Mind | Paedophile | 08th September 2021 | Virtual Wire
Paedophiles are individuals who are preferentially or solely sexually attracted to prepubescent children, generally 13 years or less.
There are distinct classifications for other attractions to children, depending on the developmental stage the adult is sexually attracted to. Those who find children on the cusp of puberty sexually attractive are known as “hebephiles”. “Ephebophiles” are individuals who are sexually attracted to children who have reached puberty.
Why do they do it?
Not all paedophiles are child sex offenders, and conversely not all child sex offenders are paedophiles. Some people who sexually abuse children are not preferentially attracted to children at all. The abuse is a matter of opportunity: the child is a sexual surrogate for an unavailable adult or the abuse represents a need to dominate and control another human being.
So why do people sexually abuse children?
There are a number of potential reasons. Some people who have been sexually abused as children will go on to become offenders. Studies suggest anywhere between 33% and 75% of child sex offenders report being sexually abused as children. The practical application of this information is that preventing child sexual abuse will reduce, but not eradicate, some occurrences later.
Then there are others who have not been abused as children but find children sexually attractive. Research suggests there may be a biological reason for this. Data published in Biology Letters found paedophiles’ brains are, in essence, wired to find immature faces attractive.
Improving our understanding of how paedophiles’ brains work will ultimately help identify those with a sexual interest in children, if not those who are willing and able to act on those urges. Most people cannot conceive of committing this type of crime and would find it difficult to understand what motivates a child sex offender.
'It could be just out of curiosity, it could be because they don't feel as if children are going to judge them as adults will, it could be that they'll have sex with anything and children are just one of the spectrum, it could be a revenge-type scenario - he's in a relationship with somebody but feels disaffected in some way, doesn't have any power or control, feels as though she's dominating.'
Genuine paedophiles are the most difficult to treat because they truly believe that what they are doing is not immoral and that the victim is consenting. Paedophiles can be brought to a point where they understand that society finds what they do unacceptable - whether they agree or not - and therefore that they have to stop.
Understanding what makes child molesters, as opposed to paedophiles, the tick is more complex. Estimates say that 99 per cent of offenders in this category will initially refuse to discuss why they committed the offences.
‘In general sex offenders have no idea why they've done it. They really don't want to look at it, they don't want to sit down with a middle-aged woman and talk about their porn collection or fantasies. They prefer for it to just go away.
If they do look at it, they're kind of obliged to do something about it if they don't want to re-offend. But if you don't work out your own offending cycle, then the chances of you being able to hold back from reoffending are slim because you don't understand the cycle in the first place.’