September 1999

    Defining "Pedophile"

    During the course of my internet research on the subject of pedophilia I came across your web site. I applaud your efforts to help provide much needed support to sexual offenders. Yet, I must express concern at your implied definition of a pedophile as one who is sexually attracted to a minor.

    I have a B.A. in psychology and have one year left to complete my M.S.W. (Master of Social Work). My Masters research has been on those who offend sexually. Recent sex offender registration laws have the lines among the various types of sexual offenders. The old laws of statutory rape have been absorbed under the catch all of sexual assault, rape, or sexual abuse.

    The clinical definition of a pedophile is as follows:

      A. Over a period of at least 6 months, recurrent, intense sexually arousing fantasies, sexual urges, or behaviors involving sexual activity with a prepubescent child or children (generally age 13 years or younger).
      B. The fantasies, sexual urges, or behaviors cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
      C. The person is at least 16 years and at least 5 years older than the child or children in Criterion A. . . .
      Specify if:
        Sexually Attracted to Males
        Sexually Attracted to Females
        Sexually Attracted to Both
      Specify if:
        Limited to Incest
      Specify type:
        Exclusive Type (attracted only to children)
        Nonexclusive Type

    cited in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders 4th ed. p. 528.

    By the clinical definition someone attracted to a minor may or may not be a pedophile. The laws of each state define a child and a minor differently. A minor is universally accepted as any person under the age of 18 years. Most states consider a child to be a person under the age of 14.

    Being attracted to a post-pubescent minor, who by all physical standards is comparable to an adult, is quite different then the person attracted to a pre-pubescent. The issue to be worked through in treatment are very different. One is more often a matter of legality rather mental health.

    I was sexually abused both as a pre- and post-pubescent. I take matters of sexual abuse quite seriously. The general public must not be given a false definition of what a pedophile is. It makes re-integrating offenders into the community extremely difficult if the public is educated in the wrong way. Such public misconceptions also increase the chances of recidivism; something we are all trying to prevent.

    Robert M. Litwiller
    United States of America

    Editor's note: Philia's Guide to This Site has been revised to take into account Mr. Litwiller's concern.

    Related Link

    American Psychiatric Association Fact Sheet on Pedophilia (PDF)

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    © 1999 Robert M Litwiller
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