9.13.2011

Children With Sexually Transmitted Diseases


By Lawrence W. Daly

Are children being exposed to sexually transmitted disease with all of the education and prevention which is being taught in schools and the media? Do children believe that having sex without protection is the way to go? With online dating and sexual experiences from connecting with others exposing children to greater risk? All of these questions need to be examined and evaluated and the statistics may help tell the story.

To understand what the status of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) actually is, you must understand how STDs and child abuse go hand in hand.  Law enforcement’s method and techniques of investigating child sexual abuse allegations can be difficult. Children who allegedly have been abused may be reluctant or lack the ability to communicate, i.e. due to age or mental disabilities makes the process slow and complicated.

The effects of child abuse range from extreme emotional problems to vaginal tearing to STDs and have to be dealt with at many levels.  These findings by those in the sexual abuse networks can be difficult to manage, not only for the child, but the non-offending authority figure, and the professionals who are responsible to take care of a child who is emotionally abused or contracts STDs.
P_talking-stds1.jpgAlthough it is a travesty that a child contracts STDs, the disease may be traceable back to the sexual offender. Several decades ago, the STDs which dominated children being exposed to STDs were gonorrhea and syphilis. The past decade gonorrhea and syphilis have become overshadowed by Chlamydia Trachomatis (chlamydia), human papilloma virus (HPV), bacterial vaginosis (BV), and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) (U.S. Department of Justice).

Law enforcement must have the knowledge on how to handle a situation where a child victim that they are investigating allegations of sexual abuse and has contracted one of the above diseases needs to know what to do with these medical findings.  Recently laboratories, which were minimal in numbers has now become a booming business. Law enforcement agencies should establish a relationship with one of these laboratories so when they have a positive finding of one of the above diseases they understand the value of the evidence, the investigative process and etc.

imagesCA7WBAWE.jpgIf the child victim has identified her father as the alleged sexual offender who she contracted STDs from, law enforcement can move the court to issue a search warrant for the father’s blood. The blood which will carry the disease can be compared to the findings of the child victim. If the results are positive then law enforcement can obtain an arrest warrant or based on probable cause arrest the father.  The interrogation of the father would be quick and to the point. The scientific methods and techniques that the laboratories utilize, if procedures, protocols and processes are followed bring credibility to the child victim’s disclosures about what the sexual offender did sexually to her.

The U.S. Department of Justice in their preparation of the manual, “Sexually Transmitted Diseases and Child Sexual Abuse, December, 2002” states there are several accurate information about STD’s in victims of sexual abuse, that has been hindered by a variety of factors. These factors are as follows:

·         The prevalence of sexually transmitted infections may vary regionally and among different populations within the same region.
·         Few studies have attempted to differentiate between infections existing prior to sexual abuse and those that result from abuse.
·         The presence of a preexisting infection in adults is usually related to prior sexual activity. In children, however, preexisting infections may be related to prolonged colonization after perinatal acquisition (acquisition immediately before and after birth), inadvertent nonsexual spread, prior peer sexual activity, or prior sexual abuse.
·         The incubation periods for STD’s range from a few days for gonorrhea to several months for HPV.

If parents understand these factors, than STDs can be recognized at the onset and understands the several stages of STDs, the child victim will not have to suffer to a severe degree if the disease can be caught at the early onset.

imagesCARLFFUI.jpgWith the new technology law enforcement can use the STDs findings as a probable cause element to obtain a search warrant, apprehend the sexual offender and then take him/her to trial. The advantages outweigh the negatives. If law enforcement receives the correct medical training then they can use it as a solid piece of evidence. Today’s juries want to hear about “medical evidence” which is reliable, valid and proves without a  question that the STDs were given to the child victim by the sexual offender.

The U.S. Department of Justice further states:

When presented with a child with an STD, law enforcement officials must attempt to determine absolutely if the infection was associated with sexual contact and, for the purposes of prosecution, whether appropriate diagnostic methods were used. The following facts should be kept in mind:
·         STD’s may be transmitted during sexual assault.
·         Multiple episodes of abuse increase the risk of STD infection, probably by increasing the number of contacts with an infected individual, and rates of infection also vary by the type of assault.
For example, vaginal or rectal penetration is more likely to lead to detectable STD infection than fondling.
·         Sexual assault is a violent crime that affects children of all ages, including infants.
·         The majority of children who are sexually abused will have no physical complaints related either to trauma or STD infection.
Most sexually abused children do not indicate that they have genital pain or problems.
·         In children the isolation of a sexually transmitted organism may be the first indication that abuse has occurred.
·         In most cases, the site of infection is consistent with a child’s history of assault.
·         Although the presence of a sexually transmissible agent in a child over the age of 1 month is suggestive of sexual abuse, exceptions do exist. Rectal and genital chlamydia infections in young children may be due to a persistent perinatally acquired infection, which may last for up to 3 years.
The incidence and prevalence of sexual abuse in children are difficult to estimate.
·         Most sexual abuse in childhood escapes detection.
·         Patterns of childhood sexual abuse appear to depend on the sex and age of the victim.
·         Between 80 and 90 percent of sexually abused children are female (average age: 7 to 8 years).
·         Between 75 and 85 percent of sexually abused children were abused by a male assailant, an adult or minor known to the child. This individual is most likely a family member such as the father, stepfather, mother’s boyfriend, or an uncle or other male relative.
·         Victims of unknown assailants tend to be older than children who are sexually abused by someone they know and are usually only subjected to a single episode of abuse.
·         Sexual abuse by family members or acquaintances usually involves multiple episodes over periods ranging from 1 week to years.
·         Most victims describe a single type of sexual activity, but over 20 percent have experienced more than one type of forced sexual act.
·         Vaginal penetration has been reported to occur in approximately one-half and anal penetration in one-third of female victims of sexual abuse.
·         Over 50 percent of male victims of sexual abuse have experienced anal penetration.
·         Other types of sexual activity, including oral-genital contact and fondling, occur in 20 to 50 percent of victims of sexual abuse.
·         Children who are sexually abused by known assailants usually experience less physical trauma, including genital trauma, than victims of assaults by strangers because such trauma might arouse suspicion that abuse is occurring.

image008.pngThe U.S. Justice Department did their due diligence in conducting research on STDs over the past two decades. Leader in the field of STDs for law enforcement to use in the investigation of child sexual abuse allegations, the above material is excellent not only for law enforcement, but for the public.

Tomorrow, I will continue researching and writing about just how the STDs of today are creating avenues for the criminal justice system to assist those who investigate child sexual abuse allegations. 

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