Sexual attacks by 2nd graders not so unusual, say experts

Investigation continues into alleged sexual attack by two seven-year-old schoolboys on a female classmate.

abuse victim 88 (photo credit: )
abuse victim 88
(photo credit: )
As Child Welfare Service officers and Education Ministry officials were still investigating Thursday an alleged sexual attack by two seven-year-old schoolboys on a female classmate, experts who work with young children told The Jerusalem Post that such incidents among young children are not unusual but part of a growing phenomenon nationwide. "In general, we are witnessing a lowering in age of children involved in sexual harassment," commented Dr. Yitzhak Kadman, director of the National Council for the Child, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the rights of children. "Seven is, of course, very young but we have even heard of cases involving kindergarten-age children." While such attacks were not sexually motivated but more an act of violence or curiosity, they were symptomatic of a culture that does not effectively filter pornographic images, misguided child-rearing techniques and a failure by the state to adequately deal with young victims of sexual assault before they turned into attackers themselves, said Kadman. This latest report of sexual assault allegedly took place last month at an elementary school in Kfar Saba when the two boys, carrying sticks, were chasing after some girls from their class. While the others managed to escape, the boys caught up with one of the girls, pushed her down and pulled down her pants. They filmed the incident on their cellphones. A spokesman for the Education Ministry's central region confirmed that the attack had taken place but denied that the sticks had been used to molest the girl. Nachum Ido, spokesman of the Ministry of Welfare and Social Services, said that social workers found no evidence that the girl's underpants had been removed by the boys. While there was no police involvement due to the young age of the children, Ido stated that all three of the children, as well as other classmates, were currently undergoing the appropriate treatment from Education Ministry officials and child welfare officers. "As long as the children are not merely punished for what they have done but are treated properly then there is some hope that this kind of thing will not happen again in the future," observed Kadman, pointing out that many sexual attackers were themselves former victims of sexual abuse or attacks that have not received psychological or professional counseling to get over the trauma. He said it was quite likely that at least one of the attackers had been the victim of a sexual crime. Kadman blamed exposure to pornographic images via the Internet as another factor that might lead children of such a young age to perpetuate a sexual attack. "These days it is so easy for children of all ages to access pornography," he said. "Even if children don't really understand what they are seeing, it makes them curious about things." In addition, Kadman said it was up to parents to ensure that even younger children were made aware of appropriate and inappropriate physical behavior towards others. In a study published earlier this month by the National Council for the Child, 40 percent of parents admitted to not providing even age-appropriate sex education to their children. Many said that claims by their children of sexual abuse most likely stemmed from imagination. Ronit Zur, national supervisor on child abuse at the Ministry of Welfare and Social Services, said however that her office received more than 10,000 claims of sexual abuse against children each year, with roughly 2,500 becoming actual cases. "More and more of these cases involve very young children," commented Zur. "More children today are seeing things that they should not be seeing and parents just don't know how to prevent it." Figures published Wednesday by the Ministry of Education's Psychological Counseling Service noted that 602 school students had requested counseling for sexual abuse or harassment in the 2006-2007 school year, compared to 484 in the previous year.