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Who Are Pedophiles and Why Do They Assault Children?

Jul 02,2022

We live in a world where rape culture is continuously being normalized and sexual assaults are trivialized by using them as 'memes' to laugh upon. We are failing as a society where no one is safe. About 40% of the women in the US and 20% of the American men have experienced sexual violence, according to the studies. Sexual violence ruins the life of an innocent individual. It leaves a scar that cannot be wiped off ever.

In such an unsafe world, children are the most vulnerable ones who are at a higher risk of experiencing sexual assaults. In this article, we are going to discuss not the victims but the perpetrators of child sexual assault, the pedophiles. It must be noted that not all child sexual abusers are pedophiles. 

Who Are Pedophiles? 

Any person who sexually abuses a minor is known as a child sexual abuser. A pedophile is a child sexual abuser who is 16 years of age or above and has an attraction toward prepubescent children under 13 of age. However, a child sexual abuser can be termed as a pedophile only when they meet a set of criteria. Most often, the word is widely and interchangeably used among people for a child sexual abuser, but not all child sexual perpetrators are pedophiles. 

Child Sexual Abusers have a few personal characteristics that differentiate them from non-abusers. They have poor social skills, are emotionally detached, have sexual problems, low confidence, low self-esteem, poor relationships with adults, loneliness, and feelings of humiliation.

Why knowledge of etiological causes of sexual assault abusers is important?

What makes some people commit heinous and disgusting crimes while others can't even talk about such accidents? There is something different that might be propelling them to commit the crime. Although no explanation can justify the crime, it is indispensable to understand the etiological causes that drive some people to commit sexual assaults. A few major reasons to look at the root of the problem (sexual perpetrators) are:

  • Having credible knowledge about the behavior of sexual assault abusers, it can become easier to devise better sexual violence prevention policies, laws, and campaigns. Without the etiological knowledge, the prevention measures can turn out to be inefficient. 

  • With proper knowledge about the perpetrator's behavior, sexual offender management professionals can propose effective ways to safeguard people against sexual violence and mitigate the risk of sexual violence.

  • The etiological knowledge of sexual offender behavior can help sexual offender managers find better ways of treatment for perpetrators. The same treatment might not benefit perpetrators with different psychological problems. Consequently, knowing the cause can help find these professionals better treatments.

  • Comprehending sexual assault behavior can furthermore help advance the decision-making policies i.e. what legal sentences should be given to the perpetrator of a sexual crime. 

Why do Pedophiles Commit Sexual Violence Against Children? 

Research has been conducted from time to time to understand the behavior of sexual assault abusers like pedophiles. It is believed that the sexual preferences of pedophiles mature like others, which leads them to stay attracted to children. Non-perpetrators' sexual preferences change as they age, however, that is not the case with pedophiles. They stay sexually inclined towards the same age childhood attractions that they experienced at the time of their puberty.

Nevertheless, various other reasons can be the cause of the sexually offensive behavior:

Biological Causes of Sexually Offensive Behavior

Many biological theories predict abnormalities in the structure of the brain, however, in most perpetrators, the evidence of these abnormalities has not been found. Theories also claim about the issues in hormone levels (testosterone), genetics, and defects in the intellectual functioning of the sexual perpetrators. According to James Cantor, "The biological clues attached to pedophilia demonstrate that its roots are prenatal. These are not genetic; they can be traced to specific periods of development in the womb."

Personality Causes of Sexually Offensive Behavior

The theories of Sigmund Freud were the earliest sources that claimed about a person's sexual deviance is based on their early childhood experiences. In 1989, Marshall found that males who are sexually assaulted are the ones who have not developed the social skills and confidence to develop sexual relationships with people of their age. Later, in 1994, it was found that the prevalence of loneliness and isolation among sexual offenders might restrict them from forming sexual relationships. It is furthermore believed that sexual offenders face problems maintaining emotional attachments in their relationships, and thus, they treat children as their lovers. Therefore, defect in personality development can be one of the major causes behind sexually offensive behavior. 

Cognitive Causes of Sexually Offensive Behavior

There is evidence that sexual abusers develop paralyzed thinking that makes them shrug off the responsibility of the crime that they are engaging in. The need to commit the crime appears bigger than the repercussions of the crime. They try to get rid of their feelings of guilt or shame and try to find a justification for the act. Cognitive dysfunctional thinking is known as "cognitive distortions" or "thinking errors." 

It is difficult to completely understand the "Why" of the question. Psychologists and researchers continue to study behaviors of sexual assault offenders like pedophiles. However, there will always be something more to be unveiled and discovered.