Saturday, June 17, 2017

Why The Statistic Matters: Part One, Pedophilia

All the time, you hear statistics about a great number of things. You see them frequently here, on the blog. But you do not often see the practical application of them, and it is up to you to figure out the point of the statistic in question. Some are obvious, while others are not nearly as obvious.

Because of that, I will do a miniseries on why the statistics cited on this site should matter to you, not only in your everyday life, but why they matter to preventing child sexual abuse.

Statistic 1: Population Of Pedophiles

Current statistics (the DSM-V (the psychiatry Bible) and Michael Seto) put the population of those with pedophilic disorder as mainly being male: 3-5% of adolescent and adult males. This is, of course, an estimate. However, it is telling because pedophilic disorder is not the same thing as pedophilia: The DSM-V differentiates the two. This means that the high estimate of 3-5% of males means that even more have a sexual attraction to children. Why? Because pedophilic disorder is a very specific mental condition in which those with pedophilia, a sexual attraction to prepubescent children, have difficulties like depression, anxiety, and difficulty relating to others. It does not cover those with an attraction to teenagers, which means that the true population figure for those with attractions to children broadly is actually higher than 3-5% of males. That is about to matter even more because of statistic number two...

Statistic 2: Proportion Of Those Who Sexually Abused Children Who Have Pedophilia

The second statistic is well-known by researchers and therapists working with forensic and non-forensic populations of pedophiles: One-third of those who sexually abused children have pedophilia. Yes, one-third. This tells us a great deal of information about child sexual abuse: Mainly, that it is not about getting sexual pleasure from a child. You see, if the population of those with pedophilic disorder is an estimate and a low one, but the proportion of abusers with pedophilia is proportionately higher than that estimate (6-15 times higher). This means there is something associated with the attraction that drives the motivating factors that fuel the decision to abuse a child.

Statistic 3: Most Who Have Pedophilic Disorder Do Not Abuse Children

If you were to read through the section on pedophilic disorder in the DSM-V, you see a rather bleak picture of a person tortured by their attractions to children. When you get to the differential diagnosis section, you see that pedophilic disorder can correlate to alcohol and substance abuse, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and even antisocial personality disorder. When you get to comorbidity, you see that pedophilic disorder is correlated to depression, bipolar, and anxiety disorders... while they also note that these observations are only among forensic populations of those with pedophilic disorder, meaning that more study is needed in this area.

You have heard me state on this blog before: Given our best estimates without trying to compensate for underreporting, 3-5.2% of pedophiles molest children, and after accounting for that, 4.8-9.36% molest children. In other words, our best guess is that 90.64-97% of pedophiles do not molest children. This is obviously significant, because it means that a sexual attraction to children does not appear to frequently correlate with sexual abuse. It also means that what I just outlined from the DSM-V about the bleak lives of someone with a sexual attraction to children... only comes from looking at 3-10% of those with such an attraction. In other words, a lot of our information is missing about pedophilia, sexual attraction to children in general, and most importantly, it is not reasonable to correlate pedophiles with child molestationIt means that a sexual attraction to children is more common than child sexual abuse. This is frankly huge, not only for those who study pedophiles and pedophilia, but also for child sexual abuse prevention.

Statistic 4: Those Viewing Sexual Abuse Images More Often Have Pedophilia...

To be precise, 61% of those convicted of possessing child sexual exploitation material have pedophilia. What this means is that pedophiles are trying to satisfy their sexual needs with sexual material of children. This begs the question, given recent discussion around art, virtual reality, and 3-D images involving children, of whether researchers are wrong to assume that such virtual imagery serves as a gateway for a hands-on offense involving a child. If more pedophiles view sexual imagery involving real children, could that number be reduced if virtual imagery involving children were more available, and legal? Could this virtual imagery be not only a better outlet than imagery involving real children, but reduce the number of sexual abuse cases? More study is clearly needed in this area to test correlation.

Enough Statistics: What Is The Point?

The point to overviewing just these three statistics and why they matter is not merely an academic exercise: It has real implications for preventing child sexual abuse. It suggests that stigmatizing a sexual attraction to children and viewing it as a risk factor for sexually harming children is not going to be helpful to preventing child sexual abuse, because a sexual attraction to children is less often a risk factor for a hands-on sexual abuse case and more often a risk factor for viewing sexual abuse images. While viewing images of children being sexually abused is indeed harmful to the children involved, the creation of virtual images is not because real children are not involved.

These statistics also very clearly indicate that we have barely scratched the surface of knowing pedophilia and sexual attraction to children: It means more study is sorely needed in a variety of ways to uncover that knowledge. It means we should look at what happens when you give those with a sexual attraction to children support instead of an automatic and clearly incorrect label of child molester, as Prevention Project Dunkelfeld is doing in Germany. It is obvious to anyone working in these areas... they need money to do this research, and the number of people willing to put money towards this research is limited.

Bottom Line

Conflating a sexual attraction to children, which we barely know much about, with the sexual abuse of a child spreads incorrect myths that hamper our ability to prevent sexual abuse and interfere with the ability of those with an attraction to children to seek support and seek peers who face the same attraction. Mixing up the sexual attraction to children, with the sexual abuse of a child, is unwarranted, inaccurate, and only serves to enable child sexual abuse by driving both issues further into darkness and secrecy, where sexual abuse thrives.

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