What turns men into sexual predators? We now know that largenumbers of priests regularly abused children. A man in SouthAfrica was recently convicted of raping a 9 month old child.Little girls are abducted from their homes, raped andmurdered. What turned these men into monsters?
Researchers disagree about what causes sexual abuse and what(if anything) can cure it. Little is known about the mentaland biological development of sexual desire. Jim Breiling,of the National Institute of Mental Health, says, “This is ayoung, difficult, sensitive, controversial area of science.”
Researchers agree that no one is born a rapist or a childmolester and that such deviance is caused by childhoodinfluences. Most abusers were abused themselves as children.Psychologists now hope to trace the developments that leadmen to commit acts of sexual abuse. Since the great majorityof these crimes are committed by men, researchers don?tbother studying females.
Psychologist Neil M. Malamuth of the University ofCalifornia has found two personality characteristics thatmay cause men to eventually become rapists. He didn?t studycriminals?he found these attributes in college men who saidthey found rape acceptable and said they would carry outacts of forced sex and rape if no one found out about it andthey wouldn’t be punished.
Malamuth calls the first characteristic ? hostilemasculinity.? It includes self-centered arrogance,manipulation and force in dealing with women, unusually highsensitivity to rejection by women, use of sex to achievedominance, and lack of empathy.
The second characteristic is a desire to have impersonal sexwith one partner after another. The students who approachedsex this way often reported being exposed to family violenceas a child, and having early sexual experiences.
Raymond Knight of Brandeis University has identified threedifferent psychological factors from his studies ofrape-inclined college men and convicted rapists. He findsthese men describe themselves as highly impulsive,emotionally callous toward others, and consumed by sexualthoughts and promiscuity.
Mary P. Koss of the University of Arizona says, “Byfostering hostility toward women and a need for impersonalsex, a boy’s family environment might flip the switch towarda pursuit of sexually coercive behaviors.”
Hostile masculinity and a sex life without intimacy may comefrom a single trait known as psychopathy, says psychologistMarnie E. Rice of Canada’s Mental Health Center. Psychopathsruthlessly pursue self-gratification by manipulating anddeceiving others. Some people think they make up themajority of criminals, from burglars to rapists and murderers.
Martin P. Kafka of McLean Hospital thinks attention-deficithyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may have something to do withit. “I’ve treated about 700 sex offenders,? he says, ?andthe guys with ADHD invariably have the highest sex drives.”Since few of them were diagnosed in childhood, Kafkasuspects they received too much punishment for theirimpulsiveness, inattention, and inability to sit still.Knight has also noticed that more than half of the would-berapists he?s studied were diagnosed with ADHD.
Scientists are studying these men not just to figure out howto prevent sexual abuse, but to find out how to tell whichones are safe to return to the streets after they?ve servedtime in prison.
Data from several long-term studies of 4,724 sex offendersreleased from prisons in the United States and Canada after1980 show that after 10 years, one in five was arrested fora new sexual offense, says psychologist R. Karl Hanson ofthe Department of the Solicitor General of Canada. After 20years, that figure rose to slightly more than one in four.Among men who had victimized children in their own families,about 1 in 10 committed a new sexual offense during thefirst 20 years after release from prison.Hanson thinks the actual numbers are even higher?that closeto half commit more sexual crimes?but “Most of theiroffenses are never reported to the authorities.?
There’s tremendous pressure for clinicians to find ways toturn predators into law-abiding citizens. However, so far,treatment hasn?t shown much better results than simplyleaving sex offenders alone. Hanson analyzed 15 studies thattracked a total of 3,016 sex offenders after they werereleased from prison. After an average of 4 to 5 years, 10percent of those who had completed a rehabilitation programwere arrested for another sex offense, compared with 17percent of those who had received no treatment.
Some programs use individual and group therapy to try toteach men to think about sex and intimacy in new ways.Another approach uses encounters between new sex offendersand former offenders and sometimes abuse victims. Thesegroups try to break through denials and rationalizationsabout past crimes. Some psychiatrists prescribe medicationsthat reduces sexual desire, such as drugs that blocktestosterone or boost serotonin levels.
Recent revelations about long-standing sexual abuse ofchildren by priests have disillusioned many believers. But”Catholic priests do not have a corner on the child-abusemarket,” says Bette L. Bottoms of the University of Illinoisat Chicago. “Physical and sexual abuse is perpetrated byreligious authorities of various faiths.”
Bottoms directed two national surveys that gathered datafrom 2,136 mental-health professionals, includingdescriptions of 417 cases of church-related child abuse.Although reports of sexual abuse most often concernedpriests, abusers could also be nuns, ministers, rabbis,native healers, and authority figures in other religiousgroups. Priests had sexually abused both boys and girls,Bottoms says, making it unlikely that homosexuality is thebasis for their sexual misconduct.
Reports of sexual abuse were no more common than reports ofnonsexual abuse, such as withholding medical care forreligious reasons and inflicting severe physical punishmentsto rid a child of ?evil.? Her surveys uncovered no childabuse by satanic cults. Bottoms says, “More children areabused in the name of God than in the name of Satan.”
We can?t always protect ourselves from sexual abuse, but wecan learn how to use ?Practical Psychic Self-Defense? fromRobert Bruce,click here.
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