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distorted images Rising numbers of young people committing sexual crimes

young girl with mobile phone

Earlier exposure to porn can distort perceptions of healthy sexuality, experts say.

(© Keystone / Gaetan Bally)

More and more young people are being convicted of sexual crimes, ranging from possession of illegal material to assault, statistics published in several Sunday newspapers show.

According to an analysis by the Le Matin Dimanche and SonntagsZeitung newspapers, the number of cases has risen sharply over the past decade.

In 2009, they write, some 455 minors were accused of sexual infractions; in 2018, this figure rose to 727. Over half of the accused were under the age of 15.

Most of the cases dealt with the possession, or spreading, of illegal pornography – unsurprisingly more prevalent now due to the availability and daily presence of technology, according to a youth lawyer interviewed by the newspapers.

However, serious physical crimes are also on the rise: last year, 53 youths were accused of rape, while a further 167 were accused of sexual acts with children; more than the total number of cases involving over 50-year-olds.

Enrico Violi, a canton Zurich violence prevention officer, told the newspapers that “we are seeing a trend towards more and more young cases. Fifteen years ago, it was mainly adults targeting children. Now, such crimes are also committed by people of the same age, from the same social circle.”

Violi, along with other psychologists and experts interviewed, brought the issue back to pornography, to which more and more youths are constantly exposed.

“[Pornography] promotes a distorted picture of sexuality,” he says. “The man is active, while the woman holds back”. This gives, both to girls and boys, a false understanding of roles that can lead to dangerous outcomes.

Both prevention and cure are complicated, the report outlines. To encourage young people towards healthier sexual awareness, better communication – especially with parents – and a more conscious use of social media is needed.

For those convicted, while adolescents can be imprisoned for up to four years in Switzerland, those under the age of ten (some of whom feature in the statistics) cannot be legally punished.

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