I accept that my knowledge is limited to those I’ve spoken to
Likewise my knowledge is similarly limited to those I've spoken to, which I guess renders my use of the quantifier 'majority' redundant in the larger scheme. For the most these were isolated incidents not experienced serially by the victim, perpetrated by family friends, neighbours and strangers. I guess of greatest concern to me is that I'd heard about enough of these types of incidents to presume that they're almost commonplace.
interesting to have it expanded.
I did some searches last night, there wasn’t much available, the child-on-child sexual abuse entry at Wikipedia linked to a few study abstracts;
A substantial proportion of child sexual abuse is perpetrated by adolescents and even younger children. Few states and child protective agencies, however, acknowledge juvenile perpetrators and their victims within the investigatory and substantiation guidelines regarding sexual abuse (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2003). Despite the lack of research evidence, victims of younger perpetrators are often perceived to be at less risk for developing a traumatic response to sexual abuse. The purpose of this study was to investigate how both the characteristics of a sexual offense and the age of the perpetrator are associated with victims’ consequent behavioral and emotional functioning. The current research investigated these relationships using bivariate and multivariate analysis. Multiple regression analyses revealed that there are numerous abuse-related characteristics that predict to poor outcomes in victims of child sexual abuse. Use of force and frequency were associated with victims’ self-reported levels of anxiety, depression, and posttraumatic stress. While perpetrator age was associated with the development of sexualized behavior and externalizing and internalizing behavior problems, duration and invasiveness of abuse accounted for a greater proportion of the variance in these outcomes. Logistic regression analysis revealed that adults were more likely to commit frequent acts of abuse over a longer period of time, however, juveniles and adults were equally likely to use a given level of force and engage in invasive acts of abuse...
Results: More than half of the children engaging in developmentally unexpected sexual behaviors had been abused both sexually and physically by more than two different perpetrators. One-third of the people who had maltreated these children were less than 18 years old. These children had acted out against an average of two other children. High levels of distress in the children and their caregivers were evident across a number of psychometric and historical variables…
Results: No differences were found between the two groups for the type of sexual abuse, penetration, or the use of force. CC were younger and more likely to be males who were abused in a school setting, home, or a relative’s home by a sibling or a non-related male. CC endorsed clinically significant sexual preoccupations and manifested borderline clinically significant symptomatology.
Conclusions: Children victimized by other children manifested elevated levels of emotional and behavioral problems and were not significantly different from those who had been sexually abused by adults…
A Google Boolean search of “child-on-child sexual abuse” + “nz” revealed 6 results, substituting “New Zealand” in gave 8130 hits but nothing on the first couple of pages appeared to be localised. I did find this PDF produced by RPE which includes a brief section:
Sexual behaviour between children is abusive if:
• It hurts, frightens or upsets one, or both children
• One child has greater sexual knowledge than the other child
• One child uses force, threats, bribery or coercion in order to get
the other child to participate
• One child forces another child to keep the behaviour a secret
• One child does not want to be involved
• One child is bigger, older and more developmentally advanced
than the other child.
Children may behave in sexual ways because they have been
sexually abused, have witnessed sexual behaviour, or have
experienced other emotional difficulties. Very often children are
confused by what they have experienced and do not understand
what is appropriate behaviour.
While their behaviour is abusive, these children should not be
regarded in the same way we regard adults who sexually abuse.
These children need specialised education and guidance.
What to do if you’re worried
• If you have concerns your teenager or child is sexually abusing other
children you can take the following steps:
• Stay calm and open minded. Punishment and anger will not help.
If your child sees you upset and angry, then s/he will not talk
• Do not jump to conclusions. Check if it is normal behaviour and do
not ignore concerning behaviours
• Don’t assume that the behaviour will go away by itself or that your
child will “grow out of it”
• Seek support and help about these issues from specialist agencies
in your community
• Ensure your child or teenager is supervised around other children
until you have talked to a specialist in this area
• Ask for advice about whether other people need to be told
• Get help to deal with your own feelings so you can remain
supportive to your child.
This is a really important question: Why?
At a guess: because children's awareness of right and wrong, and ability to control their own impulses, are far less developed than those of adults?
This is a really important question: Why?
It's a tough question, but the basic answer is: power and responsibility. The power imbalance between a child and an adult is much greater than between a child and an older child. Abuse is abuse, no argument, but a supposedly mature adult is more responsible for their own behaviour than a child or teen, at least under the law. This is why we don't (usually) try children as adults for similar offenses (burglary, arson and the like). We put them through a different process ( Youth Court for example, and Family Conferences). Only really egregious offending (e.g. murder) would usually meet the criteria for adult prosecution of a minor. We accept that children make mistakes and that there are better ways to teach appropriate behaviour.
Unfortunately for the victim, this makes little difference to their recovery.
To an extent I also took that as a comment on the way society stigmatises adults who sexually abuse, they are the pariah of the modern age. Even if they serve time and do genuinely reform, there’s still a high likelihood of an aggressive grassroots campaign to ostracize them from the community they’re paroled into.
There’s a few things that concerned me in the wording of that article none less so than the use of the modal ‘can’ as opposed to something denoting a more obligatory response, this appears to occur throughout (see section: What If Someone You Know Has Sexually Abused A Child In Your Family?). This is fine if the concerned caregiver(s) are willing to act – free from duress – in the best interests of children and the community, but IMHO it doesn’t adequately target those prepared to assist in covering up wrongdoing in order to protect known abusers from the stigmatisation.
Having said that, it’s difficult to be too critical of RPE when so little information and support seems to be available on this issue.
I am spending my evenings at the moment organising transcriptions of old census data, came across this
I have been reading this post with interest. Unfortunately Centrepoint is intimately a part of my life story.
I have yet to see what I consider to be a genuine heart-felt restorative process occur in regards to Centrepoint's history. One which honours and respects the stories of those who suffered. One which holds those who acted and failed to act accountable for their wrong-doings or naive self-protective looking-away. One which asks for - demands even - honest repentance and humble exploration of the self-obsession and narcissism which enabled these 'kind' and 'loving' people to turn their eyes away while they were busy with the work of 'therapeutic discovery'. One which confronts and exposes the self-protective knee-jerk brush-off by many of the community members of the past (and their associated supporters) when they are now faced with the pain from their daughters and their sons. A restorative journey has not occurred around the shame of Centrepoint and in this vacuum people like me continue to be denied the opportunity to have a voice out of this darkness in our past. Could we enter into a healing process which could challenge the culture of 'don't think, don't talk, and don't feel' which was modelled to us by those adults who had a lot to lose then, and have very much more to lose now if we are allowed the centre stage? I yearn for a brave and entirely kiwi “Vergangenheitsbewältigung” which could have the potential to free us all.
The following letter was written by me in response to Anke's article in August 2015. I hope it can be received here with respect and honour.
Letter to the Editor
North & South Magazine
Sept 2 2015
I read with great interest the article written in your last issue about Centrepoint Community in Auckland. I lived at Centrepoint in the early 1980s when I was a child. Living at Centrepoint was a harrowing experience for me. As well as having to endure isolated frightening events, I was traumatised by Centrepoint itself. Many things about the community exposed me and terrified me and have left deep scars. It has negatively affected my relationships, and has reverberated down through the years, returning again and again with fresh power to unseat me when I least expect it.
I feel deep appreciation for those people who bravely shared their stories with Anke Richter. Their daring in speaking out, and risking ridicule and public shame, not to mention the turmoil of their own self-doubt, is to be admired. I hope that this is one more step in their journeys to repair and wholeness. Hearing their stories has given me confidence to share my own in my context, something which has long been overdue. Thank you Anke, for being another voice for justice and for risking your own mental wellbeing to pursue that end. Your article was not just another tiresome delve into an over thrashed story. It made a great difference to me.
I want to address the adults of Centrepoint and their supporters. The consequences of your choices deeply mattered to us who were entrusted into your care. You will not understand how your ongoing support for Centrepoint over the years meant we had no space in which to tell our stories and how our shame grew as a result. You may never know (or allow yourself to fully consider) the extent to which you caused harm, or allowed harm to occur when you had a responsibility to protect. You stood by (or actively participated) while we were sexually abused - yet you see yourself as good and loving. As we address the wrongs done to us we need you to address this dichotomy within yourself. Our healing is tied up with your honesty.
In revealing our wounds we may stir you towards compassion, retribution, or repentance. If you let yourself feel those things you expose your own brokenness. It takes enormous courage to be that vulnerable. Are you brave enough to face the darkness inside of yourself?
The following letter was written by me in response to Anke’s article in August 2015. I hope it can be received here with respect and honour.
Thank you for this, and for braving this space.
Our healing is tied up with your honesty.
How very true. I don't see how any of these adults could see themselves as "good and loving" - if they do they are worthless - still thinking only of themselves; their own selfish vanity. They deserve only scorn.
They deserve only scorn.
And, the organisations who employ them and give them a legitimised platform deserve an equal measure of scorn.
Thank you. I have nothing but respect for you and for how you sum up what needs to be addressed. Your powerful words have probably reached more people than you will ever know. I had feedback from a CP woman in Australia wanting to apologize after reading your letter in N&S. This makes me hopeful that a process of reconciliation might be starting, slowly. Thanks again for speaking up.
I have nothing but respect for you and for how you sum up what needs to be addressed.
+1. Thank you.
Quoting Dr M Scott Peck in his 1997 book 'The Road Less Travelled and Beyond' in consideration of the adults of CP who have yet to participate in a restorative process with those adult children who were harmed there:
"Carl Jung ascribed the root of human evil to "the refusal to meet the Shadow". By "the Shadow", Jung meant the part of our mind containing those things that we would rather not own up to, that we continually hide from ourselves and others and sweep under the rug of our consciousness. Most of us, when pushed against the wall by evidence of our sins, failures or imperfections, will acknowledge our Shadow. But by use of the word "refusal", Jung was implying something far more active. Those who have crossed over the line that separates sin from evil are characterised most by their absolute refusal to tolerate a sense of their own sinfulness. This is because their central defect is not that they have no conscience but that they refuse to bear its pain. In other words, it is not so much the sin itself but the refusal to acknowledge it that makes it evil. In fact, the evil are often highly intelligent people, who may be quite conscious in most respects but have a very specific unwillingness to acknowledge their Shadow... Those who are evil refuse to bear the pain of guilt or to allow the Shadow into consciousness and 'meet' it. Instead, they will set about - often at great effort - militantly trying to destroy the evidence of their sin or anyone who speaks of it or represents it. And in this act of destruction, their evil is committed."
I believe the harms that occurred at Centrepoint to a selection of its children can be redeemed and healed. I want to encourage and actively participate in a process which brings those who were harmed and those who could have done more to protect them (and who are willing to acknowledge their Shadows), together in order to restore that which was broken within both parties.
We need more education. To allow a better understanding of indoctrination. To be able to recognise it. To be able to walk away.
It’s problematic in that if we were able to successfully indoctrinate the masses in ways to avoid indoctrination a whole lot of the world’s problems might be solved. Unfortunately we live in societies where I imagine far more money is spent on researching how to indoctrinate people, put to good use in advertising, marketing, education, political campaigns etc.
I recall emerging from my first Critical Thinking lecture blown away by the impact conjunctions have on a sentence. When presented in that manner the mechanisms seemed so simple that you could probably teach them to an eight year old, but we don’t. Fortune favours the manipulative.
Well done you. With you finding a voice I believe you are on your way. Best wishes on your difficult journey. Kia Kaha.
Thank you for sharing your words here. I send you all of my hope and strength for the restorative process you seek.
How very true. I don’t see how any of these adults could see themselves as “good and loving” – if they do they are worthless – still thinking only of themselves; their own selfish vanity. They deserve only scorn.
I think it is far more complex and nuanced than that. I feel a lot more for them than just scorn. Many of these passive by-standers are our mothers and fathers, whom we have ongoing relationships with, relationships which we must navigate as we live our lives and raise our children near them, under the shadow of Centrepoint. While it is tempting to just throw them away with contempt, it is not tenable for many of us, and not conducive for our own wellbeing.
Were I there at Centrepoint as an adult, striped of my internal and external resources, struggling with some recent grief like a divorce or separation, parenting alone and perhaps with a significant mental illness, bullied by people in the community which much greater strength and desperate for support, I too may have made some very compromised choices to protect my interests in that position of weakness. The nature of Centrepoint was that it attracted very vulnerable people who were drawn to a community who often did a very good job of supporting people that society didn't look after well, at a time when solo parents and people with mental illness (and other outliers) were very socially peripheral and judged highly. These vulnerable people were often referred there by respected professionals who thought the therapeutic approach CP had could provide a healing environment for people who were often very damaged.
The things that motivate people to do - or not to do - what they do are complicated. Some of those adults did try at the time, within their constraints, to change things for the children. It wasn't enough, and it didn't alleviate the suffering that we endured, but I would be very careful not to judge them for actions (or lack of actions) in the past that we simply cannot understand well. Judgement is easy. Mercy and forgiveness, on the other hand, are hard.
Those who actively engaged in predatory behaviour are in one camp (the Bert Potters of the community) - and I don't have much hope of reaching into their damaged psyches to try to draw out some sort of repentance from them. The other camp however holds those people who participated in a system which both served their interests, and also damaged them as well, and they now live with the knowledge that their engagement in this system has left people like myself and my fellows with enduring brokenness... Well, they are the ones I would like to reach out towards.
Do you have any thoughts on how to facilitate that?It’s good to have you here on this public forum. We live under an umbrella culture, that prefers to deal with these ugly truths behind closed doors – in ACC funded rooms, psychiatric hospitals, Adiction treatment centers and prisons.
I do have thoughts on this; it isn't enough that these adult participators said something remorseful at one time or another to a child victim here or there; this remorse needs to be public, enduring, and it needs reach. Without reach it would fail to connect with people like me (who have no contact at all with CP people now). There is enormous power in my pain being truly seen, acknowledged and honoured, and especially by the ones who contributed to it. They have the choice about whether or not they engage in a process that makes them deeply vulnerable to attack, but offers that healing gift to us the victims. I am developing an idea for an on-line platform for this process of connecting those who were damaged to those who could have done more to protect. A platform that avoids condemnation, attack, anger and aggression, but instead works towards reconciliation and redemption. I am not sure if there are enough brave CP-victims, and brave CP-collaborators to make this work, but I think it is worth trying. This is a shameful part of our history - why not fight to restore it?
The nature of Centrepoint was that it attracted very vulnerable people who were drawn to a community who often did a very good job of supporting people that society didn’t look after well, at a time when solo parents and people with mental illness (and other outliers) were very socially peripheral and judged highly. These vulnerable people were often referred there by respected professionals who thought the therapeutic approach CP had could provide a healing environment for people who were often very damaged....
I went to CP age 21, after returning from an O.E in an anxious and depressed state after some difficult events. I had also not disclosed or sought help for my own childhood sexual abuse. Feeling lost and dislocated, an unsuspecting family member suggested I "try the hippy commune up the road". I was drawn in by the 'love bombing' as I know recognise the cultish behaviour to be, and naievely thought it might be a healing environment for me as you mentioned ...
I was involved off and on for ten or so tumultuous, confusing years of attraction and repulsion, to do with my particular issues/vulnerabilities. I did start to try and get support for my mental health issues. I regret I didn't have the understanding or strength to really recognise or effect the abuse going on with the younger generation there, preoccupied by my own particular confusion and grief and influenced by dominating power plays perpetuated there. Its still a confusing time to look back on. But thank you for talking about it and your brave ideas for a forum to listen and be heard. I am only just now bringing my childhood abuser to account, so am aware of the time and work it takes to take these steps. But heartening to see how much people do care and want to change the culture.
But thank you for talking about it and your brave ideas for a forum to listen and be heard.
Thank you for coming here and sharing this with us. I know it can't be easy.
Thank you, "Putting the pieces together" - I am also really grateful for this ongoing discussion and that more people have come out of the shadow since my story was published. Feel free to contact me directly and confidentially if you like (email@example.com) and I can help to connect you with others who also want to heal those wounds from their past. It looks like more projects will be happening now where the CP saga and dilemma can be addressed from different angles. If you want to contribute to shed some light on it, then please let me know.
I regret I didn’t have the understanding or strength to really recognise or effect the abuse going on with the younger generation there, preoccupied by my own particular confusion and grief and influenced by dominating power plays perpetuated there.
Thank you so much for opening yourself up to the introspection required in responding to this conversation. I appreciate how vulnerable this must make you feel. Exploring the mistakes you made while you were in a place of personal struggle and the impact your lack of action and inattention may have had on others will be a hard experience to go through. It must be very confusing indeed to unpack it all now.
There is a community of people that has persisted since Centrepoint closed; the shadow community of those who have been branded by the experiences they had whilst they were weak and unprotected whilst there. You were considerably less weak than I, but you were still damaged and in this we can be allies. I'm really not sure how this community of damaged people can journey towards restoration together but I am glad you have taken a step here to participate and I encourage you in your journey
If you are still checking in here and are interested 'Putting the Pieces Together' then have a look at this and consider getting involved
Good work Steven. Again basic innumeracy at the Herald - they seem to jump from the cited figures that 33-75% (ridiculously wide so probably dubious anyway - especially at the high-end which is 'self-reported') of CS abusers were victims of CSA (at least a tiny bit plausible) to 33-75 of CS victims will become abusers - which is a completely different category.
A/ they've got the wrong end of the stick, and b/ it's damaging and it's complete nonsense. (You only have to consider that most victims of CSA are female, and most abusers male, to see how this can't make sense.)
it’s like having to clean grease out of the London sewers.
I didn’t just let it go, because some things are to important.
PS. Thanks from those who failed to live down to their expectations...
PS: I wish I didn’t have explain stuff like this, my writing ability is fucked. I am dyslexic.
I appreciate your thoughts and writing about this Steven. Thank you.