Saturday, July 22, 2006

Imagine a society afflicted by a scourge which struck down a quarter of its daughters and up to one in eight of its sons. Imagine also that this plague, while not immediately fatal, lurked in the bodies and minds of these young children for decades, making them up to sixteen times more likely to experience its disastrous long-term effects: life-threatening starvation, suicide, persistent nightmares, drug and alcohol abuse and a whole host of intractable psychiatric disorders requiring life-long treatment.

Thus begins Bill Glaser's notable paper Paedophilia: The Public Health Problem of the Decade. Glaser suggests that paedophilia has a more ubiquitous effect on society than any major plague ever has but the issue has not been adequately addressed. In part, this is due to our own reluctance to face the issue; we need a clear understanding of the problem in order to combat it.

For instance, Glaser suggests that the term ‘paedophile’ is problematic due to the fact that its Greek etymology suggests a love for children, rather on p.6 he concludes

Paedophilia is not a love of children but a lust for them. The sole aim of the paedophile is to sexually abuse children. Any display of care, affection or friendship towards the victim is always secondary to this.

Misunderstanding, problematic semantics, fear, and denial are all reasons why society has been unable to address the issue of child sexual abuse.

Therefore Glaser (p. 9) states:

The comparison of paedophilia to a plague is more than just a vivid metaphor. It suggests that lessons can be learned from the other great scourges and pestilences of human history.

The conclusion is drawn that, similar to other epidemics, paedophilia must be addressed in the following three ways:

-Definition of the problem

There are major gaps in our knowledge but recognition of the problem and what we don’t know is the first step society must take.

-Perception of risk
Foegle (1991) cited in Glaser (p 9) found

There are some who say that we are becoming unnecessarily panicky about child sexual abuse. The evidence is that we have not panicked enough. We are still like the village-dwellers in certain parts of India whose culture has encouraged them to fatalistically accept the ravages of smallpox, year after year, despite the existence of vaccination and other control methods.

-Social response

Many researchers (see here for instance) agree with Glaser’s view that while paedophilia cannot be ‘cured’, modern treatments are very effective. Various studies (Marshal et al 1993, Marshal & Pithers 1994, New South Wales Parliament ch 12) have found that recidivism rates can be reduced from approximately 35% to 3 – 6 % with treatment.

A good example of the effectiveness of this treatment can be found in this interview with self-confessed Australian paedophile ‘Tony’.

Tony was convicted on child sexual assault charges and ordered to undergo treatment. After 14 years of ongoing successful treatment, Tony moved to a rural location and chose to stop his therapy. He subsequently groomed and molested three little girls. When asked if his paedophilia could be viewed as an addiction, Tony responded

It is addiction yes. It is an addiction and um I see it as an addiction um I see it as a compulsive behaviour um which is a very devastating one for other people and um people can have a compulsive behaviour to wash their hands or to keep their room tidy where there’s less ah influence on other people but this one is not only frowned on by society, rightly so, it’s frowned on by the victims and it’s frowned on by me and I don’t understand why ah that experience in the beginning of my life has had such control of me.

Tony is back in treatment and ‘hoping’ never to offend again. As noted above, there is reason for Tony’s optimism. There is every reason to believe that continuing treatment will keep him from harming another person again.

The treatments do work.

The only thing we’re missing is willing participants before they offend in the first instance.

If you have paedophilic tendencies, do not be misled. Experts all agree that rationalizing and justifying this condition to yourself and others will only lead to despair.

Treatment is available and effective. Please seek this treatment now before you damage your own and many other lives. Contact me if you would like assistance in this matter.

Fish, M 2006, Can Treatment Change Paedophiles, BBC News, 28 June 2006.

Foege, WH 1991, 'Plagues: Perception of Risk and Social Responses' in In Time of Plague, Mack, A (ed), New York University Press, New York.

Glaser, B 1997 Paedophilia: The Public Health Problem of the Decade in Paedophilia : Policy and Prevention, James, M (ed), Australian Institute of Criminology, Canberra.

Marshall, WL & Barbaree, HE 1988, 'The Long-Term Evaluation of a Behavioural Treatment Program for Child Molesters', Behaviour Research and Therapy, vol. 26, no. 6, p. 499.

Marshall, WL & Pithers, WD 1994, 'A Reconsideration of Treatment Outcome with Sex Offenders', Criminal Justice Behaviour, vol. 21, no. 1, p. 10.

Parliament of NSW, Standing Committee on Social Issues 1996, 'Sexual Violence: Addressing the Crime', Inquiry into the Incidence of Sexual Offences in NSW Part II.
blog comments powered by Disqus