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What is paedophilia?

Reports of sexual abuse, rape and the brutal murder of children are making headlines daily in Namibia. Over the past years, more than half of the victims and survivors of cases reported to the police are children under the age of sixteen. Our country is grappling with the question of WHY? What leads adult men to sexually abuse and rape children? Among those currently charged with these offences are police officers, teachers, pastors and a top judge--men whose very job description requires them to protect the rights and bodily integrity of children.

The sexual attraction and lust for children, called paedophilia, is generally seen as a sexual perversion. A paedophile is a person over the age of 16 who is sexually attracted to children who have not yet reached puberty--in other words, to young children.

Are paedophiles attracted to girls or boys?

They may be attracted exclusively to boys, exclusively to girls, or to both boys and girls.

Acts of paedophilia are reported more often against girls than against boys (the ratio is two-thirds girls to one-third boys). On the other hand, sexual attraction to boys is generally more solidly anchored in an individual than such attraction to girls. The rate of re-offending seems to be around twice as high among paedophiles who are attracted to boys.

How old are the children who attract the attentions of paedophiles?

Children of all ages, including babies, can fall victim to paedophiles. However, the American Psychiatric Association finds that, in general, the paedophiles attracted to girls prefer them aged between eight and ten, and those attracted to boys prefer slightly older children.

Are paedophiles attracted only to children?

Among paedophiles, some are attracted only to children (the exclusive type), whereas others may be attracted to both children and adults (non-exclusive type). The World Health Organization includes in the category of paedophiles those who have a sexual preference for adults but who, when they are not able to obtain the contacts they desire, turn repeatedly to children.

Who are the paedophiles?

In 90-95% of cases, they are men. The great majority of them (around 85%) are members of the child's immediate circle, being family members, neighbours or friends. In most cases, then, the victim knows the molester. And the younger the victim, the greater the likelihood that this is the case. Sexual abuse following an unfortunate encounter with a stranger is not very common, though occurrences of that type often receive wide coverage in the media. Paedophiles may be heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual. And it is not impossible for paedophiles to be husbands and fathers.

Are there female paedophiles?

Yes, though not many of them. It is generally claimed that between 5% and 10% of paedophilia cases involve women. These cases are rare and quite difficult to prove. Not much is known at the moment about women and paedophilia. Such cases mostly concern incest between mother and son. Incest involving mothers is even more of a taboo subject than that involving fathers.

It also happens that women, while not being the actual abusers, become the abuser's accomplice, particularly where the women themselves have been abused in childhood. This occurs, for example, when women remain silent in cases of incestuous relations between father and children, or when women photograph or film scenes in which husbands or partners sexually abuse a child.

Is paedophilia a mental illness?

No, paedophilia is not a mental illness, but it is regarded as a "disorder of sexual preference", to quote the World Health Organization's formulation.

Are paedophiles responsible in criminal law for the acts they commit when they abuse a child?

This is a key question, since individuals who were not responsible for their actions when the offence was committed cannot be convicted in a court of law. Expert psychiatric witnesses take the view that paedophiles who actively commit child abuse are, with a few rare exceptions, aware that their actions are immoral and against the law. They are not people who are mentally ill and who might consequently be held not to be responsible for their actions. And they are, in fact, held responsible in the courts for the offences they commit.

Source: www.innocentsindanger.org

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Publication:Sister Namibia
Geographic Code:6NAMI
Date:Mar 1, 2005
Words:699
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