Written by Pamela K. Orgeron, M.A., Ed.S., BCCC, ACLC
First, I want to establish what I mean by the phrase “sexual abuse” used in the title. In the book entitled We Survived Sexual Abuse! You Can Too! Personal Stories of Sexual Abuse Survivors with Information about Sexual Abuse Prevention, Effects, and Recovery (Orgeron, 2016), here’s how I explained what I mean by the phrase “sexual abuse”:
Allender (1990) reported that in addition to sexual contact, sexual abuse could be verbal, visual, or psychological. Any violation of a child’s physical/sexual boundaries is considered abuse. This includes actions ranging from very severe contact (genital intercourse and oral or anal sex—forcible or nonforcible) to least severe contact (sexual kissing and sexual touching of buttocks, thighs, legs, or clothed breasts or genitals); exposure to or use for pornography; and, even use of a child as a spouse surrogate.
Rich (2011) offers a more detailed trifactor model than Allender (1990) to describe what entails sexual abuse. Based on Rich’s model, Orgeron lists three questions that should be asked to determine whether a behavior should be classified as sexual abuse:
- Is the behavior against a person’s will, and does he or she possess the mental capacity to understand what is happening and to give consent?
- Is the perpetrator older, bigger in size, have more authority, or mental capacity to wield power over the person?
- Did the perpetrator threaten, use force, black mail, or use some other form of coercion with the victim? (pp. xiv-xv)
The Need for Intervention
Sexual abuse is deeply grounded in the American culture. How so? With violent sex scenes in today’s popular movies and television shows to immodest dress standards promoted by some to almost daily reports of sexual assaults on college students and children, these examples contribute to the normalization of sexual abuse and violence in America. The U. S. Department of Justice’s Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking (SMART) offers an extensive list of statistics supporting the problem of sexual violence in America. For those statistics, I encourage you to read the article Raising Awareness about Sexual Abuse: Facts and Statistics.
One area of sexual abuse that deeply concerns me is the problem of incest, probably one of the least talked about forms of sexual abuse that is often swept under the rug by families and churches. The stories I have heard over the years of individuals molested by family members that were protected by other family members are horrifying. I recall one woman telling me how one of her uncle’s (her father’s brother) molested her as a small child. When she told her mother about what was happening, she was told, “Oh, you can’t tell anyone. Keep it a secret. It would hurt your dad too much if he knew what his brother was doing to you.” Such stories infuriate me. No thought was ever given to the child’s feelings or well-being. Thus, I want to elaborate some on the problem of incest.
Leviticus 18:6 (NKJV): “‘None of you shall approach anyone who is near of kin to him, to uncover his nakedness: I am the Lord.”
Did you know that in over half of the sexually abused child cases in modern times, the perpetrator is a parent or other family member? (National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN), 2009, Did you know? box). Fontaine, (2013, January 24) reports that today’s statistics revolving around incest are overwhelming to society in general.
One in three-to-four girls, and one in five-to-seven boys are sexually abused before they turn 18, an overwhelming incidence of which happens within the family. These statistics are well known among industry professionals, who are often quick to add, “and this is a notoriously underreported crime.” (¶ 4)
Ninety-five percent of teen prostitutes and at least one-third of female prisoners were abused as kids. Sexually abused youth are twice as likely to be arrested for a violent offense as adults, are at twice the risk for lifelong mental health issues, and are twice as likely to attempt or commit teen suicide. The list goes on. Incest is the single biggest commonality between drug and alcohol addiction, mental illness, teenage and adult prostitution, criminal activity, and eating disorders. Abused youths don’t go quietly into the night. They grow up—and 18 isn’t a restart button. (¶ 11)
Incest is a national nightmare, yet it doesn’t have people outraged, horrified, and mobilized as they were following Katrina, Columbine, or 9/11. A combination of willed ignorance, unconscious fears, and naivete have resulted in our failure to acknowledge this situation’s full scope, but we can only claim ignorance for so long. (¶ 12-13)
Existing Sex Crimes
What are sex crimes? Rich (2011) reported three areas of sex crimes: “hands off”, “hands on”, and those sex crimes that do not involve another person. These sexual offenses fall on a continuum that range from least severe to most severe. “Hands off” sex crimes include:
- Obscene phone calls, e-mails, or text messages
- Theft of clothing for sexual purposes, most typically for masturbation
- Voyeurism, or “peeping,” in which for the purpose of sexual gratification the perpetrator watches someone else (or more than one other person) undressing,
bathing, or engaging in sexual acts, without the knowledge or permission of the other person
- Threats of sexual harm
- Exhibitionism, or flashing, in which the perpetrator exposes his or her genitals or buttocks to someone else, for sexual gratification or other sexual purposes
- Public masturbation
- Distribution or public display or depiction of sexually obscene material
- Exposure to pornography is a sexual offense if it involves the possession or showing of any child pornography (which involves sexual images of anyone age 17 or younger, and not just children) and also may be an offense if it involves showing any form of pornography to a child or someone who does not wish to see it.
- Sexting also may be a sexual offense if it involves sending a sexual image to a cell phone or email without permission, and always/usually when it involves child pornography (which can be a photograph of the individual’s own sexual body parts if age 17 or younger). (pp. 26-27)
“Hands on” sex crimes include:
- Frottage, also known and diagnosed as frotteurism, involves touching or rubbing against another person for sexual gratification or stimulation, without permission.
- Molestation usually involves touching, rubbing, or fondling of the victim’s genitals, buttocks, breasts, or other body parts for sexual gratification, and of course without permission.
- Oral sex involves cunnilingus or fellatio, and may include oral sex given or received, or both.
- Digital penetration involves the use of fingers to penetrate the vagina or anus.
- Object penetration involves penetration of the vagina or anus with a physical object of some kind.
- Penile penetration is the most clearly associated with rape, in which the vagina or anus is penetrated by the erect penis. “Rape” usually involves the offender using his penis to penetrate the vagina or anus, without consent, but sometimes also includes digital and/or object penetration.
- Sexual torture and homicide involves the sadistic torture and death of the victim, sometimes accompanied by mutilation. (Rich, 2011, p. 27)
Sex crimes not involving another person include:
- Creation of child pornography
- Possession and distribution of child pornography
- Bestiality, or sexual contact and interactions with an animal. (Rich, 2011, p. 27)
I do want to thank our legislatures and other government leaders for the existing sex crimes already on the books. However, I wonder how many of these sex crimes are actually enforced with perpetrators prosecuted?
What More Can the Government and Legislatures Do?
First, I would encourage the government and legislatures to press the police and other law enforcement officials to enforce the laws already on the books. Secondly, as I believe prevention is always the best medicine, I encourage our government and legislative leaders to focus on creating legislation to prevent sexual abuse. I want to share the following suggestions:
Add a spiritual dimension. “More and more educators are coming to realize that although the separation of church and state in America is part of our political heritage, our students must be educated to have common values of honesty, love, respect, and responsibility in their lives” (Allen & Coy, 2004, p. 355). Allen and Coy reported that only through teaching mutual respect and other positive character traits might an answer to reducing violence be found. Furthermore, Walsh (1998), as cited by Allen and Coy, links character development, and spirituality to having resilience which enables a victim to cope and move forward from an offense. Thus, Orgeron believes legislatures should require schools to offer to all students courses in character development beginning in kindergarten through high school.
Protect Christian counselors, women, and children through legislation. The state of Tennessee recently passed a bill protecting the religious rights of therapists and counselors. According to Locker and Meyer (2016, April 27), Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam
signed into law a controversial bill that says no licensed counselor or therapist must serve a client whose “goals, outcomes or behaviors” conflict with the counselor’s “sincerely held principles” — a measure the American Counseling Association had denounced as a “hate bill” against gay and transgender people.
Senate Bill 1556 also shields from civil lawsuits, criminal prosecution and sanctions by the state licensing board counselors who refuse to provide services — provided they coordinate a referral of the client to another counselor who would serve them.
The bill’s provisions, which go into effect immediately, also will not apply in cases where the person seeking or undergoing counseling is “in imminent danger of harming themselves or others.” (¶ 1)
Personally, I believe Haslam did the right thing, and that this law should become national legislation. Why? One of the first responsibilities of a counselor is to do no harm. Throughout my counseling coursework in primarily secular counseling courses students were taught a key principle to remember in counseling is to refer out whenever a client’s issues are outside our area of expertise or whenever we feel that we are not a good “fit” for the prospective client. This is very similar to how medical doctors work. MD’s, like counselors, have areas of expertise. Would you want a heart surgeon treating a high risk pregnancy or a brain surgeon treating a premature baby? No, of course not! That’s why counselors should refer out when the client’s issues are outside his or her area of expertise or comfort zone.
As an AACC member, I am committed to following the standards of this organization. As a Christian, ultimately my allegiance is to follow God. Thus, I am accountable to following the words of Scripture, which I believe the AACC Code of Ethics also endorses ultimately, The AACC Y-2014 Code of Ethics, regarding LGBT behaviors, stipulates under “1-120: Refusal to Participate in the Harmful Actions of Clients”:
1-120-f: Application to Homosexual, Bisexual and Transgendered Behavior
Christian counselors do not condone or advocate for the pursuit of or active involvement in homosexual, bisexual or transgendered behaviors and lifestyles. Counselors may agree to and support the desire to work through issues of homosexual and transgendered identity and attractions, but will not describe or reduce human identity and nature to sexual orientation or reference, and will encourage sexual celibacy or biblically-prescribed sexual behavior while such issues are being addressed. Counselors acknowledge the client’s fundamental right to self-determination and further understand that deeply held religious values and beliefs may conflict with same-sex attraction and/or behavior, resulting in anxiety, depression, stress, and inner turmoil.
Given the truth in the above statement, as long as a counselor refers out to a reputable secular counselor where the person would be a better “fit” for the issue at hand, no harm is done. The referral should be interpreted as if a Medical Specialist were referring to another Medical Specialist.
Adopt a national “bathroom bill” to protect women and children. With all the controversy in the news now regarding this issue, I would be amiss to not cover this topic. First, I want to say there are no easy answers. Given the complexity of all that I am
about to explain, I firmly believe that a national bathroom bill protecting women and children would be appropriate.
To understand my position, first, consider why people, particularly males, cross-dress. Two main reasons exist why men cross-dress: one, the man has Gender Identity Disorder, where he believes he is a woman. Two, he is a transvestite. This is a man who knows he is a man; but, he cross dresses for sexual gratification.
One exception to the above two reasons why a person might cross-dress is when that individual is diagnosed with Klinefelter syndrome or another biological anomaly. Normal chromosomal makeup for a male is XY; while, for the female the normal chromosomal makeup is XX.
Klinefelter syndrome is a genetic condition that results when a boy is born with an extra copy of the X chromosome. Klinefelter syndrome is a common genetic condition affecting males, and it often isn’t diagnosed until adulthood.
Klinefelter syndrome may adversely affect testicular growth, resulting in smaller than normal testicles, which can lead to lower production of testosterone. The syndrome may also cause reduced muscle mass, reduced body and facial hair, and enlarged breast tissue. The effects of Klinefelter syndrome vary, and not everyone has the same signs and symptoms.
prevent the development of female breasts, which would be the easiest to hide in public, large breasts or a penis? Of course, a penis! I think for this reason that an untreated individual with XXY Syndrome might dress as a woman and use the women’s restroom. Sometimes Orgeron thinks we can be too quick to judge cross-dressers, etc. without knowing the cause/motive behind the behavior.
With Gender Identity Disorder mentioned previously, a disturbance of gender identification exists where the affected individual has an overpowering desire to alter their sexual anatomy or insists that he or she is of the opposite sex. These individuals
have a persistent disturbance about their assigned sex and about how to live out the norms for the assigned sex’s gender role. Gender Identity Disorder may become apparent early in childhood or not surface until later. These individuals sometimes try to live as the opposite sex. Some go as far as to seek medical treatment to bring his or her biological anatomy into conformance with his or her desires. When those with Gender Identity Disorder have sought sex change operations, then these individuals become know as transsexuals.
I believe the motive behind why an individual might choose to use any particular restroom needs to be given consideration. However, the problem is that there is no way at first glance one can determine whether an individual is cross dressing because he/she is a transvestite, a transsexual, or whether the person really thinks he or she is of the opposite sex than indicated by one’s chromosomal makeup. I think the transvestites
who cross dress for sexual gratification are the ones to be most concerned about. Additionally, I believe that regardless of the reason why people cross dress, they don’t need our judgement or criticism. They need our prayers. They also need psychiatric
treatment. For example, when Klinefelter’s Syndrome is diagnosed early enough as a baby, doctors can give the person testosterone and other hormones to promote normal development as a male and to prevent the development of breasts and other female
characteristics during puberty.
“the problem is that there is no way at first glance one can determine whether an individual is cross dressing because he/she is a transvestite, a transsexual, or whether the person really thinks he or she is of the opposite sex than indicated by one’s chromosomal makeup.”
The issues surrounding a “bathroom bill” are complex with no easy answers. Given the complexity, I urge legislatures to adopt legislation requiring individuals to use public restrooms of the sex listed on one’s birth certificate. This keeps the safety of children a
number one priority. Otherwise, the door is wide open for pedophiles and other sex offenders to dress in women’s attire just to be able to enter a woman’s restroom seeking potential victims. Several cases have already occurred in Target stores in Texas. For the rare cases of Klinefelter’s and other genetic or other biological anomalies, I suggest that a separate Family bathroom be available for such individuals to use.
Toughen existing laws against perpetrators AND those persons or organizations that protect perpetrators. Those who fail to report perpetrators I believe should be made just as accountable for covering up sexual abuse as the perpetrators themselves. I say this because I’ve heard too many stories of where church members have been reported to their church that they are molesting children. What some victims have reported is that the church member was merely excommunicated from the church with no report filed to the appropriate authorities leaving the perpetrator free to molest other children outside the church. Other times churches may just sweep the abuse allegations under the rug to not lose financial contributions made to the church by the perpetrator.
Allen, J. M., & Coy, D. R. (2004). Linking spirituality and violence prevention in school counseling. Professional School Counseling, 7(5), 351-355.
Allender, D. (1990, 1995, 2008). The wounded heart: Hope for adult victims of childhood sexual abuse. Colorado Springs, CO: Navpress. Available for purchase at https://www.amazon.com/Wounded-Heart-Victims-Childhood-Sexual/dp/1600063071
Fontaine, M. (2013, January 24). America has an incest problem. In The Atlantic. Retrieved May 16, 2016 from
Locker, R. & Meyer, H. (2016, April 27). Haslam signs bill giving therapists protections [Electronic version]. In The Tennessean. Retrieved February 24, 2018 from https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/politics/2016/04/27/haslam-signs-controversial-bill-giving-therapists-protections/83509448/
Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (1998-2016). Diseases and conditions: Klinefelter syndrome: Overview. Retrieved February 24, 2018 from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/klinefelter-syndrome/symptoms-causes/syc-20353949
NCTSN: National Child Traumatic Stress Network (2009:April). Coping with the shock of intrafamilial sexual abuse. Retrieved February 24, 2018 from
Orgeron (aka, Owens), P. K. (2016). We survived sexual abuse! You can too! Personal stories of sexual abuse survivors with information about sexual abuse prevention, effects, and recovery. Madison, TN: ABC’s Ministries. Available for purchase at https://www.amazon.com/Survived-Sexual-Abuse-You-Can/dp/099795650X
Rich, P. (2011). Understanding, Assessing and Rehabilitating Juvenile Sexual Offenders (2nd ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley. Available for purchase at https://www.amazon.com/Understanding-Assessing-Rehabilitating-Juvenile-Offenders/dp/0470551720
Stochholm, K., Bojesen, A., Jensen, A. S., Juul, S., & Gravholt, C. H. (2012, February 22). Criminality in men with Klinefelter’s syndrome and XYY syndrome: a cohort study. BMJ Open, 2(1). Retrieved May 10, 2016, from http://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/2/1/e000650.full