Thursday, December 04, 2008

Pedophiles are not (usually) criminally insane

A guest post by TikunOlam

Early today a commenter noted on JS's post, which can be found directly below:

Aren't there numerous studies proving that the majority of these abusers were abused themselves as children? And that in any event pedophilia is a form of mental illness? Criminally insane to be sure and society must be protected. Incarceration may be required and with high recidivism rehabbing may be ineffective. But insane nonetheless.

To which JS asked:

TO, is this true? I've heard many abusers were abused, but the majority? Note, I don't think this excuses anything. Also, criminally insane? Not knowing their actions are wrong?

Later JS also comments:

Again, I wish TO would get in on this, but I always thought that abusers had a certain "type" that they abused - I assume because of attraction, or maybe a desire to control this type. I thought that an abuser of say 10-12 year old boys is not only not interested in girls at all but may not be interested in boys 7-8 or 15-17, for example.JS 12.04.08 - 4:56 pm #

My answers, for those who are interested:

Most abusers have been abused? Yes. However, most people who have been abused DO NOT become abusers.

Pedophilia is a mental illness? Yes. And so is insomnia if you want to get technical. So is Antisocial Personality Disorder which many people know as “sociopaths.” Our jails are filled with Antisocials. Without getting into a long explanation of what defines “mental illness” it is important to keep in mind that the term “mental illness” does not necessarily mean “insane.”

Mental illness, in short, is defined as a set of symptoms that significantly interfere with individuals leading healthy and productive social/occupational (or academic) and family lives (BTW, this is why homosexuality was once considered an “illness.” Society didn’t accept it as a “healthy” social/family lifestyle due to religious/political ideas, not because it ever interfered with anything that in today’s society most of us think of us as “healthy and productive.” This is the reason it was removed from the DSM.) We have labels for recurring sets of symptoms that tend to coexist and interfere in people's functioning and we call them “mental illnesses."

Pedophiles tend to also be narcissists and sociopaths. There are genetic and environmental components in play here that go beyond the suffering of abuse alone. And they are as responsible for their behavior as any criminal. Prisons are filled with people who meet DSM criteria, but that does not make them “criminally insane.”

To be “criminally insane" one has to meet certain criteria including not having conscious intent to do wrong (Mens Rea). Unless pedophiles suffer some something other than pedophilia, such as psychosis or severe mental retardation, they are in no way “criminally insane.”

JS makes an important point about "type" here as well and he is correct. It is important to keep in mind some working definitions. "Heterosexual" means attraction to an adult or like aged person of the opposite sex. "Homosexual" means attraction to an adult or like aged person of the same sex. "Pedophile" is an attraction of an adult to a pre-pubescent child. They are neither "gay" nor "straight" because that would require an attraction to an adult or same age person. Of course just as there are individuals who are bisexual, some pedophiles are attacted to both children and adults.

Pedophiles almost always have types. Some are attracted to preschoolers, some to preteens etc. Most have a gender preference. It is important to note that a pedophile may be completely attracted to boys from the ages of 8-12, for example, but as soon as that same child begins adolescence, they lose the attraction. Often men who are attracted to prepubescent boys will describe their attraction to the "hermaphrodite" qualities of the boy as he still has his childlike femininity (high voice, less body hair, less muscular) and when they lose this quality, the attraction goes with it and they move on to a younger boys.

Side note: While adults who have sex with underage minors who are post-pubescent are not technically pedophiles, they are still sex offenders. The word "child molester" can also be used in these instances as teenagers are still "children" even if the offender does not meet the definition of a "pedophile."

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