“Not all pedophiles are child molesters (or vice versa). “Child molesters are defined by their acts; pedophiles are defined by their desires..Some pedophiles refrain from sexually approaching any child for their entire lives.” But it’s not clear how common that is.“
– Sexologist Ray Blanchard, PhD, adjunct psychiatry professor at the University of Toronto
- Relevant terminologies
- Personal view on Paedophilia and child molestors / sexual perpetrators
- *What stops potential child molestors / sexual perpetrators from seeking help?*
- *What factors contribute to child sexual offences?*
- Singapore statistics and treatment options available
- Singapore laws on sexual offences
- *Germany case study*
- *What can Singapore do to a) help paedophiles b) tackle the issue of child sexual abuse?*
When I look through the Straits Times “MOLEST” archive, I always see articles of minors being molested/groomed/assaulted every week, or every other week either by adult strangers, family members, or a family friend.
As such, I feel this is a prevalent and serious issue we have to tackle promptly to help potential, or existing child molesters, and victims of child molestors.
- Relevant terminologies
A paedophile is a person who has a sustained sexual orientation toward children, generally aged 13 or younger..Not all pedophiles are child molesters (or vice versa). “Child molesters are defined by their acts; pedophiles are defined by their desires,” Blanchard says. “Some pedophiles refrain from sexually approaching any child for their entire lives.” But it’s not clear how common that is.
Hebephilia is defined as a chronophilia in which an adult has a strong and persistent sexual interest in individuals who are in the early to mid (or sometimes late) stages of pubertal development, generally aged 11–14, although the age of onset and completion of puberty vary…
[My view on paedophilia and child molestors / sexual perpetrators]
(*Personal view, with no scientific basis)
Can it be cured? I don’t think so, because I view it as a sexual orientation, rather than a disease or mental illness. Like how some people have romantic or sexual desires towards non-living things, animals, dolls, plants, or their own family members (*I find all these attractions possible, just that majority of society have been indoctrinated by societal structures and norms to not venture, or even think about such romantic or sexual avenues.),
I also believe paedophilia could be due to different causes, be it psychosocial, or biological (e.g. experimentation or exposure to child porn, being abused as a child, naturally attracted to children after attaining puberty, feel a sense of power or control over the child which cannot be found in adult partners), and it differs from paedophiles to paedophiles.
Thus, if an adult individual develops not only romantic, but also sexual desires towards children, I think the best method is to help her/him manage and control their sexual desires (if they find it hard to physically suppress the latter).
And as importantly, is to also offer paedophiles, potential, or existing child molestors / sexual perpetrators themselves a listening ear, understanding of their struggles and situation, instead of merely ostracising them. All these will ensure the welfare, support, and protection of both paedophiles and children in the long run.
For potential child molestors, prevention is as important as corrective treatment. The behaviour of pre-empt help seeking is lacking in individuals from many countries, including Singapore e.g. child molestors choose not to seek help beforehand, until or unless they are caught for a sexual offence, and made to attend mandatory treatment.
[Is romantic love between a child and adult possible?]
On the ethicality aspect, it’s a grey area, but I think it’s definitely possible. Like how children have child crushes, and youths have youth crushes. It would be possible for a child to like an adult. And likewise, for adults towards children. I would consider it unethical and a NO-NO if both parties engage in physical affection (e.g. kissing, hugging).
But if it’s interacting with one another with no form of physical contact, I’m ok with such a relationship, but (only if the child is of a teenager age e.g. 14,15), though I won’t encourage it. If the child is below 14, I rather the adult keep his romantic attractions to himself/herself, and talk to the girl / boy like a friend for now, and wait until the child passes puberty and reaches a teenage age, before revealing his/her romantic feelings to the latter.
[Why do I feel adult-child sex should be illegal even if the kid had supposedly consented to it?]
A) Informed consent is not present as the kid is, or may not be emotionally, physically, and mentally matured, aware, and knowledgeable to consent to the sex act, even if they have already undergone puberty.
B) As such, there might be long-term trauma, or they may be happy now, but regret it in the future, even though they agreed to it.
C) I know the line can be quite blurred when it comes to the 14, 15 year old age, or when some girls go through puberty faster, or when some mature emotionally and mentally quicker than others. But regardless of these, I think our present law where the age of consent is 16 and above – is a suitable age to determine whether an individual is able to consent to sex. But if the consented act involves individuals who are of a close age (e.g. 14 and 16) or both are underage, I think the authorities should practice their discretion e.g. whether to initiate charges to the male/female.
[What stops potential child molestors / sexual perpetrators from seeking help?]
1. The belief that they would not offend / re-offend
“.. because there’s nothing causing apparent stress to them until they break the law. But (they) need professional help. Always.They all think they can control themselves. But the chances of them re-offending are very real…If they seek help, there is at least a chance that they can recover and not offend again.”
2. Societal denunciation and ostracisation
[What factors contribute to adults engaging in child sexual offences?]
- These adult perpetrators could have issues that hamper them from having a normal relationship with someone their age, or have more unusual / devious sexual urges.
- They could be looking for a sense of control and power over their younger victims, and may may like to be the one making suggestions or initiating things.
- The onus should always be on the adult to restrain himself. Even if the minor consented, the adult should know it’s wrong. Instead of using that as an excuse to take advantage, the adult should be the one guiding and disciplining them.
According to In almost all child sexual abuse cases here, the attacker was someone who was supposed to protect the minor (TNP, 1 Nov 2015):
Factors contributing to child sexual abuse by caretakers:
- The perpetrator will always find easy targets who can be easily manipulated, such as a child who is always alone or lives in the same house.
- It is a myth that abuse is more likely to happen in low-income families. There is an equal chance of child sexual abuse occurring in any group and in fact, lower socio-economic families tend to be more authentic in recognising the need for help.
- Lack of sexuality knowledge – In conservative Asian families, there is a lower chance of parents speaking to their children about sex. This causes the children to be very unaware about the difference between good touch and bad touch. This leads to victims being unaware and letting the abuse go on for years without telling anyone as they have no knowledge that what is happening to them is wrong.
- Patriarchal authority – Almost 100 per cent of child sexual abuse cases involve male abusers and about 80 per cent of the victims are female. In Asian culture, the husband is usually the breadwinner and pillar of the family. Children are taught to respect him as a father figure. And the child will obey as he or she will not question authority.
- When the wife finds out he has been sexually abusing a child in the family, in most cases, she will try to protect the husband to avoid breaking up the family. If the wife depends on the husband as the main source of income, there is a greater motivation to stay in denial and even disbelieve the child to protect him.
- 9 out of 10 young victims try to seek help, but the adults do not believe them.
[Singapore present Statistics and treatment options available]
- 272 cases filed in the State Courts involving either sexual assault by penetration, sexual grooming of a minor under 16, outrage of modesty or rape.
- Another 169 cases involving these crimes led to convictions.
- This is an overall increase of about 60 per cent from 164 cases filed and 105 convictions in 2011.
- The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) handled 38 cases of sexual abuse involving minors last year. In 2013, there were 40 cases. In most cases, the perpetrator was a family member.
In 2014, he State Courts’ figures show that 272 sexual crimes were filed. Of the cases dealt with by the criminal courts, 76 involved a minor. The highest number of child sexual abuse cases between 2008 to 2014 was 50, according to figures by the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF). That was in 2012. There were 64 cases of alleged sexual abuse investigated between January to September this year (TNP, 1 Nov 2015)
Q: Are there treatments for sexual perpetrators in Singapore?
Yes, there are, for those who have been caught after committing, and being charged for a sexual offence.
Clinical and Forensic Psychology Service (CFPS) has four psychologists), who had received about 100 referrals to assess and treat perpetrators of sexual crimes in 2013. These referrals come from MSF and community homes, and include sex offenders who have committed their crimes with victims both within and outside their families. These perpertrators are usually men or male adolescents.
Four different programmes, depending on the type of offence and age of the offender, that can last between nine and 18 months, and consist of weekly therapy sessions.
Psychologists delivering treatment will assist the perpetrators with restructuring their thinking, attitudes, beliefs, and feelings which have led to their offending behaviour. Offence-specific treatment can cut reoffending rates by up to 10 per cent.
Singapore Prison Service (SPS) has a sex offender treatment programme for inmates behind bars. However, it does not have any initiatives that specifically target child sexual perpetrators.
Offenders are screened and assessed by specialists to “address their different criminogenic risks and rehabilitation needs”. Only those assessed to be at “moderate” or “high” risk of reoffending are put through the programme.
Aim of programme?
Administered by prison psychologists, it is aimed at reducing reoffending and enhancing self-management of sex offending behaviour. The programme provides the sex offender with the skills, knowledge and attitudes that are necessary to stop their offending behaviour.
Chances of success?
It dependent on various factors, including the offender’s response towards treatment and his commitment to stay crime-free upon his release. Strong family and community support are also crucial for the successful reintegration and rehabilitation of ex-offenders after their release.
Treatment goals for sexual offenders such as paedophiles e.g. exploration of sexual inadequacies, inability to form normal adult sexual relations, changing their masturbation fantasies.
The most important step on the part of the offender is his acknowledgment of the problem and the motivation to change.
Individual and group counselling can then take place. Frequent checks on ex-offenders, including interviews with their family and partners, may be useful in picking up early signs of relapse. These include any changes in sexual activity with their spouses, if they are married.
- Sex offender registries can be seen as an invasion of privacy and an impediment to reintegrate back to society if the individual has reformed.
- Chemical castration affects the hormonal status of the individual with gynecomastia (enlarged breasts in men) and mood changes as potential side-effects.
“…paedophiles should be given severe punishments like long jail terms and chemical castration. Because when some things are done, they cannot be reversed. The trauma the child goes through would have scarred him for life! There is no room for mistakes when it comes to protecting our children and keeping them safe.” – Parent 1
“Very long jail terms are quite a waste of time and resources. Perhaps extra counselling can help.” – Parent 2
5 relevant sections in Penal Code Chapter 224:
375.—(1) Any man who penetrates the vagina of a woman with his penis —
(a) without her consent; or
(b) with or without her consent, when she is under 14 years of age,
shall be guilty of an offence.
Sexual penetration of minor under 16
376A.—(1) Any person (A) who —
(a) penetrates, with A’s penis, the vagina, anus or mouth, as the case may be, of a person under 16 years of age (B);
(b) sexually penetrates, with a part of A’s body (other than A’s penis) or anything else, the vagina or anus, as the case may be, of a person under 16 years of age (B);
(c) causes a man under 16 years of age (B) to penetrate, with B’s penis, the vagina, anus or mouth, as the case may be, of another person including A; or
(d) causes a person under 16 years of age (B) to sexually penetrate, with a part of B’s body (other than B’s penis) or anything else, the vagina or anus, as the case may be, of any person including A or B, with or without B’s consent, shall be guilty of an offence.
*Criminal lawyers and professionals who deal with victims of sexual abuse have called for greater clarity in the law after the High Court ruled that a woman cannot be found guilty of sexual penetration of a minor. (Singapore, 2016)
Sexual grooming of minor under 16
376E.—(1) Any person of or above the age of 21 years (A) shall be guilty of an offence if having met or communicated with another person (B) on 2 or more previous occasions —
(a) A intentionally meets B or travels with the intention of meeting B; and
(b) at the time of the acts referred to in paragraph (a) —
(i) A intends to do anything to or in respect of B, during or after the meeting, which if done will involve the commission by A of a relevant offence;
(ii) B is under 16 years of age; and
(iii) A does not reasonably believe that B is of or above the age of 16 years.
376G.—(1) Any man of or above the age of 16 years (A) who —
(a) sexually penetrates the vagina or anus of a woman (B) with a part of A’s body (other than A’s penis) or anything else; or
(b) penetrates the vagina, anus or mouth of a woman (B) with his penis,
with or without B’s consent where B is to A’s knowledge A’s grand-daughter, daughter, sister, half-sister, mother or grandmother (whether such relationship is or is not traced through lawful wedlock), shall be guilty of an offence.
(2) Any woman of or above the age of 16 years who, with consent, permits her grandfather, father, brother, half-brother, son or grandson (whether such relationship is or is not traced through lawful wedlock) to penetrate her in the manner described in subsection (1)(a) or (b), knowing him to be her grandfather, father, brother, half-brother, son or grandson, as the case may be, shall be guilty of an offence.
…has carnal connection with any girl below the age of 16 years except by way of marriage;..
shall be guilty of an offence and shall on conviction be punished with imprisonment for a term not exceeding 5 years and shall also be liable to a fine not exceeding $10,000.
= From the above sections, you can see that our legal age of consent is 16 and above
5.—(1) A person shall be guilty of an offence if, being a person who has the custody, charge or care of a child or young person, he ill-treats the child or young person or causes, procures or knowingly permits the child or young person to be ill-treated by any other person.
7. Any person who, in public or private —
Pornographic material includes any forms of media, such as books, films and digital files, showing obscene or sexual behaviour.
It is against the law to keep, distribute or sell pornographic materials, under the Undesirable Publications Act, as well as section 292 of the Penal Code. It is also against the law to keep, distribute or sell pornographic films under sections 29 and 30 of the Films Act.
However, if you accidentally stumble upon a pornographic website, it is not illegal to view the pornographic content contained within, as long as you do not download any such obscene files and store them within your computer.
According to the Media Literacy Council (2013):
Internet Service Providers or ISPs offer filtering software that can block sexually explicit content or help parents keep track of where their children have been.
Since 23 February 2012, all service providers have been required, by law, to offer optional filtering services for fixed residential Internet access and for such filtering services to be highlighted to consumers at the point of subscription or renewal of Internet service.
However, as the internet is a free information highway, it would be impossible to fully block objectionable and harmful content beyond the symbolic gesture, be it pornography or hate content.
Research suggests that rather than shield children and students from negative content, the more effective thing to do would be to talk through with them on why something is wrong. It’s about seizing the moment to teach values and critical thinking skills, to get young people to reflect, to evaluate and to choose to do the right thing. This will make for more resilient people and build a more resilient society.
It seems like there are no specific anti-Child Pornography laws in Singapore.
There is a radical difference between the treatment offered to paedophiles in Germany and that in other countries.
Strict patient-doctor confidentiality rules mean the men can be assured they will not be reported to the police. They would only be excluded from the programme if there was an active prosecution against them. According to the German legal code, therapists are forbidden from revealing anything that happens in the context of treatment..If people (offenders) mention anything in therapy that could make them criminally culpable, they are protected. In other countries, that’s not the case.
- Why does this method works?
If patients were not guaranteed that confidentiality, most would not turn up at all and those that did would not be truly honest.
“We need them to be completely open about what has happened in their pasts, so that we can work with them as effectively as possible. What situations have they found themselves in? What were the individual events that led up to what’s happened to them until now? You can’t answer questions like that if you are afraid.”
Patient X expressed that the confidentiality clause was key:
“I was so petrified of anyone even finding out I was thinking of doing it, because of the obvious stigma attached to being a paedophile. It felt surreal as it was the first time in my life I had talked to anyone about it, and the woman on the other end was so friendly, she talked to me as naturally as if she was giving me a recipe for biscuits.”
- What is treatment like?
Weekly three-hour therapy sessions overseen by two therapists with between six to 10 participants, taking place at the end of a normal working day and were based on cognitive behavioural therapy methods.
- are taught to understand the child’s perspective
- learn to cope in potentially difficult situations such as birthday parties
- develop ways to overcome bad habits such as viewing pornographic images or having sexual fantasies (*which can decrease the likelihood of a paedophile offending)
“At the start of each session, the participants talk about their experiences of the past week and what is on their minds”
“Sometimes..the survival tactics involve something as simple as saying to yourself ‘count backwards from 100, in units of seven”
- What a german patient had to say
“I was told early on that paedophilia, according to current understandings, is a non-curable mental disorder without a known cause..what could realistically be changed and what would stay the same. That was a blow, to know I couldn’t be cured, but at the same time, there was relief to know it wasn’t my fault.”
“Vital for me was finally being able to look at myself in the mirror and say ‘you’re not a monster, you’re a paedophile’, and that’s okay as long as you don’t abuse a child.”
“Learning to control (my) feelings was the most important aspect of the sessions. I am responsible for my behaviour. If someone says they can’t control themselves, that’s just not true. Which is not to say (I) didn’t struggle. There were several times I wanted to stop..Because (I was) taking myself apart and putting (myself) back together again with the tools to cope and it was incredibly scary.”
- What a UK patient had to say
“Despite paedophilia being listed as a mental illness in the DSM (the standard classification of mental disorders), they don’t want to help you, they just want to see you locked up or perhaps even burnt at the stake. I am so sick and tired of UK medical ‘professionals’ looking at me as if I’ve grown horns and a barbed tail.”
“I moved to Germany for therapy, I am learning German and I have a social worker helping me. (Yes, a social worker helping paedophiles!).”
***Give focus to potential abusers too***
Although Dunkelfeld has come in for criticism for focusing on the potential abusers rather than the abused, it has been supported by victims’ groups in Germany and elsewhere.
“If someone says to the doctor: ‘I have these feelings, can I have help?’ it would be better to try to help them before they ruin someone else’s family..If people search for help but can’t get it, then there’s something wrong with us as a society”
“You just have to think of the many children who I’ve no doubt are saved because this therapy exists. It also prevents these men as well as the mothers and wives who so often protect them, from hiding from themselves anymore.”
[What Singapore can do to help paedophiles]
- Like what is done in Germany, publish relevant services in newspapers or TV so that child molestors know there are avenues available to seek help.
- Consider discussion on laws – on whether to allow confidential services to encourage potential or existing child molestors to seek help from pre-empt treatment programmes before they even offend, or re-offend.
- Set up a pre-emptive treatment programme for potential child molestors since it’s such a rampant issue in Singapore.
- Society as a whole have to be more empathetic to potential child molestors who may want to seek help, but struggle with the possible judgements and punishments.
- Community and authorities work together to stop the influx of child porn, or child porn groups.
- Introduce specific anti-Child Pornography laws e.g. stricter penalties (*as compared to adult pornography) for possession, distribution, and sales of child porn, or when taking videos or pictures of children in “unatural, sexually suggestive poses” for exchange or sale, or when found to be involved in child porn sharing groups / sites.
- Support groups for paedophiles, potential child molestors, existing child molestors and perpetrators respectively, to have a listening ear, and chance for self-reflection during their therapy sessions (pre / existing / post).
- Public education on how friends and family should respond when an individual comes out as a paedophile, or child molestor.
- In Singapore Prison Service (SPS), introduce a sex offender treatment initiative that specifically target child sexual perpetrators since it’s such a rampant issue in Singapore.
- Improve on our sex offender treatment, since our local sexual re-offending rate is reduced only by a mere 10%.
- Carry out research on trends, factors, reasons, impacts on parties involved, when it comes to child sexual abuse cases in Singapore with regards to adult offenders who are 1) Family members 2) Family friends 3) Teachers 4) Strangers respectively, and provide recommendations to tackle the issue.
1. Sex education and open communication should start with parents and caregivers from a child’s young age
- Talk to them about sexuality and sexual abuse in age-appropriate terms e.g. good touch and bad touch.
- Be involved in their lives – know where they are and communicate openly and frequently with them.
2. Appropriate, calm, and supportive response when a child reveals that they are being abused
- Be available by creating a safe space and empowering them to talk about child sexual abuse. It is not helpful to avoid the issue as it may worsen the child’s emotional state. A child’s recovery is highly dependent on the caregiver’s support.
- Children are often reluctant to talk about sexual abuse as they may be afraid of the perpetrators’ threats, that they will be blamed or not believed, that their families will get upset or break up, or that they will be removed from their families. It is therefore important for parents to remain calm if their child reveals that he or she has been sexually abused.
- Communicate that they believe the child and emphasise that he or she is not to blame.
- Praise the child for being brave and for reporting the abuse.
- Protect the child by reporting it to the authorities and ensure that the child does not have unsupervised contact with the perpetrator.
- Get professional help especially if there are concerns about the child’s functioning.
- Reassure the child and update on what will happen next, especially with regard to legal action.
- Report the case and seek help from counsellors or psychologists
These will greatly increase the chances of the child being able to trust people again and having a better social life.
3. Rehabilitate offenders
Offenders who show signs of mental illnesses or psychosexual conditions should undergo rehabilitation before being allowed to return to society. If rehabilitation for the offender is done well, the chances of repeating the crime is slim.
4. Implement sex education in schools at an earlier age
5. Value consent and respect children’s rights
Aware’s programmes and communications senior manager Jolene Tan:
“We need to build a culture that values consent and respects the rights of children to make decisions about their bodies.
Sex education in schools can play a big role in promoting a culture of consent.
Young people should be taught that they do not always need to defer to older people and authority figures, especially when it comes to their own bodies.
We should also listen to and support young people who speak up about their experiences.
Sometimes, young people who tell family members or friends about abuse encounter judgment and shaming instead of support, making it harder for them to seek help or to hold perpetrators accountable.”
Spend quality time with your children, constantly talk to them and don’t substitute love with money. Such sexual abuse cases don’t start with pornography. It starts because the vulnerable teenager has family and friendship issues and no one to share the problems with. It’s also not about parents not being Internet-savvy. When the child is going online to find someone to talk to, it means the child is already seeking a substitute for his or her family.
Sometimes, it is a destructive generational cycle e.g. child abuse victims repeating what they been through to minors when they become adults, 0r family members abusing their own children, or stranger adults abusing the trust which minors have towards them.
Thus, let’s try to improve the prevalent situation as such, with effective long-term plans for all parties involved 🙂
At the same time, it’s important to know that not all paedophiles are child molestors. Having a romantic attraction to a child, and carrying out a sexual assault on a child itself are 2 different things. (But the lines are once again greyed, when we talk about an adult having a sexual attraction to a child. )
Integrating child molestors / sexual perpetrators who have served their time, and changed over a new leaf – back to the community is also as important. If we can do the same for terrorists and ex-convicts, why not for child molestors / sexual perpetrators? Ostracising them wouldn’t do them, and society any good in the long run. They may end up deviating, and continuing their sexual offences.
Other relevant articles:
Thank you for reading Offbeat Perspective’s article 🙂
Click HERE if you wish to check out our Facebook page for new updates!