Factoids and the Sex Abuse Panic
Sex offenders in the US have been subjected to a large variety of draconian laws and practices. Many of these laws are highly questionable from a constitutional point of view. They also serve to make the world a more dangerous place for everybody -- not only for the sex offenders and their families -- but for potential future victims as well.
Whatever a person might think about sex offenders and their treatment in this society, surely we can all agree on the need for a rational and informed discussion of the issue. One of the main obstacle in the way of the needed discussion is the huge amount of misinformation that is published in the nation's media. This misinformation is largely in the form of factoids.
A factoid is a statement of presumed fact that people believe to be true because they hear it repeated over and over. The extensive use of factoids has been a central strategy of those who appear motivated to maintain a high level of sex abuse hysteria.
Here are a few examples of common factoids.
1. Factoid: The “pedophile” is set apart from most men because he finds children or adolescents sexually attractive.
A study of randomly selected “normal” men at Kent State University (Hall, G. N., Hirschman, R, and Oliver, L. 1995) discovered that “20% of the current subjects self-reported pedophilic interest and 26.25% exhibited penile arousal to pedophilic stimuli that equaled or exceeded arousal to adult stimuli.”
2. Factoid: The “pedophile” is a violent man who forces himself on children.
Baurmann in the largest study of child abuse ever carried out discovered that in 80% of all cases of reported illegal sexual contacts “the perpetrator had exhibited something other than threatening or violent behavior.”
3. Factoid: The activities of the “pedophile” are always traumatizing and cause great harm to the “victims.”
In their study “A Meta-Analytic Review of Findings from National Samples on Psychological Correlates of Child Sexual Abuse,” Rind and Tromovitch (1998) came to the following conclusion:
This peer reviewed article appeared in the most prestigious psychological journal in the US.
4. Factoid: The “pedophile” is unable to control himself and will always “re-offend.”
One of the more extensive studies on this issue is called “Recidivism of Sex Offenders Released from Prison in 1994” It is available from the US Department of Justice. (Langan, P, Schmitt, E., and Durose, M., 2003) According to this study,
5. Factoid: The “pedophile” is a brutish, primitive, self centered person who is incapable of empathy.
Who have been some well know pedophiles?
Here are a few:
Most people who know anything about these people would not see them as brutish and primitive.
6. Factoid: Minors never feel positive about their relationships with older partners if there is a sexual component in that relationship.
Heinz Kohut, the founder of “Self Psychology” and one of the most important psychological theorists of the 20th Century reported that
They also did sexual things together, which they both enjoyed, but Kohut felt the sex was more or less incidental. The important thing for him was the relationship. He said
Heinz was about 10 or 11 at the time. He describes his years with his tutor as being perhaps the happiest ones in his life.
7. Factoid: Every one convicted of sexually abusing a child was also abused as a child.
In “Self-Reported Sexual Interest in Children: Sex Differences and Psychosocial Correlates in a University Sample,” Smiljanich and Briere report that no statistically significant relationship was found between childhood sexual abuse and adult attraction to children. A small correlation between childhood sexual experiences and adult sexual behavior toward children has been reported in studies using prison populations, but no responsible researcher has ever suggested that every child abuser was abused as a child.
8. Factoid: Children are not able to consent to a sexual relationship with an older partner.
Before saying whether this is true or not it is first necessary to determine what the statement means.
9. Factoid: There is a natural progression in the “career” of the typical sex offender from minor and non-violent offenses to acts of violence or even murder.
A person who has engaged in sexual activity with a child or young adolescent that is non-violent and consensual is no more likely to progress toward violent acts that is the heterosexual or homosexual person who is sexually active with adults.
Baurmann, in the conclusion to the study cited above, gives great emphasis to the fact that exhibitionists, non-violent individuals who have disregarded social norms, and violent sexual offenders are three very distinct groups. He points out that
He points out that people who have committed violent acts of any kind against people are more likely to commit violent sexual acts than are non-violent sexual offenders.