Sunday, November 13, 2005

Pedophilia: A Costly Sexual Perversion

This topic is somewhat outside my sphere of interest, but I have chosen to blog it because of the long-term and damaging consequences of sexual abuse (a form of violence) in children.

There are some “50,000 predators on the Internet prowling for children, and one in five children online have been solicited for sex, according to the United States National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.
What sort of derangement or affliction could make an adult, in full control of his/her senses, approach a minor (someone younger than 18) for sexual favors?

What sort of chemical imbalance could make a man or woman sexually solicit a 12 year old teen?

How do the victims cope with the trauma and how do they fare later in life?"
These were some of the questions that came to my mind after watching MSNBC Dateline’s Catching potential Internet sex predators, a hidden camera investigation involving volunteers from Perverted-Justice, a group dedicated to catching Internet predators.

The Group Media Bust on MSNBC

These volunteers went on the Internet chat rooms posing as teens, and in no time were accosted by adults seeking nothing but sex. The ultimate goal was to get these sex predators to visit their newly found “underage” partners at a location, which unbeknownst to the perverts, is rigged with hidden cameras.

I shocked to see what happened. Nineteen (19) men showed up in 3 days! And not only that, their background ranged from a rabbi, to a special-ed teacher, to a medical doctor! I was speechless!

One of the perverts with screen name “specialguy29”, aged 43, was caught naked on tape! According to MSNBC Dateline:
“…He told our decoy, who was posing as a 14-year old-boy, that he is an 11th grade English teacher (not true).

Then he told the boy that he hates condoms but he’s safe. ”Our decoy asks “specialguy29” to bring beer and then throws in a request— a technique often used by law enforcement to illustrate intent. He types “side garage is open, strip to your underwear and come in, I'll be in mine.”

The man says “I don’t wear underwear,” so the decoy says “then come in naked.” We never thought he’d really do it. But we were wrong. After casing our house, walking up and down the street— here he comes with the beer and you can guess what he does in the garage. He takes his clothes off.”

There he is in the screen shot below, butt-naked! Unbelievable!

Legal red tape

It is illegal in many states of America for adults to intentionally solicit minors for sexual favors. (This is not the situation in some nations, particularly in Africa, sad isn't it?.) It is also criminal to expose or send a minor obscene material, even if it turns out the recipient is an adult posing as a child.

There have been some instances of Roman Catholic pedophilic priests, and teacher-student cases. Probably the most recent case that made headline news happened in Tennessee involving Pamela Turner, a 27-year-old gym teacher. She was arrested on Feb. 2005 for having a sexual relationship with a 13-year old student.

Despite these celebrated cases, however; the prosecution of sex predators, particularly when the Group Media Bust method described above is used is not without legal obstacles. According to data from National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, there were an estimated 2,577 arrests for internet sex crimes against minors in the 12-month period beginning July 1st, 2000 in the United States". This is a tip of the iceberg and should not come as a surprise because the majority of these crimes are not reported to law enforcement agencies, and even many of those reported do not lead to arrest.

Long term consequences of abuse

While there are no clear-cut answers to the questions posed in earlier paragraphs, what is certain and proven in scientific literature is the long-term effects of early onset sexual abuse, and other forms of violence in minors.

The Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) Study, is a "major American research project that poses the question of whether, and how, childhood experiences affect adult health decades later". Sexual abuse is a component of the ACE, as well as eight (8) other conditions that range from recurrent emotional abuse to emotional or physical neglect.

The ACE study documents "the conversion of traumatic emotional experiences in childhood into organic disease later in life". It reveals the “powerful relationship between our emotional experiences as children (ages 0 to 17) and our physical and mental health as adults…” It further shows that “abused children may use behaviors such as cigarette smoking, heavy alcohol use, overeating, promiscuity, and drug use as a way of coping with damaging experiences much earlier in life…"

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
"a strong relationship was seen between the number of adverse experiences and self-reports of cigarette smoking, obesity, physical inactivity, alcoholism, drug abuse, depression, suicide attempts, sexual promiscuity, and sexually transmitted diseases. Furthermore, persons who reported higher numbers of adverse childhood experiences were much more likely to have multiple health risk behaviors. Similarly, the more adverse childhood experiences reported, the more likely the person was to have heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, skeletal fractures, liver disease, and poor self-rated health as an adult."

My two cents

Pedophilia is a recognized social and public health issue in many advanced nations. Sadly, this is not the case in majority of African nations and other less advanced countries where the victims are often voiceless and have little or no legal backing. So while some many be quick to ask "so what"? or "what is the fuss about"? Let it be known that many of the coping behaviors and long term sequela of this sexual perversion have enormous public health, social and economic consequences worldwide and "one does not ‘just get over’ it, not even fifty years later.”