characteristics and modus operandi of child molesters n.
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  1. CHARACTERISTICS and MODUS OPERANDI of CHILD MOLESTERS NJCSATC Training December 2012 L. Dennison Reed, Psy.D.

  2. CONFUSING TERMS “Pedophile” “Child Molester”

  3. DSM-IV-TR Diagnostic Criteriafor “Pedophilia” 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 person has acted on these sexual urges, or the sexual urges or fantasies cause ‘marked distress’ or interpersonal difficulty C. The person is at least age 16 years and at least 5 years older than the child or children in criterion A.

  4. Pedophilia does not pertain to consensual sex between adolescents “Do not include an individual in late adolescence involved in an ongoing sexual relationship with a 12-or 13-year-old” DSM-IV-TR

  5. Was the “King of Rock and Roll” a Pedophile?

  6. Elvis and Priscilla became ‘involved’ when he was 23 and she was 13

  7. If we assume that 23 year old Elvis had sex with 13 year old Priscilla, was he a Pedophile? • Elvis presumably did have intense, recurrent sexually arousing urges/fantasies about Priscilla and didact on those urges/fantasies {Meets Criterion B} • Elvis was at least 16 years old and at least 5 years older than Priscilla {Meets Criterion C} • Since Elvis was not a late adolescent involved in an ongoing consensual sexual relationship with a 12-or 13-year-old, he could be a pedophile if he met all diagnostic criteria for Pedophilia. • However, for Elvis to be a pedophile, Priscilla would have to have been a prepubescent female when their sexual relationship began {Criterion A}

  8. “Prepubescent” • Prepubescent = Pre-puberty • Puberty is the period during which the secondary sexual characteristics begin to develop, and culminates in the capacity for sexual reproduction • Puberty begins with the development of secondary sexual characteristics, which precedes reproductive capacity • ‘menarche’ signals reproductive capacity for girls; mean age for menarche = 12½ in the US; but ranges from 9 -16 • Legally, states apply penalties for child sexual abuse based on the age of the victim, e.g., in Florida, the penalties for sexually abusing children under 12 are far more severe than for abusing older children

  9. ‘Father Tom’is No Angel . . . Nor is he a Pedophile • Molested dozens of 13-15 year old ‘pubescent’ boys • Child molesters who target young teenagers who are post-pubescent are referred to as “Hebephiles” • Hebephilia is not a DSM-IV diagnosis

  10. Is this man a ‘pedophile’? • He is highly sexually aroused by very young children (ages 3-6) and frequently masturbates to sexual fantasies about them {Criterion A} • He is markedly distressed by his sexual urges for young children {Criterion B} but he has never molested a child • He is 42 years old {Criterion C: ≥16 & ≥5 yr. age dif} • Does he meet diagnostic criteria for “Pedophilia” even though he has never molested a child? • YES!

  11. IMPLICATIONS OF DSM-IV-TR CRITERIA FOR PEDOPHILIA • A person who has molested dozens of young post-pubescent teenagers (e.g., 13-14 year olds) does not meet diagnostic criteria for Pedophilia • A person who has strong sexual urges for prepubescent children but is distressed by these urges and has never molested a child can still meet diagnostic criteria for Pedophilia

  12. For the purpose of this training “CHILD MOLESTER” refers to . . . • An adult who has engaged in sexual activity with a minor (not just fantasized about it) wherein there exists a significant power differential and usually a significant age difference between the perpetrator and victim

  13. Recommended reading (available on Amazon)

  14. The vast majority of child molesters are never caught • Dr. Gene Able and colleagues have calculated that the risk of being caught for child molestation is approximately 3%. Therefore, around 97% of child molesters are never detected and are free to continue abusing countless numbers of children

  15. Main Reasons Why Child Molesters Are Rarely Caught • Most adults naively believe that they can tell whether someone is likely to be a child molester by that person’s public behavior and appearance, and their apparent sincerity • Child molesters are generally “masters at deception” and are adept at hiding their molesting behavior. • Child molesters are very good at discouraging their victims from disclosing their abuse.

  16. Why are Child Molesters generally “Masters at Deception”? • Skill at deception is directly related to motivation and practice

  17. Child molesters are highly motivated to keep their molesting behavior a secret • Consequences of being identified as a child molester can be quite severe, i.e., public humiliation; loss of family, friends, and employment; substantial legal fees; and lengthy prison terms • In Florida, ‘sexual battery’ on a child under 12 years of age is a capital felony, which carries with it a mandatory life sentence (without parole)

  18. “Practice Makes Perfect” • Child molesters are generally quite “practiced” at deception • Most child molesters began their molesting career when they were juveniles or young adults; therefore, they have typically had years to refine their “mask of innocence.”

  19. People also tend to assume that they are good at sizing people up and that would know whether someone is the “type of person” that would molest a child • This is because having no idea whether someone is a molester would be far too anxiety-provoking! • What if we were to realize that anyone could be a child molester? • Our child’s teacher, day care worker, babysitter? • A beloved relative? Our best friend? Our mate? • Our co-worker! • Or the person teaching us about child molesters!

  20. The “Dual Lives” of Child Molesters • In their public lives, child molesters often go to great lengths to display a positive image and avoid arousing any suspicions. They may be law-biding citizens, “pillars of the church,” accomplished professionals, and great humanitarians. • All the while, in their private lives they continue to sexually molest and exploit innocent children.

  21. The Dual Life of David Harrington1969 - 1970 • 1969 - Pleads guilty to 6 counts of child sexual abuse in Connecticut. Released after two years. • 1970 – While under investigation in Vermont for further charges, he staged his own death to avoid further criminal prosecution; changed middle name, DOB, Soc. Sec. #; moved to Florida

  22. The Dual Life of David Harrington (continued)1970 - 1987 • 1970 -1987: Works in schools as teacher and admin. and continues to abuse children in several different states • Becomes acclaimed Principal of a High School in Wash. DC & the leader of the local ‘Big Brothers’ organization • 1986: Receives ‘Big Brother of the Year’ award from President Ronald Reagan • 1987: Finally arrested and convicted on numerous child sexual abuse charges stemming from 20 years of abusing children

  23. The Dual Life of William French Anderson • Genius, graduate of Harvard Medical School • Acclaimed molecular biologist, researcher, editor, professor • “The Father of Gene Therapy” • Runner-up for Times “Man of the Year” (1995) • July 2006: Convicted of molesting a young girl and sentenced to 14 years in prison

  24. Can you tell whether someone is a child molester from their physical appearance?

  25. Child Molesters Vary Greatly in their Physical Appearance Debra LaFave

  26. Can you tell whether a person is telling the truth when they deny molesting a child? When a group of professional investigators, e.g., police officers, polygraphists, judges and forensic psychiatrists, observed people who were either telling the truth or lying, they did no better than chance in detecting who was lying and who was telling the truth (i.e., 50% accuracy). Eckman, P. & O’Sullivan, M. (1991) Who can catch a liar? American Psychologist 46, 913- 920.

  27. Unreliable Indicators of Truth-telling • Apparent sincerity • Good eye contact • Calmness, lack of nervousness, not fidgeting • These are all voluntary responses that can be controlled with practice

  28. Beware of Suspected Child Molesters Who Are Likeable and Charming! • “Niceness and likeability will override a track record of child molesting any day of the week. Likeability is such a potent weapon that it protects predators for long periods of time and through almost incomprehensible numbers of victims.” Anna Salter in Predators (2003)

  29. From Victim to Offender? Does being molested as a child cause people to become child molesters?

  30. After they are caught, many child molesters claimthey were molested as children. But were they?

  31. Some researchers have designed studies aimed at overcoming the deceptiveness of molesters by: • Ensuring Anonymity • Granting immunity for newly admitted offenses • Using or threatening to use Polygraph exam • Offering more favorable sentencing recommendations for honest reporting and more punitive sentencing for deceptive reporting (as determined by polygraph results).

  32. Hindman’s findings regarding Self-reported Histories of Child MolestersPublished in the South Dakota Law Review (1989) • Sample: a total of 169 subjects, nearly all of whom had pled guilty to intrafamilial child sexual abuse (i.e., incest offenders) • Context: they were being evaluated to determine their risk to the community and for sentencing recommendations to the Court, i.e., prison, community control, etc.

  33. The Critical Questions: 1. Were you molested as a child? 2. How many children have you molested? 3. When you were still a minor, did you molest other children?

  34. SELF-REPORT DATA (Without incentives for honest reporting) 1. Were you molested as a child? 67% YES 2. How many children have you molested? Average # of victims = 1.5 3. When you were still a minor, did you molest other children? 21% YES

  35. A similar group of child molesters were told at the time of their evaluation: • Sentencing recommendations would be based on their level of “honesty.”If they were honest, their recommended sentence would be minimal; however, if they were dishonest their recommended sentence would be the maximum allowed • They would be polygraphed immediately after the interview • They would receive immunity for any previously undiscovered child molestations they admitted (Certificate of Immunity from the District Attorney)

  36. When Provided With Incentives For Being Honest, The Child Molesters’ Self-reports Changed Dramatically Per cent claiming they were molested as a children: 29% (instead of 67%) 2. Average number of victims: 9 (instead of 1.5) Six times as many victims! 3. Per cent who molested other children as juveniles: 71% (instead of 21%)

  37. Similar studies that provided incentives for honest reporting have replicated the finding that only about one-third of admitted child molesters were sexually abused as children

  38. A history of CSA, alone, does not cause anyone to become a child molester • Most sex offenders were not sexually abused as children • The vast majority of victims of CSA never become child molesters • For a distinct minority of child molesters, a history of CSA, in combination with other factors, may be a contributing factor, but not a causative factor for becoming a child molester. Other factors include: certain personality disorders (Psychopathic, Narcissistic); lack of social skills, and pedophilic arousal.

  39. Victim Stancing “I’m a victim. Won’t you give me a break?” • After they are apprehended, many child molesters often falsely claim to be a “victim” for a variety of reasons, e.g., to deflect anger and blame, to invoke sympathy, to elicit leniency in sentencing.

  40. Therapists are sometimes ‘easy targets’ for manipulative child molesters • Therapists tend to be especially empathic individuals who are sensitive to others’ suffering. So they tend to be moved by stories of personal suffering and apparent remorse. • Therapists rarely receive much training in working with people who have too ‘little’ guilt, e.g., child molesters, psychopaths • Many therapists naively believe that virtually ‘everyone’ who expresses a ‘sincere’ interest in changing and goes to therapy can be ‘cured’

  41. Common Victim-Stancing Themes Among Child Molesters after they are caught • They often express great remorse (after being caught) and attribute their molesting behavior to circumstances beyond their control: • a history of being sexually abused as a child • “stress” • family discord • their mate being cold and rejecting • “The devil made me do it”

  42. Child molesters often rationalize their behavior by blaming the “seductive child” for the abuse—and others are occasionally sympathetic to this argument.

  43. Shame on that Victim! • A Wisconsin judge sentenced a 24 year-old man to 3 years probation after he was found guilty of first degree sexual assault on a child. At the sentencing hearing, the judge commented, “I am satisfied that we have an unusually sexually promiscuous young lady and that this man just did not know what to do.” • The “promiscuous young lady” was 5 years old!

  44. Many molesters express great ‘remorse’ after they are caught • Virtually all child molesters realize that others will be more sympathetic towards them if they express remorse for their actions. And they can appear very convincing in displaying remorse—even if it is not sincere • ‘Some’ molesters apparently do experience ‘genuine’ remorse—even before they were caught. BUT remorse does not inhibit molesting behavior unless it is experienced when they are feeling tempted to molest—not after they molest

  45. The vast majority of child molesters avoid taking full personal responsibility for the harm they do to their victims • Even after they are convicted, most child molesters rationalize or make excuses for their abusive actions; and they tend to have much more empathy for themselves than for their victims. • Therapy with sex offenders typically involves directly confronting their rationalizations, insisting on personal responsibility (no excuses), and encouraging the development of more empathy for their victims.

  46. Some child molesters stubbornly continue to deny their guilt even when the evidence against them is overwhelming Penn State Coach and serial child molester Jerry Sandusky

  47. Can Psychological Testing Determine Whether Someone is a Child Molester?

  48. There is no psychological test in existence that reliably distinguishes between (non-admitting) child molesters and non-molesters

  49. Practice Standards & Guidelines for Members of Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers (2001) • Members should recognize that there is no known psychological test or profile that can be used to prove or disprove whether an individual has committed a specific sexual crime.

  50. Some studies have found that the most common MMPI profile for incest offenders with no prior criminal history is “normal”