What Drives Pedophiles?

Amongst the backdrop of rising public awareness regarding child sex abuse and the rampant spreading of child sex abuse images online, science is beginning to answer the question: what drives a sexual predator? Pedophilia is defined as “recurrent, intense arousing fantasies, urges or behaviors involving sexual activity with a prepubescent child.” Rates of pedophilic attraction in the population of both men and women are estimated to be between 1-4%. These are individuals whose sexual preferences stagnate in their teenage years, as they remain attracted to the same age group as when they entered puberty or far younger. Even more disturbing is the small subset of pedophiles exhibiting an interest in toddlers and infants. The scientific consensus is growing to believe that pedophilia is biological in origin, with a subtle set of physical traits observed to occur more frequently in pedophiles. Environmental and psychological factors may also contribute, though it remains unclear how they interact with the biological development of the pedophile.

Changing Perception of Pedophiles

It has been commonly assumed that the victims of child sex abuse are more likely to grow into pedophiles themselves, this is unsubstantiated by research. A victim of child abuse is at far greater risk of substance abuse, depression, traumatic stress and criminal activity than pedophilia and further overriding the commonly held perception is the fact that most abusers deny any sex abuse committed against them in their childhood.

The Connection Between Images and Acts of Child Sex Abuse

Prior to research performed within the Federal Bureau of Prisons in 2007, it was estimated that only 5-20% of criminals caught viewing images of child sex abuse online also committed physical abuse of children. Research of convicted online offenders found that 85 percent admitted to having abused or raped a child while in therapy, similar studies of inmates have substantiated those rates. Whereas the consensus was once that a pedophile viewing images of child sex abuse was a reliable precursor to the pedophile committing a hands-on act of abuse, the opposite may be true. The phenomenon of the “virtuous pedophile” further disrupts the perception of child pornography as a prologue to sexual violence. These are individuals who are aware of their urges but don’t act on their desires outside of interacting with images of child sex abuse online. 40% of convicted sex offenders were also heavy users of drugs and alcohol which may support the notion that pedophilic acts can be mitigated through preventative therapy measures.

Regardless of the origins of pedophilia or the best method in preventing pedophiles from committing acts of sexual abuse against children, it is clear what path to take if you or someone close to you has been sexually abused. Reporting the sexual abuse to law enforcement is critical; and in cases where the pedophile was hired by an institution like a church or youth organization, suing that institution for the damages you have suffered as a result of the institution’s negligence is also an important step to take.

Paul Mones has dedicated over 30 years to understanding the psychology of child sex abusers and how to best serve those who have suffered from such horrific crimes. One of the first steps in reclaiming your life from those who have preyed upon you is contacting an experienced advocate for survivors, Paul Mones is your advocate.