Forget the four percent
Remember the one percent
FEJ Gieles, PhD, The Netherlands, Augus 2017
Now and then, I have said that the research of Rind c.s. should prove that a sexual experience during childhood in only four percent should result in lasting harm, and only for girls and only for cases of incest and force. This is not correct.
I discovered this in a shock after someone said that this was only one percent. In my text to correct this into 4%, I wanted to place a link to this cipher in Rind’s meta-analysis. This 4% cannot be found there!
The 1% can be found in Rind’s meta=analysis, but this cipher has another meaning.
The four percent
The 4% did appear in a more simple version, the lecture Rotterdam, the Netherlands, in 1998. This text is here:
For this article, I choose the Rotterdam lecture as the primary source, because that version is more simple than the meta-analysis itself. Several data in that lecture come from earlier research of the Rind team.
By the way, I have the statistucal terms explained in my article
The 4% lasting harm can be found in Table 2 of the Rotterdam lecture. There is spoken about the research of Baker & Duncan, 1985. This is a study with a national community sample. However, the 4% lasting harm is mentioned there for males; for females, the authors give us 13% lasting harm.
There is more, knowingly also "Harmful at the time, but no lasting effects”. For males this is 33%, for females 51%. "No effect" counts for males 57% and for females 34%. "Improved quality of life" is also mentioned: male 6%, female 2%. The table is here: < https://www.ipce.info/library_2/rbt/exam/exam_3.htm#Table%202 >.
In my humble opinion, ‘temporary harm’ is also harm. If we sum ‘lasting’ and ‘temporary’, we arrive at 37% for males and 64% for females. This is quite more than the supposed 4%.
However, another cipher may put this in perspective.
The one percent
This percentage can be found in the meta-analysis, but its meaning is quite different, knowingly “effect size.
This is a cipher that, after statistical computations, tells us how much effect phenomenon A (here: sexual experience during childhood) has on phenomenon B (here: lasting harm, more precisely ‘problems with psychological; adjustment during adulthood’). Thus, not the frequency of phenomenon B (‘1% of the cases’), but the effect that A has on B (‘1% of the possible factors’).
The researcher computes the correlation between all possible, knowable and countable factors influencing phenomenon B, and looks to the differences between those correlations. After all, there may be other factors than the early sexual experience that may influence phenomenon B. Effect sizes may be computed per sample and per groups of samples.
It appears that the effect size differs per type of sample.
Anothe study from 1996, not more pecisily mentioned in the Rotterdam lecture, gives
In their own research about national community samples, the Rind team found
In their research with college samples, they found
See Table 3 at
It appeared that the factor (problematic) family environment is a factor nine stronger than the factor early sexual experiences.
If we behold the easy cipher of 1% as the effect size of early sexual experiences in our memory, and 9% or 10% as the effect size of (problematic) family environment, than this may put the lasting arm caused by early sexual experiences in another perspective. The factor (problematic) family environment has a factor nine more influence.
Wanted or unwanted, male and female
In Table 7, a difference is made between wanted and unwanted contacts. The literature offers us only two categories, “wanted” and “wanted and unwanted”.
Thus, there are differences for males and females. For males, the 0,16% Is not significant, de 1,69% is significant. In cases of unwanted contacts, we know about the effects, in cases of ‘wanted or unwanted’ we know nothing.
Below table 8 en above tabel 9, the researchers tell us how the sexual experience during childhood is experienced, as it is told later on. For our memory, we may wrap up this to
Again, we see a great difference between boys and girls.
Boys and men
In the Rotterdam lecture, the researchers have also spoken about their research specifically about boys and men.
They have found that, in non-clinical samples of boys, only scarcely lasting harm has appeared; only in specific cases, cases with family problems, no knowledge about sexuality (and the taboos on it), and cases fo force. Wanted contact with well informed and consenting boys resulted in none or very scarcely in lasting harm.
Snakes in the grass
In research about sexual experiences of people, and especially such experiences during childhood, there is always the problem of the so called 'dark numbers': cases in which people do not give any information. We may suppose that this happens about both the wanted and the unwanted experiences. Thus, all those percentages suggest precision, but there is a lot that we do not know – and even not are able to know.
Since 1998, we are about twenty years further in the time. Nowadays, it seems to be that quite a lot of such dark numbers have come into the light. In the UK, one man has told about what he felt as real child sexual abuse during his childhood in a football club, after which … five hundred men have told such stories. In the Netherlands, just this kind of stories are coming into the light just now. In the Catholic Church, the same has happened. Moreover, in the clinical practice there is now a lot of knowledge, told by men who has felt sexual abuse during their childhood.
Thus, there may be more cases of unwanted contacts and lasting harm than was known in 1998. The same may hold for the other dark numbers, de cases without harm.
Harm can have two faces:
This distinction cannot be found in the research mentioned here above. Clinical practice tells us about the same distinction. There, and in the literature, it has become clear that especially holding a secret is a great problem for children – even onto far in their adulthood. People have told me stories that have been secret during decennia. Is this primary harm? Or secondary harm because of the expected problems after telling the secret story? We can say: both, we certainly know that such secrets are a burden for child and adult. Primary and/or secondary, harm is harm.
Rind c.s. have specifically sought for lasting harm, which they found in a small minority of the cases. In the research of Baker & Duncan, 1985, we find also the category "Harmful at the time, but no lasting effects”. The meta-analysis does not speak about that category. Yet, we may call ‘temporary harm’ also ‘harm’; harm is harm.
We ave spoken about possible negative experiences afterwards and about possible harm afterwards. Nobody is able to know this before. Nobody is able to foresee the experience just after the sexual encounter, and surely not how the later narrative will be. In ten or more years thereafter, a lot of influences will have been active. The possibly vague notion of ‘is this good?’ may be lapidified into ‘this was not good’.
Most research in this area does not make a distinction between wanted and unwanted contacts. Both type of contacts, crucially differing from each other, are usually put into one category. Even Rind c.s. use the term ‘Child Sexual Abuse” (CSA), without making distinction between wanted and unwanted, and between harmful and harmless, at least not by using that term. If crucial different cases are put into only one category, we know quite a little.
Also within those terms and concepts, there is none to scarcely made any distinction between lightly erotically felt cuddling on the one hand, and penetration on the other hand – and all types of contact in-between both cases. Surely, we know ‘not too much’ about this aspect of reality.
What follows is the problem that literature and media usually only mention the most heavy cases – and then they call the lighter types equal harmful and scandalous. There appeared protocols for care givers, teachers, coaches and educators, that forbid every kind of bodily contact, until absurdities like giving a sticker plaster or smear in against sunburn. Just these kinds of interdiction seems me harmful.
Reality is complex; the truth is not completely cognizable. Because of the dark numbers, we know a bit, but not all. All we know is that sexual contacts during childhood may be unwanted, that they may be harmful. We surely know that keeping a secret is a heavy burden. These cases exist, although we do not know precisely how much.
We also know that such contacts may be wanted, that they may be felt as neural or positive and that harm may be absent. These cases exist also, although we do not know precisely how much. T. Rivas has described a lot of those cases in
There must be a grey area with many shades in-between both extremes. We also know that we are not able to know the later narrative before.
There is one thing we know surely: that children need relations, intimacy and contact, including bodily contact, loving contact. These contacts do surely not need to be of a sexual nature, not as such meant and not as such felt, not more than a tiny bit erotic, or simply pretty and healing for both – as is sung in Tommy, the rock opera of The Who:
“See me, feel me, touch me, heal me”.