Incest is sexual activity between members of the same family. Sex play between children in the same family is common and is not usually considered to be abusive. Exploratory sex play between cousins and brothers and sisters is not usually physically or psychologically damaging unless one child is older and bigger than the other uses force.
Incest between adults in the same family or between adults and children in the same family is illegal. It includes all kinds of sex play including asking children to undress. Incest usually occurs between a man and a young girl who is related to him. Women are also known to commit incest with younger members of their families.
Incest is committed against infants, young children, teenagers and young adults. Older children may allow themselves to be victimized to protect a younger sibling from being victimized. In many cases mothers know what is happening when fathers or stepfathers are the offenders and their daughters are the victims, but they may remain silent because they believe they are unable to intervene. These relationships often cause profound shame and guilt and can seriously affect children for the rest of their lives.
In most states, sexual contact or marriage between blood relatives is against the law. But some states allow marriage between first cousins.
Pedophilia is a psychological condition in which an adult is sexually aroused only by children. Using children for sexual arousal crime in every state. Most pedophiles are men who were sexually abused as children. It is very difficult for them to control their urges. Therapy is not always successful, and repeat offenses are common
Many pedophiles control their sexual urges with chemical castration. They receive weekly injections of Depo-Provera to reduce sexual desire. California offers this option to any first time sex offender who has molested a child under 13. If the man commits a second offense, the law requires either chemical or surgical castration. Removing the testicles stops nearly all testosterone production. Although it is not a foolproof way of preventing further sexual abuse, it permanently reduces sexual desire. Chemical castration is used in some parts of Europe and has decreased the rate of repeated sex offenses by treated men from 100 percent to 2 percent.
A new federal law, called Megan's Law, went into effect in 1997. It requires convicted pedophiles who have been released from jail to register with the police every 90 days. They must provide a blood sample for identification. Police must contact citizens to alert them to the presence of a pedophile in their community. Lifetime supervision by parole officials is mandatory.
Seven states now allow prison authorities to put dangerous sex offenders in mental hospitals without their consent after they have served their full sentences. This has raised legal questions about whether people who have already been punished for sexual crimes and who are not considered officially "mentally ill" should continue to be held in this way The U.S. Supreme Court will rule on this matter in 1997.
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