Pedophiles Lobby for Acceptance
Two recent articles expose a political effort by pedophiles to gain acceptance and legitimacy. Last week FoxNews reported that a group of psychiatrists and other mental health professionals are lobbying for changes to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM, the guideline of standards on mental health that’s put together by the American Psychiatric Association. According to FoxNews:
The organization, which calls itself B4U-Act says its mission is to help pedophiles before they create a crisis, and to do so by offering a less critical view of the disorder.
“Stigmatizing and stereotyping minor-attracted people inflames the fears of minor-attracted people, mental health professionals and the public, without contributing to an understanding of minor-attracted people or the issue of child sexual abuse,” reads the organization’s website.
B4U-Act said that 38 individuals attended a symposium in Baltimore last week, including researchers from Harvard University, Johns Hopkins University and the universities of Illinois and Louisville. According to the group, which said to not endorse every point of view expressed, the speakers in attendance concluded that “minor-attracted” individuals are largely misunderstood and should not be criminalized even as their actions should be discouraged.
Speakers also argued that people who are sexually attracted to children should have input into the decision about how pedophilia is defined in the DSM, which they said is supposed to be a guide to promote “mental health vs. social control.”
Critics of the conference say it was a thinly veiled attempt to make children of any age sexually accessible to adults.
That same week, the New York Times ran an op-ed entitled “Sex Offenders: The Last Pariahs” The author, Professor Roger N. Lancaster, argues that:
Our sex offender laws are expansive, costly and ineffective — guided by panic, not reason. It is time to change the conversation: to promote child welfare based on sound data rather than statistically anomalous horror stories, and in some cases to revisit outdated laws that do little to protect children. Little will have been gained if we trade a bloated prison system for sprawling forms of electronic surveillance that offload the costs of imprisonment onto offenders, their families and their communities.
This sounds reasonable until you consider that Lancaster ignores recent research which indicates a substantial rate of recidivism by convicted child sex offenders. According to Lancaster “only a tiny proportion of sex crimes are committed by repeat offenders.”
A recently reported study of individuals incarcerated for possession, receipt and distribution of child pornography, however, found that these offenders were significantly
more likely than not to have sexually abused a child via a hands-on act.
The study’s authors suggest that online criminal investigations, while targeting so-called “Internet sex offenders,” likely have resulted in the apprehension of concomitant child molesters. Upon being discovered these offenders tend to minimize their behavior. They may attribute their search for child pornography to “curiosity” or a similar benign motivation. They may “accept responsibility” only for those behaviors that are already known to law enforcement, but hide any contact sexual crimes to avoid prosecution for these offenses, or to avoid the shame and humiliation that would result from revealing their deviance to family, friends, and community. Only later do the majority of sex offenders who enter treatment acknowledge that they were not, as they initially claimed, merely interested in sexual images involving children; they were, and are, sexually aroused by children.
Further, as prior research and the current findings suggest, it appears that the manifestations of their deviant sexual arousal was not limited to fantasy. Rather,
when an opportunity arose either incidentally or as a result of planned predatory efforts many offenders molested or raped children and engaged in a variety of other
sexually deviant behaviors. Michael L. Bourke & Andres E. Hernandez, The ‘Butner Study’ Redux: A Report of the Incidence of Hands-on Child Victimization by Child
Pornography Offenders, Journal of Family Violence (2009) 24:183-191.
In addition, one study of sex offenders found an overall recidivism rate of 31.7%. Kingston, Drew, et al., Pornography Use and Sexual Aggression: The Impact of
Frequency and Type of Pornography Use on Recidivism Among Sexual Offenders, Aggressive Behavior, Volume 34 (2008).
The predicted odds of recidivism increased by 177% among the offenders that viewed deviant pornography such as child pornography. Moreover, the predicted odds of
violent recidivism, including sexually violent recidivism, increased by 185% for this group. The predicted odds of any type of sexual recidivism increased by 233% for
the group that admitted to viewing deviant pornography. This increased risk of recidivism among sexually deviant offenders has also been found in earlier studies,
including a meta-study from 1996 (updated in 2004). See Hanson, R. Karl, et. al., Predictors of Sexual Recidivism: An Updated Meta-Analysis, Public Works and Government Services Canada (2004).
Indeed, a study slated for publication in December, followed 201 registered male child pornography offenders 5.9 years after release from prison. In this extended follow-up, 34% of offenders had new charges for any type of reoffense, with 6% charged with a contact sexual offense against a child and an additional 3% charged with historical contact sex offenses (i.e., previously undetected offenses). Predictors of new violent (including sexual contact) offending were prior offense history, including violent history, and younger offender age. Approximately a quarter of the sample was sanctioned for a failure on conditional release; in half of these failures, the
offenders were in contact with children or used the internet, often to access pornography again. Angela W. Eke, Michael C. Seto & Jennette Williams, Examining the Criminal History and Future Offending of Child Pornography Offenders: An Extended Prospective Follow-up Study, Law Hum Behav (2011) 35:466-478.
And remember, these studies only count repeat offenders who were caught. Given the huge and well-documented under-reporting of sex crimes by children, the recidivism numbers are likely to be much higher.
Clearly, sound public policy should not be based on “moral panic,” supposition or shoddy evidence. Unfortunately for B4U-Act and Lancaster, the research is all too clear. Criminals who represent a clear and present danger to our communities need continued incarceration and close monitoring. That’s reason enough for everyone.