The number one perpetrator in the rape of a child is the father, and 95 percent of perpetrators of sexual abuse are male, according to Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Special Victims Bureau Sgt. Dan Scott.
After the father, the most likely perpetrators of rape are the step-father, the mother’s boyfriend(s), uncles and grandfathers, Scott said in a presentation to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Marina del Rey Station Advisory Committee at a monthly meeting held at the Del Rey Yacht Club in Marina del Rey Monday, February 26th.
One in three female children under age 18 and one in six male children under age 18 become victims of sexual abuse, said Scott.
The Special Victims Bureau investigates severe abuse crimes, both physical and sexual, against children under the age of 18, and is one of the three oldest units in the country specializing in child abuse, according to Scott.
Scott said there are five recognized forms of child abuse:
— neglect, general and severe;
— emotional; and
Scott said spanking children to discipline them is acceptable, within limits, but the face or head should not be hit, just the buttocks with the open hand, not using any type of device such as belts, paddles or other objects.
Venting one’s anger on a child because you’ve “had a bad day” is child abuse, and inflicting physical injury or inflicting unjustifiable pain (even if there is no injury) are crimes, he said.
An individual can feel the force used when striking a child with an open hand, but if an object is used, the force is much more severe and the person striking the child is unable to assess how hard the child is being hit, said Scott.
SEXUAL CHILD ABUSE — The mother of the sexually-abused child will take the side of the husband, boyfriend, brother or grandfather 80 percent of the time against the child, and in some cases, the mother may be complicit in the crime, Scott said.
At least 85 percent and perhaps 95 percent of victims know or trust their molester, and the chances of the perpetrator being a stranger are very small, said Scott.
While women do commit child sexual abuse, the reports are not as prevalent, or victims don’t report it as often, Scott said.
Compared to female teachers accused of sexual abuse of a student, Scott said a male teacher in the same circumstance would receive a more severe jail penalty.
There are 11,235 registered sex offenders in Los Angeles County — this large number is because Los Angeles County is so large — but there are also 4,500 sex offenders that are unaccounted for and not registered, Scott said.
Rape victims from Marina del Rey, Santa Monica, Culver City and other local areas are immediately taken to the Santa Monica Rape Treatment Center and to the affiliated Stuart House in Santa Monica, which provides free counseling, pediatric forensic examinations and advocacy for sexually-abused children.
DNA test results are processed within 72 hours at the Santa Monica Rape Treatment Center, Scott said.
Part of the DNA test results go to the Special Victims Bureau for its “Who done it” file, where it remains to be matched up against existing and future perpetrators, according to Scott.
The other part of the DNA test result goes to a State of California permanent storage system.
Detectives come to the Stuart House facility when notified, a district attorney both interviews the child and prosecutes the case, and the child is then placed in therapy, without repeated stressful questioning by various individuals, said Scott.
Centers like Stuart House are crucial and the county needs at least five more to handle all of the cases, Scott said.
In January, a $2 million grant from the State of California to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department became effective to set up a “Regional Safe Team” for each of the sheriff’s stations, Scott said.
Each sheriff’s station is responsible for tracking down unregistered sex offenders in the station’s area, and team members will go out in the community to identify these individuals, some of whom may already be deceased, Scott said.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Marina Station is extremely responsive, said Scott, and fortunately there are few child abuse and child sexual assault cases in the Marina area.
Doctors, psychologists, lawyers, therapists, teachers and other professionals dealing with children are required to report suspected child abuse, according to Scott.
In cases where the suspected abuse is severe, local law enforcement should first be contacted to provide safety for the child, but Scott suggests that both the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services hotline, (800) 540-4000, and the Special Victim’s Bureau also be contacted, (562) 946-8531.
Police patrol officers are the first responders to a reported criminal child abuse scene, where they interview all parties, collect evidence and document facts, arrest the suspect if necessary, and protect the child or children by taking them into protective custody and to dependency court within 48 hours, Scott said.
The child or children may either be placed in a foster home at that time, or allowed to return to a protective parent.
Within 24 hours of the incident, the case is assigned to a specially trained detective to conduct a thorough investigation.
After the detective’s investigation, depending on the circumstances, a “Bureau level warning” may be issued to the parent or parents in a lower-level child abuse case such as alleged neglect.
This warning is also stored in a state-system record, the Child Abuse Central Index, where it remains for ten years if the charges are unsubstantiated, or forever if the charges are proved, said Scott.
“The molester among us” is from all walks of life, race and social/economic level, said Scott, who says he has prosecuted people in his own department for sexual abuse.
The sexual molester will place himself in situations where access to children is easy, and will attempt to “compromise” the intended victim in some way, such as inviting the child to the molester’s house to have a soda, Scott said.
If the child doesn’t tell his parents of that first visit, the molester knows the child has been compromised, said Scott.
Molesters manipulate and seduce their victims, they don’t typically threaten or cause fear, and the victim trusts his potential molester, thinking of him as a friend, said Scott.
The sexual molester is many times a person who seems “too good to be true,” and has no peers or buddies, has never been married, and whose life revolves around children, according to Scott.
Scott emphasizes that most volunteers are great people, but “there are the few who aren’t, such as the team coach who offers to take the entire team to Disneyland, pay for all the tickets and food, and then tells the parents the kids can stay overnight at his home.”
Scott said that standard responses from the mother of a sexual abuse victim about the alleged molester might be, “He likes children too much to hurt them; he wouldn’t molest his own children/grandchildren; we watch him and he’s never alone with the children; he’s not interested in the children that way, he loves me; she’s lying, he would never do such a thing; the doctor said there was nothing wrong.”
Unless the child is raped, typical sexual abuse will not show any physical results during a medical examination, so the comment about the doctor not finding anything wrong is not a guarantee, said Scott.
False allegations of sexual abuse are also rare, and sexually-abused children talk about events that can’t be misconstrued, Scott said.
Teenagers, however, “are a different matter,” said Scott. Teenage girls may have gotten pregnant by a boyfriend, or weren’t allowed to attend a party, or say that Dad is too strict, and they may allege that their father committed sexual abuse.
The $2 million grant for a Los Angeles County project will enable the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services, sheriff’s and police agencies to generate reports electronically to one another to transmit crucial information more quickly about perpetrators, “putting us light years ahead of even five years ago,” Scott said.
The world has become too sexualized, with ads and billboards, the Internet, videos, and a host of other areas, Scott said.
The first California laws regarding child abuse were put into effect in 1963, and laws regarding sexual abuse of children under age 18 only became effective in late 1973-early 1974, according to Scott.
Scott asked if the parents at the meeting were aware of how many registered sex offenders live in their neighborhoods.
When they responded “No,” he asked if that wasn’t something they felt it was critical to know.
He suggested that parents use on-line Web sites that provide information by entering a zip code for their neighborhood to find out the number of registered offenders in that neighborhood.
Information, www.meganslaw.ca.gov or www.familywatchdog.us/