Prof: Paedophilia Doesn’t Go Away, It’s Incurable, But It Can Be Controlled

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Police Scotland has launched a new campaign, called #StopItNow, that targets sex predators who groom children online. Sputnik discussed the campaign with Dr Cristina Izura, an Associate Professor in Cognitive Psychology at Swansea University.

Sputnik: Will a campaign that targets child sex offenders' empathy have a strong impact on the phenomenon?

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Dr Cristina Izura: I think the campaign works in different ways: not only [it stresses that] the families will know [about the abuse], [as well as] the embarrassment [they will endure], but I think they also target the fact that abusing a child in any means, including sexually, is wrong. I think both aspects are a good tactic to pursue child sexual offenders, since there are very few campaigns that allow them to come forward in anonymity and try to get help — and that's what this campaign aims to do, to reduce child sexual abuse by helping abusers to stop that kind of abuse.

One of the key things is to realise that what they are doing, what they are thinking, what they are feeling is wrong, and the consequences that that might have for themselves (you can go to prison, you can be convicted), and those that both the family and the victim will face. So raising awareness on the abusers is an excellent idea: you can stop online sexual abuse by stopping online sexual abusers.

Sputnik: Can child sex offenders ever be rehabilitated?

Dr Cristina Izura: There are two aspects concerning child sexual offenders. The first one being the clinical condition of paedophilia — not all men who have a sexual interest in children are actually paedophiles: you are paedophilic when you have an exclusive sexual attraction to children. There are many cases in which adults have sexually abused children and they might be married, have children of their own or have an adult partner — so they might have sex both with adults and with children.

We know that paedophilia is something that doesn't go away, it's not something that can be cured. It's an orientation, a sexual attraction to children, an unfortunate sexual deviation. But we do know that it can be controlled, and there are many people out there that have an exclusive sexual attraction to children, but they do not offend. So you can have paedophilia and never be an abuser. 

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Sputnik: Might much stronger measures be needed to deal with this kind of crime that causes widespread public revulsion?

Dr Cristina Izura: There have been constant campaigns to increase the severity of the consequences for someone that has been caught abusing a child, whether it is done physically or online. I think that measures to prevent the crime, punishing measures, are evolving: quite a lot has been done about online grooming. It's now a criminal offence to send a sexual message to a child, and this started to be applicable only in 2017 — so it's a year and a half ago. That was a great accomplishment [and it was fulfilled] thanks to the NSPCC campaign. More needs to be done, particularly in terms of [acting against] grooming children online or individuals watching indecent images of children online. Many adults believe that that's not quite an offence. Today it actually is. It seems to many that it's not really harming the child, and that's not quite true.

The views expressed in this article are those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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