Pedophilia and Deafness

By Vernon, McCay; Rich, Steve | American Annals of the Deaf, October 1997 | Go to article overview
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Pedophilia and Deafness

Vernon, McCay, Rich, Steve, American Annals of the Deaf

Data from 22 cases of deaf individuals suffering from pedophilia are presented along with a tabular summary of recent articles from the deaf press, about deaf victims of pedophilia and deaf pedophiles. Results indicate a number of factors that distinguish deaf pedophiles from hearing pedophiles. First is the prevalence of Primitive Personality Disorder in the deaf group. Corollary to this, with a significant number of pedophiles, competence to stand trial is a major issue. Other significant differences include a high rate of brain damage, illiteracy, poor communication skills, and other psychiatric illnesses. Two of the 22 cases were deaf females with pedophilia. The mean performance IQ of the sample was 102.8 and the distribution of scores was bimodal. Case histories are presented and discussed, and legal issues, prevention, and punishment are addressed.

Until recently, pedophilia was a hidden problem, rarely discussed or dealt with in an open, direct manner. For years, organizations such as the Boy Scouts, Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America, schools (including those serving deaf children), churches, and society in general attempted to conceal the problem (Barnard, Fuller, Robins & Shaw, 1989, pp. 10-21; Boyle, 1994, pp. 110, 130, 156, 311, 312, 252, 253; and DeAngelis, 1996).

In the senior author's own years of experience in schools serving deaf children, identified pedophiles were frequently asked to resign and promised good recommendations if they did so. This was done in order to avoid negative publicity and possible law suits. However, these individuals often went on to work- in other settings and victimize more children. Similar policies have been followed by religious denominations and many other groups (Boyle, 1994, p. 110,130, 252, 253, 312).

In recent years, agencies serving children have begun to report cases of pedophilia to the police. This has resulted primarily from legislation mandating the reporting of pedophilia, increased litigation, and media attention. In addition, law enforcement officials and the courts are more actively investigating and prosecuting child sexual abusers (Pence & Wilson, 1994). In the field of deafness, we are seeing a similar increase, both in the prosecution of deaf persons who are pedophiles and in reporting and sentencing those sexual molesters who prey on deaf children. Although no accurate records are kept on these processes, Table 1 gives some documentation on the issue. The Boys Town Research Hospital has been accumulating additional in-depth data on this topic (Sullivan, Scanlon, & LaBarre, 1986; and Sullivan, Vernon, & Scanlon, 1987).

Despite the possible magnitude of the problem, there has been no published study specifically addressing the topic of deaf individuals with pedophilia or deaf victims of pedophilia. Mention of the condition has been included in more general articles on deaf criminal offenders (Harry, 1984; Harry & Dietz, 1985; Klaber & Falek, 1963; and Remvig, 1969). This paper will provide data and analysis of a group of deaf persons with pedophilia and will discuss the psychological and educational implications.


The 22 cases to be presented were seen by the senior author in the course of his 45 years of experience as a psychologist and teacher in the field of deafness. They are not a random sample in the statistical sense. However, we do feel they represent a reasonable cross section of those with this disorder as they exist in the deaf population.


Each of the 22 cases was seen for psychological evaluation by Vernon. Basic descriptive data on the sample are presented and case studies developed on select patients. Because male and female pedophiles may represent fundamentally different etiological issues and psychodynamics, the data on the two females in this study are treated separately.

Results and Discussion Basic Demographics

Several observations should be noted with regard to Table 2.

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