Home Truths about Child Sexual Abuse: Influencing Policy and Practice - A Reader

By Catherine Itzin | Go to book overview

3

Paedophile characteristics and patterns of behaviour

Developing and using a typology

Ray Wyre


Introduction

In this chapter I describe the characteristics of 'fixated paedophiles' which I have identified from my clinical work with sex offenders in treatment programmes. I use, and argue for the usefulness of, the concept of 'paedophilia' and typologies which classify child sexual abusers as 'paedophiles' according to their typical and predictable patterns of offending behaviour for purposes of treatment and policing. In policing, for example, forensic evidence can be used to construct a 'profile' of the possible suspect based on what is known about the different characteristics of 'paedophile' abuse to inform the investigation of sex crimes. Knowledge of 'paedophile' beliefs and behaviours - such as denial or minimalisation - can also be useful in interviewing men suspected of child sexual abuse by enabling police to recognise and challenge distorted thinking and deception.

In treatment, I have found that knowledge of what offenders are capable of doing, how they go about it, and what goes on inside their head can assist professionals working with them to anticipate and deal with the very convincing lies and manipulation which are typical of child sexual abusers. This can facilitate and enhance the possibility of successful intervention by demonstrating to the abuser that there is someone who understands them and their offending behaviour sufficiently to be able to offer meaningful help. I also demonstrate how knowledge of paedophile characteristics can help in treating victims of abuse. As my work has largely involved men who have, or have had, some connection with the criminal justice system, I refer to them in this chapter as offenders.


Types of offenders

Over the years the term 'paedophile' has taken on various meanings. The word literally means 'child love'. It has been used to describe men (and some women) who exhibit sexual arousal and attraction towards pre-pubertal children. When there is sexual arousal towards post-pubertal children who are below the age of consent, the term that has been used is 'hebephilia'. Sometimes, where men abuse boys, the term 'homosexual paedophile' is used. This is unhelpful, as it equates 'paedophilia' with homosexuality. In fact, child

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