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Trying to understand
The worldwide arrests over the last days have made Webdiarist Scott Dunmore's assessment of the nature of the paedophile more than timely. The recent debate over Bill Henson's art has sparked a furore amongst Webdiarists, heatedly defending their points of view and nobody giving ground. Now it's time to examine "the nature of the beast." As has become apparent, it's not as easy as people would like to think......
The term “paedophile” was much invoked in Paul Walter’s piece Perverts in the shrubbery, erroneously in my opinion.
In law enforcement, the term "paedophile" is generally used to describe those accused or convicted of child sexual abuse under sociolegal definitions of child (including both prepubescent children and adolescents younger than the local age of consent); as can be seen for example in the name of the United Kingdom police agency, the Paedophile Unit. Some researchers have described this usage as improper and suggested it can confound two separate types of offenders, child molesters and rapists, thereby obscuring results of ongoing research). My underline.
So I thought it timely to try to throw some light on the subject and hopefully attract more; after all, understanding is the first step in combating social evil.
The experience of sexual abuse as a child was previously thought to be a strong risk factor, but research does not show a causal relationship, as the vast majority of sexually abused children do not grow up to be adult offenders, nor do the majority of adult offenders report childhood sexual abuse. The
Psycho/sociopathic behaviour is not confined solely to our species; however how we deal with it is different to that of the animal kingdom.
Occasionally a pride of lions will have in its midst a cub killer; not a new male (whose first job is to eliminate the offspring of his predecessor, shades of which we see in our society), but a female. Such animals are secretive about their behaviour and continue to wreak havoc until finally, suspicion hardens sufficiently and she is driven from the pride; effectively a sentence of death or a miserable existence. Wolves, whose very existence depends on social cohesion, will eliminate pups that exhibit sociopathic behaviour, i.e. failure to obey the protocols that govern physical contests.
The point of those two examples is that animals in a natural environment are not governed by cause/effect psychology as we are; the products of a society that was disrupted centuries ago by industrialisation, urbanisation and subsequent absentee parenthood.
That leaves what I have suspected for a long time; that which I have dubbed pathological psychology and dealt with very effectively in the aforementioned The Tangled Wing: Biological Constraints On The Human Spirit.
What I cannot remember reading in that publication, now more than twenty years ago, was anything about the pathology of the brain other than that of its components and the cocktail of chemicals that permanently wash within us.
Accidents happen, “wires cross’ if you like, synapses created that result in unusual behaviour. Homosexuality is a case in point and research has shown there are pathological differences in the homosexual brain, thankfully making a mockery of the assertion that sexual orientation is a matter of choice.
Again from Wikipedia.
As a medical diagnosis, it is defined as a psychological disorder in which an adult experiences a sexual preference for prepubescent children and may engage in child sexual abuse, also known as "pedophilic behavior". According to the DSM, pedophilia is a form of paraphilia in which a person either has acted on intense sexual urges towards children, or has sexual urges towards and fantasies about children that cause distress or interpersonal difficulty. In common usage, the term pedophile or paedophile refers to an adult who is sexually attracted to children, whether or not the adult acts upon that attraction by sexually abusing a child.
So there we have it, two types of paedophile, criminal and others; except that under recent laws those in possession of child pornography can be prosecuted. I’m not comfortable with that. As long as it is only fine art that is being put up, it satisfies a desire and can alleviate sexual tension. Photographs are entirely a different matter; they involve victims.
With regard to the criminal kind, I’ve long tried to get into the mind of the paedophile. What hideous compulsion drives a man like Phillip Bell to perpetrate such a crime?
Good looking, courteous and charming, a successful business man at an early age he could have had his pick of the ladies.
How could he justify his actions to himself knowing the harm he was causing and the danger in which he placed himself?
If I gained any insight at all it was from an encounter with a madman. Wild of eye and appearance, he came toward me totally absorbed in a conversation with himself. I heard every word for a few seconds; total gibberish but in a flash I realised he was making perfect sense to himself. Maybe it’s a similar thought process.
There’s no need to tell me I’m weird, my compassion extends to the paedophile; as much a victim as the abused; of biological circumstance.
I think about Phillip in gaol and wonder if his incarceration is put to any useful purpose, (other than keeping him away from young boys).
Are scientists talking to him, trying to see inside his brain?