The Causality of Pornography and Institutional Abuse

May 6, 2014


April 15, 2014

Abstract: In Western society, sexual abuse consummated on a child is considered distinctly heinous.  Child sexual abuse is largely under-reported, almost wholly perpetrated by males that know their victim.  The purposes of this editorial are to discover the causality between male pornographic movie consumption and institutional abuse, to identify whether an increasingly graphic and violent pornography industry has blurred the lines of acceptable conduct in an adult/child relationship, if institutional abuses are directly related to this skewed perception of reality as a result of pornographic consumption, and how this presents a future problem as a younger generation of males, who watch pornographic videos three times as much as their older counterparts, begin accepting positions of trust and leadership in your child’s classrooms, churches, and extracurricular organizations. 

The topic of child sexual abuse by itself is enough to cause alarm in most societies; certainly so in ours.  At minimum, child sexual abuse is a crime among the most sensationalized by American media outlets, which reinforces our worst nightmare as parents; 75% of parents say their biggest fear is that their child will be abducted and sexually abused by a stranger. It is no wonder why then, that child sexual abuse cases evoke so much emotion and attention from the average person.  A result of the emotion and fear felt from these cases, children are warned about talking to strangers at a very young age.  Moreover, several laws (Megan’s Law, Amber Alert etc.) have been enacted to immediately alert communities across the U.S. of a child’s disappearance, and all convicted sex offenders are registered, and must go door-to-door to alert them of their presence in the neighborhood.

For the most part, our society has adequately enacted laws and procedures to minimize our worst fears from occurring, which is comforting to a degree.  But, what if I told you that most child sexual abuses are from someone the victim knows, and it’s almost always from a male?  Our biggest fears should not be that a stranger abducts and abuses our children.  Rather, our biggest fear should be that it could be anybody close to our families or our children commit these crimes; 93% of juvenile victims know the perpetrator in some capacity, and 90-96% of all perpetrators are male.  Some examples of people your child spends time with include, but are not limited to their teachers, clergymen, sports coaches, child-care providers, youth organization leaders, and relatives.  The biggest fear should be that our children can spend in excess of 10 hours per day, 5-6 days a week, for 9-10 months out of the year in the care of one or more types of people our children know and trust, which represent the vast majority of child sexual abuses.

These are the facts, not hyperbole-laden media perceptions.  The basic facts about child sexual abuse adequately shape this discussion, but hardly tell the whole story of institutional abuse.  Discussing the sentiments and statistics also represents the easier part of the subject, as most of us agree with the general sentiment. The effect of pornography, on the other hand, poses a larger challenge.  There are several reasons for this, but it ultimately centers on a few main points: it’s much easier in today’s world to access pornography, it’s more socially acceptable than at any other point – especially so with younger generations, and the younger generations are the ones stepping into teaching, leadership, and mentorship positions in your child’s institutions.

Pornography, unlike child sexual abuse, is a much more polarizing issue, divided along two divisive schools of thought: one school of thought is that pornography is detrimental to social order, and leads to sexual crime, while the other school of thought is that pornography is an expression of fantasies that provide pleasure, and a safe, positive outlet for sexual aggression.  These two trains of though align with generation gaps.  In a 2009 study, 25% of men admitted to watching pornography; however, in a separate study conducted in 2013, nearly 85% of young men (18-24 y/o) watch pornography monthly.  From the same study, two of three men consider pornography as an acceptable way to express one’s sexuality.  The numbers don’t tell the full story, but they do illuminate one trend; that younger males are significantly accepting of pornography in society, decisively more so than those in older generations.

No matter how socially acceptable pornography may be to the younger generation, detractors of pornography have compelling statistics to reinforce their assertions that pornography is a detriment. While both schools of thought can mostly agree that pornography is about sex and objectifying women, detractors have much stronger, statistically-reinforced opinions about porn.  A 2010 study chose 50 popular porn videos to analyze, totaling 304 scenes.  Of those, 88% contained physical violence and 49% contained verbal aggression, yet 95% of the women (the target of this behavior) responded neutrally or with pleasure.

For the vast majority of society, we clearly understand that 95% of people would not react with pleasure or indifference to aggression or violence – we are not the problem.  The problem is with how young kids are when being exposed to pornography; the average age for a boy’s first exposure is 12 years old.  Many can agree that 12-years-olds are naturally impressionable – a sobering thought given the high volume of aggression in porn.  To speak to the aggression, there are free porn websites that have rape as video categories.  It’s not particularly hard for a child to stumble onto these types of videos, and 71% of kids will attempt to hide their internet activities from their parents.  This increasingly aggressive porn is usually a teenage boy’s first exposure to sex; their neurons are associating the violence with this 95% perception that women enjoy the violence and aggression.

The last two paragraphs were heavy into the numbers and psychology of pornography, but they have a purpose in explaining a key concept in child sexual abuse; that aggressive behaviors seen in porn videos are somehow acceptable, which decisively blurs the lines of acceptable behavior in society – specifically, the lines determining that child abuse is wrong.  Along with violent pornography, child pornography is the fastest growing online business, and you can apply the same reasoning used to describe violent pornography on child pornography.  Imagine child porn being the first types of videos your child is exposed to.  Worse yet, there is a strong link between consumers of child pornography and child sexual abuse – 85% of jailed child porn consumers admitted to sexual contact with children.

The link between child sexual assault and pornography is established, to a degree, but how does that apply to your child, or to you?  The next generation of educators, clergymen, coaches and youth organization leaders will come from this age group: the age group that finds pornography socially acceptable and an acceptable outlet for sexuality.  This does not guarantee that your child or children are at an increased risk of sexual abuse as the younger generation enters the educational work.  What it does indicate is that the boundaries of acceptable behavior have widened considerably compared to older generations.  Imagine the scenario 10 years from now, where a 30-year-old teacher who watches pornography weekly inappropriately touches an 8-year-old girl; because of the visual stimulation and feeling to re-enact what he has seen in this current age of aggressive porn and a booming child porn industry, the teacher might consider that somewhat normal to touch a kid like that, and not think that he was not doing something completely wrong.  The sadly disturbing reality to this hypothetical story is that in many teacher abuse cases, this is increasingly true.

This story is not all gloom and doom for you or your children, however.  Mandatory reporter laws are increasingly stronger, annual training for teachers, background checks conducted on those that deal with kids, and general awareness of the topic has evolved just as quickly, if not quicker, than pornography.  California’s proposed bills AB-375, AB-1432, SB-131, and SB-1530 have all attempted to address this glaring problem.   However comforting it is to hear that people are working to get solutions into place, training, awareness, thorough background checks, and elected officials are only part of the solution.  None of the bills listed above have been approved, and each bill has plenty of people with money lobbying against them.

We at the individual level can play a part in identifying and preventing child sexual abuse.  While there is no exact profile a child predator fits into, sexual predators share a few similar traits, including the use of secrecy, misuse of power, and willful manipulation of the adult/child relationship to groom their victim’s behavior.  If you notice one or more of these traits from a suspicious person, beware:

–         Offering free babysitting

–         Excludes one particular child

–         Insistent on physical affection, even against the will of the child

–         Overt interest in a child’s sexual development

–         Insistence on spending alone time with the child

–         Takes an inordinate amount of pictures

–         Shares alcohol or drugs with the child

–         Exposes their genitals to a child

If you notice multiple traits in people close to your children, you should take all reasonable action to reduce or eliminate the risk to your child.  Also, you should immediately take action if your child is experiencing one or more of the following symptoms:

–         Enhanced sexual knowledge

–         Hints or conduct of sexual activity

–         Regressive behaviors, such as peeing the bed/pants, or baby talk

–         Fear or avoidance of any aspect of sexuality

–         Frequent depression

–         Poor social boundaries

–         Interest in fire, destroying property

–         Hurting or mutilating animals

–         Refuses to undress for activities or wears multiple layers

–         Creates art/literature about abuse

–         Difficulty concentrating

–         Overly obedient

–         Accident-prone

Even with all of these behaviors pointed out, and personality traits identified, it will never be a 100% solution to preventing child sexual abuses.  There is a very important cog between identifying a problem and implementing safeguards in our institutions – you!  Parents and guardians have a role to play in this process; if any of the symptoms noted above are observed, you have a responsibility to report allegations of child sexual abuse to local law enforcement, such as the Police Department.  This does not include the school or institution’s local law enforcement.  In the case of the Catholic Church settlements over the past decade (to cite one example), many of those cases included instances where the Church actively sought to keep the story under wraps, as to not expose their clergy.

In child sexual abuse cases, remember that the institutions normally say the right things about child safety on paper or in the news.  Remember also that cases like this are embarrassing for an institution – the types of embarrassments they prefer to not have out in the open.  Some will purposely cover up allegations of child sexual abuse, and take their chances that it will never be uncovered.  We as parents have the power to circumvent this potential calamity by reporting it to legitimate law enforcement; they are required to investigate all allegations of child abuses.

what this might do, however, is provide parents with a resource that explains the damaging relationship of pornography and institutional abuses and alerts parents of specific behaviors.  If even one child sexual assault is prevented because of something on this paper, we will consider this paper a rousing success.

*DISCLAIMER: We have no opinion on pornography nor the people who watch it; this editorial is the result of conducting research and taking it where it led the author.   If you or somebody you know is addicted to pornography and needs help, there are recovery and support groups available to cure the addiction.  One resource is the Sexual Recovery Institute, which has a hotline number to call: (877) 959-4114.


Pornography Statistics: Annual Report 2013

25 percent of men watch online porn, and other ‘facts’ about Americans’ online video habits

Internet Porn: Desensitizing Men, and Increasing Brutality Towards Women

Critical Thinking Exercise # 1: Violent sexual offenses against children

RAINN- The Offenders:

University of Hawai’i: Pornography, Public Acceptance and Sex Related Crime: A Review


Child Sexual Abuse: What you need to know (Queensland, Australia)