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Peer-on-Peer Sexual Abuse. Nurses Point to Porn.

Peer-on-peer Abuse

Peer-on-Peer Sexual Abuse. Nurses Point to Porn.

A Kansas City hospital has seen a horrifying increase in peer-on-peer sexual abuse among children and they have a theory on what is causing it. “Last year, Children’s Mercy saw 444 kids who were sexually abused within the last five days (of arriving at the hospital). That number rounds out to around 1,000 a year when they include the children who report sexual assault after five days. Victims are most likely girls around 4 to 8 years-old.” [ouch]

And when little people are sexually abused, it often unleashes a toxic combination of shame, arousal, confusion, and curiosity in a young, shapeable brain.

Unfortunately, the outcomes observed at this hospital support what those of us working to protect families have known for years.

The internet gives young kids access to way too much information they just aren’t ready for. And, sometimes it’s causing them to do horrible things to each other.

Young Kids Exposed to Pornography

Recently, journalist Sarah Plake from KSHB 41 News wrote a detailed piece about what nurses and pediatricians are seeing at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City. Heidi Olsen is the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) Coordinator at the Hospital, and shares what she’s seeing throughout the piece. “To sexually assault someone else, that’s a learned behavior” Olsen states. Plake goes on to report:

Nurses are also finding more and more that pornography is playing a role in these cases. That can include a victim being forced to see porn, a victim reporting that the perpetrator said they’d watched porn, being forced to do something shown in a pornographic video, or a victim being recorded doing a sexual act.

[Jennifer] Hansen [a child abuse pediatrician] and [Heidi] Olson says they’re noticing kids are being exposed to porn at very young ages, around 4 or 5 years-old. They say a child can develop unrealistic and dangerous ideas about intimate relationships by being exposed to violent, graphic porn.

“We know that it’s probably multi-factorial. I think there are lots of things that contribute to this, but that is the question; How are we, as a society, failing in such a way that we have 11, 12, and 14-year-old boys, primarily, committing violent sexual assaults?” Hansen said.

The unfiltered internet is littered with pornography. Without filters in place, Google, Bing, and Yahoo almost feel anxious to show us something unsavory.

Kids Love to Copy Everything

We love curious kids. Kiddos who question, explore, and mimic our every word and action. They soak up their environments like little, energetic sponges.

Some scientists have theorized that an abundance of mirror neurons are at least partially responsible.

First observed in primates, mirror neurons represent a special class of neurons that activate both when an individual performs an action and also when that same individual observes an action performed by someone else. Studies on humans have discovered brain activity consistent with that of mirror neurons, too.

Therefore, I yawn when someone else yawns. I smile when someone else smiles. And, yes, they likely account for a child’s uncanny ability to mimic that which he/she observes with amazing precision.

In other words, a child who sees pornography is likely to have a strong desire to want to try whatever he or she observed. Peer-on-peer abuse often occurs not because they’re bad kids, but because there may be a neurological tug to do so.

Related Post: Sexually Abused at a Sleepover

And, with easier access, and more degrading content available, the potential for disaster seems higher than in the past. According to Rene McCreary, the director of counseling services at the Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault:

“Pornography is different today than it used to be. So, 80 percent of the 15 most-viewed films portray women being hit, spit on, kicked, called degrading names. The kinds of behaviors we wouldn’t want our children, or anyone, to act in. Pornography has become more violent.”

Peer-on-Peer Sexual Abuse is on the Rise Globally

According to a 2017 article from The Guardian:

“Almost 30,000 reports of children sexually assaulting other youngsters, including 2,625 alleged attacks on school premises, have been made to police in the last four years, figures reveal.

The data released by 38 of the 43 forces in England and Wales, in response to freedom of information requests, showed reports of so-called “peer-on-peer” abuse rose from 4,603 in 2013 to 7,866 last year – an increase of 71%.”

A friend of mine who works for a local non-profit agency that assesses and counsels minors who have committed peer-on-peer sexual offenses against other minors reported to me that for all cases during the year 2016, all of the offenders had one thing in common – they experienced early exposure to pornography (early  = elementary school).

How to we Protect Kids from Peer-on-Peer Abuse?

4 Recommendations for Prevention

Recommendation #1: Tell as many young people as possible what pornography is and what to do when they see it. Start with your kids. Practice the talk and GET IT DONE!

Stop living in the ignorance of IF. It’s only a matter of WHEN your child will see something pornographic. There are just too many digital doorways and you don’t have the keys for half of them.

Leverage a book like Good Pictures Bad Pictures (completely updated!).

Leverage the encouragement we offer in our blog post, How to Talk to Your 5-year-old About Porn.

Mom, dad, if you wait until you’re ready, it’s too late. If they ride the school bus, it might be too late. They’re ready before you are, so get it done!

Recommendation #2: Filter and monitor every digital device in the house. This week. You have five days. No more excuses. 

Block porn on all of your internet-ready devices by using clean DNS like CleanBrowsing. Clean DNS is the most under-utilized parental control solution. Our post, Block Porn on Every Device for Free will show you how.

At your router, if you don’t use clean DNS, then get Circle by Disney. This week!

On the devices themselves, inspect where you kids are going by checking the browsing history. If connected to your WiFi, that Circle you just bought will show you who is visiting what. You can use their “CircleGo” feature to extend your home’s coverage to the data signal.

If Circle isn’t your thing, then for less than $50/year, Mobicip’s recently updated parental control app works really well at the device level, too. It has a really slick, new parent dashboard. If you block porn with CleanBrowsing at the router/home WiFi level and then add Mobicip on your devices, this also serves as a powerful 1-2 punch for families with younger (elementary, middle school) aged kids.

Recommendation #3: Keep digital devices out of secret places. One-on-one with the internet, kids almost always lose (adults do, too). 

This one is self-explanatory. No bedrooms, bathrooms, school busses, or sleepovers. Read more in our recent post, The 5 Most Dangerous Places for Kids to be Online. And, if they can’t have smartphones in their bedroom, then you can’t either. Sorry, no more Candy Crush before going to bed.

Parents, model the way. Remember that spongy brain point above? It applies to your kids, too. They do what you do.

Recommendation #4: Normalize pornography in your home. 

I bet that got your attention. My kids talk about pornography openly and often. They joke when they see someone on the TV come out of the bathroom in a towel, “ahhh, that’s pornography!”

Recently, upon seeing me and my wife kiss in the kitchen, my teen daughter said, “Hey, knock it off, that’s pornography,” with a sly smile.

My kids are 7, 8, 8, and 14. They’ve known the word for years. That’s due to our intentional efforts to ask them, “Have you seen anything unusual, naked people, anything scary on the internet recently? You can always tell me.” ZERO shame. 110% open and comfortable. IT’S JUST A WORD.

In Closing…

Bonus recommendation: The steps above focus on what to do to PREVENT peer-on-peer abuse. We’re also big fans of giving kids tools on the REACT side of peer-on-peer abuse, too. Have you looked your kids in the eyes, lovingly, and asked them if anyone has ever touched them in their bathing suit area? Make this a normal conversation, too.

It’s a different world than the one you grew up in. No wimpy parenting! You got this. And, we’re here to help.

Protect Young Eyes uses a website constantly updated with the latest digital trends, engaging, live presentations, and digital citizenship curriculum to help families, schools, and churches use the internet well. Like our Facebook page to stay current on digital trends. 

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*There may be affiliate links in this post because we’ve tested and trust a small list of parental control solutions. Our work saves you time! If you decide that you agree with us, then we may earn a small commission, which does nothing to your price. 

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