Saturday, February 08, 2003

Experts say pedophilia may never be cured

By Jane Reuter
Summit Daily News - May 8, 2003

SUMMIT COUNTY - District Attorney Mark Hurlbert said he sees several child sexual abuse cases in Summit County every year. In most cases, the perpetrator is not a stranger.

"Most of the time it's a parent," he said. But most of the time, because publicity on such cases can further traumatize the victims, the cases are kept out of the limelight. "I see them multiple times a year. In Summit County, I don't think we're quite into the double digits yet."

Hurlbert, like Mountain Counseling Center counselor Chad Spears, said the young victims of sexual abuse suffer from the encounters well into adulthood, sometimes for life. Two Summit County men violated as boys by convicted sex offender Joe Hildyard became addicted to drugs. One of them, Seth Astuto, eventually committed suicide. Sadly, Spears said, those stories don't surprise him.

"Men actually take it worse than women do in a lot of ways, because men are supposed to be tough and deal with things," said Spears, who for years worked with pedophiles before counseling sexual abuse victims. "Especially when it is a male sexually abusing another male, it carries the stigma of sexual abuse and also the trauma of the same-sex occurrence."

In his 15 years of working with victims of sexual abuse, Spears said only about 5 percent of his patients have been men.

Despite the trauma victims endure, many of them return to the perpetrator time and again. Spears admits that appears difficult to understand, but said the offender generally gains control of the victims.

"The adult either convinces them that they're worthless or that they really like it," he said. "They play mind games with them. They sometimes threaten. They tell them they'll hurt somebody they care about, or, if they tell, their parents won't love them. They're very, very manipulative."

Spears said new research suggests pedophiles may suffer from a brain defect.

"There are things that are supposed to be abhorrent to us and child abuse is one of them," he said. "It appears there may just be some kind of wiring in the brain (of a pedophile) that didn't hook up like it was supposed to.

"I don't think you ever cure a pedophile, but you sometimes can try to get them to not do it anymore."
Research shows pedophiles have a high rate of repeat offenses - with study statistics varying between 65 and 80 percent.

Other research suggests offenders have an excess of testosterone, a belief that gives credence to the idea that chemical castration will put an end to the deviant behavior.

A Texas man convicted of child molestation firmly believed that. Larry McQuay, who was paroled in 1996 after serving time for abusing a child, asked Texas authorities to castrate him before he was freed. Without the procedure, McQuay - who admitted to molesting more than 240 children - warned he might reoffend. His request was denied, and McQuay walked free in 1996.

"There's no question they know it's wrong," Spears said. "But you certainly hear a lot of rationalizations."

Hurlbert agreed.

"I've had sex offenders say sex with a 5- or 6-year-old was consensual, that (the kids) wanted it," he said. "They'll say (the children) were curious about things and, "I wanted them to learn it from me and not anybody else.'"

Signs of Possible Abuse
  • Explanation of injury to a child not believable
  • Repetitive injuries without adequate explanation
  • Inconsistent explanations of injury
  • Significant and sudden mood change - perhaps more withdrawn, poor concentration or more aggression
  • Lack of interest in usual activities
  • Decrease in school performance
- From the Kempe Children's Center, a Denver-based agency on prevention and treatment of child abuse

Impact of Child Sexual Abuse
  • It is estimated 60 million survivors of childhood sexual abuse live in America today.
  • Approximately 31 percent of women in prison state they had been abused as children.
  • Approximately 95 percent of teenage prostitutes have been sexually abused.
  • Long-term effects of child abuse include fear, anxiety, depression, anger, hostility, inappropriate sexual behavior, poor self esteem, tendency toward substance abuse and difficulty with close relationships.
  • Adolescents with a history of sexual abuse are significantly more likely than their counterparts to engage in sexual behavior that puts them at risk for HIV infection.
  • Young girls who are forced to have sex are three times more likely to develop psychiatric disorders or abuse alcohol and drugs in adulthood than girls who are not sexually abused.
  • Among both adolescent girls and boys, a history of sexual or physical abuse appears to increase the risk of eating disorders.
- From the Web site

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