What is the difference between pedophiles and sex offenders against children?

Mistakes in using the term pedophile can lead to legal loopholes that alleviate perpetrators of sexual crimes against children

“A pedophile does not always sexually abuse children. Conversely, perpetrators of sexual violence against children are not necessarily pedophiles” said a psychiatrist.

In society, there are various views on pedophilia. Many consider pedophiles to be criminals who should be severely punished. But on the other hand, there is also a different view. Understanding of pedophiles is very important, misinterpretation of pedophilia will have implications for policies that are also ‘wrong’.

Referring to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder, pedophilia is classified as paraphilia: a mental disorder that involves sexual attraction towards objects or sexual activity that is not common. People with pedophilia have strong, repetitive impulses, sexual behaviors, or fantasies about pre-pubescent children, generally aged 13 and under.

There are criteria in the world of psychiatry to classify someone with pedophilia. “At a minimum, encouragement, behavior, or sexual fantasies about these children have been going on for 6 months in a row. Then, pedophilia also causes distress” said a psychiatrist. Regarding this distress or pressure, he said that it could be experienced both by the person with pedophilia himself and those around him who were disturbed.

“Imagine like this, you want to date someone, but it is forbidden by parents and friends. It’s stressful. This kind of feeling is also experienced by pedophiles” explained a psychiatrist. This feeling is said to be unrelated to the perpetrators of sexual crimes against children because it is not merely a pedophile to manifest their sexual desires for children.

Not all pedophiles only engage in sexual activities with children. There are some pedophiles who want to have sex with adults. This can be related to the strong public rejection of sexual activity involving children, so that a pedophile still tries to look “normal” through efforts to relate with other adults despite internal conflicts.

Another criterion for someone considered to have pedophilia is that there is no other ‘disorder’ that creates sexual drive, behavior, or fantasies related to children. Another example of the disorder is drug consumption which is then linked to accusations that someone is a pedophile.

The exact cause of pedophilia has not yet been obtained by psychologists, only possibilities. Some say this is influenced by neurotransmitter disorders, parental care, or the influence of the surrounding environment. There are also those who state that pedophilia is related to stress or malnutrition experienced by pregnant women.

Meanwhile, to change this mental state, there are several ways that can be chosen, ranging from therapy using drugs such as anti-androgens to behavior therapy. However, any kind of therapy will be difficult to produce the expected results if it only targets the pedophile. For all mental disorders, biological, psychological, and social factors play an important role in changing their conditions.

For example in the case of pedophilia, we can provide biological and psychological therapies, but if social factors such as family members are not supportive, the results are not optimal.

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