Thursday, June 21, 2012
Facts About Homosexuality and Child Molestation
In recent years, antigay activists have routinely asserted that gay people are child molesters. This argument was often made in debates about the Boy Scouts of America's policy to exclude gay scouts and scoutmasters. More recently, in the wake of Rep. Mark Foley's resignation from the US House of Representatives in 2006, antigay activists and their supporters seized on the scandal to revive this canard. It has also been raised in connection with scandals about the Catholic church's attempts to cover up the abuse of young males by priests. Indeed, the Vatican's early response to the 2002 revelations of widespread Church cover-ups of sexual abuse by priests was to declare that gay men should not be ordained.
Public belief in the stereotype.
The number of Americans who believe the myth that gay people are child molesters has declined substantially. In a 1970 national survey, more than 70% of respondents agreed with the assertions that "Homosexuals are dangerous as teachers or youth leaders because they try to get sexually involved with children" or that "Homosexuals try to play sexually with children if they cannot get an adult partner.
By contrast, in a 1999 national poll, the belief that most gay men are likely to molest or abuse children was endorsed by only 19% of heterosexual men and 10% of heterosexual women. Even fewer – 9% of men and 6% of women – regarded most lesbians as child molesters.
Consistent with these findings,Gallup polls have found that an increasing number of Americans would allow gay people to be elementary school teachers. For example, the proportion was 54% in 2005, compared to 27% in 1977.
Even though most Americans don't regard gay people as child molesters, confusion remains widespread in this area. To understand the facts, it is important to examine the results of scientific research. However, when we evaluate research on child molestation, our task is complicated by several problems. One problem is that none of the studies in this area have obtained data from a probability sample, that is, a sample that can be assumed to be representative of the population of all child molesters. Rather, most research has been conducted only with convicted perpetrators or with pedophiles who sought professional help. Consequently, they may not accurately describe child molesters who have never been caught or have not sought treatment.
A second problem is that the terminology used in this area is often confusing and can even be misleading. We can begin to address that problem by defining some basic terms. Pedophilia and child molestation are used in different ways, even by professionals. Pedophilia usually refers to an adult psychological disorder characterized by a preference for prepubescent children as sexual partners; this preference may or may not be acted upon. The term hebephilia is sometimes used to describe adult sexual attractions to adolescents or children who have reached puberty.
Whereas pedophilia and hebephilia refer to psychological propensities, child molestation and child sexual abuse are used to describe actual sexual contact between an adult and someone who has not reached the legal age of consent. In this context, the latter individual is referred to as a child, even though he or she may be a teenager.
Although the terms are not always applied consistently, it is useful to distinguish between pedophiles/hebephiles and child molesters/abusers. Pedophilia and hebephilia are diagnostic labels that refer to psychological attractions. Not all pedophiles and hebephiles actually molest children; an adult can be attracted to children or adolescents without ever actually engaging in sexual contact with them.
Child molestation and child sexual abuse refer to actions, and don't imply a particular psychological makeup or motive on the part of the perpetrator. Not all incidents of child sexual abuse are perpetrated by pedophiles or hebephiles; in some cases, the perpetrator has other motives for his or her actions and does not manifest an ongoing pattern of sexual attraction to children.
Thus, not all child sexual abuse is perpetrated by pedophiles (or hebephiles) and not all pedophiles and hebephiles actually commit abuse. Consequently, it is important to use terminology carefully.
Another problem related to terminology arises because sexual abuse of male children by adult men is often referred to as "homosexual molestation." The adjective "homosexual" (or "heterosexual" when a man abuses a female child) refers to the victim's gender in relation to that of the perpetrator. Unfortunately, people sometimes mistakenly interpret it as referring to the perpetrator's sexual orientation.
To avoid this confusion, it is preferable to refer to men's sexual abuse of boys with the more accurate label of male-male molestation. Similarly, it is preferable to refer to men's abuse of girls as male-female molestation. These labels are more accurate because they describe the sex of the individuals involved but don't implicitly convey unwarranted assumptions about the perpetrator's sexual orientation.
Typologies of Offenders
The distinction between a victim's gender and a perpetrator's sexual orientation is important because many child molesters don't really have an adult sexual orientation. They have never developed the capacity for mature sexual relationships with other adults, either men or women. Instead, their sexual attractions focus on children – boys, girls, or children of both sexes. Over the years, this fact has been incorporated into various systems for categorizing child molesters. For example, Finkelhor and Araji (1986) proposed that perpetrators' sexual attractions should be conceptualized as ranging along a continuum – from exclusive interest in children at one extreme, to exclusive interest in adult partners at the other end.
Typologies of offenders have often included a distinction between those with an enduring primary preference for children as sexual partners and those who have established age-appropriate relationships but become sexually involved with children under unusual circumstances of extreme stress. Perpetrators in the first category – those with a more or less exclusive interest in children – have been labeled fixated. Fixation means "a temporary or permanent arrestment of psychological maturation resulting from unresolved formative issues which persist and underlie the organization of subsequent phases of development" . Many clinicians view fixated offenders as being "stuck" at an early stage of psychological development.
By contrast, other molesters are described as regressed. Regression is "a temporary or permanent appearance of primitive behavior after more mature forms of expression had been attained, regardless of whether the immature behavior was actually manifested earlier in the individual's development". Regressed offenders have developed an adult sexual orientation but under certain conditions (such as extreme stress) they return to an earlier, less mature psychological state and engage in sexual contact with children.
Some typologies of child molesters divide the fixation-regression distinction into multiple categories, and some include additional categories as well.
For the present discussion, the important point is that many child molesters cannot be meaningfully described as homosexuals, heterosexuals, or bisexuals (in the usual sense of those terms) because they are not really capable of a relationship with an adult man or woman. Instead of gender, their sexual attractions are based primarily on age. These individuals – who are often characterized as fixated – are attracted to children, not to men or women.
Using the fixated-regressed distinction, Groth and Birnbaum (1978) studied 175 adult males who were convicted in Massachusetts of sexual assault against a child. None of the men had an exclusively homosexual adult sexual orientation. 83 (47%) were classified as "fixated;" 70 others (40%) were classified as regressed adult heterosexuals; the remaining 22 (13%) were classified as regressed adult bisexuals. Of the last group, Groth and Birnbaum observed that "in their adult relationships they engaged in sex on occasion with men as well as with women. However, in no case did this attraction to men exceed their preference for women....There were no men who were primarily sexually attracted to other adult males..."
Other researchers have taken different approaches, but have similarly failed to find a connection between homosexuality and child molestation. Dr. Carole Jenny and her colleagues reviewed 352 medical charts, representing all of the sexually abused children seen in the emergency room or child abuse clinic of a Denver children's hospital during a one-year period (from July 1, 1991 to June 30, 1992). The molester was a gay or lesbian adult in fewer than 1% in which an adult molester could be identified – only 2 of the 269 cases (Jenny et al., 1994). In yet another approach to studying adult sexual attraction to children, some Canadian researchers observed how homosexual and heterosexual adult men responded to slides of males and females of various ages (child, pubescent, and mature adult). All of the research subjects were first screened to ensure that they preferred physically mature sexual partners. In some of the slides shown to subjects, the model was clothed; in others, he or she was nude. The slides were accompanied by audio recordings. The recordings paired with the nude models described an imaginary sexual interaction between the model and the subject. The recordings paired with the pictures of clothed models described the model engaging in neutral activities (e.g., swimming). To measure sexual arousal, changes in the subjects' penis volume were monitored while they watched the slides and listened to the audiotapes. The researchers found that homosexual males responded no more to male children than heterosexual males responded to female children .
Science cannot prove a negative. Thus, these studies do not prove that homosexual or bisexual males are no more likely than heterosexual males to molest children. However, each of them failed to prove the alternative hypothesis that homosexual males are more likely than heterosexual men to molest children or to be sexually attracted to children or adolescents.
The Mainstream View
Reflecting the results of these and other studies, the mainstream view among researchers and professionals who work in the area of child sexual abuse is that homosexual and bisexual men do not pose any special threat to children. For example, in one review of the scientific literature, noted authority Dr. A. Nicholas Groth wrote:
Are homosexual adults in general sexually attracted to children and are preadolescent children at greater risk of molestation from homosexual adults than from heterosexual adults? There is no reason to believe so. The research to date all points to there being no significant relationship between a homosexual lifestyle and child molestation. There appears to be practically no reportage of sexual molestation of girls by lesbian adults, and the adult male who sexually molests young boys is not likely to be homosexual
In a more recent literature review, Dr. Nathaniel McConaghy (1998) similarly cautioned against confusing homosexuality with pedophilia. He noted, "The man who offends against prepubertal or immediately postpubertal boys is typically not sexually interested in older men or in women".
This well known lack of a linkage between homosexuality and child molestation accounts for why relatively little research has directly addressed the issue. Proving something we already know simply isn't a priority. Indeed, a commentary that accompanied publication of the 1994 study by Jenny et al. in Pediatrics noted that debates about gay people as molesters "have little to do with everyday child abuse" and lamented that they distract lawmakers and the public from dealing with the real problem of children's sexual mistreatment
Other Sexual Abuse
In scandals involving the Catholic church, the victims of sexual abuse were often adolescent boys rather than small children. Similarly, the 2006 congressional page scandal involved males who were at least 16 years old. These are cases in which the term pedophilia – referring as it does to attractions to prepubescent children – can cause confusion. Rather than pedophilia, the accusations stemming from these scandals raised the question of whether gay people shouldn't be trusted in positions of authority where there is any opportunity for sexually harassing or abusing others.
Here again, there is no inherent connection between an adult's sexual orientation and her or his propensity for endangering others. Scientific research provides no evidence that homosexual people are less likely than heterosexuals to exercise good judgment and appropriate discretion in their employment settings. There are no data, for example, showing that gay men and lesbians are more likely than heterosexual men and women to sexually harass their subordinates in the workplace. Data from studies using a variety of psychological measures do not indicate that gay people are more likely than heterosexuals to possess any psychological characteristics that would make them less capable of controlling their sexual urges, refraining from the abuse of power, obeying rules and laws, interacting effectively with others, or exercising good judgment in handling authority.
Sexual orientation is a mental illness nor is it inherently associated with impaired psychological functioning.
Gay men and lesbians function effectively in a wide variety of employment settings. The research literature doesn't reveal any differences between heterosexuals, bisexuals, and homosexuals in job performance or ability to properly exercise authority in supervisory roles. As indicated by workplace policies around the United States, a large and growing number of private and public employers do not perceive a problem with hiring gay and bisexual people as employees or managers. Many corporations, educational institutions, and local governments have adopted policies that prohibit discrimination against employees on the basis of sexual orientation. Many of those organizations provide benefits such as health insurance for employees' same-sex partners. Indeed, one widely cited reason for offering such benefits is that they enable a company to remain competitive by attracting high quality employees who happen to be gay, lesbian, or bisexual.
Thus, there is no factual basis for organizations to avoid hiring homosexual or bisexual people, simply on the basis of their sexual orientation, for positions that involve responsibility for or supervision of others, whether children, adolescents, or adults.
facts about molestation & homosexuality