I was just sent a link to a blog called Together We Heal (TWH). This is a website whose stated purpose ‘is for any who suffered the trauma of Child Sexual Abuse. Provide a safe forum, educate any seeking info and expose the predators methods’.
What I read there was both shocking and yet hard to dispute. And yet I’m sure it will anger, survivors of abuse, their advocates, and the homosexual community.
The thrust of this article is that there is a movement among professional psychologists to stop calling pedophilia an illness, and to refer to it as simply a sexual orientation. We are after all dealing with a sexual orientation that is virtually impossible to change. Just like same sex attraction (SSA). SSA was once considered a mental disorder. That changed in the 70s when the APA redefined it. Which of course change the entire culture of homosexuality from one of shame to one of pride. Homosexuals who once hid their orientation are now so accepted that gay marriages are being performed by some clergy.
Now before anyone wants to come over here and shoot me, I am not saying that there aren’t very important differences. Leaving religious issues aside, homosexual sex between 2 consenting adults is a lot different than sex between an adult and a minor. By definition there is no such thing consenting adults when it comes to pedophilia. When an adult has sex with a minor it has been amply demonstrated that the effects on the minor will have lifelong devastating consequences.
For Orthodox Jews, more often than not that includes going OTD. But even worse - many victims drop out of society completely, some end up in the streets; some as alcoholics or drug users; and some even commit suicide. How many times have I read a survivor story about how well adjusted, productive, and studious he (or she) was prior to the abuse, only to become rebellious, unproductive scholastically, and eventually drop out of everything afterwards. There seems to be an almost endless stream of reports from survivors with stories like that.
Which makes something I wasn’t aware of quite shocking. From the article:
In 1998 The APA issued a report claiming “that the ‘negative potential’ of adult sex with children was ‘overstated’ and that ‘the vast majority of both men and women reported no negative sexual effects from childhood sexual abuse experiences.”
Does this not fly in the face of everything we know about child sexual abuse?! This report is not a layman’s report. It is not Satmar, Agudah, or Lakewood saying this. It is the report of a professional organization that studies these things. The same one that changed homosexuality from a mental illness into a sexual orientation; an organization whose many members treat victims of sex abuse successfully! And it came out 15 years ago! I have never seen it quoted until now. I am unaware of any APA report to the contrary. And yet every professional and every survivor I have ever spoken to or seen quoted on this subject says the exact opposite! I tend to agree with the survivors and the experts I’ve spoken to. What is going on here?
Getting back to pedophilia as a sexual orientation – just like heterosexuality or homosexuality, I can obviously see the danger in equating pedophiles to homosexuals to heterosexuals. Whatever one may say about these 3 groups of people religiously, I don’t think there can be any doubt that their sexual orientation cannot be changed. Nor can there be any doubt about the vastly different consequences of sex between 2 consenting adults - and the consequences of sex between a child and an adult.
The question becomes how we judge people whose sexual orientation is different than the vast majority of us that are heterosexual… and whose sexual orientation cannot be changed? Do we say judge the sin and not the sinner? That is certainly the religious way to look at it. Pope Francis just yesterday said basically that about homosexuals to a shocked media. They shouldn’t be shocked. That was always the view of the Catholic Church. But it is the view of Judaism too. Who are we to judge others by who - or what - they are sexually attracted to?
At the same time, the effects of succumbing to one type of predilection are the polar opposite of the effects of succumbing to another predilection. It is also virtually impossible to live a life of complete celibacy. When homosexuals have sex in biblically forbidden ways, we can condemn the behavior from a religious perspective. But we can also understand that from a humanistic perspective, there is no psychological harm being done to anyone.
But a non celibate pedophile is a horse of an entirely different color. How can we judge only the sin and not the sinner in that case? Even if he can’t help himself? And view him as just having an alternative sexual orientation?
Here are the things for us to consider. Does saying that pedophiles should no longer to be considered mentally ill change anything? Does the 1998 APA report saying that the vast majority of victims report no negative sexual effects from child sex abuse change anything? How does this impact the original APA decision to redefine homosexuality from a mental disorder into an alternative lifestyle? And finally, how do homosexuals and survivors of child sex abuse and their advocates feel about all of this?