HIDDEN VICTIMS: The Sexual Abuse of Children by Robert L. Geiser

HIDDEN VICTIMS: The Sexual Abuse of Children

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Since 1962, when Henry Kempe first identified the battered-child syndrome, detection of child abuse has become far more sophisticated; in 1976, nearly half a million cases were uncovered. At least ten percent of such cases involve sexual abuse (some estimates run much higher), and it is these that psychologist Geiser surveys in his sober investigation. Primarily, he disputes several popular misconceptions--the sex-crazed child rapist, for example--and offers more accurate profiles of many offenders: molesters, pederasts, pornographers, those who practice incest. Not exactly a Sesame Street cast of characters, but they often know their victims and, as Geiser emphasizes throughout, a large percentage are white, middleaged, middle-class heterosexuals leading otherwise respectable lives. These are difficult areas to discuss, and although Geiser does not exploit his material, much of it is by nature unsettling--like the mother who denied her brother had singled out her youngest son by saying, ""He had sex with all the kids."" Geiser appraises the effects of such experiences on children (not all are traumatized) and rightly notes how often their suffering has been compounded by well-meaning social agency representatives. Some of the coverage here is lopsided (seven of the twelve pages on male sex rings are devoted to one case), but the contents are current, right up to recent media reports on child prostitution and pornography, and in most instances they are written from a stance agreeable to general readers. However, the chapter on pederasty may raise some eyebrows: Geiser contends some man-boy relationships are benign, but the examples (including a Midwest bankers' citizenship program requiring sex in return for support) are unconvincing. Overall, though, a reliable accounting of contemporary circumstances which amplifies the general principles espoused in the Kempes' Child Abuse (1978).

Pub Date: Sept. 28th, 1979
Publisher: Beacon