A Debate on Child Pornography's Link to Molesting
Posted in: Child Protection&Online Safety at 20/07/2007 10:10
Experts have often wondered what proportion of men who download explicit sexual images of children also molest them. A new government study of convicted Internet offenders suggests that the number may be startlingly high: 85 percent of the offenders said they had committed acts of sexual abuse against minors, from inappropriate touching to rape.
The study, which has not yet been published, is stirring a vehement debate among psychologists, law enforcement officers and prison officials, who cannot agree on how the findings should be presented or interpreted.
The research, carried out by psychologists at the Federal Bureau of Prisons, is the first in-depth survey of such online offenders' sexual behavior done by prison therapists who were actively performing treatment. Its findings have circulated privately among experts, who say they could have enormous implications for public safety and law enforcement.
The psychologists compared these confessions with the men's criminal sexual histories at the time of sentencing. More than 85 percent admitted to abusing at least one child, they found, compared with 26 percent who were known to have committed any "hands on" offenses at sentencing. The researchers also counted many more total victims: 1,777, a more than 20-fold increase from the 75 identified when the men were sentenced.
Dr. Hernandez and Dr. Bourke concluded in the paper that "many Internet child pornography offenders may be undetected child molesters." But they also cautioned that offenders who volunteer for treatment may differ in their behavior from those who do not seek treatment.