Why do some people want to hurt children?
About 10 years ago a beautiful little 8 year old girl was reported missing from her home in Tracy, California. Reports stated that she left her home to play at a friends house, then left to walk home. But she never arrived. Surveillance cameras at the trailer park showed the little girl skipping happily in front of her home just hours before she mysteriously vanished.
In the age of television, little Sandra Cantu was featured nightly on Headline News (CNN) with an assortment of family photos and videos. America watched as her distraught mother begged for her return as speculation mounted that she had likely been abducted.
Interviews with police and FBI agents revealed that, if an abducted child was not found within the first several hours after being reported missing, the child is almost always found dead.
True to these profiles, Sandra's little body was found in a suitcase, thrown into a nearby farm aquaduct, on April 6th 2009. Autopsy reports indicated that she had been "raped" with a foreign object. Eventually, to everyone's surprise, the alleged perpetrator (since convicted) was not a man but a 28 year old woman -- a Sunday school teacher -- who lived just doors away from Sandra's home.
The murder was a shock to everyone but it reminded me that we need to know more about the kind of person or persons who can commit such an act of pure evil.
Add to this tragedy the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of children sexually abused by the Catholic priests for decades PLUS the epidemic of child trafficing we are learning about now and you have a vision of a sick world. For most of us, these thongs are hard to even imagine. We want to know why. Is there an answer?
Who could do this?
Criminal profilers tell us that the people who harm and kill children are suffering from what psychologists call pedophilia (sometimes spelled paedophilia). The primary motive of these attackers is sexual and the subsequent murder usually results from fear of being "revealed" by the victim.
One might think that the attacker would know that molesting or raping a child will result in severe criminal penalties before they commit the crime, but often the attackers claim that murder was an "after-thought" which they did not initially intend to do. Psychologists explain that the sexual urges of pedophiles are so strong that the consequences of their actions are not thought out until their sexual urges are gratified -- when it is unfortunately too late. So this brings us to ask, what is a pedophile?
According to wikipedia:
What makes a person a pedophile?
Most human adults have a psychological preference for the opposite sex of child-bearing age. This would appear to be "hard wired" in the brain for the continuation of the species. Any deviation from this norm is viewed as "unnatural," since sexual intercourse between a man and pre-pubescent child results in no offspring.
Most psychologists had, until the last decade, traditionally grouped homosexuality with pedophilia as a form of pathology. Both are still considered "evil" by many church goers and moralist and who believe these sexual orientations to be matters of "choice." Why anyone would choose to become a homosexual, with all of the social condemnation, has always been a mystery and this concept has recently been seriously challenged.
With regards to homosexuality, it has been proven that brains have gender. As many scientists suspected, homosexuals appear to have aquired specific parts of their brain -- specifically the hypothalamus -- with traits of the opposite sex. In simple terms, male homosexuals can have a male body, but the part of their brains responsible for sexual preference is female. The opposite appears true for lesbians.
In the case of homosexuality, the abnormality seems linked to maternal stress during the first trimester of pregnancy. Stress produces androstendione in the shared placental blood of the mother and child. Androstendione strongly resembles testosterone and interferes with the early development of the hypothalamus and causes this part of the brain to develop characteristics of the opposite sex responsible for sexual preference.
So it's not a choice.
I wrote about this a few years ago and I was tempted to describe this as a "birth defect." I received hundreds of e-mails from homosexual men and women who resented this lable. I understand this and so I have been resigned call it "natural." But what can one say about pedophilia?
What causes pedophilia?
In a Dutch book about treatment, written by Bernard ten Hag, a psychologist, he argues that pedophilia is a matter of choice:
Is pedophilia a choice?
There is remarkably little that is known about this condition. Most of what psychologists know is based on statistics and family histories obtained during therapy of criminal offenders. While this is helpful, it really only profiles those who act on their impulses and does not describe covert pedophiles who harbor these feelings but never allow them to be expressed -- except in fantasies.
Here's what we know:
Having a powerful or controlling mother has been shown to be a dominant factor. In theory, the male pedophile develops an aversion to adult women and their percieved power and focuses on younger, more passive females as the object of sexual preference. Some regard pedophilia as the result of a distorted need to dominate a sexual partner. Since children are smaller and usually weaker than adults, they may be regarded as nonthreatening potential partners. This drive for domination is sometimes thought to explain why most pedophiles are males. In one blog, a convicted child sex offender wrote:
Next up is a history of sexual abuse as a child.
Statistically, one third of pedophiles say that they were abused growing up (Cloud, April 2002). Some researchers attribute pedophilia to arrested emotional development from the trauma of abuse; that is, the pedophile is attracted to children because he or she has never matured psychologically.
The most frequently assessed neuropsychological characteristic has been general intelligence or IQ. Some investigators have compared sex offenders against children with noncriminal community control groups, finding the sex offenders to score lower in intelligence (Langevin et al., 1985). Other investigators have compared sex offenders against children with men convicted of nonsexual crimes, thus controlling for their status in the legal system and any antisociality. The offenders against children again scored lower IQs (Hambridge, 1994).
Most experts regard pedophilia as resulting from psychosocial factors rather than biological characteristics. But this assumption has some flaws.
Pedophilia is one of the more common sexual pathologies; the large worldwide market for child pornography suggests that it is more frequent in the general population than prison statistics would indicate. Together with voyeurism and exhibitionism, pedophilia is one of the three pathologies most commonly leading to arrest by the police.
The onset of pedophilia usually occurs during adolescence. Occasional pedophiles begin their activities during middle age but this late onset is uncommon. In the United States, about 50% of men arrested for pedophilia are married.
The frequency of behavior associated with pedophilia varies with psychosocial stress. As the pedophile's stress levels increase, the frequency of his or her acting out generally rises also.
Pedophilia is more common among males than among females (about 10%). In addition, the rate of recidivism for persons with a pedophilic preference for males is approximately twice that of pedophiles who prefer females.
Little is known about the incidence of pedophilia in different racial or ethnic groups.
Despite all the efforts to treat pedophilia, the brain mechanisms that cause this disorder still remains a mystery. A new study published in Biological Psychiatry demonstrated how pedophilic patients responded to functional brain imaging.
Canadian researchers discovered that men with a primary sexual attraction to children have a much higher likelihood of being left handed than the general population. This research suggests that there is a neurological component to pedophilia, since left-handedness appears to be biologic. Some scientists speculate that it might be a case of right-hemisphere dominance more than a particular region, such as the hypothalamus, that provides a predisposition to pedophilia.
In the brain, the right side controls the left side of the body. Right-hemisphere dominance would result in left-handedness.
Right-hemisphere dominance might also be the result of faulty connections in the brain. If the brain can not integrate input from both hemispheres, as a normal brain does, perhaps this problem with connectivity allows one hemisphere to dominate control of the mind.
According to new research released by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), a study utilizing MRIs and a sophisticated computer analysis technique compared a group of pedophiles with a group of non-sexual criminals. The pedophiles had significantly less of a substance called "white matter" which is responsible for wiring the different parts of the brain together.
In my previous article of left-right brain activity I showed the unique characteristics of each human brain's left and right hemisphere. I will list these again here.
One interesting theory suggests that right-brained individuals are more child-like and so tend to be adolescent or even pre-adolescent in their thinking. While these traits are considered positive in creative writing, the arts and tasks involving fantasy, they might also lead one to have an affinity for children who utilize these same traits. It has also been suggested that being left-handed creates stress and trauma at an early age -- living in a world of right-handed people -- and that this can also contribute to the previously described "arrested emotional development."
How common is pedophilia?
Pedophilia is running rampant, not only in the US but all over the world. Children are being sexually exploited by a pedophile at the rate of 1 out of 6 boys before the age of 16 and 1 out of 3 girls before the age of 18 (1 out of 4 before the age of 14). As a result, some psychologists are attempting to describe pedophilia as a valid sexual orientation.
Dr. Fred S. Berlin asserts that, "It is likely that no one would choose voluntarily to develop a pedophilic sexual orientation. Those with such an orientation have no more decided to have it than have any of us decided as children to be either heterosexual or homosexual." Berlin also defends the classification of pedophilia as a mental disorder, stating, "In our society, to have a pedophilic sexual orientation can create both psychological burdens and impairments."
Richard Green was involved in the removal of homosexuality from the DSM list of mental disorders and is now actively trying to have pedophilia removed as well (Gieles, 2002). Green believes that pedophilic feelings are normal.
One quarter of "normal" people are said to feel attracted towards children and more than twenty five percent react with penile erection to pedophilic stimuli. Green also states that one can not reasonably argue that one quarter of the population is mentally ill (Gieles, 2002). Considering these statistics it seems sensical to conclude that pedophilia is not a mental disorder. However, the one quarter of the population that react to pedophilic stimuli do not necessarily act on their urges.
The huge amount of child pornography on the internet speaks volumes about the popularity and frequency of pedophilia. Although so-called hard core pronography is aggressively combatted by the governments and police of most countries, a suprisingly large amount of "soft pronography" (non-nude) remains accessible to the public and claims to be protected under the articles of free speech.
While I am not stupid enough to download any "hard core" pornography depicting children, I did use a simple search ("preteen" and "models") to locate sites such as the one pictured below.
This site, depicting girls as young as 5 or 6 in their underwear, in supposedly erotic poses, was just one of hundreds -- perhaps thousands -- of web sites in which parents apparently sell images of their scantily clad children to anyone with a MasterCard or PayPal account.
A button named "links" brought me the page below. Once again a reminder, this material is declared "legal"! The site contains the following "legal notice":
"Site contains works of Art that demonstrate admiration and appreciation of beauty and style. All content submitted on this site was prepared and belongs to Model Agency. Given material - images of outstanding models dressed in fashionable and exclusive clothing - was produced in compliance with norms of Law and Morality."
This site does not contain nude images, but the poses and scant clothing are very suggestive and are obviously meant to stimulate the pedophile desires of the viewers. We need to stop this.
If you come across any web sites like this I suggest that you write down the URL -- the web site address (beginning with "www...") and use one of the following links to report this. Remember, these people believe this is "legal" and claim these are "modeling" web sites. By complaining you will help to shut them down and stop feeding these desires:
Elsewhere, I noticed an article in alternet.org recently which described the "in vogue" phenomenon where adult women are now pandering to the desires of men by having their pubic hair removed (the so-called "Brazillian" look) and their vaginal labia surgically reduced to resemble pre-pubescent girls. Apparently the whole world is harboring pedophilic fantasies!
So why do some pedophiles hurt children?
After all, this is the reason for writing this article. But the answer is still illusive for me. I can only be reminded of something I read years ago when studying the great philosopher, Plotinus. Though he was not describing pedophilia, he made an observation of evil that seems to make sense.
The soul forgets its value and learns to dispise itself. The one consists in showing her the low value of all the things she [the soul] at present esteems. The other consists in instructing and reminding her of her nature and worth. The second argument preceeds the first and once it has been made clear will support the first." -- Enneads VI -- Chain of Realities, Book 2 Plotinus.
In other words, the pedophile has to repress the strong desire to fantasize about children as a valid sexual object. This desire can never be socially accepted and so continues to cause psychological (and perhaps even spiritual) conflicts that are resolved by diminishing the value of the desired object -- in this case the child -- allowing the opposite feelings to be expressed. Love turns to hate. Gentle affection turns to violence. The child becomes an object to satisfy the pedophile's sexual urges. The internal war of morality and ideology becomes expressed as action, often followed by guilt.
Indeed, as was the case of Sandra's murderer, subsequent acts often allow the perpetrator to be caught, as if they wanted to finally rid themselves of this guilt.
The more our culture sexualizes children with things like Barbie and Bratz dolls, inappropriate "lolita" web sites, fashions hyping sexuality, and allows such things as "sexting" (sending pornographic images of teens and pre-teens over cell phones) the more we feed this apparently innate sexual fantasy of children that exists in a large chunk of the human population. We set a double standard.
While the fantasy of children as sexual objects is being encouraged, the expression of these stimulated desires is simultaneously being repressed. That is a recipe for disaster and we may unfortunately expect to see more cases such as little Sandra Cantu in the news.
What do you think about this?
*See Biol Psychiatry. 2007 Sep 15;62(6):698-701. Epub 2007 Apr 2. Pedophilia is linked to reduced activation in hypothalamus and lateral prefrontal cortex during visual erotic stimulation.
This article has really opened my eyes. I've noticed that I, myself, have a great deal of traits of a pedophile. This frightens me. More than I can express through words.
When I was a young man approaching adulthood (13 - 16, I'm 21 now) I found myself aroused by DRAWN pictures of naked children. I have a feeling this arousal for fictitious child pornography stemmed from my liking of fictitious pornography of adults (more commonly known as "Hentai" among groups that watch it.)
I browsed hentai sites and kind of stumbled upon these fictitious photos of children making love (Yes, making love, NOT rape. Even typing the word rape makes me enraged). I was fascinated that people could enjoy such things, and was disgusted to find that I did as well. Countless times I caught myself looking for this "lolly" (as those in the circle call it) porn, and everytime I finished up I felt utterly disgusted with myself. This disgust was so intense that sometimes I felt the need to punish myself through physical mutilation.
However, these urges died as I reached a more mature age. The drop-off started at 16, and by the time I graduated high-school (18) I had absolutely no desire for this animated child pornography (lolly). I had always attributed it to my self-control. I felt I had brainwashed myself in to not liking it. But now reading this article I feel that perhaps it wasn't self-will, but that my brain (as it matured in to adulthood) had somehow, biologically \ electronically, corrected itself.
It's rather strange, taking an objective look at my past from this point in time, because I find myself attracted to older women now. I have a hard time dating women even one year younger than me. I finally met the love of my life, Jamie, who is actually a victim of aforementioned violent crimes at the age of 13. Her brother-in-law (her older sister's husband at the time) molested and raped her, and she tried to tell her family but no one believed her. Fortunately her older sister divorced this scum of a man before he started to do such terrible things to his own daughter.
I apologize to go on such a long diatribe about my own personal experiences, but I feel in typing this all down and sending it to someone, I somehow can be more at peace with my God. Thank you so much for taking the time to read this, and thank you to whoever wrote this article. Especially for the links for reporting borderline child pornography websites. I pray that somewhere out there someone like me will read this and find the strength (or luck, perhaps) to conquer this twisted compulsion.
A remorseful man trying to do right
Great article. As a social worker I once asked about the treatment for pedophilia and was told there was none. Criminal offenders are often chemically castrated with drugs like depoprivera or are given shock therapy but even these dramatic programs do not change or kill the desire -- only the ability to act on the desire. I always thought that this indicated it was a, as you called it, "hard wired" problem in the brain. We certainly need more research on this.
Kevin G, Houston
It's no wonder our culture has so many deranged people hurting children. We have pre-teen beauty contests and manufacture childrens underwear with sexy saying on them, make-up for children and then, after teasing people with this sexuality we come down hard if anyone even looks at a child. We need to get smart and sto projecting our own needs and desires on our kids before its too late.
I note that in Islam it is OK to marry and have sex with a child. Even the Torah condones this kind of thing. Is it possible that our modern culture has made a taboo out of something that is quite natural?
For example, I once lived in France where you can look at a woman's breast and its perfectly natural. People don't go buying magazines or staring at naked women because they show their breasts. But here in America that is considered a taboo and so it has made American males go insane over a woman showing her breasts. See what I mean? By making something a "sin" or "taboo" you actually create the desire to do it.
A girl can get pregnant as early as 10 or 11. I have read that by age 9 it has happened. If this is the time of biological fertility then why does society arbitrarily set the age of consent and adulthood to 18 or 21? This seems un-natural to me. Anyway...
To Katrina... I understand what you are saying and I agree with you mostly. Back a few decades ago the life expectancy was just 40 years old so a female had to have children as soon as she was fertile. But today we have made sex an act that is hidden and, as you say, a taboo. Regardless, that being the case, we as people must adjust to the new morality lest our children be harmed psychologically. Also, rape is not the same as sex. I'm sorry but it just isn't. If a child feels no pleasure from the act then it is just being used and it is an act of violence.
Beth from St. Louis
Beth, I agree with you about rape. But often children play at sex so it is not always a matter of not having pleasure. It's hard to generalize but what I am hearing you say is that we should prohibit sex and make pedophilia a taboo because most of society feels it is bad. For the sake of the children we should err on the side of the modern morality. But if you look at the advertising and stuff you see there is a double standard. It's so F****d up!
Dan Eden - I am a happily married man with children of my own but I must be honest in saying that these images had an effect on me. I've never seen this type of material before and hope I never do again. It's a dark part of the human psyche that is best kept far away from the public. But it did make me think about what I considered "normal." How can we eliminate thism if it is indeed "legal"?
Thank you for telling the story of pedophilia. I suffer from this affliction although I have never acted out onmy fantasies. I guess I am a closet pedophile. Nevertheless it has caused me lots of problems in my life. I am middle-aged and not married. I have absolutely no sexual desire towards adult women and so I will face the rest of my life alone. I am afraid of getting close to children, even my friends kids, because I feel these urges and struggle to control them. It took years for me to forgive myself for being this way and, like the article, I realized it was not my choice. But although I accept myself for having this problem I feel isolated from other people and even more alone. I wish there was a cure but it's much too late for me. Thanks for the information though. I hope people will do some research in the future.
So women are supposed to have fake implanted breasts which exaggerate adult femininity from the waist up, but pre-teen genitals from the waist down! It's our own damned fault! We women should never let men control our bodies and lives.
Good article with some information I have not found anywhere else. I also found the porn on google very easily and am shocked that this is not outlawed. If you read the texts on the sites you posted it is even more obvious that this is not art or fashion as they say. The parents of these kids should be brought to justice.
We live in California just a town over from Tracy where little Sandra was killed. We have all tried to understand why someone would kill a beautiful and loving child like that. Thanks for explaining why this can happen. I hope people wake up and stop this because it is happening so much everywhere now. What kind of people are we becoming? I pray Jesus will save us from ourselves soon.
There is enough child pornography and non-subtle forms of porn out there. It's not necessary to give someone drugs to experience the high to tell them that it's wrong to do drugs. Offering a glimpse of child porn on your site, is not necessary to tell viewers the horrors of it.
Maybe someone should do a tally of how many people have become MORE interested in viewing child pornography as result of innocently coming to this site to find out about the planets or something else? Don't expect an honest answer. If you are going to have this on your site, have the decency to cover the exposed vaginas. Although I'm not shocked at the lack of good judgement in the name of "education", I am appalled that you took no time to decently cover the body parts that innocent people who want to know about pedophilia have to view because they wanted to read the article. It's not offensive, it's downright stupid on your part to offer this as a form of "education".
I understand your point and it was much debated by the editorial staff. I can assure you that no vaginas are showing, although it may arouse such fantasies in some viewers. We decided that the issue was serious enough to shock people so that the laws permitting this kind of material would be challenged.
It was a difficult article to write and some of the staff still feel uncomfortable about it.
One of the staff is curious about your email address? You can see how easy it is to be paranoid about this whole issue. Thanks for your constructive comments.
editor / viewzone
Good article. I'm 52 yrs old and 3 1/2 yrs ago, I learned from the internet that the man who I'd considered to be the "love of my life" when I was 19 is now a convicted violent sex offender. Suddenly, all the "mysteries" of that long ago relationship made sense. So the following is a "shout-out" to women who may be dating or married to a sex offender.
My boyfriend had me shave my private parts back in 1977 - long before it was fashionable. If you are with someone who insists you do this, or else he cannot have sex with you, you need to consider why this is so. Also, if your date/mate instigates arguments by which he must leave the house to "cool off" for extended periods of time - you need to consider why this is so, as well. I finally deduced 30 yrs later that my guy needed to pick an argument with me so he had an excuse to go out and offend. Also, these men oftentimes prefer extremely thin women and therefore your date/mate will insist you stay as slim as possible. He will also criticize women who are overweight beyond belief and to the point you will wonder why he cares so much.
Your date/mate will try to control you and keep you off-balance with a mixture of intimidation and "love" in an effort to prevent you from asking him too many questions. If you are divorced/widowed and dating someone who has no contact with his ex-wife and children, you may want to investigate why - as he has oftentimes been "cut loose" for good reason - especially if he is attractive, earns a good salary and seems utterly "perfect" otherwise. Thirty-three years ago we were both so young that none of our friends had children so I NEVER saw him around any kids, and even if I had, I don't know that I would have picked up on his interest. Please know these men are sociopaths/psychopaths and care nothing about you other than how you can provide a "cover" for them, so don't take them seriously. Lastly, my old beau once asked me if I'd ever been molested and I replied, "If I know of anyone who touched a child in that fashion, I'd kill him." So NOW I know why he wouldn't marry me and am I ever grateful!!!
Regards, Cynthia Hoffman
This article really struct me and made me understand and realize why pedophile do what they do. But forthpse who say that they did it because they have no choice, is wrong. There are millions of temptation that we face everyday but who is the one always making the decision? YOU!!! Our mind can tell us one thing but if we know it's wrong yet we submit to it I call those type of people weak and pathetic. I would know what it's like cause I've been down that road. Yes even with child porn, but I realize that it's not me it's not who I am I'm better than this. Someone once said as long as you set your mind to it, anything is impossible. and that's what I did. Slowly but surly I am progressing and it seems like all the negative things are turning out to be well, positive now. Why? Because instead of sitting in front of a computer staring at porn all day I got out and started meeting new people (including women as well) and you know what, I have to that is alot more fun and better for me. So did I find a cure? No but I did find a he'll of a good antidote and Ima keep on using it.