Joanna Schroeder looks at a program that identifies early sexual behavior in young children, and attempts to treat them before they become offenders.
Last month, a few of my friends posted this news story on Facebook, about children who were caught playing “Rape Tag” on the playground. Some of my friends took this as a sign that Rape Culture is alive and thriving in the United States.
A new game played in at least one Minnesota schoolyard is upsetting parents and teachers with its “disgusting” premise. “Rape tag” is just like freeze tag, with one alarming difference: Participants need to be humped to be unfrozen.
This seems like a horrifying skit from Saturday Night Live, doesn’t it? And don’t we all agree that there is a major problem when our children are talking about rape as a game? Both boys and girls?
But does that mean that Rape Culture is alive and thriving? No, I don’t think it does. While I believe that there is such a thing as Rape Culture, I actually think the story of this playground conundrum shows that society’s acceptance of rape as being just a part of life, or the fault of women who act or dress provocatively, or even just “boys being boys” is on the decline. The parents and school admins in this community in Minnesota were horrified, and reacted swiftly. There seemed to be no “boys will be boys” attitude here—an attitude that damages everyone, boys included.
My first thought upon reading the case of “Rape Tag” had nothing to do with Rape Culture, in fact my first reaction was that sinking pit in my stomach that always comes with the suggestion or mention of children being sexually abused. In the perfect world we all dream of, and should be working toward, children of this age shouldn’t have any idea that rape even exists.
Children displaying highly sexualized behavior at a young age is a sign of abuse, or at least of neglect, and it is something that should not be ignored or dismissed in either gender. A new program, called RISK, is aiming to identify sexually inappropriate behaviors in young children (regardless of sex) and to give them help. An article in Southern Oregon’s Mail Tribune explains:
“Sexually reactive children are doing sexual acts on younger, weaker kids because they are acting out what was done to them or what they have seen. The acts, though sexual in nature, may not be sexual to the child doing them,” Mish said. “No one wants to label a child so young an offender, but that doesn’t mean that the child can do no harm to others.”
Mish said most of these children were victims of sex abuse, saw pornography or saw adults in sexual situations. They were not perpetrators, “but if no intervention took place, they might indeed end up as a 12- or 13 year old in juvenile detention because they were now offending,” she said.
Regardless of what anyone believes about Rape Culture, one thing I think everyone can agree on is that identifying, addressing, and treating children who display signs of sexually inappropriate behavior is one major way in which we can stop the horrifying cycle of sexual abuse in all forms. We can only hope that programs like this, which approach children with compassion and an aim to heal them, catch on.
Photo courtesy of andrewmalone