compared the brains of people who committed suicide with the brains of people who died natural
deaths, and found that those who experienced abuse and committed suicide had fewer cortisol
receptors allowing the body to turn off the stress response.31 High levels of cortisol in the brain
leads to mood alteration, sleep disturbances, and heightened anxiety.32 This leaves victims of
childhood sexual abuse more prone to major psychiatric disorders.33 Some of these symptoms do
not, however, present themselves until years after the abuse occurs.34 Victims can be so
preoccupied with coping with the side effects of abuse that they do not realize the abuse is
actually the source of these problems.35
The effects of this abuse do not just have a long-term effect on the victims themselves,
but have fiscal implications for communities and institutions. In 2010, the government spent an
estimated average of $97,952 to $210,012 on each victim of nonfatal child abuse.36 In the United
States in 2008, the total lifetime economic burden that resulted from new cases of child
maltreatment was between $57 and $124 billion.37 Moreover, children who are victims of abuse
and neglect in any form are fifty-nine percent more likely to be arrested as juveniles, twenty-eight
percent more likely to be arrested as adults, and thirty percent more likely to commit violent
crimes.38 This propensity toward illicit behavior traps the child in a “cycle of violence” for the
rest of his or her life.39
B. The Unique Circumstances of Child Sexual Abuse
Adults and older juveniles often target children because their circumstances make them
the “perfect victims.”40 Children are vulnerable because of their age and because they are usually
physically weaker and smaller than adults, immature, less credible than adults, and often lack
verbal communication skills to articulate abuse.41 Furthermore, the way in which children interact
with adults lends itself more easily to exploitation: children are naturally curious, easily led, and
have a distinct need for attention and affection from adults in their lives.42 As they grow older, the
natural curiosity that children have about sex is often a forbidden topic to discuss with their
parents, making reporting abuse difficult for the child.43 Some researchers argue that sexual
predators are aware of these characteristics and exploit the average child’s natural sexual
curiosity when seducing him or her.44
31 Id.; Patrick O. McGowan et al., Epigenetic Regulation of the Glucocorticoid Receptor in Human Brain Associates with Childhood
Abuse, 12 NAT. NEUROSCIENCE 342, 342–43 (2009).
32 Mendelson, supra note 28.
33 Id. These major disorders include Major Depression, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, and Generalized Anxiety Disorder, among
34 Miller, supra note 14, at 603.
35 Id. at 603–04.
36 Xiangming Fang et al., The Economic Burden of Child Maltreatment in the United States and Implications for Prevention, 36 CHILD
ABUSE & NEGLECT 156, 160 (2012) (basing these figures on estimates of short and long-term healthcare costs, productivity losses,
child welfare costs, criminal justice costs, and special education costs).
37 Id. at 161.
38 Jenna Rae King, Caught in the Cycle of Sexual Violence: The Application of Mandatory Registration and Community Notification
Laws to Juvenile Sex Offenders, 18 WIDENER L. REV. 99, 103 (2012).
40 OLIVA, supra note 14, at 161.
42 Id. (arguing that these characteristics, in combination with the fact that many children feel a need to defy their parents and are not
ideal witnesses when testifying about a crime, contribute to their vulnerability to sexual abuse). Children are taught from an early age
to respect adults, and generally rely on them for daily emotional and physical support, and those relationships allow abusers to easily
prey on children victims. Id.