Are Kids Who ‘Molest’ Other Kids Predators ... or Victims Too?

handsA Pennsylvania mother claims that her 5-year-old daughter was molested by two classmates in her kindergarten class. The shocking allegations came after the little girl told her that the boys had put their hands down the back and front of her pants. Adding to her horror, the school principal said that this had happened before.

Disturbing does not even begin to describe this story. Though, for many parents, it brings up unsettling questions. Is this simply unexplained curiosity or something much more sinister? Can this crime be attributed to some kind of devious, learned behavior?

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The assault allegedly occurred in the cafeteria of the Fawn Primary Center. Not surprisingly, the outraged mom reported the incident to the police and had her daughter examined. 

It's troubling to think that something like this can happen to your child while she is surrounded by teachers and attendants. And any parent would be out of their mind with rage to learn that the school didn't alert them when it first happened. Why didn't they do something about it before? Overcrowded schools and overloaded teachers aren't enough of an excuse to dismiss a situation like this. But that isn't the only disturbing aspect to this story.

Just as problematic is trying to figure out where this behavior comes from -- especially in children so young. Do we treat them as criminals? Do we blame the parents and hold them liable? Do we call child protective services?

This isn't the only case like this. Not long ago, a preschool was closed because of similar claims. At First Lutheran Child Development Center in Carson, California, there were reports that children as young as 4 and 5 were performing oral sex on each other during recess and nap time.  Horrifying, right? Just as when I heard those truly unsettling allegations, I now have to wonder if these kids are capable of coming up with this behavior themselves. Yes, kids this age are curious and wonder about body parts -- that's natural. But sexual beings they are not. I would think they are mimicking what they see or, heartbreakingly, what may be happening to them somewhere else.

I'm not sure what is the right way to handle the situation -- treat it as a crime or treat the aggressors as victims too. Or perhaps a combination. What is crystal clear is that something needs to be done -- and right away if the alleged molesters are going to get the help they need.

What do you think should happen to kindergarten-age molesters?

 

Image via Jan de Graaf/Flickr

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