The following is a culmination of research I have conducted over a long time on the very subject.
The term "statutory rape"
This is a generic term and some consider it to include just victims under the age of consent, and some consider it to include victims aged 16-18 or older who are being taught in college/university. Therefore, I would first like to address the term "statutory rape".
Of all offenders of male statutory rape victims, 70% were age 21 and older, while 45% of offenders of female statutory rape victims were 21 and older (Troup-Leasure & Snyder, 2005).
This has been amalgamated to form the statistic that young adults under age 25 are the most common perpetrators known to law enforcement (Oudekerk, et al. 2013), because most (95%) statutory rape victims were female according to Troup-Leasure & Snyder, (2005).
One important point of note here is that the figures, as with all official rape and sexual assault statistics can only be based on cases reported to the police. Many cases go unreported for many reasons, and therefore these statistics can be a little skewed.
In common law jurisdictions, statutory rape is nonforcible sexual activity in which one of the individuals is below the age of consent (the age required to legally consent to the behavior) (Cusack, 2015; Troup-Leasure & Snyder, 2005). Although it usually refers to adults engaging in sexual contact with minors under the age of consent, it is a generic term, and very few jurisdictions use the actual term statutory rape in the language of statutes (Davis & Twombly, 2000)
Different jurisdictions use many different statutory terms for the crime, such as sexual assault, rape of a child, corruption of a minor, unlawful sex with a minor, carnal knowledge of a minor, unlawful carnal knowledge, sexual battery or simply carnal knowledge.
The terms child sexual abuse or child molestation may also be used, but statutory rape generally refers to sex between an adult and a sexually mature minor past the age of puberty, and may therefore be distinguished from child sexual abuse (Cusack, 2015; Fradella & Sumner, 2016). Sexual relations with a prepubescent child in this case is typically treated as a more serious crime.
In statutory rape laws, overt force or threat is not present. Statutory rape laws presume coercion, because a minor or mentally handicapped adult is legally incapable of giving consent to the act.
Female on male statutory rape
Until the late 1970s, sex involving an adult female and an underage male was often ignored by the law, due to the belief that it is often sexual initiation for the younger male (Gartner, 2001) This view still exists within the public viewpoint, as it is glamorized by the media and there may be a gender bias in courts on teacher-student sexual relationships (though these relationships are illegal regardless of age).
To add to this, in at least one case, the U.S. courts have held that male victims of statutory rape may be liable for child support for any children resulting from the crime. In County of San Luis Obispo v. Nathaniel J (California courts of appeal, 1996). the 15-year-old victim Nathaniel J. discussed a future relationship with the perpetrator (a 34-year-old woman) and stated that the sex was "mutually agreeable". Given this testimony, the California Court of Appeal held Nathaniel J. financially responsible for his child. The court stated the boy was "not an innocent victim" of the sexual intercourse.
The way that long-term effects of child sexual abuse (CSA) have come to be put together reflects, in no small measure, the very particular circumstances that surrounded the revelation of CSA as an all too common event in the lives of children. The first phase of modern research into CSA was not triggered by observations on child victims, but by the self-disclosures of adults who had the courage to publicly give witness to their abuse as children. These early self-revealed victims who were studied, exclusively women, had often been the victims of incestuous abuse, and plausibly attributed many of their current personal difficulties to their sexual abuse as children. This contrasts with the emergence of child abuse as a public health and research issue that has been driven by the observations of professionals caring for abused children
Long-term impact on mental health
There have been numerous studies examining the association between a history of CSA and mental health problems in adult life that have employed clinical samples, convenience samples (usually students), and random community samples. There is now an established body of knowledge clearly linking a history of CSA with higher rates in adult life of depressive symptoms, anxiety symptoms, substance abuse disorders, eating disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) (Briere & Runtz 1988; Winfield et al. 1990; Bushnell et al. 1992; Mullen et al. 1993; Romans et al. 1995; Romans et al. 1997; Fergusson et al. 1996a; Fergusson et al. 1996b; Silverman et al. 1996; Fleming et al. 1998; Fleming et al. 1999). A more controversial literature links multiple personality disorder with CSA (Bucky & Dallenberg 1992; Spanos 1996).
Unravelling the associations between abuse and long-term problems
There is a wide range of potential adverse adult outcomes associated with CSA. However, although there is a proposal by Karen Rodman, Director and Founder of FAAAS Inc (Families of Adults Afflicted with Asperger's Syndrome) for Post-Traumatic Relationship Syndrome or Ongoing Traumatic Relationship Syndrome (OTRS), there is no unique pattern to the long-term effects and no real distinctly specific “post-abuse syndrome” that I have found. This suggests that CSA is best viewed as a risk factor for a wide range of subsequent problems.
In studies on the long-term impact of CSA that employ adult subjects, it is all too easy to forget the abuse occurred in childhood, and to resort to applying inappropriately adult-centred conceptualisations.
The sexual abuse of children occurs during a period in life where complex and, hopefully, ordered changes are occurring in the child's physical, psychological and social being. The state of flux leaves the child vulnerable to sustaining damage that will detrimentally affect the normal developmental processes. The impact of abuse is likely to be modified by the developmental stage at which it occurs. It will also vary according to how resilient the child is in terms of their psychological and social development up to that point. A child who has already had to cope with, for example, a problematic family background or prior emotional abuse, will be more vulnerable to the additional blow of CSA.
These suppositions are borne out by studies that have demonstrated powerful interactions between the child's prior exposure to potentially damaging situations, and the degree of adult disturbance apparently associated with a history of CSA (Mullen et al. 1993; Mullen et al. 1994; Fergusson et al. 1996a; Fergusson et al. 1996b; Fergusson et al. 1997a; Fergusson et al. 1997b).
The long-term effects of CSA will also be modified by the individual's experience subsequent to the abuse. Romans et al. (1995 and 1997) demonstrated that long-term problems following CSA were significantly lower in those who had supportive and confiding relationships with their mothers and in those who, as adolescents, experienced some success at school or with peers. The nature of this success (academic, social or sporting), is probably less important than the accompanying strengthening of self-esteem and enhancement of opportunities for effective social interactions with peers.
The relationship between the potential damage inflicted on elements in the child's development and subsequent mitigating factors is complex. For example, the observation that those victims of CSA who manage to establish and maintain stable marital relationships are protected against some of the potentially adverse outcomes of CSA (Cole & Putnam 1992) may reflect, in part, the mitigating and healing influence of patience and understanding from their partners.
Peters (1988) suggested that CSA interacts with family background to produce disruption of the child's developing self-esteem and sense of mastery of the world (agency). It is these deficits that increase the likelihood of psychological problems in later life. This model of developmental deficits leading to social and personal vulnerabilities in adult life, which in their turn create an increased risk of mental health problems, can usefully be expanded.
Those with histories of CSA, have an increased risk of social, interpersonal and sexual problems in adult life. This association may play a role in creating at least some of the far better-known associations between CSA and mental health problems.
Greater vulnerability to depression is found in women who lack a trusting, intimate and confiding relationship (Henderson and Brown 1988; Harris 1988; Romans et al. 1992). Depression is also associated with lowered self-esteem and a sense of hopelessness about one's ability to influence one's life (Browne & Finkelhor 1986, Ingham et al. 1986). Therefore, the social, interpersonal and sexual problems associated with a history of CSA may themselves provide fertile ground for the development of mental health problems, particularly in the area of depressive disorders.
A plausible hypothesis can be put forward that the developmental disruption in CSA victims' sense of self-esteem, sense of agency, sense of the world as a safe enough environment, in their capacity for entering trusting intimate relationships and, finally, in their developing sexuality, leads in adult life to an increased risk of low self-esteem, social and economic failure, social insecurity and isolation, difficulties with intimacy and sexual problems.
Research continues to depict CSA as predominantly perpetrated against female children. It is estimated that 1 in 20 children in the UK have been sexually assaulted (Radford et al. 2011). According to the Office for National Statistics, between March 2003 and September 2018, 82% of sexual assaults in England and Wales were on girls under 16 leaving 18% on boys under 16 (Table A4 in Elkin (2019)). In Australia, in 2003, 76% of recorded sexual assault victims aged under 15 years of age were female and 24% were male (Trewin, 2004).
The thing to remember about crime statistics are these are only assaults which are reported to the police and many go unreported (Gregory & Lees, 1999).
Child sexual abuse is clearly an issue in need of a nuanced understanding of both male and female victims. Research suggests that the sexual abuse of boys is far more common than generally believed (Dorahy & Clearwater, 2012). This is emerging from studies of clergy-perpetrated sexual abuse and from studies of gay and bisexual men. The prevalence rates for both groups are significantly higher than the more commonly cited figures for males in the general population (Jinich et al., 1998; Wilson & Widom, 2010). In relation to clergy-perpetrated abuse, it is becoming clear, as outlined earlier, that boys are much more likely than girls to be the victims of this type of abuse, though it may not be formally reported to authorities for some time, if ever (John Jay College, 2004; Parkinson et al., 2010).
- Cashmore & Shackel (2013)
Talking to male victims myself in my line of work over the years has revealed that boys suffer the same as girls, with additional problems whereby cultural images of how "real men" should think, feel and act can create problems (Price-Robertson, 2012).
powerful barriers to male victim/survivors of child sexual abuse disclosing their experiences to others, accepting their experience as one that may have had a formative influence on their lives, and healing from the trauma of the abuse … [This] means that many in society have difficulty fully acknowledging and accepting the reality of the sexual abuse of males during childhood/adolescence, and the trauma it can inflict. (p. 5)
Table 2 in Cashmore & Shackel (2013) summarises the findings from 11 studies on the impact of CSA on males and a comparison between male survivors of child sexual abuse and female survivors and non-abused men. Overall, research on the effects of CSA amongst male victims indicates that male survivors often "experience the event as traumatic and that psychological distress is a common long-term correlate" of such abuse.
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