Advocacy Official: ‘No Offender Profile' For Child Sexual Abuse
by Jeff Arnold
While investigating and prosecuting child sexual abuse can be problematic, preventing it is even more difficult.
Offenders come from every walk of life, male and female, all socioeconomic classes, all ages — a significant number of children are abused by older juveniles — and all ethnic groups.
“There is no offender profile, aside from being human beings and having a desire to do it,” said Chris Newlin, a Fort Smith native and executive director of the National Children's Advocacy Center in Huntsville, Ala. “If someone is highly motivated, they'll figure out a way to make it happen, just like an addict.”
Offenders are adept at manipulating children, their environment and their parents, often convincing parents they are looking out for the best interest of their child. However, the ability to manipulate doesn't mean an offender has to be intelligent, said Newlin.
Psychological evaluations of convicted child molester Marcus Fields and others evaluated in recent years while awaiting trial in Sebastian County show they have borderline intellectual functioning.
“You don't have to be smart to be manipulative. If Arby's, Burger King and McDonald's are all in a row and you pull up and there's a long line at Arby's and Burger King, you're probably going to slide over to McDonald's where there's not as long of line, because you want something to eat,” Newlin said.
Research has shown offenders most often pick children they see as most vulnerable.
Fields, 43, chose more than one victim from homes where a parent was absent or there was substance abuse. Fields, who has six known victims, was convicted of rape and sentenced to life in prison in 2011.
Newlin said children in a home with domestic violence are six times more likely to be sexually abused, and it's common for them to be poly-victimized, exposed to domestic violence, substance abuse, bullying, etc.
“For many of these kids, any way they turn there's this negative thing happening in their lives,” Newlin said.
In his experience, Crawford County Prosecuting Attorney Marc McCune said girls — who are more likely to be sexually abused than boys — without a father figure are often the most vulnerable. An offender will position himself as a father figure, give a girl attention and then victimize her, leaving her confused and unknowing how to respond.
While less than half of reported sexual abuse is prosecuted, a National Institute of Mental Health study estimates that only 1 to 10 percent of incidents of child sexual abuse are even reported, and other studies show disclosure is most often delayed by month or years.
McCune said adults who were abused as children come forward and reveal they were abused, sometimes only after an offender who victimized them is charged with abusing another child.
“It's almost like safety in numbers,” McCune said.
Newlin said a 67-year-old woman who toured the National Child Advocacy Center puzzled him with the exorbitant number of questions she asked.
“I found out later, she recently disclosed to a friend she was abused as a child by her babysitter's son and she thought about it every day since, but never told anyone (until now),” Newlin said. “But she always recognized how it affected the way she viewed men, her relationship with her husband, where she went and what she allowed her children to do.”