Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Child sexual predators 'sick'?

Below is part of a Facebook conversation between Richard Dimitri (founder of Senshido), Ryan Sainsbury (senior Protect student), Craig Walsh (briefly - Senshido affiliate UK) and myself. I thought I would copy it here as I think it raises some interesting points of view around child sexual predators...

Richard Dimitri - Senshido International: "Despite Facebook's attempts to safeguard its users from sexual predators, tens of thousands of registered sex offenders have been able to slip through the cracks in security. Those with CHILDREN please, make certain you set your privacy settings accodingly especially when it comes to your children's profiles and pictures shared."

Craig Welsh
"dirty bastards.."

Richard Dimitri
"Most yes, some are actually sick, realize, feel horrible for what they do, how they feel and even ask to be medically impaired from it or incarcerated. Nothing is ever cut and dry or black and white brother... the human being is much to complex a creature to be categorized under any label our intellectual mind can come with."

Phil Thompson
"Sorry Bro, I'm with Craig. Regardless of the human condition, to label all child sex offenders as 'sick' is a way that people can pigeon-hole the issue and use that as an excuse for the truth, and that is what most people do (not what you were doing I know, you said 'some'). And the truth is that they are cruel and in many instances, evil. 'Sometimes' they are 'sick', that is, they have a mental illness. 'Some' do ask for help, and good for them. Most are not sick and most do not ask for help. And the majority of the time, outside of their sexual practices they appear as normal as everyone else. 'Some' of them have a sexual attraction to kids, the vast majority are attracted to the power, manipulation, dominance and control that they can act out on the 'easiest' of targets, young kids.
It is wrong in every context, damaging in ways most people cannot even begin to comprehend, and absolutely needs to be called what it is: Cruel, horrific, and evil. Stage 1 of any problem we need to fix: Accept it and label it correctly...
My two Kiwi cents... Love ya fella"

Richard Dimitri
"I fully agree bro... no argument there at all, most are indeed sociopathic, however, there are some that are clinically and medically 'sick' and realize it and also abhor what they are... and even though they appear to normally function in everyday society doesn't take away the fact that a small percentage do actually have a mental condition, much like some drug addicts that manage to hide their addictions for years to both their friends and families as well as social networks. I'm not saying the law should ease up, I'm just saying that on a humane level, to simply throw a blanket statement isn't fair to the minority and is to a certain degree, a judgement... that's all :`)"

Phil Thompson
"Yeah, I understand bro. I have such conflicting emotions around this. On one hand I know that when we judge someone we don't define them, we just define ourselves as someone who needs to judge. I get that and I work hard on it every day, you constantly inspire me towards that. On the other hand where is the line drawn? I think our judgements are necessary to form our opinions, which are often ego fuelled I know, but sometimes necessary. I mean without them we would condone every act of violence and cruelty in the world and simply accept it as 'it is what it is'. I think my personal direction on this is that I will aim not to judge anyone as best I can for the way they act, how they live their lives, who they are etc until such time as their behaviour adversely affect other people or brings harm to any other person or creature. That is the point where I am happy to make judgements and form strong opinions on someone and take the appropriate action. Otherwise I think tolerance becomes weakness and even denial, which does not serve humanity or the world at all. In the case of child sex offenders, yes I appreciate that some of them are mentally sick. But most are not. It is just an easy lable that most bestow upon predators because it makes it easier to understand and accept. And to look at the issue with empathy or sympathy because the offender 'might' be sick is not giving it the weight it deserves. Personally I will choose to look upon every child sex offender as being cruel and evil. If through the process of law and order (for the countries which actually have it) it is determined that the person is 'mentally sick' then my opinion on the person may change, but my opinion on the crime never will...I think before society starts to worry about whether a child predator has a mental illness before they draw an opinion, society needs to wake up to the fact that we have an enormous problem, accept that these things are happening out there to our kids, silence the voice of denial that goes on for so many, and bring this issue into the mainstream so it can be reduced. Once that is done, then we can start categorising the predators and ensuring their treatment or punishment fits their own circumstances. Right now, we are a long way off..."

Ryan Sainsbury

"Y'all seem to be looking at this somewhat differently from myself, so I'm going to pitch in here.

Personally, I don't care if or why a person is attracted to children. Are they sick in the head? Fine. Do they have an innate sexual preference for children? Okay. Do they have a cruel attraction to power and dominance, and prefer the thought of enacting that upon children? I, for one, would submit that this is merely another form of sickness.

Point is, what leads them to the point of wanting to do these things to children is utterly disinteresting to me. If one of them wants help, for any of these situations, I'm all for giving it to them. If they decide to spend their lives bottling their desires up in a vortex of self-loathing and despair, then that's cool too.

Myself, I see the important distinction as being between 'person who wants to have sex with children' and someone who acts upon those desires. As far as I'm concerned, your ultimate fantasy can revolve around an orgy in the goddamn maternity ward, but the moment you actually touch a child for gratification, that is the point in time that I break out a big heaping bowl of judgment and start ladling it out.

Rich, you made the distinction between people who are clinically 'sick', and those who are sociopathic. I suggest that these are two sides of the same coin. And in the end, it makes very little difference, because both are capable of controlling their actions - the difference from one to another rests not in discerning in which particular way they specifically are fucked in the head, but whether they decided to resist the urge or not.

The sole exception to this is people who are clinically psychotic, and this is so insanely rare (there are very few true psychotics, and most of their blackouts end with people injured and dead, not molested) and difficult to prove that it's hardly worth mentioning. Did a quick search, and could not find a single case where this defence was even argued.

I'm not sure why we're placing such a large emphasis on why they're attracted to children. It seems entirely academic, because in the end the practical result is the same. Ultimately, anyone who wants to have sex with children wants to have sex with children, and the question seems not to be "why do you want to" so much as "did you resist the temptation to do so?"

In the end, that's the only question the child's really going to care about."

Phil Thompson
"Ryan, good points fella. I have the same thoughts on some of what you say and different thoughts on other points you have made. Particularly your point about fantasies.

Fantasies are thoughts and thoughts equal outcomes. The missing piece in the middle is... Action. If a person with child sex fantasies goes their whole life without ever doing anything about them then I agree with you. People will have their own judgements about this but at the end of the day nobody is hurt. But as soon as that person starts to take ACTION against any of their fantasies then there is an escalating problem.

Rich’s original post referred to child predators (in fact registered sex offenders) using Facebook as a means to exploit kids. That is a serious issue. It means that they have taken action against those fantasies. They are no longer harmless. In the same way that child pornography is not harmless. An argument I have heard there is that as long as the person ‘just looks but never touches’ it is harmless. That is not so. For every photo or video of child pornography there is a victim. The innocent child on the tape or in the photo is a traumatised victim and the person viewing it for their own pleasure or to satisfy their fantasy IS guilty of the crime. They have acted upon their fantasy.

That same person who views child pornography, or hunts through Facebook looking for children, left alone with a child and to their own devices would likely abuse that child in some way. Not necessarily in all cases I know, but the probability is high. Therefore the only difference between the fantasy – once any form of action has been taken against it - and the reality is opportunity.

Therefore our responsibility is to work towards removing the opportunity for sexual predators and increasing online security in just one avenue to do that. If all we worry about is “Did you resist the urge or not” and forget the “Why and how do you carry out crimes against kids” then we will always be the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff. The biggest part of our job in this area is prevention. And knowing the ‘enemy’ is important so that we can implement preventative strategies to keep kids safe.

You stated: “Do they have a cruel attraction to power and dominance, and prefer the thought of enacting that upon children? I, for one, would submit that this is merely another form of sickness.” This I do not agree with in this context. My reference to this was in the context of people using ‘he is sick’ as an excuse for his actions. By that logic then every act of murder, cruelty, torture, manipulation, control, emotional or physical aggression is a form of ‘sickness’ and there are no evil people in the world. I don’t believe this is the case. There are some truly evil people out there. There are a hell of a lot more loving, caring, great people, but there are the bad ones too. And my point here is to call it what it is. An act of sexual violence against a child is evil. Regardless of where it came from, the act itself is evil. Now as Rich points out, there are ‘some’ cases where the person has a genuine mental illness and I accept that but once the crime has definitely been committed against the child this is a case where I think ‘guilty until proven innocent’ is relevant when it comes to proving mental illness as an excuse.

Loving the conversation and debate here, awesome."

Ryan Sainsbury

"Hey Phil, you've made some pretty good observations mate.

To be honest, when I wrote that, I'd more or less forgotten about Rich's opening post, and had started focusing on the whole judgment/difference between a 'paedophile' and a 'child molestor' part. In relation to his initial point, could not agree more with him (except perhaps the part about "Facebook's attempts to safeguard its users" - I like Facebook, but their safeguards are pretty pathetic and they really don't have any serious interest in maintaining privacy). Any movement to make children safer from online predators is something I can get behind - have gotten behind - and I've got no argument with you there.

I should have clarified that I do include viewing child pornography in the category of 'acting on those desires', on account of the fact that that pornography has to come from somewhere, and in acquiring it they support and encourage the creation of it.

As for the part about sickness, I think we're both using the same term to mean two different things. I gather that when you say it, you mean 'sick' in the sense of something which renders a person irresponsible for their actions, on account of the concept that they 'can't be held responsible' - as a result of some form of mental health issue wherein they genuinely don't realize that what they're doing is wrong, or literally lack the capacity to stop themselves. Of course, someone who just enjoys inflicting pain does not fall into this category.

When I use the term 'sick', I'm referring more generally to 'someone who has desires that just aren't right'. Be this a desire to have sex with children, or a desire to cause suffering, or a desire to feel power over other human beings - I see them all very much as sides of the same coin. The main difference between our use of the terms seems to be that your usage of 'sick' refers to people whose actions are (for lack of a better term - this doesn't really convey what I'm trying to say, but it's the best I can think of) excused by their affliction. My use is more in line with merely explaining how someone came to have those desires, and isn't in any way mitigating their responsibility. When I say 'sick', I'm only referring to sick desires - not a literal inability to control them. That's something quite else.

To summarize that ridiculously long-winded definition of mine - when I say 'sick', I'm talking about anybody who wants to do terrible things, not somebody who *literally* cannot stop themselves, or lacks comprehension of what they're doing. So, in the context in which you were using the term, I agree wholeheartedly.

"An act of sexual violence against a child is evil."

I think this is the ultimate crux of the discussion, and I don't think anybody's arguing with you. There exist cases where mental illness plays a genuine role, but they are rare and are far more likely to be used as an excuse than they are to be a genuine reality.

...I think I could have summarized my entire statement by saying "ya i agree lol"."

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