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Vile, Vile Pedophile Is child molesting a sickness or a crime?
slate ^ | 1-8-2004 | Dahlia Lithwick

Posted on 01/09/2004 6:16:20 PM PST by Hillary's Lovely Legs

Again, and for all the wrong reasons, we can't take our eyes off Michael Jackson. Whether or not the allegations are substantiated, the question is in the air: Is pedophilia a disease to be treated, or a crime to be punished? Are people who seduce minors sick or evil? Our current legal and medical systems blur both views. We call for the most draconian punishments (life imprisonment, castration, permanent exile) precisely because we view these acts as morally heinous, yet also driven by uncontrollable biological urges.

If sex with children is truly the product of freely made moral choices, then we should deal with it through the criminal justice system. But if it is a genetically over-determined impulse, an uncontrollable urge nestled in our DNA, then punishing pedophiles must be morally wrong. As science—and culture—increasingly medicalizes bad behavior, finding a neurological component to everything from alcoholism to youth violence, we run the parallel risks of either absolving everyone for everything, or punishing "criminals" who are no guiltier than cancer patients.

What science has revealed about the moral/medical roots of pedophiles is, of course, ambiguous. What is clear is that the binary choice laid out above is an oversimplification. The medical community, which started to view pedophilia as a disease rather than a crime in the 19th century, has amassed evidence that at least some violent and antisocial behaviors have genetic links and signposts. But researchers have been unable to isolate a biological cause for pedophilia, or even to agree on a personality profile. Not to mention the terrific confusion within the medical community in defining what this "disease" really involves. Until a few years ago, for example, the DSM-IV—the Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders—defined pedophilia as a disease only if the sufferer's "fantasies, sexual urges, or behaviors cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning." In other words, a non-impaired, remorseless pedophile was apparently perfectly healthy.

Advocates of the "disease" school say pedophilia is often the product of uncontrollable impulses that seem to respond to treatment (including castration, both surgical and chemical) particularly in conjunction with monitoring and behavioral therapy. This raises at least a possibility not associated with car thieves and insider traders: That small tweaks to one's brain chemistry may neutralize the impulse to commit more crimes. And if that is the case, they contend, shouldn't we be treating rather than punishing? Can we really call ourselves a just society if we are jailing folks for their neurochemical profile? In a thoughtful essay in Reason, Thomas Szasz urges that pedophilia is ultimately still a moral failure regardless of its biological roots: "Bibliophilia means the excessive love of books. It does not mean stealing books from libraries. Pedophilia means the excessive (sexual) love of children. It does not mean having sex with them." The crime, he argues, is not the psychological impulse, but the willingness to give in to it. But this conclusion assumes an answer that science is still uncertain about: whether for some pedophiles, the impulse to molest has become a pathology. If that is the case, pedophiles can't have the criminal intent necessary to want to commit a crime, and that mens rea is the cornerstone of our criminal law.

Assume, for a moment, that we are sophisticated enough to embrace this ambiguity, to accept the likelihood that the reality is complicated, and that both chemistry and morality are at work in the creation of a sexual predator. Studies by Stanford University neuroscientist Robert Sapolsky suggest that mental illness really falls along a continuum—that criminals are not "sick" or "evil" but some intricate combination of both. What, then, is the moral and proper approach to their acts?

In 1987, Robert Wright explored this choice/illness dichotomy as it related to alcoholism in the New Republic. Wright's ultimate conclusion was that it is a mistake to label a behavior—even a behavior with some biological and genetic determinants—a "disease" because it ultimately means "giv[ing] up on the concept of volition altogether." According to Wright, since alcoholism is the product of a complicated moral soup of environmental and biological factors, since biology may play a role, but not the only, or even predominant role, in these behaviors, we are better off holding people responsible for their actions than not. Otherwise, he argues, "things fall apart."

This "things fall apart" approach has its attractions. It suggests that in a world of increasing causal complexity, morality must remain all the more unequivocal. The question, then, is whether this pragmatic solution is also the ethical one as the stakes rise. The problem is that pedophilia, unlike alcoholism, has one real and tangible victim for every incident. If alcoholics damaged another person's life with every drink, the parallel might hold. But if statistics from the National Institute of Mental Health are right, and the average molester of boys will have 150 victims before apprehension, then the social costs of a single incident are astronomical.

If the repercussions of the act argue for holding the perpetrators morally responsible, regardless of their level of agency, then the seriousness of the punishment pulls in the other direction. Holding alcoholics morally responsible for their actions has predominantly insurance and employment consequences. Holding a child molester responsible for his actions means a lifetime of incarceration or of monitoring, unemployment, and shaming. Offender registries are certainly an alternative to other forms of vigilantism, but the practical effect is a whole subclass of offenders with nowhere to live or work. If science someday proves us wrong, and pedophiles are wholly victims of their own biology, we will have victimized them twice and called it justice.

There are, it's generally agreed, four basic rationales for punishment: revenge, rehabilitation, deterrence, and incapacitation. If we accept the mixed causation theory—that pedophilia is part disease and part crime, then almost none of these rationales are served. Lifetime recidivism rates show that "rehabilitation" alone has not been very effective for sex offenders, and we know that deterrence is unlikely when most offenders are able to "get away with" multiple acts before apprehension. Revenge makes sense only where rational choices led to the commission of the crime, which is in doubt when one's neurochemistry may be running the show. Which leaves only incapacitation as the reason for punishing pedophiles.

Now, don't knock incapacitation. A lifetime of involuntary confinement was a good idea for carriers of the Black Plague, who were guilty of no moral failures at all. But this raises the practical, financial component of imposing complete moral responsibility on pedophiles. Our jails are teeming with sex offenders; and knowing what we do about recidivism rates for pedophiles (recent studies show that they are lower than previously believed in the short-term, but still hovering at 50 percent over a 25-year "career") we must choose between lifetime involuntary confinement, or the cost of ongoing monitoring. Due to prison overcrowding, child molesters are released each day into communities that no longer care whether pedophiles are sick or evil, so long as we throw away the key.

The appeal of the crime-punishment model is that it can tailor the punishment to the crime. A one-time molester is as sick as a serial predator under the disease theory. But the attraction of the disease model is that it assumes both that there is a cure, and that the perpetrators wish to be cured. There is a danger to assuming the latter is true. It's been the basis for the states who adopted mandatory civil-commitment laws, following the Supreme Court's holding in 1997's Kansas v. Hendricks that the most dangerous child molesters can be held involuntarily, after their sentences are served, so long as they're receiving treatment. The problem is that often the treatment they receive is not sufficient or effective. But since this is "treatment" and not "punishment" neither the public nor the Constitution is offended, says the court. The danger of the "treatment" model is the danger posed to a society that has sedated and medicated an entire population into a law-abiding stupor. But the crime/punishment model is similarly hopeless. The promise of an ever-growing number of pedophiles either languishing in jails we cannot afford, or using jails for sleepovers between crimes is, quite possibly, a worse nightmare than the "treatment" option. Perhaps the best solution to a problem with hybrid causation is a hybrid solution: Studies generally show that treatment is better than no treatment, and it's hardly coddling criminals to institute a program of close supervision, drug therapy, and counseling. If science is proved even 10 percent right and nature has some hand in creating a pedophile, lifelong imprisonment solves only one immediate problem—warehousing dangerous citizens. But it raises a more immediate problem—we may be punishing sick people who could have been helped.

TOPICS: Crime/Corruption; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: disorders; dsmiv; homosexualagenda; jackophile; jackophilia; mentalillness; pedophilia; psychology; wackojacko
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1 posted on 01/09/2004 6:16:20 PM PST by Hillary's Lovely Legs
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2 posted on 01/09/2004 6:17:50 PM PST by Support Free Republic (If Woody had gone straight to the police, this would never have happened!)
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To: Hillary's Lovely Legs
I don't care which. Michael Jackson should be executed.
3 posted on 01/09/2004 6:18:56 PM PST by Paleo Conservative (Do not remove this tag under penalty of law.)
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To: Hillary's Lovely Legs
It is a crime when it is committed, but suddenly becomes a sickness when the perp is caught.
4 posted on 01/09/2004 6:19:04 PM PST by LandofLincoln ((the right has become the left))
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To: LandofLincoln
But if it is a genetically over-determined impulse, an uncontrollable urge nestled in our DNA, then punishing pedophiles must be morally wrong.

IF is a pretty big word. Where in the DNA did they find this?

5 posted on 01/09/2004 6:20:54 PM PST by Pan_Yans Wife (Freedom is a package deal - with it comes responsibilities and consequences.)
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To: Hillary's Lovely Legs
Or it could be a genetic disorder that we must tolerate and even promote as we become a more enlightened society....
6 posted on 01/09/2004 6:21:16 PM PST by Always Right
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To: LandofLincoln
Ir is a crime! We have people now running around the USA, saying that they just cannot help it! We can not stand any more of these perverts.
7 posted on 01/09/2004 6:21:36 PM PST by tessalu
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To: Hillary's Lovely Legs
It's a sickness and a crime IMO. And this problem is going mainstream with more adults willing to go on the record advocating for Michael Jacka-- and adult relations with children.

Once you start allowing for alternative lifestyles, and pushing the moral relativism dogma, you're already on the slippery sloap.
8 posted on 01/09/2004 6:22:37 PM PST by DoughtyOne
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To: LandofLincoln
Hey, where is your little Lincoln guy? I just love that guy.
9 posted on 01/09/2004 6:22:37 PM PST by Hillary's Lovely Legs (I have a photo of myself with Mussolini. He's upside down of course.)
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To: Hillary's Lovely Legs
The danger of the "treatment" model is the danger posed to a society that has sedated and medicated an entire population into a law-abiding stupor.

Well if that "entire poplulation" consists of 100% pedophiles, then I have no problem with that.

10 posted on 01/09/2004 6:25:45 PM PST by stands2reason ("Dean is God's reward to Mr. Bush for doing the right thing in the war on terror." Dick Morris)
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To: Hillary's Lovely Legs
This impluse and voice in my head was telling me to deck the union goon that threatened me last year. Fist, don't hit.....
Well, I didn't deck him, which was a smart decision with the cops nearby.

People made decision. 'Impulses' may suggest a decision, but God gave all of us free will, and no body forced Jacko(if he's guily) to do the things he's accused of. If he gave into his impulse, that was his choice, and the consequences should have him at least get life in Folsom as far as I'm concerned.

11 posted on 01/09/2004 6:27:36 PM PST by Dan from Michigan ("Every man dies. Not every man really lives")
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To: Hillary's Lovely Legs
It's a crime.
12 posted on 01/09/2004 6:30:25 PM PST by Tuscaloosa Goldfinch
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To: Hillary's Lovely Legs
Is child molesting a sickness or a crime?

It's both...which is why it's so appealing to the Leftists who will ultimately champion it as an "alternative lifestyle."

Next will be the Liberals insisting that pedophiles should be able to marry their"lovers".

Excuse me, but I need to go...*HWAAAAAARHHHH!!*...dammit, didn't make it. Anyone got a Rug Doctor?

13 posted on 01/09/2004 6:31:36 PM PST by Prime Choice (Americans are a spiritual people. We're happy to help members of al Qaeda meet God.)
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To: Pan_Yans Wife
Yeah, well alcoholism is considered to be a sickness with an equal claim to any possible genetic predisposition. As a society we expect alcoholics to get recovery, and I don't believe anyone believes it's immoral to punish them for drunk driving or to expect them not to show up at work sober!
14 posted on 01/09/2004 6:32:09 PM PST by Coeur de Lion
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To: Coeur de Lion
My point is I don't believe it has ever been linked to DNA. The writer doesn't say.
15 posted on 01/09/2004 6:33:30 PM PST by Pan_Yans Wife (Freedom is a package deal - with it comes responsibilities and consequences.)
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To: Dan from Michigan
Dahlia Lithwick, beginning to make the case for legalizing pedophilia. Someone else said it first, that once we allow gay marriage, this will be next.

The problem with pedophiles is that it is incurable with our current state of knowledge. So, we have to lock them up to keep them away from innocent children. We don't have to know whether or not they have free will or are just "born that way". It doesn't have to be a value judgement. It's just a recognition of the reality that we have to keep them away from children.

Nobody seriously hates grizzly bears, yet you sure don't want one around your four year old. Unless he's really irritable and carrying an M1 Garand re-chambered to .458 Weatherby.

16 posted on 01/09/2004 6:34:15 PM PST by Hardastarboard
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To: tessalu

What We Must Do ... To Protect Our Children

The Difference Between "Sick" and "Evil"

By Andrew Vachss
Originally published in Parade, July 14, 2002

The shock waves caused by the recent exposures of so-called "pedophile priests" have reverberated throughout America. But beneath our anger and revulsion, a fundamental question pulsates: Are those who abuse their positions of trust to prey upon children—a category certainly not limited to those in religious orders—sick ... or are they evil?

We need the answer to that fundamental question. Because, without the truth, we cannot act. And until we act, nothing will change.

My job is protecting children. It has taken me from big cities to rural outposts, from ghettos to penthouses, and from courtrooms to genocidal battlefields. But whatever the venue, the truth remains constant: Some humans intentionally hurt children. They commit unspeakable acts—for their pleasure, their profit, or both.

The crimes are so unspeakable, many believe that those who commit them must be mentally ill. But that very natural reaction is what prevents us from seeing the truth.
Many people who hear of my cases against humans who rape, torture, and package children for sale or rent immediately respond with, "That's sick!" Crimes against children seem so grotesquely abnormal that the most obvious explanation is that the perpetrator must be mentally ill—helpless in the grip of a force beyond his or her control.

But that very natural reaction has, inadvertently, created a special category of "blameless predator." That confusion of "sick" with "sickening" is the single greatest barrier to our primary biological and ethical mandate: the protection of our children.

The difference between sick and evil cannot be dismissed with facile eye-of-the-beholder rhetoric. There are specific criteria we can employ to give us the answers in every case, every time.

Some of those answers are self-evident and beyond dispute: A mother who puts her baby in the oven because she hears voices commanding her to bake the devil out of the child's spirit is sick; and a mother who sells or rents her baby to child pornographers is evil. But most cases of child sexual abuse—especially those whose "nonviolent" perpetrators come from within the child's circle of trust—seem, on their surface, to be far more complex.

That complexity is an illusion. The truth is as simple as it is terrifying:

Sickness is a condition.

Evil is a behavior.

Evil is always a matter of choice. Evil is not thought; it is conduct. And that conduct is always volitional.

And just as evil is always a choice, sickness is always the absence of choice. Sickness happens. Evil is inflicted.

Until we perceive the difference clearly, we will continue to give aid and comfort to our most pernicious enemies. We, as a society, decide whether something is sick or evil. Either decision confers an obligation upon us. Sickness should be treated. Evil must be fought.

If a person has desires or fantasies about sexually exploiting children, that individual may be sick. (Indeed, if such desires are disturbing, as opposed to gratifying, to the individual, there may even be a "cure.") But if the individual chooses to act upon those feelings, that conduct is evil. People are not what they think; they are what they do.

Our society distrusts the term "evil." It has an almost biblical ring to it—something we believe in (or not), but never actually understand. We prefer scientific-sounding terms, such as "sociopath." But sociopathy is not a mental condition; it is a specific cluster of behaviors. The diagnosis is only made from actual criminal conduct.

No reputable psychiatrist claims to be able to cure a sociopath—or, for that matter, a predatory pedophile. Even the most optimistic professionals do not aim to change such a person's thoughts and feelings. What they hope is that the predator can learn self-control, leading to a change in behavior.

Such hopes ignore the inescapable fact that the overwhelming majority of those who prey upon children don't want to change their behavior—they want only to minimize the consequences of being caught at it.

In the animal kingdom, there is a food chain—predators and prey. But among humans, there is no such natural order. Among our species, predators select themselves for that role.

Psychology has given us many insights of great value. But it has also clouded our vision with euphemisms. To say a person suffers from the "disease" of pedophilia is to absolve the predator of responsibility for his behavior.

Imagine if an attorney, defending someone accused of committing a dozen holdups, told the jury his poor client was suffering from "armed-robberia." That jury would decide that the only crazy person in the courtroom was the lawyer.

When a perpetrator claims to be sick, the timing of that claim is critical to discovering the truth. Predatory pedophiles carefully insinuate themselves into positions of trust. They select their prey and approach cautiously. Gradually, sometimes over a period of years, they gain greater control over their victims. Eventually, they leave dozens of permanently damaged children in their wake.

But only when they are caught do predatory pedophiles declare themselves to be sick. And the higher the victim count, the sicker (and, therefore less responsible), they claim to be.

In too many cases, a veil of secrecy and protection then descends. The predator's own organization appoints itself judge and jury. The perpetrator is deemed sick, and sent off for in-house "treatment." The truth is never made public. And when some secret tribunal decides a cure has been achieved, the perpetrator's rights and privileges are restored, and he or she is given a new assignment.

In fact, such privileged predators actually are assisted. They enter new communities with the blessing of their own organization, their history and propensities kept secret. As a direct result, unsuspecting parents entrust their children to them. Inevitably, the predator eventually resumes his or her conduct and preys upon children again. And when that conduct comes to light, the claim of "sickness" re-emerges as well.

Too often, our society contorts itself to excuse such predators. We are so eager to call those who sexually abuse children "sick," so quick to understand their demons. Why? Because sickness not only offers the possibility of finding a cure but also assures us that the predator didn't really mean it. After all, it is human nature to try to understand inhuman conduct.

Conversely, the concept of evil terrifies us. The idea that some humans choose to prey upon our children is frightening, and their demonstrated skill at camouflage only heightens this fear.

For some, the question, "Does evil exist?" is philosophical. But for those who have confronted or been victimized by predatory pedophiles, there is no question at all. We are what we do.
We may be powerless to change the arrogance of those who believe they alone should have the power to decide whether predatory pedophiles are "sick," or when they are "cured." But, as with the perpetrators themselves, we do have the power to change their behavior.

In every state, laws designate certain professions that regularly come into contact with children—such as teachers, doctors, social workers, and day-care employees—as "mandated reporters." Such personnel are required to report reasonable suspicion of child abuse when it comes to their attention. Failure to do so is a crime.
17 posted on 01/09/2004 6:34:23 PM PST by Palladin (Proud to be a FReeper!)
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To: Dan from Michigan
Exactly. There are many of us who would love to do something, but don't because it is just plain wrong. Impulse control is the main attribute that separates us from the animals...and generally speaking, liberals don't have any impulse control. More than anything, it is selfishness born from the ME generation of the 60's. If it's a disease, it's pure selfishness in the pursuit of pleasure.
18 posted on 01/09/2004 6:39:57 PM PST by cwb (ç†)
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To: tessalu
So since the founder of Islam was a pedphile, does that make Islamism a disease to be treated or a crime?
19 posted on 01/09/2004 6:40:59 PM PST by Vigilanteman
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To: Hillary's Lovely Legs
20 posted on 01/09/2004 6:47:03 PM PST by Cindy
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