How Many Kids Can One Man Abuse?
Police lifted a gag order Monday detailing the arrest of 33-year-old Avinoam Braverman, of Tel Aviv, alleged to have contacted some 1,000 minors, engaging some in virtual sex in front of web cams and of raping, sodomizing and molesting others, as well as possession and distribution of child pornography,…
In a society which promotes loyal monogamy as being the ideal sexual relationship – one partner for each of us – the popular assumption is that one pedophile will also approximate to one child victim.
Very few of us are aware that research has consistently shown that (and this is staggering) around one in four girls and one in six boys has been sexually abused by the age of 18. (Russell, 1986; confirmed also Gorey & Leslie 1997; Finkelhor, Hotaling, Lewis & Smith 1989; Brier & Elliot, 2003).
And in the sole major survey amongst Jewish orthodox women (Yehuda et al, 2007), 26% of the women surveyed reported sexual abuse, with 16% reporting the abuse occurred by the age of thirteen. In other words, sexual abuse of females is consistent with the findings for the general population. (Some have suggested that the number of male victims may be higher in the orthodox community, because access is far less restricted in orthodox communities than for males on females – but there has been no scientific survey yet on this).
This startlingly high incidence of child abuse victims, in all populations, however does not mean that this proportion of adults (between one in four, to one in six) are pedophiles.
There have been various distinctions drawn (R.Weiss, 2009) on the characteristics of pedophiles, including these categories:
- Dedicated or Fixated Child Offender – adults who are usually solely sexually attracted to children.
- Situational or Regressed Child Offender – adults whose sexual attentions wander to children, often due to extraneous pressures.
- Sexually Addicted Offender – exhibiting similar compulsive traits to substance or gambling addictions, some adults have increased and obsessive needs for sexual stimulation, sometimes including relationships with children.
The majority (85%) of child sex offenders are in the second category; these offenders can often be successfully treated through therapy. Sexual addiction (category 3) is a quite common psychological condition affecting between 3-5 % of the general population; very few of these people resort to non-consensual sex; treatment for this addictive behavior has been often found successful.
The most damaging pedophiles, in terms of numbers of victims, are the dedicated or fixated child offenders; they will often achieve positions of access, trust and authority over children, such as becoming sports coaches, summer camp or youth group supervisors, babysitters, clerics or educators – specifically in order to gain unfettered access to their victims. Some will even marry a partner who already has children, for this same reason. The perpetrators develop sophisticated 'grooming' techniques (sometimes in collusion with other pedophiles) and in practice they know that only very few children will ever register formal complaints against these perpetrators (sometimes the children do not become consciously aware that they were even abused until they reach adulthood themselves), so the numbers of their victims over a pedophile's 'career' (which can continue through their senior years) can reach staggering proportions. There is little prospect of these pedophiles being 'cured' by available therapies, and recidivism (repeat offense) rates are high (around 75% of convicted child sex offenders).
A study by Abel et al32 of 377 nonincarcerated, non-incest-related pedophiles, whose legal situations had been resolved and who were surveyed using an anonymous self-report questionnaire, found that heterosexual pedophiles on average reported abusing 19.8 children and committing 23.2 acts, whereas homosexual pedophiles had abused 150.2 children and committed 281.7 acts.
Another study (Baker) concluded that men who chose girls, generally victimized relatively few while a man who preys on non-related boys "will victimize as many as 280 male victims".
These studies confirm law enforcement reports about the serial nature of the crime, the large number of children abused by each pedophile, and the underreporting of assaults.
What appears different from the 'classic' behavior patterns of pedophiles in the Braverman case is the alleged extensive use of the internet and messaging technologies, and his targeting of multiple young girls.
However, that Braverman was apparently able to readily reach so many actual and prospective victims, seemingly without multiple reports by either the child victims or their parents to the authorities – is deeply shocking, but unfortunately not unusual.