for this. Strangers account for only about 3% of the CSA for children under 6 years of age, 5% for ages 6 to 11, 10% for ages 12 to 17, and 27% for victims over 17 (Hall & Hall 2007 p460).

Male child sex abusers are narcissistic and more likely to be sexually aggressive, have less empathy for victims of rape, and believe in rape myths that shift blame to the victim (Hall & Hall 2007 p458).

Of those girls that are sexually abused, 95% of their abusers are men and 5% are women. Of those boys that are sexually abused, 80% of their abusers are men and 20% are women (Finkelhor 1991).

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation maintains a Registered Offenders List, which estimates that:

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p<>{color:#000;}. Most child molesters molest dozens of children before being caught. The odds of them being caught are only about 3%.

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p<>{color:#000;}. Children in the U.S. have a 25% chance of being molested.

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p<>{color:#000;}. In the U.S. there is an average of one sex offender living in every square mile.

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p<>{color:#000;}. Only a small minority of those sexually abused as children grow up to be abusers themselves (Hall & Hall 2007 p464).

When children grow up in dysfunctional environments, their development may suffer to such an extent that they are more likely to become abusive themselves. It could be because these children lack empathy, the “ability to recognize the emotions and feelings of others with a minimal distinction between self and other,” which develops in children beginning very early up to about age three (Decety 2010). A basic level of empathy is common among many species, especially primates, and is a foundation for further development of reciprocity, a sense of fairness, altruism, and the ability to care for others (Miller & Eisenberg 1988; Zahn-Waxler & Radke-Yarrow 2013). Without empathy, people may not feel much if anything when they see others suffering. But that alone does not mean they enjoy seeing others suffer. More environmental dysfunction is required for that.

Hall & Hall’s (2007) data show that pedophiles are serial criminals, especially those attracted to boys.

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Of those that victimize girls, sexual predators had an average of 19.8 victims and 23.2 acts. Of those that victimize boys, they had an average of 150.2 victims and 281.7 acts (p459). Why there is such a difference between those that abuse girls and those that abuse boys is unknown. We know from ancient Greek literature that well-to-do men openly practiced institutionalized sexual abuse of boys. Frederick (2010) found similar institutionalized abuse practiced today, called “boy play,” in South Asia. US troops serving in Afghanistan, for example, reported several cases of Afghan National Army commanders keeping boys chained up as sex slaves. There is some indication that these abusers increase their standing among peers with better looking boys (New York Times 2015).

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p<>{color:#000;}. Of all sexual assaults against children reported to law enforcement, only about 25% overall and less than 20% for children under age six result in an arrest (p460). Of those abusers that are arrested, up to half are arrested again (p467).

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p<>{color:#000;}. The authors write that “No treatment for pedophilia is effective unless the pedophile is willing to engage in the treatment” (p465).

Children with sexual behavior issues tend to come from dysfunctional families, including but not limited to:

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p<>{color:#000;}. Witnessing violence between parents.

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p<>{color:#000;}. Arrest of one or more parents.

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p<>{color:#000;}. Poor relationship between parents and children.

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p<>{color:#000;}. Sexual abuse and its denial within the extended family.

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p<>{color:#000;}. Physical abuse of children.

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p<>{color:#000;}. Poverty.

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p<>{color:#000;}. Special educational services.

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p<>{color:#000;}. Behavioral measurements rated at clinical level (Gray et al. 1997 and 1999).

These children exhibit learning and psychiatric disorders that are often associated with maltreatment (Finkelhor 1991; Gray 1997 and 1999; Wieckowski et al. 1998).

Child sexual abusers feel inferior, are lonely, have low self-esteem, have a need to for domination, and are emotionally immature. They tend to have difficulty with age-appropriate interpersonal relations due to being passive-aggressive. They use defense mechanisms including denial, manipulation of fact, and rationalization. Abusers also commonly have one or more major psychiatric disorders such as avoidant, dependent, obsessive-compulsive, antisocial, borderline, histrionic, paranoid, and schizoid. They typically lack remorse and do not care about the harm they cause (Hall & Hall 2007 p462; Finkelhor 1991).

That child sex abusers are sick may help explain but it does not excuse their behavior. As much as 85% of sexual offenses against children are premeditated so as to carry out the act without risking detection from authorities. Rather than being unplanned without thought of consequences, such acts are more likely the result of compulsions that are planned (Hall & Hall 2007 p458).

Child sexual abusers often get themselves into jobs or positions (priests, teachers, coaches, and the like) where they have access to a large pool of potential victims. They sometimes spend a great deal of time grooming their victims, building high levels of trust with both the victim and her or his inner circle of trust, before taking action (Hall & Hall 2007 p461). That fact indicates strongly that those that sexually abuse children plot their crimes and are masters of deception. They do not act on whims.

Nearly all perpetrators of CSA have normal heterosexual relations with adults. Only 7% of pedophiles are exclusively attracted to children (Hall & Hall 2007 p459). Among the 93% that are attracted to both adults and children, one study found that all were heterosexual. Thus, it seems that homosexuality and the sexual abuse of children of the same sex “may be mutually exclusive” (Groth & Birnbaum 1978). In other words, despite homophobic assertions to the contrary, it is adult heterosexuals that sexually abuse children.

Many child molesters begin early. Juveniles commit four out of ten (40%) of assaults against children under 12. The most frequent age of the offender is 14. And 40% of pedophiles had molested a child by the time they were 15 (Hall & Hall 2007 p458).

While this tells us about the abusers and what family and social-psychological environments they come from, that is only part of the story. There are other powerful forces at work that create such environments in the first place. Moreover, such environments do not exist in every culture. We will return to these questions later.

Evolutionary Questions

Has sexual abuse always plagued humankind? Are we stuck with it forever? To answer these questions, we must look at the longue duree of both human history and prehistory. We can see that the culture of silence, rape, and child sexual abuse are relatively recent developments. They have their beginnings with the neolithic revolution, when human beings first began growing their own food, domesticating animals, and settling in villages.

Back in 1975, Susan Brownmiller made a very loud noise, loud enough for many to look closely at the culture of silence. With her publication of Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape, Brownmiller pins the origins of rape on men realizing they had a penis (p13-14), which:

may have been sufficient to have caused the creation of a male ideology of rape. When men discovered they could rape, they proceeded to do it … Man’s discovery that his genitalia could serve as a weapon to generate fear must rank as one of the most important discoveries of prehistoric times, along with the use of fire and the first crude stone axe. From prehistoric times to the present, I believe, rape has played a critical function. It is nothing more or less than a conscious process of intimidation by which all men keep all women in a state of fear.

It is not clear if Brownmiller thinks this is something innate in men. If Brownmiller truly believes that all men do this, then why would she thank a dozen of them for their help in researching her book (p406-407) or praise the odd prince for being ahead of his time? The fact is that all men do not keep all women in a state of fear. The small minority of men and the smaller minority of women that commit sex crimes are the ones that keep children, women, and those of us that have survived sexual abuse in fear.

To adequately address the origins of rape, we must approach it with more scientific discipline. We can learn a lot by looking at our closest cousins, chimpanzees (pan troglodytes) and bonobos (pan paniscus). Is rape innate? Is it encoded in our DNA?

Religious fundamentalists are right. We did not evolve from apes. We are apes. So are chimpanzees, bonobos (a close cousin to chimpanzees), gorillas, and orangutans. Our DNA closely matches that of several extant species:

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p<>{color:#000;}. Chimpanzees: 98.8%: endangered, West and Central Africa, north of the Congo River (Prufer 2012)

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Innate Resistance to Sexual Abuse

The hypothesis that sexual abuse among humans is innate, that it is related to reproduction tends to persist. Arguments promoting the assertion rely on questionable, if not poor science, and have been repeatedly dismissed. Nevertheless, scholars on both sides of the issue have focused almost exclusively on the rape of women. If more attention was paid to the sexual abuse of children, who cannot bear children, it is possible the issue of innateness may have never been raised. The debate has, however, initiated serious scientific inquiry into the issue of sexual coercion, as it is known among biologists and anthropologists when studying our genetically closest cousins, chimpanzees and bonobos. Comparisons of human behavior to these species show that only human beings sexually abuse children, and only human beings and chimpanzee males coerce females into having sex. Anthropological studies indicate that it is culture that accounts for the presence or absence of rape. Specifically, those hunter-gatherer cultures that are nearly rape-free have managed to maintain a traditional way of life independently of advanced cultures and have deep traditions of respect for women and nature. Close examination of hunter-gatherer cultures have also found very strong resistance to all forms of domination. There is greater evidence to support the hypothesis that resistance to sexual abuse is innate.

  • ISBN: 9781311844309
  • Author: William Katzhaus
  • Published: 2016-05-25 05:20:07
  • Words: 12639
Innate Resistance to Sexual Abuse Innate Resistance to Sexual Abuse