|Being sexually and romantically attracted to people is normal. But if children are the ones who you are attracted to, then that’s a different conversation / Photo by: Photographee.eu via Shutterstock|
Being sexually and romantically attracted to people is normal. But if children are the ones who you are attracted to, then that’s a different conversation.
Now and then, we encounter stories of people, usually men, preying on children. This is called pedophilia, an ongoing sexual attraction to pre-pubertal children. Most of the time, films and television series portray them as people who abuse a child just to satisfy their sexual urges. With the emergence of social media, it has been easier for these predators to reach children.
According to The Cut, a site for women who want to view the latest fashion trends and read provocative takes on issues that matter, the availability of child pornography has been more alarming than ever. From only 3,000 reports of child-sexual-abuse imagery online in 1998, it increased to over 45 million in 2018. Reports show that pedophilia is extremely evident in the US. Federal Bureau of Investigation statistics show that child pornography is one of the fastest-growing crimes in the country. There has been a 2,500% increase in child pornography arrests in the past decade.
The full extent of this perversion is even worse than these numbers. According to the National Center for Victims of Crime, child sexual abuse is often not reported. Out of 100 sexual assaults, only 31 are reported to the police. The US police reported that 16% of youth ages 14 to 17 had been sexually victimized during a one-year period. About 28% of American young adults of the same age group had been sexually victimized throughout their lifetime.
Pedophiles are every parent’s nightmare. A parent would do everything to protect their children and keep them safe from these predators. However, this psychosexual disorder should not be underestimated. According to Psychology Today, an online site that features the latest from the world of psychology, pedophilia is considered a paraphilia, a condition where people’s sexual arousal and gratification depend on fantasizing about and engaging in sexual behavior that is atypical and extreme.
While the vast majority of pedophiles are men, there are also a fair amount of female pedophiles. However, it is still hard to evaluate since they are deviant. Thus, pedophiles can be found in all social classes regardless of gender. Some pedophiles are attracted to girls, others only to boys, others to both sexes.
According to The Trumpet, an online site that delivers in-depth news analysis on top stories, world news, weather, economics and society, pedophiles usually look for children who are quiet, passive, lonely, and troubled. The Children’s Assessment Center stated that they also look for kids from broken homes. “Children who live with two married biological parents are at low risk for abuse. The risk increases when children live with step-parents or a single parent. Children living without either parent (foster children) are 10 times more likely to be sexually abused than children that live with both biological parents,” it said.
|Pedophiles are every parent’s nightmare. A parent would do everything to protect their children and keep them safe from these predators. However, this psychosexual disorder should not be underestimated / Photo by: Simona Olteanu via Shutterstock|
Why Some People are Attracted to Children
Unfortunately, the underlying causes of this disorder are still unclear. However, it has long been associated with neglect or sexual abuse experienced during childhood. Studies suggest that between 33% and 75% of child sex offenders report being sexually abused as children. Recent studies suggest that there are certain alterations of brain structure and function that may be the result of neurodevelopmental problems occurring in utero or early childhood.
According to The New York Times, an American newspaper based in New York City with worldwide reach, there has been a growing consensus among scientists that pedophilia is largely biological. “The biological clues attached to pedophilia demonstrate that its roots are prenatal. These are not genetic; they can be traced to specific periods of development in the womb,” James Cantor, director of the Toronto Sexuality Center, said.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) has listed several symptoms to identify a pedophile. This includes intense, recurrent sexual fantasies, behaviors, or urges that involve sex with children age 13 years or younger for six months; sexual urges that have been acted on or have caused significant distress, and the predator being at least five years older than the child.
While there can be several reasons why they turn into child predators, most pedophiles have a common denominator: they discover that their sexual preferences have not matured like everyone else’s during teenage years. Most of them remain attracted to the same-age boys or girls who first appealed to them at the start of puberty. “People don’t choose what arouses them — they discover it. No one grows up wanting to be a pedophile,” Dr. Fred Berlin, director of the Johns Hopkins Sex and Gender Clinic, said.
Also, pedophiles sometimes don’t realize that what they are doing is wrong. They genuinely believe that they are only showing “love” for children. However, this doesn’t mean that they are more likely to re-offend. Research suggests that recidivism rates for sex offenses among pedophiles are lower than for all other major types of crime. Nonetheless, pedophiles need to seek help. Usually, cognitive-behavioral treatment models are effective. Other methods that can help them include confrontation of cognitive distortions, aversive conditioning, building victim empathy, relapse prevention, and assertiveness training.