By Sarah Afzal

July 16, 2009

Pedophilia is a paraphilia that involves an abnormal interest in children. A paraphilia is a disorder that is characterized by recurrent intense sexual urges generally involving nonhuman objects; or animals, children, or other non-consenting persons. The International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems defines pedophilia as “a sexual preference for children, boys or girls or both, usually of pre-pubertal or early pubertal age.” According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the following criteria should be met to establish a diagnosis of pedophilia:

* Over a period of at least six months, the affected person experiences recurrent, intense, and sexually arousing fantasies, sexual urges or actual behaviors involving sexual activity with a pre-pubescent child or children aged thirteen or younger.
* The fantasies, sexual urges or behaviors cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational or other important areas of daily functioning.
* The affected person must be at least age sixteen and be at least five years older than the child or children who are the objects or targets of attention or sexual activity.

Although not common to all, the general characteristics of a pedophile are:

* Often the pedophile is male and over 30 years of age. However, studies in the UK and USA suggest that a range of 5% to 20% of child sexual abuse offences is perpetrated by women.
* He is single, with little or no friends in his age group.
* If married, the relationship is more companionship based with no sexual relations.
* He is often vague about time gaps in employment which may point to a loss in employment for uncertain reasons or possible past imprisonment.

It has been observed that pedophiles are usually interested in child-like activities. They are fascinated by children’s games and other activities, and prefer them to adult oriented activities. Pedophiles have childish hobbies, such as collecting popular, expensive toys; building planes; and keeping exotic pets, such as reptiles. They often refer to children in very pure and angelic terms, for example, they may use the words innocent, heavenly, divine, virtuous et cetera to describe children, but they tend to exaggerate and this gives their speech an impression of showiness.

Pedophiles often seek out shy, handicapped, and withdrawn children, or those who come from troubled homes or under privileged backgrounds. Some get in-touch with children by taking up positions like children’s sports instructors etc., or by befriending single parents and hence getting the chance to stay close to the child. They then shower the children with attention, gifts, overwhelming them with trips to desirable places like amusement parks, zoo’s, concerts, the beach and other such places.

Pedophiles work to master their manipulative skills and often unleash them on troubled children by first becoming their friend, building the child’s self esteem. They may refer to the child as special or mature, appealing to their need to be heard and understood then entice them with adult type activities that are often sexual in content such as X-rated movies or pictures. They offer them alcohol or drugs to hamper their ability to resist activities or recall events that occurred.

It is not unusual for the child to develop feelings for the predator and desire their approval and continued acceptance. They will compromise their innate ability to decipher good and bad behavior, ultimately justifying the criminal’s bad behavior out of sympathy and concern for the adult’s welfare. This is often compared to Stockholm Syndrome - when victims become attached emotionally to the perpetrators.

The main method for preventing pedophilia is to avoid situations that may promote pedophilic acts. Children should never be allowed to in one-on-one situations with any adult other than their parents or trustworthy family members. Having another youth or adult as an observer provides reassurance to all concerned. Presence of a good child-parent relationship is, of course, another significant step in minimizing the chances that a child is left vulnerable to abuse.

Children should be taught to yell or run if they are faced with an uncomfortable situation. They should also be taught that it is acceptable to scream or call for help in such situations.

Often, pedophiles use specific symbols to recognize each other. A pedophile who is attracted to boys may wear jewelry with the symbol showing a small triangle (representing the child) inside a larger one (for the pedophile himself). A heart symbol with a smaller one inside is used by the pedophiles which happen to be attracted to little girls. Parents and teachers should be taught about these sign so they can keep a lookout for pedophiles.

Another basis of preventing pedophilia is education. Children must be taught to avoid situations that make them vulnerable to pedophiles. Adults who work with youth must be taught to avoid situations that may be construed as promoting pedophilia.

Many states have adopted legislation that requires periodic background investigation of any adult who works with children. The persons inquired may be paid, such as teachers; or they may be non-paid, for example volunteers in youth-serving organizations.

As far as the causes of pedophilia are concerned, there exists a variety of different theories to explain the behavior. A few researchers attribute pedophilia, along with the other paraphilias, to biology. They hold that testosterone, one of the male sex hormones, inclines men to develop deviant sexual behaviors. As far as genetic factors are concerned, as of 2002 no researchers have claimed to have discovered or mapped a gene for pedophilia.

Most experts regard pedophilia as resulting from psychosocial factors rather than biological characteristics. Some believe that pedophilia is the result of having been sexually abused as a child. Still others think that it derives from the person’s interactions with parents during their early years of life. Some researchers attribute pedophilia to arrested emotional development; that is, the pedophile is attracted to children because he or she has never matured psychologically. Another popular belief is that pedophilia is the result of a distorted need to dominate a sexual partner. Since children are smaller and usually weaker than adults, they may be regarded as nonthreatening potential partners. This drive for domination is sometimes thought to explain why most pedophiles are males.

Health professionals consider that pedophilia is a mental disorder, but the American legal system defines acting on a pedophilic urge as a criminal act.

Increasingly, pedophiles are being prosecuted under criminal statutes and being sentenced to prison terms. Imprisonment removes them from society for a period of time but does not usually remove their pedophilic tendencies. In 2008, many states have begun to publish the names of persons being released from prison after serving time for pedophilia. Legal challenges to this practice are pending in various jurisdictions.

To treat pedophiles, different techniques are being tested and used. One approach, albeit not very successful, is the behavior modification therapy. In its earliest stages, pedophiles may be narrowly viewed as being attracted to inappropriate persons. Aversive stimuli, such as electric shocks, have been administered to persons undergoing therapy for pedophilia.

Perhaps the most common form of treatment for pedophilia is psychotherapy, often of many years’ duration. It does not, however, have a high rate of success in inducing pedophiles to change their behavior.

Pedophilia may also be treated with medications. The three classes of medications most often used to treat pedophilia are: female hormones, particularly medroxyprogesterone acetate, or MPA; luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone (LHRH) agonists, which include such drugs as triptorelin; and anti-androgens, which block the uptake and metabolism of testosterone as well as reducing blood levels of this hormone. Most clinical studies of these drugs have been done in Germany, where the legal system has allowed their use in treating repeat sexual offenders since the 1970s. The anti-androgens in particular have been shown to be effective in reducing the rate of recidivism.

Surgical castration is sometimes offered as a treatment to pedophiles who are repeat offenders.

People suffering from pedophilia should be encouraged to take up treatment for not only their own betterment, but also to ensure a safe living environment for children.


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