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Children Committed Nearly 20% of Reported Sex Crimes in Ireland in 2019, But Why?

Children under 18 years old were confirmed or suspect perpetrators in almost 20% of all sexual crimes reported by complainants in 2019. Why?

By November 11, 2020No Comments


Take a moment to imagine who you think the typical perpetrator of a sex crime is.

Let us guess: you were thinking of a creepy older male in his 60’s who lures kids into his basement using candy and ice cream?

While there is some truth to that imagery, it’s not the full picture. In fact, according to the Garda—what the Republic of Ireland call their FBI—children under 18 years of age were confirmed or suspect perpetrators in almost 20% of all sexual crimes reported by complainants in 2019.

Yeah, you heard us right: almost 20% of all sex crimes were perpetrated by children in 2019, in Ireland.

According to Heidi Olson, a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) of a Kansas City hospital that sees one of the highest volumes of sexual assault victims in the U.S., the age range holding the largest number of sexual assault perpetrators at her hospital is from 11 to 15 years old.

And the hospital’s historical data confirms this.

Heidi looked through the hospital’s records of sexual assault, and found hundreds and hundreds of records of sexual assaults perpetrated by children.

How could this be? Let’s get the facts.

Related: What Porn And Shame Have To Do With Child-On-Child Sexual Assault

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Why is this happening?

Heidi has a pretty simple answer for why children are sexually assaulting victims at such a high rate: the influence of today’s hardcore internet porn.

As she puts it, “Pornography is often a driving factor, and sometimes the only factor that influenced a child to act out in a sexually harmful way. As I have studied [the hospital’s data], and seen more and more patients, it’s [clear] that pornography is creating devastating effects for children across our country.”

The realization hit her as she sat with tearful parents who were mourning the fact their 12-year-old son had just been caught sexually assaulting their 5-year-old daughter: children don’t instinctively act out sexual violence on each other—they learn sexually aggressive behaviors.

While some children who have sexually assaulted others have themselves been through similar traumas, most haven’t. This leaves porn as the obvious source that’s teaching aggressive sexual behaviors to children, especially when porn has been found in the browsing history of a young adolescent.

Related: How Porn Can Distort Consumers’ Understanding of Healthy Sex

For example, the 12-year-old boy wasn’t known to have been sexually assaulted himself, but he was known by his parents to watch a lot of porn. As his mother said to Heidi, “…we have found a lot of porn on our son’s phone lately.”

Without having any understanding of normal and healthy sexual behavior, children, like this, are subjected to graphically violent and arousing imagery. And, as you’d expect, it’s yielding heartbreaking results.

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What happens to the brain when watching porn

What would influence an unsuspecting minor who’s seeking out porn out of curiosity to mimic what they’re watching, especially if it’s violent?

Normal sexual experiences cause the brain to release a sort of neuro-cocktail, triggering feelings of pleasure and bonding followed by relaxation and ongoing longing for one’s partner. Porn, on the other hand, short circuits this process.

Although research shows watching porn leads the consumer to experience a similar pleasure-filled neuro-cocktail to the one that occurs in the brain during healthy sexual experiences, this porn-induced neuro-cocktail is completely associated with what is seen on the screen, instead of what is experienced with a loving partner.

Research exhibits extraordinarily high levels of aggression in porn in both verbal and physical forms. Of the 304 scenes analyzed in one 2010 study, a staggering 88.2% included physical aggression and 48.7% contained verbal aggression. Perpetrators of the aggression were usually male, while targets of the aggression were almost always female. And, get this: the targets of the violence most often showed pleasure or responded neutrally to the aggression.

Related: Over Half Of This Study’s Youth Participants Didn’t Understand What Consent Is

In a more recent study conducted in 2020, researchers evaluated 7,430 porn videos from Pornhub and Xvideos and found that women were the target of 97% of the physical and verbal aggression depicted. The researchers concluded:

“This study suggests that a significant portion of pornography contains depictions of aggression against women with no negative responses from targets; this may lead to the development among consumers of a sexual script that encourages the learning of aggression against women. Although consumers may not go to mass media, including pornography, with the specific motivation to learn sexual behaviors, they still might absorb the provided scripts.”

To put it simply, naive children learn to associate pleasure-filled brain chemical releases with violent sexual acts that the victim of the acts seems to enjoy.

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Porn is one messed-up teacher

While Heidi does not condone the actions of these children, and she stands with victims of sexual assault, she also recognizes that a culture that calls exposing children to violent sexual acts “normal” is nowhere near normal.

Related: “Why Was The Rape Victim So Upset?”—Why Teens Need Better Consent Education

That needs to be changed, and we can offer some thoughts on how we can start making that happen.

  • Recognize the role of shame. Shame plays a massive role in silencing victims and perpetrators from seeking help or speaking up. It sends the message that speaking up will result in being humiliated, rejected, and pushed away.
  • Get help. Whether the perpetrator or the victim, therapy is a great tool for helping children sort out trauma and early sexualization. Our friends at Fortify have a great platform set up to help fight porn addiction. You can read more about their platform here.
  • Engage. Sex, pornography, and sexual assault are often topics that are not openly brought up in homes or by caregivers. Make sure this is not the case in your home. When children understand what porn is and hear about its harmful effects before they stumble upon it online, it opens them up to talk to adults about it when they do encounter it. Additionally, children would benefit by knowing about inappropriate touch, and appropriate touch, as well as consent as a concept. Understanding these concepts with proper names for body parts will enable them to recognize inappropriate behavior if it happens and tell a trusted adult.
  • Educate. Have you heard the African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child”? Our mission of educating on the harmful effects of porn extends into families and communities having the opportunity to understand how porn and sexual assault are connected. The more aware people are, the safer children can be.


Why this matters

Porn is a concerning driver of sexual violence, especially in children, as you can see by Heidi’s experiences and expertise.

That’s just one of the numerous reasons we educate on its harms and the power and value of healthy relationships.

So, will you join us in this fight?