At least 100,000 children are prostituted annually in the U.S., adding to the $9.8 billion U.S. sex trafficking industry. Children all over the country are subject to physical and sexual abuse, and most of the time it happens a lot closer to home than we would expect. Ninety percent of child sexual abuse victims know the perpetrator, and an astonishing 68% are abused by family members.
What’s worse, some of the laws surrounding child sexual abuse and child marriage (or lack thereof) actually enable their practice. As a result, more than 200,000 children in the U.S. were married in the past 15 years alone. We often view child marriage as only being an issue in third-world countries, but in reality, it occurs right here in North America, too. Children as young as 10 have been married to far older adults, despite the legal requirement to wed being 18, or legal adulthood, nationwide.
This is because many states have “legal loopholes” that allow adults to marry children. Not all states are willing to provide statistics on this problem, and many have provided only some details rather than the full scope, so that 200,000 is likely far below the real number of American child brides and grooms.
Why Child Marriage Is a Huge Problem in the U.S.
In May of this year, the Republican governor of New Jersey declined an offer to sign a law that would have made New Jersey the first state to ban child marriage without exception. Many people probably assume that child marriage is illegal in the U.S., but the sad reality is that these loopholes allow children to get married at a very young age. In New Jersey alone, approximately 3,500 children were married between 1995 and 2012.
The governor claimed that signing the law would have “conflicted with religious customs.” Some of these loopholes include if the child has gotten pregnant or if the child receives parental consent. Can you imagine your parents arranging a marriage for you, prior to the age of 18? Yes, this is the reality for many people all over the world, but few realize this happens in America too. Alternatively, could you imagine getting pregnant at the young age of 13 and then being forced to wed? This is a terrifying reality for many victims of child marriage.
207,468 minors are known to have been married in the U.S. between 2000 and 2015, but 10 states provided absolutely no data or inaccurate statistics on child marriage, so this number does not reflect the true scope of the issue. Of this number, most of the children were girls who were married to much older men, and many were as young as 13. Eighty-seven percent of these minors were girls, and although the majority were aged 16 or 17, many were much younger.
Amongst the youngest to get married were three 10-year-old girls in Tennessee, who married men between the ages of 24 and 31. Another young boy was married at the age of 11 to a 27-year-old woman in the same state.
It’s not just Tennessee; children as young as 12 were married in Alaska, Louisiana, and South Carolina, and 11 other states permit 13-year-old children to get married. Keep in mind that, in most of these cases, the minors were marrying older adults, not other minors. Only 14% of these minors were actually marrying other minors, but even still, is it really okay for a 17-year-old to marry a 13-year-old?
Although most of them married adults no older than 30, in some cases, children were permitted to marry adults decades older than them. There was one case in Alabama where a 14-year-old girl married a 74-year-old man, and another in Idaho in which a 17-year-old married a 65-year-old man.
Let’s remember that, although most states recognize that sexual consent can be granted by those aged 16 to 18, a person can still be charged with statutory rape for having sex with a minor. Despite this, many states are granting children with marriage licenses, including minors who are much younger than 16.
Senior Counsel for Policy and Strategy at Tahirih Justice Centre Jeanne Smoot explained that most of the children who get married as minors are those living in poverty. She stated: “Almost all the evidence indicates that girls in cities don’t get married young, that girls from middle class or wealthy families, don’t get married young. This is a rural phenomenon and it is a phenomenon of poverty.”
An astonishing 27 states don’t even have laws to set an “age floor,” meaning that no laws exist to establish the youngest age a minor can get married. Loopholes like this one are what allow minors to get married in the first place. The irony is that sexual abuse is “illegal,” yet the government is allowing minors to get married as young as 10 years old. What do these judges expect will occur in these marriages? This is not a way to protect these children, as child marriage can enable abuse and pedophilia.
It’s clear that child marriage isn’t just an issue in third-world countries. If we truly want to become leaders in this world and set the stage for other countries, we need to reflect that both in our laws and in our morals. Children deserve rights and protection, and this desperately needs to be reflected in our judiciary system.
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Germany’s Green Party leader regrets campaign to ‘legalise paedophilia’
The head of Germany’s Green Party has expressed regret about a two-decade-old political pamphlet containing calls to legalise some forms of pedophilia.
Jürgen Trittin was listed as “legally responsible” for a 1981 election pamphlet, which called for the decriminalisation of sex acts between adults and children “that occur without the use or threat of force.”
Mr Trittin, the co-leader of the party and a former German environment minister, told a press conference in Berlin on Monday: “It was also my fault and my responsibility that these mistaken demands endured for so long.” He added: “This position is false, was false and lasted too long.”
Asked how he viewed it then, Mr Trittin replied: “I saw it as problematic”.
At the time the pamphlet was published, Mr Trittin was a grassroots activist for the Greens. In the mid-1980s he became a regional MP for the Greens in Lower Saxony. The demand for legalisation was withdrawn during the course of the 1980s after campaigning by women’s groups within the Green party.
The revelation will be a further blow to the Green Party’s election hopes. Germany’s third biggest party has struggled throughout the election campaign with polls putting them as low as nine percent of the vote.
The party’s support for making paedophilia legal only ended in 1990 but the past has haunted them throughout this election campaign.
Mr Trittin argued at the press conference that the party’s view on paedophilia was shaped by the campaign against Paragraph 175, the provision of the German criminal code that made homosexuality illegal. This was abolished in 1994.
He said: “In the founding phase of the Greens, gay and lesbian groups were campaigning to reverse discrimination of a kind you can hardly imagine today.
“The impetus for liberalisation and decriminalisation overshot its target. And it overshot, because there was the fiction that – beyond violence and the abuse of a relationship of trust — there could be sexual relations between adults and children.”
The Greens announced earlier this year that they would set up an inquiry into their links with paedophile groups, following a row over a Green MEP Daniel Cohn-Bendit’s apparent endorsement of sex with children.
The first report of the inquiry, published last month, concluded that the Greens “set barely any boundaries on sexual relations between teachers, carers and their charges — or between adults and children”.
Daniel Cohn-Bendit, a student leader in the 1968 unrest in Paris, claimed in a 1975 book that he interacted sexually with children while working at a kindergarten. The remarks came to light again this year when he was awarded a prize by the Theodor Heuss Foundation, which honours West Germany’s first president.
He subsequently insisted that he was not a paedophile and had made the remarks solely in order to shock “bourgeois” society.
The Greens slipped to 8.6pc in regional elections in Bavaria on Sunday, a week ahead of Germany’s national elections on September 22. German chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative allies the Christian Social Union von 47.7pc of the vote, a swing of more than four percentage points from their 2008 result.
Hermann Groehe, general secretary of Mrs Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, said: “This election gives us tailwind for the national election.” The liberal Free Democrats, who are in coalition with Mrs Merkel’s party nationally, won only 3.3 per cent of the vote in Bavaria, losing more than half their support and all their seats in the parliament in Munich. In national polls the Free Democrats hover around the 5pc threshold needed to keep their seats in the Bundestag.
Germany’s main opposition party, the Social Democrats, finished a distant second in Bavaria with 20.6 per cent.
‘Paedophilia is natural and normal for males’
How some university academics make the case for paedophiles at summer conferences
“Paedophilic interest is natural and normal for human males,” said the presentation. “At least a sizeable minority of normal males would like to have sex with children … Normal males are aroused by children.”
Some yellowing tract from the Seventies or early Eighties, era of abusive celebrities and the infamous PIE, the Paedophile Information Exchange? No. Anonymous commenters on some underground website? No again.
The statement that paedophilia is “natural and normal” was made not three decades ago but last July. It was made not in private but as one of the central claims of an academic presentation delivered, at the invitation of the organisers, to many of the key experts in the field at a conference held by the University of Cambridge.
Other presentations included “Liberating the paedophile: a discursive analysis,” and “Danger and difference: the stakes of hebephilia.”
Hebephilia is the sexual preference for children in early puberty, typically 11 to 14-year-olds.
Another attendee, and enthusiastic participant from the floor, was one Tom O’Carroll, a multiple child sex offender, long-time campaigner for the legalisation of sex with children and former head of the Paedophile Information Exchange. “Wonderful!” he wrote on his blog afterwards. “It was a rare few days when I could feel relatively popular!”
Last week, after the conviction of Rolf Harris, the report into Jimmy Savile and claims of an establishment cover-up to protect a sex-offending minister in Margaret Thatcher’s Cabinet, Britain went into a convulsion of anxiety about child abuse in the Eighties. But unnoticed amid the furore is a much more current threat: attempts, right now, in parts of the academic establishment to push the boundaries on the acceptability of child sex.
Jimmy Savile exploited the trust of a nation for his own vile purposes
A key factor in what happened all those decades ago in the dressing rooms of the BBC, the wards of the NHS and, allegedly, the corridors of power was not just institutional failings or establishment “conspiracies”, but a climate of far greater intellectual tolerance of practices that horrify today.
With the Pill, the legalisation of homosexuality and shrinking taboos against premarital sex, the Seventies was an era of quite sudden sexual emancipation. Many liberals, of course, saw through PIE’s cynical rhetoric of “child lib”. But to others on the Left, sex by or with children was just another repressive boundary to be swept away – and some of the most important backing came from academia.
In 1981, a respectable publisher, Batsford, published Perspectives on Paedophilia, edited by Brian Taylor, a sociology lecturer at Sussex University, to challenge what Dr Taylor’s introduction called the “prejudice” against child sex. Disturbingly, the book was aimed at “social workers, community workers, probation officers and child care workers”.
The public, wrote Dr Taylor, “generally thinks of paedophiles as sick or evil men who lurk around school playgrounds in the hope of attempting unspecified beastliness with unsuspecting innocent children”. That, he reassured readers, was merely a “stereotype”, both “inaccurate and unhelpful”, which flew in the face of the “empirical realities of paedophile behaviour”. Why, most adult-child sexual relationships occurred in the family!
The perspectives of most, though not all, the contributors, appeared strongly pro-paedophile. At least two were members of PIE and at least one, Peter Righton, (who was, incredibly, director of education at the National Institute for Social Work) was later convicted of child sex crimes. But from the viewpoint of today, the fascinating thing about Perspectives on Paedophilia is that at least two of its contributors are still academically active and influential.
Prof Ken Plummer, left, and former PIE head Tom O’Carroll
Ken Plummer is emeritus professor of sociology at Essex University, where he has an office and teaches courses, the most recent scheduled for last month. “The isolation, secrecy, guilt and anguish of many paedophiles,” he wrote in Perspectives on Paedophilia, “are not intrinsic to the phenomen[on] but are derived from the extreme social repression placed on minorities …
“Paedophiles are told they are the seducers and rapists of children; they know their experiences are often loving and tender ones. They are told that children are pure and innocent, devoid of sexuality; they know both from their own experiences of childhood and from the children they meet that this is not the case.”
As recently as 2012, Prof Plummer published on his personal blog a chapter he wrote in another book, Male Intergenerational Intimacy, in 1991. “As homosexuality has become slightly less open to sustained moral panic, the new pariah of ‘child molester’ has become the latest folk devil,” he wrote. “Many adult paedophiles say that boys actively seek out sex partners … ‘childhood’ itself is not a biological given but an historically produced social object.”
Prof Plummer confirmed to The Sunday Telegraph that he had been a member of PIE in order to “facilitate” his research. He said: “I would never want any of my work to be used as a rationale for doing ‘bad things’ – and I regard all coercive, abusive, exploitative sexuality as a ‘bad thing’. I am sorry if it has impacted anyone negatively this way, or if it has encouraged this.” However, he did not answer when asked if he still held the views he expressed in the Eighties and Nineties. A spokesman for Essex University claimed Prof Plummer’s work “did not express support for paedophilia” and cited the university’s charter which gave academic staff “freedom within the law to put forward controversial and unpopular opinions without placing themselves in jeopardy”.
Graham Powell is one of the country’s most distinguished psychologists, a past president of the British Psychological Society and a current provider of psychology support services to the Serious Organised Crime Agency, the National Crime Squad, the Metropolitan Police, Kent Police, Essex Police and the Internet Watch Foundation.
In Perspectives on Paedophilia, however, he co-authored a chapter which stated: “In the public mind, paedophile attention is generally assumed to be traumatic and to have lasting and wholly deleterious consequences for the victim. The evidence that we have considered here does not support this view … we need to ask not why are the effects of paedophile action so large, but why so small.”
The chapter does admit that there were “methodological problems” with the studies the authors relied on which “leave our conclusions somewhat muted”. Dr Powell told The Sunday Telegraph last week that “what I wrote was completely wrong and it is a matter of deep regret that it could in any way have made things more difficult [for victims]”. He said: “The literature [scientific evidence] was so poor in 1981, people just didn’t realise what was going on. There was a lack of understanding at the academic level.” Dr Powell said he had never been a member of PIE.
In other academic quarters, with rather fewer excuses, that lack of understanding appears to be reasserting itself. The Cambridge University conference, on July 4-5 last year, was about the classification of sexuality in the DSM, a standard international psychiatric manual used by the police and courts.
After a fierce battle in the American Psychiatric Association (APA), which produces it, a proposal to include hebephilia as a disorder in the new edition of the manual has been defeated. The proposal arose because puberty in children has started ever earlier in recent decades and as a result, it was argued, the current definition of paedophilia – pre-pubertal sexual attraction – missed out too many young people.
Ray Blanchard, professor of psychiatry at the University of Toronto, who led the APA’s working group on the subject, said that unless some other way was found of encompassing hebephilia in the new manual, that was “tantamount to stating that the APA’s official position is that the sexual preference for early pubertal children is normal”.
Prof Blanchard was in turn criticised by a speaker at the Cambridge conference, Patrick Singy, of Union College, New York, who said hebephilia would be abused as a diagnosis to detain sex offenders as “mentally ill” under US “sexually violent predator” laws even after they had completed their sentences.
But perhaps the most controversial presentation of all was by Philip Tromovitch, a professor at Doshisha University in Japan, who stated in a presentation on the “prevalence of paedophilia” that the “majority of men are probably paedophiles and hebephiles” and that “paedophilic interest is normal and natural in human males”.
O’Carroll, the former PIE leader, was thrilled, and described on his blog how he joined Prof Tromovitch and a colleague for drinks after the conference. “The conversation flowed most agreeably, along with the drinks and the beautiful River Cam,” he said.
It’s fair to say the Tromovitch view does not represent majority academic opinion. It’s likely, too, that some of the academic protests against the “stigmatisation” of paedophiles are as much a backlash against the harshness of sex offender laws as anything else. Finally, of course, academic inquiry is supposed to question conventional wisdom and to deal rigorously with the evidence, whether or not the conclusions it leads you to are popular.
Even so, there really is now no shortage of evidence about the harm done by child abuse. In the latest frenzy about the crimes of the past, it’s worth watching whether we could, in the future, go back to the intellectual climate which allowed them.
England: Land of Royals, Tea and Horrific Pedophilia Coverups
From politicians’ fraudulent expenses to phone hacking, Britain has become surprisingly scandal-strewn in recent years, but the latest reputational cyclone to sweep across its shores is casting an especially dark light: pedophilia in high places.
Newspapers and TV bulletins have been dominated for the past week by allegations that politicians with links to Margaret Thatcher’s government sexually abused vulnerable children in the 1980s and hid the truth for decades through their “chumocracy.” Suspicions of an establishment cover-up involving government departments, Scotland Yard and other elements of the establishment intensified in recent days when the law-and-order ministry, the Home Office, confirmed dozens of potentially-relevant files alleging sexual misconduct had gone missing from its archives.
The allegations—which centre around the suggestion that politicians of all parties and other VIPs preyed on children at a guest house in the London suburb of Barnes—have been given greater credence because in the past two years a string of national figures have been exposed as predatory pedophiles.
Most notoriously of all, Sir Jimmy Savile, a BBC children’s television presenter feted by the Royal Family and Downing Street, abused 450 victims, mostly boys and girls as young as eight over 50 years. While Savile had long been seen as odd, the scale of his offenses shocked the country, not least because he was allowed special access to hospitals and the authorities laughed at or ignored his victims, before he died a national hero. An ensuing police inquiry, Operation Yewtree – which has arrested 18 TV presenters, comedians, disc jockeys and other showbusiness associates – last month jailed fellow BBC children’s presenter Rolf Harris for indecent assaults dating back decades, on girls as young as 8.
Into this febrile atmosphere, Tom Watson, a Labour Party lawmaker, told the House of Commons in October 2012 that police should “investigate clear intelligence suggesting a powerful pedophile network linked to Parliament and Number 10.” Newspaper columnists suggested Watson – whose campaigning on phone hacking contributed to the downfall of the Prime Minister communications director Andy Coulson – was stoking a “witch-hunt.” But as a result of Watson and online news agency Exaro’s investigations, Scotland Yard launched Operation Fernbridge, an inquiry into the now-notorious Elm Guest House.
One confirmed visitor through its front door was Cyril Smith, a jovial 406-pound Liberal MP who was shown after his death to have been a serial abuser of boys at a local authority care home in his home town of Rochdale. Private Eye investigative magazine has suggested that Special Branch, the UK’s national security police, halted police inquiries into Smith in the 1970s to prevent the collapse of the Liberal-Labour coalition government. Attention then swept back to its successor government. In 1983, the far-right Conservative MP, Geoffrey Dickens, compiled a 40-page dossier alleging pedophilia among Westminster politicians and gave it to the Home Office and Attorney General’s Office. This year, the Home Office discovered that 114 files potentially relevant to historic allegations of sexual abuse, including the Dickens dossier, had gone missing.
A year ago Lord Brittan, the Home Secretary to whom Dickens handed his dossier, told reporters he could not recall anything about it. But last week following the intervention of another campaigning MP in Parliament, Lord Brittan issued a statement remembering that he had received the dossier and had asked his officials to study its contents. Over the weekend it emerged that Lord Brittan had been interviewed as a suspect in the rape of a 19-year-old in 1967; an allegation he dismissed as “wholly without foundation.”
On Monday, Home Secretary Theresa May announced an inquiry into the failures of the authorities to protect children. To the dismay of many, she then said it would be led by Dame Butler-Sloss, a respected family judge but also the sister of the late former Attorney General Michael Havers, who was passed a copy of the Dickens dossier, and who decided not to prosecute a diplomat for exchanging obscene material with members of a pro-pedophilia group.
What does all this mean for Britain?
A new openness among police and prosecutors has led to the number of sexual offenses recorded by police jumping 17% in a year; Britain’s jails are bursting partly as a result of “historic sex abuse cases.“
More high-profile prosecutions of pedophilia may shock the country; according to one whistleblower, allegations of sexual abuse have been made against 20 VIPs. Much will hinge over the next two years on the new inquiry, which, conveniently for politicians, will not be public until after the 2015 general election.
For now the scandal is likely to increase the public’s jaundiced view about politics and public life in the UK. Research last year found that political engagement was low and trust in institutions had been damaged by the MPs’ expenses scandal, interest-rate fixing and other controversies. Disaffection with the three main political parties helped the far-right United Kingdom Independence Party, which wants to withdraw from the European Union, win the 2014 European Parliament elections.
In the case of the Westminster “pedophile ring,” the mounting sentiment that Britain’s establishment serves its own interests and conceals its wrongdoing may be well founded. Until recently only seven police officers were working on Operation Fernbridge; Scotland Yard announced today the figure is now 22.
Martin Hickman is a freelance journalist in London.