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The radical idea of research based policy for child protection

Be aware this post discusses pedophilia, in an academic sense and without graphic details.

Earlier this week Carter wrote about the idea that viewing images of children for sexual gratification is the inevitable first step to abusing a child. As he quotes Jim Gamble as saying;

British police practice is inevitably tied up in the two themes espoused by Jim Gamble, the moral entrepreneur who led CEOP; Gamble says “Some people still think that it’s somehow different, that looking is not the same as doing, that it doesn’t cause the same harm and could be done by accident. That is simply not the case. People who look go on to do.”

Now one thing I know about is spurious claims, those opposed to sex work love-making them, and Gamble’s reminded me of nothing more than the various Farleyisms that pepper swerf literature. The most common of these is that the average age of starting to sell sex is 14. This stat is based on research (if we can call something unethically biased and not peer reviewed research) among a very small group of street based underage sex workers. Unsurprisingly if you only study sex workers under the age of 18 then the age they became street based sex workers will be under 18. The link to the claim of Gamble’s? Well assuming there is research on pedophiles I think it is safe to guess it has been done on those with convictions for abusing a child. So all it tells us that those of those who went onto abuse, a certain number claim to have viewed images of children first.

I think at this point it is worth pointing out that not all abuse of children is the same. BY which I do not mean what is done, but the motivation of the perpetrator. There are those for whom child abuse is an exercise in power, and who abuse all those they see as weaker than themselves. The Wests might be put into this category, people who preyed on anyone they could, regardless for age. Then there are those who feel a sexual attraction to children. Of course some people may fit into more than one category, but currently we know very little about those who are attracted to children sexually but do not act upon their desires. The prevailing mood seems to be that this is impossible, that simply by having the thought a pedophile is compelled to act on it.

I reject this for a number of reasons. Firstly if we say one group of people is unable to control their lusts why will others not be able to extend it to groups they think “can’t help it”?Like drunk Sheffield united footballers for example? Currently many are fighting to add consent to the curriculum, for yes means yes, and against the idea that anyone is simply an animal driven by their lusts.  It might be easy to say pedophiles are some other, somehow different from the rest of society, however danger stranger campaigns are part of the reason we have ended up where we are now, without protecting children.

Secondly we need to decide what matters, the lynch mob desire for revenge or learning enough to protect children. The amnesty idea suggested by Carter this morning would allow us to learn why some people abuse and others do not. It is a cliché that abusers were themselves abused as children. It is clearly not the case in many cases. I was able to come to acceptance of what happened to me by considering that my abuser attended Catholic boarding school in the 1950s. I can only guess what he endured. However not every person buggered by a priest goes onto sodomize others. So why? What happens in one person to mean they reenact abuse, while another chooses not too, and for both is it a choice. What about those who were never abused themselves but are attracted to children, and the sub groups there of those who act on their desires, and those who do not? Surely we need to learn from people who are pedophiles but never act on that to stop those who have been convicted remaining a threat to children?

We are stumbling about with a lack of knowledge and many actively opposing any research that might take place. It seems incomprehensible to me that the protection of children matters less to so many than shouting the loudest about how much pedophilia disgusts them. Currently though we are in a place where loud voices are winning, and children will continue being harmed.


3 comments on “The radical idea of research based policy for child protection

  1. Wickedjulia
    December 14, 2014

    I agree with Carter’s idea. Not every abused person becomes an abuser. Not every abuser started with a history of being abused. In the U.S. there is no option for a person who has sexual feelings toward children but, has never acted on those feelings to receive any sort of treatment. And there is a need for such non-judgmental treatment even with how little we know.


    • jemima2013
      December 14, 2014

      Yeah, the UK is pretty much the same, and we can see how well that is working. Fact is we dont even know what % of people have a sexual attraction to children, or how many of those never act on it, without even basic data we cant even begin to keep kids safe.


  2. georgefinnegan
    December 14, 2014

    I know of an example of a pedophile and his son who are voluntarily in therapy together in the US. In the US, insurance companies have to pay for this sort of thing. So, if they take action on their own, there can be help available, if they can find a good therapist that deals with child sex abuse.

    Of course, there are a lot of factors that determine whether therapy is going to be effective. Probably the most important thing is that the person wants to change. If they’re going to therapy because they want to stay out of jail – not because they genuinely want to stop abusing children – it may not be as effective, regardless of how much help is given. And you also need to have a therapist who specializes in child sex abuse. I think that’s were the ‘non-judgmental’ treatment comes in. They may not be available everywhere and that might be the limiting factor.


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This entry was posted on December 7, 2014 by in Uncategorized and tagged , .

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