“A monster is the evil force in the world; it has the power to destroy the best we have. It has many faces, including pedophilia.”
I am a supporter of severe sentences to those who are convicted of serious crimes, but also of a proper legal process, and I think there should be a way back, a debriefing, for almost everyone.
We place great emphasis on rehabilitation in Norway. I think many understand that most people have to be helped back to the community outside the prison walls, but many, including myself, get their principles thoroughly tested when it comes to child abuse. Then it is not easy to forgive and trust. In fact, I believe that’s one of the few times we need to abandon those principals.
There are stories about pedophiles in the news all the time, and I heard about a possible new case today. A man in Oppland County, in the interior of Norway, is charged with assaulting 48 girls, many of them under 16. Before the trial has even started, a group that exposes pedophiles posted this man’s full name, age, address, phone number, web address, for his facebook profile and registration number to his car, on facebook. I really, really don’t like this particularly evil and extremely selfish crime, but I still think we ought to wait for the court to make a decision.
Is integration possible?
Pedophilia is particularly difficult to deal with. I find it very uncomfortable just thinking about it, but will make an attempt. We are talking about a threat to the weakest and most innocent members of society, children. What are we going to do about the pedophiles? Can they be integrated into society after having served a sentence? The academic community in Norway has great faith in treatment, while some believe that there is no treatment that works. The best we can achieve seems to be to try to insure that pedophiles do not commit new offenses.
I came across an interview in the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten with a pedophile. He acknowledged that he was a pedophile, but claimed that he was not an abuser. He fantasized about girls ages 6-12 years, but did not act out these fantasies on children. I assume pedophilles replace action with something else, like pornography, which still means that children somewhere else are being abused. I must admit I find this disgusting and despicable, even when it’s only inside someone’s head. According to an article from the Journal of the Norwegian Psychological Association, “the media has been an important supplier of premises for a separate pedophilia discourse which mostly looks at pedophiles as monsters; whether the act is fondling or rape. With such a range, the term pedophile is totally unsuitable as a psychological term to describe the abuse.” It sounds to me like the author of that article has a narrow definition in which it really is not pedophilia if a grown man fondles children. That brings us too close, in my opinion, to those who believe that children are not harmed by abuse; to those who believe that it is society’s reaction that harms them.
It is easy to resort to drastic measures as a rebuttal, as they have done in the United States. They have a law that forces “sex offenders” to register. I think there is a website where you can see how many convicted sex offenders there are living in you neighborhood. The problem is that you don’t necessarily need to do something terribly wrong to end up in this register. You can actually become a registered sex offender if you urinate in public. Read about some other things that could make you a sex offender.
I don’t know of any statistics on how many pedophiles there are in Norway, and if there are any, they probably wouldn’t tell you much. There are probably a large number of unrecorded offenders. Psychiatry Online refers to studies in the U.S. and Canada. In two Canadian studies where they had 750 randomly selected women and 750 randomly selected men aged 18 to 27 years, 32 % of women and 15.6 % of men said they had experienced “unwanted sexual contact” before the age of 17. Among these, 21 % of women and 44 % of men said they had been raped repeatedly. Similar studies in the U.S. have given similar numbers (17 to 31 % of unwanted sexual contact for women and 7-16 % for men). It is impossible to say how the numbers are in Norway, but if they are anywhere close, this is a huge problem.
When it comes to American studies that include pedophiles who commit these acts repeatedly, the numbers vary from 10 to 50 %. The figure is highest among homosexual pedophiles. But it is difficult to research this, many pedophiles don’t see anything wrong in what they are doing, and many refuse treatment. I believe there are many pedophiles who are never discovered either.
I wish there had been proper research in this field. I’ve written about this before. Last time a fellow blogger told me about a Louis Theroux documentary about pedophiles in California. The film doesn’t seem to be available on you tube anymore, but here is an article based on the movie. Louis Theroux visited Coalinga Mental Hospital in California where they have room for 1500 ” sex offenders.” These offenders have served prison sentences, but are considered too dangerous for society, and therefore kept indefinitely at this institution. I came across a news story about an inmate who had died because he was refused treatment at what, at least in name, is a hospital. There must be a middle ground between depriving the pedophiles of all their rights, helping pedophiles, and protecting children.
Many seem to be very quick to support extreme measures. A local politician in Norway received national attention when he wanted to castrate pedophiles. I’ve even seen some comments on facebook that calls for the killing of these assailants very slowly. And yet, I do not like the idea of letting pedophiles out of prison either, although many of them don’t commit new offenses. I’m not sure I believe the experts when they say that only 15 % of convicted pedophiles molest again.
Some believe we should treat pedophiles better, and they claim that it is when the pedophiles feel that they have nothing to lose, that they attack. It’s a difficult subject. I wish we could prevent pedophille from harming children more, and make sure pedophiles are stopped/helped before they become aggressors, but we are in fact expected to trust that nothing bad will happen to our children. That’s a strange attitude when the authorities don’t have a better plan for dealing with this. One of the problems is that many pedophiles refuse treatment. Psychiatrists want us to be less judgmental, and not treat pedophiles as hideous monsters, but that’s a scary thought. We wouldn’t be far away from accepting pedophilia as a sexual orientation.
I can’t find anything positive in a pedophile. I have a daughter who is 9 and I teach children in 4th – 6th grade. A psychologist is probably able to see something positive in a man who fantasizes about having sex with these chilldren, but I see them only as predators.
In the U.S. they like the term predator. Pedophiles are worse than wild animals that hunt and down other animals, because they often go after children just because they can. I’m pretty sure I don’t want to encourage children to say yes when strangers, or in most cases people they actually know, want to be alone with them, isolating them from the pack. It is precisely this lack of transparency that has been the problem in for example the Catholic Church or the Scout movement in the United States.
They may seem be to a bit extreme in the U.S., but I think that approach has saved many children. The question is whether it is also possible to save the pedophiles, but I still think the solution is not to relieve the pedophiles from responsibility for their actions. There’s research that does exactly that because it says that pedophiles were born that way. There is a project in Toronto that claims that 1-5 % of all men actually prefer to have sex with children. They are pedophiles, even if it’s just fantasies. They call it biological pedophilia. I don’t like the fact that the current trend in psychology seems to be going in the direction of accepting these thoughts and actions. I think that’s what the article in the Journal of the Norwegian Psychological Association did as well. It suggested that groping is not abuse.
I hope the research focuses on helping pedophiles to stop their actions. This is a problem that has probably always existed, but these days there are more and more taboos being accepted in the name of tolerance. It seems that we are moving towards an acceptance of pedophilia as well, at least among scientists.
I hope the courts will continue to look at child abuse as something very, very serious, but if we say that sex with children is natural and something that should not be discouraged, I think we’ll get a lot of broken children. There are many who are predisposed to different types of addiction, for example alcohol or drugs. That doesn’t mean they can’t counteract this tendency. We all choose behavior.
I can therefore accept an institution like Coalinga Mental Hospital, but with some strict conditions. If it is a question of risk of recurrence, and they receive humane treatment at this institution, I can live with this solution. It is not a good solution, but there are no good solutions here. I think the absolute worst thing to do is accept the idea that pedophiles can live with temptation in a society that doesn’t stop them. There are certainly those who will see the Coalinga solution as detention, an admission of failure, breach of all possible human rights, torture etc.
I think it is more important to ensure that these sex offenders, who are often quite intelligent, do not have access to children.