National Domestic Violence Hotline
Pedophilia and Child Sexual Molestation
Pedophilia: The Definition
Pedophilia is a psychosexual mental disorder that is included in the class of sexual disorders known as Paraphilias. Paraphilias are characterized by recurrent, intense sexual urges, fantasies, or behaviors that involve unusual objects, activities, or situations and cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
Paraphilic behavior is insistent and repetitive in nature, resulting in high numbers of acts, behaviors and/or fantasies. Pedophilia is the most common of the Paraphilias, affecting approximately 4% of the adult male population at any given time. Males with a Paraphilia frequently have three to five different Paraphilias, either concurrently or at different times in their lives.
Pedophilia involves sexual activity with a prepubescent child (generally age 13 years or younger). The individual with Pedophilia must be age 16 years or older and at least 5 years older than the child/victim. Those individuals attracted to females usually prefer 8 to 10 year olds, whereas those attracted to males usually prefer slightly older children. The occurrence of paraphilic behavior peaks between ages 15 and 30 and then gradually declines; in men over the age of 50, criminal paraphilic acts are rare. However, the attraction to pedophilic pornography may never decline.
Pedophilic fantasy remains relatively fixed and shows only minor variations over a lifetime. Most child molestations by Pedophiles involve genital fondling or oral-genital sex. Offenders report that when they touch a child, most (60%) of the victims are boys. In contrast, 99% of individuals who window-peep or expose themselves do so against girls. 95% of known Pedophiles are heterosexual and 50% have consumed alcohol to excess at the time of the incident. A significant number of Pedophiles simultaneously, or have previously been, involved in genital exposure (Exhibitionism), peeping (Voyeurism), or rape.
Common Characteristics of Individuals with Pedophilia
Pedophiles are exclusively sexually attracted to prepubescent children. The psychiatric profession now considers Pedophilia to be a distinct sexual orientation. Individuals with this disorder are commonly associated with professions/activities that afford them ready access to children of the gender and age they prefer such as: teaching, coaching, scouting, clergy & activity centers, arcades, amusement parks and ball fields.
Although Pedophilia is not a "sexual addiction", the behavior patterns displayed by many Pedophiles resemble the patterns associated with "addicts", i.e., compulsive and repetitious. Most Pedophiles elaborately plan their "seductions." They "court" the child and lavish attention and concern for their well-being upon them. Most Pedophiles are mild mannered and average-looking men. They are frequently described as "just the nicest man you ever met."
They will typically display a fascination with children and will make frequent references to them as "pure," "innocent," "angels," and "precious." Not infrequently, the Pedophile will "share" interests that are developmentally appropriate for the age of the child he is attracted to, i.e., toy collecting, model building, sports, video games, etc. Often the Pedophile has no friends his own age and will spend a great deal of time alone when not able to access a child. Pedophiles are massive consumers of Internet child porn. They will have access to and expertise in Web surfing.
Pedophiles are notorious rationalizers. Their behaviors are ego-syntonic (there is no conflict for them between their sense of right and wrong); therefore they will explain their actions with excuses such as: the behaviors have "educational value" for the child, the child derives "sexual pleasure" from the behavior, or that the child was "sexually provocative."
Pedophile or Child Molester?
All Pedophiles are child molesters, but very few child molesters are Pedophiles. Pedophilia is a distinct sexual orientation that involves exclusive attraction to prepubescent children (male or female, generally not both). Child sexual molesters may be sexually attracted to males and/or females and are generally not particular about their age; convenience and easy access are their prime concerns.
Active Pedophiles are generally single men between the ages of 16 and 35. Child molesters are generally married men, of any age, who are primarily drawn to their own children and step-children.
Pedophiles primarily engage in fondling and oral-genital sex; they "court" and "groom" their victims as if engaged in a consensual relationship with an adult. Child molesters will fondle and engage in oral-genital sex, but also frequently sexually penetrate their victims, force children to watch while the molester abuses their mother or others and partake of pornography with children in the immediate vicinity.
Pedophiles are master rationalizers, while child molesters are master liars and manipulators.
Pedophiles may believe that they have not harmed the child (ego-syntonic) and may convince themselves that they truly "love" the child with no acceptance that they have used their power and influence to overpower their victim. Child molesters do not engage in a "relationship" with their victim, their interest is strictly overpowering the victim by means of sexual degradation and control.
Pedophilic behavior/fantasy rarely varies. If the Pedophile prefers 8 year-old boys, he will be "grooming" 6 or 7 year-olds to replace his current 8-year-old victims when they "age-out" of his preference parameters. Child molesters may continue victimizing the same child or children for years; convenience and accessibility are paramount to the molester.
Both Pedophiles and child molesters are primarily heterosexual males. Active pedophilic behavior generally starts slowing down around age 35; the child molester generally continues his victimization until he is no longer physically able due to age, illness, injury, or incarceration.
Female Pedophiles are extremely rare; this disorder is considered an affliction of heterosexual males. Child molesters are primarily males, although there are a small but significant percentage of female offenders.
Warning Signs That Your Child May Have Been Sexually Victimized
Sleep disturbances, nightmares, won’t/can’t sleep alone, problems getting to sleep
Preoccupation with sexually explicit knowledge that is inappropriate for child’s developmental age
Behavioral re-enactments of molestation (more likely with children under age 6)
Difficulty relaxing (irritable, panicky, clingy)
Exaggerated startle response (jumpy)
Wavering between withdrawal, friendliness and aggressive outbursts
Trauma specific fears (refusal to visit someone or somewhere that s/he has previously enjoyed) and/or fears of the mundane (of the darkness, strangers, being alone, being outside, being away from you, animals)
Deliberate avoidance behavior (school absenteeism, "sick" when time to go to church, ball practice, etc.)
Regressive behaviors to earlier developmental stages (bedwetting, thumb-sucking)
Loss of ability to enjoy previously enjoyable activities
Withdrawal from friends/playmates and usual activity
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