Pedophile or Molester?

WARNING: GRAPHIC WRITTEN CONTENT

Diagnostic criteria for pedophilia

Pedophilia is a well-known disorder. It’s defined by the American Psychiatric Association in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, DSM-IV-TR.

To be diagnosed with pedophilia, a person must:

  • be sexually aroused by, have intense, recurring sexual fantasies of, or be involved in sexual behavior with a prepubescent child or children (generally 13 years or younger);
  • be aroused by, have sexual fantasies of, or be involved with a child for at least six months.;
  • be at least 16 years old, and
  • be at least five years older than the child or children he or she is attracted to.

Let’s say a man with sexual addictions toward children was caught multiple times over the last two decades; although investigators in different states who have investigated are certain the history goes back to early teenage years and most likely includes dozens, possibly hundreds, of victims. He likes very young children both boys and girls, with brown hair. Is he a pedophile or a molester?

Is there a difference between being a pedophilic sex offender and being a molester?

Answer: Yes

The media tends to use these terms as synonyms (a word having the same or nearly the same meaning as another) though they are not. Although both pedophilic sex offenders and molesters abuse children; statistically pedophilic offenders have a ‘look’ or ‘type’ of child they prey upon plus they victimize more children over time.

Pedophiles and Child Molesters: The Differences

Although virtually all pedophilic sex offenders are child molesters, not all child molesters are pedophilic sex offenders. Pedophiles have a clear sexual attraction for children. The focus of a pedophile is a child or children generally under the age of 13. Pedophiles often report they are attracted to children in a particular age range (DSM-IV), build, look, hair or eye color. Pedophilic sex offenders are those who act on their attraction to children by violating a child.  Child molesters are sexual offenders who have committed either intra-familial sexual offense (incest) against a child victim or extra-familial sexual offenses against a child victim or both.

Pedophilic Sex Offenders:

  • True offenders may abuse family members, but the majority of their offenses is extra-familial and is directed toward vulnerable children whom they court or groom for the purpose of victimization. Their relationships with children are based on exploitation of the children for sexual gratification.
  • Offenders, who seek out children to victimize by placing themselves in positions of trust, authority, and easy access to youngsters, can have hundreds of victims over the course of their lifetimes. They are always on the look out for opportunity.
  • Offenders, especially those who molest boys, or both boys and girls, are the sex offenders who have the highest recidivism (relapse) rates after incarceration and/or treatment.
  • Offenders frequently are uncomfortable with adult intimacy and may spend their lives maneuvering to be near children. They may be extremely charming and skilled at manipulating adults, and they may use adult relationships to gain access to children.
  • The pedophilic sex offender may spend years working up to a position of authority and trust within a church, school, or youth organization in order to have access to children. Of course, unlike offenders, most individuals in these types of authoritative positions have no sexual interest in children.

Child Molesters:

  • The non-pedophilic molester is someone whose primary sexual orientation includes adults, but who may molest children in a maladaptive attempt to meet emotional needs.
  • Research has found that many men who molest their own children or related female children have sexual interests that are indistinguishable from those of non-offending males.
  • Data suggest incestuous offenders, regardless of the gender of the victim, have lower numbers of victims and are less likely to be rearrested for new sex crimes after they have been convicted.
  • A child molester may turn to a child for sex out of a perceived inability to be close with an adult partner, out of poor self-esteem, or to escape feelings of powerlessness and loneliness. This type of offender usually has had appropriate (but often dysfunctional) relationships with peers and may be married

—Outcome studies have demonstrated consistently low rates of recidivism (relapse) for incestuous only offenders.

Retired FBI special agent, Nancy Fisher, says pedophiles and molesters don’t change.

“I’ve never had a success with a child pornographer or pedophile, never, not one, ever, ever, ever, ever. They never change,” said Fisher.

Read more: My Fox Austin

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There is no cure for pedophilia. A number of proposed treatment techniques for pedophilia have been developed, though the success rate of these therapies has been very low.[1] Medications are used to lower sex drive in pedophiles by interfering with the activity of testosterone, such as with Depo-Provera (medroxyprogesterone acetate), Androcur (cyproterone acetate), and Lupron (leuprolide acetate).

The Mayo Clinic reports perpetrators who meet the diagnostic criteria for pedophilia offend more often than non-pedophile perpetrators, and with a greater number of victims. They state that approximately 95% of child sexual abuse incidents are committed by the 88% of child molestation offenders who meet the diagnostic criteria for pedophilia.[2] A behavioral analysis report by the FBI states that a “high percentage of acquaintance child molesters are preferential sex offenders who have a true sexual preference for [prepubescent] children (i.e., true pedophiles)”.[3]

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Please pray this Psalms over innocent children who have been abused. May their day of justice be upon them.

Psalm 3

Lord, how many are my foes!
How many rise up against me!
Many are saying of me,
“God will not deliver him.”

But you, Lord, are a shield around me,
my glory, the One who lifts my head high.
I call out to the Lord,
and he answers me from his holy mountain.

I lie down and sleep;
I wake again, because the Lord sustains me.
I will not fear though tens of thousands
assail me on every side.

Arise, Lord!
Deliver me, my God!
Strike all my enemies on the jaw;
break the teeth of the wicked.

From the Lord comes deliverance.
May your blessing be on your people.

Psalm 27

The Lord is my light and my salvation—
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life—
of whom shall I be afraid?

When the wicked advance against me
to devour me,
it is my enemies and my foes
who will stumble and fall.
Though an army besiege me,
my heart will not fear;
though war break out against me,
even then I will be confident.

Psalm 54

Save me, O God, by your name;
vindicate me by your might.
Hear my prayer, O God;
listen to the words of my mouth.

Arrogant foes are attacking me;
ruthless people are trying to kill me—
people without regard for God.

Surely God is my help;
the Lord is the one who sustains me.

Let evil recoil on those who slander me;
in your faithfulness destroy them.

P R A Y E R acronym



Previous post on prayer for innocent children.

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1.  Crawford, David (1981). “Treatment approaches with pedophiles”. Adult sexual interest in children. 181–217.

2.  Lanning, Kenneth (2001). “Child Molesters: A Behavioral Analysis (Third Edition)”(PDF). National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. pp. 25, 27, 29.

3.  Hall RC, Hall RC (2007). “A profile of pedophilia: definition, characteristics of offenders, recidivism, treatment outcomes, and forensic issues”. Mayo Clin. Proc. 82 (4): 457–71. doi:10.4065/82.4.457PMID 17418075.

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Writer, wife, imperfect home schooling mom to 3 amazing humans. Writing about lessons learned from surviving 100% of my worst days. Educating the church about domestic violence & abuse in their midst. Advocating for abused women living in, or leaving destructive marriages. Living an A.I.P. lifestyle. St. Louis Cardinals fanatic. Dog lover, Football fan.

3 thoughts on “Pedophile or Molester?

  1. As a therapist, I regularly counsel sex offenders. One small sub-type is the sex offender who was molested repeatedly themselves as children. For the most part, these victim-offenders do not show themselves to be pedophiles (on plethismographs, they never show a sexual preference for children) but they still offend children. They are the ONLY sub-group of molesters who show significant recovery rates. But they represent less than 10% of the molesters in jail.

    • Thanks for the clarification, Mike. I’m always glad to learn that their is hope for recovery. I also understand that not everyone who has been molested in life goes on to molest. I don’t know the statistics on this but I assume the majority of victims do not become abusers.

      • You are correct. There was a time when Patrick Carnes (c. 1995?) said that most molesters were themselves molested. Many other therapists challenged him and he couldn’t back it up. Then, as more extensive surveys were done, it was shown only about 10% of molesters were themselves seriously molested (meaning “repeatedly”).

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