TIME psychology

What the Josh Duggar Fiasco Can Teach Us About Pedophilia

It raises familiar questions with no easy answers

Want a challenge? Try feeling sorry for a pedophile—those guys (and they’re almost always guys) who lust for children, stalk children and may eventually molest or rape children. Even in prison they’re targets of violence from other inmates. When a murderer finds you morally repugnant, you know you’ve fallen far.

That universal loathing is on display again with public outrage around the news that reality TV star Josh Duggar, 27, of TLC’s 19 Kids and Counting, responded to allegations that he molested five underage girls when he was 15, saying that he “acted inexcusably for which I am extremely sorry and deeply regret.”

There is more unknown about these charges than known: How old were the girls? What did the molestation involve? These and other questions are critical to understanding both the psychology and the alleged criminality at play.

But let’s address the worst possibility—that the girls were not teens like Duggar, but much younger. That he was drawn to them as an adult pedophile is drawn to a child, and that under the care of a psychiatrist or psychologist, he would be diagnosed with clinical pedophilia. What does that mean for him—and for society?

Pedophilia is thought to be a relatively rare condition, afflicting from 1% to 5% of men, and a vanishingly small number of women. Admittedly 1% to 5% is a wide range, but unlike people suffering from, say, depression or phobias, people with pedophilic stirrings are not likely to step forward for treatment. Pedophiles are sexually drawn to children exclusively and as a group, prey on same sex and opposite sex children more or less equally. The condition has nothing at all to do with homosexuality.

Psychologists stress that not all child molesters are pedophiles and not all pedophiles molest. Only about 10% of known child abusers are thought to be clinical pedophiles. In most non-pedophilic cases of child abuse, the crime is an act of violence, of rage, sometimes a result of trauma. Often molesters were themselves molested in childhood—anywhere from one third to three quarters of them—though the studies on which these findings are based are often called into question because they rely on trusting the abusers to tell the truth about their past.

What’s barely in dispute anymore is that true pedophilia is a disorder with physiological roots. Scans of pedophiles’ brains show less connective white matter than the brains of other people; other studies show that pedophiles have a greater tendency to be left-handed, that they score poorly on visual and spatial tests and that they may even be shorter, on average, than other males. All of this points either to the genes or prenatal womb environment, or both, meaning that pedophilia is innate, unchosen and as fixed as anyone else’s sexuality.

“None of us decides the sorts of people we’re going to be attracted to,” says Dr. Fred Berlin of the National Institute for the Study, Prevention and Treatment of Sexual Trauma, in Baltimore. “We discover that, and that’s true too of people who discover they’re attracted to children. This is not the result of a choice.”

That’s where treatment becomes hard, and where sympathy—if you’re inclined to feel it—may be warranted. In the days in which homosexuality was punished, gays and lesbians spent their entire lives either denying themselves a sexual outlet or doing so furtively and fearfully. That led to profound suffering—made all the worse because it was unjust suffering. In a sexual encounter with another consenting adult, no one generally gets hurt—and the laws in most countries have finally come around.

But there will be no such coming around in the case of pedophilia, nor should there be, because by definition a child incapable of consent will always be hurt by the act. That means therapy for pedophiles—with luck before they act, but certainly afterwards.

Part of this may involve libido-lowering drugs; part involves an abstinence strategy similar to what’s used in day-at-a-time groups like Alcoholics Anonymous. And part involves other kinds of group support, such as the website Virtuous Pedophiles, for people who recognize their disorder and are determined not to act on it. That can work.

“Virtuous pedophiles make the point that pedophilia is by no means synonymous with child molestation,” says Berlin. “Some people can control their urges on their own or with a group. Others who have those attractions with perhaps a higher degree of desire may need more intervention, including medicine.”

In one study of 300 patients Berlin treated, only 3% who fully complied with treatment re-offended within five years. Among men who receive no treatment, 18% re-offend within three years.

There are no good answers for pedophilia, only less bad ones. Fury at men who hurt children is not misplaced, but nor is appreciation for those who struggle with their disorder and keep it under control. No one would choose to leave a child alone with an untreated pedophile. But no one would choose to be that pedophile either.

Read next: Arkansas Police Destroy Record of Josh Duggar Investigation

TIME Australia

Ex-Principal at Prestigious Australian School ‘Sorry’ for Alleged Sex Abuse 

Former students at Knox Grammar include Hollywood star Hugh Jackman and ex-Australian PM Gough Whitlam

The former, longtime principal of one of Australia’s most elite private schools has expressed regret for the alleged sexual abuse that occurred during his tenure.

Ian Paterson apologized Tuesday during a Royal Commission hearing that is investigating institutional responses to sex abuse at Knox Grammar in Sydney, reports the Agence France-Presse.

The ongoing abuse allegedly occurred between the 1970s and 2012, and Paterson served as principal for three decades up until 1998. One former student describes Knox Grammar during these years as having harbored “a large pedophile cohort.”

“I should have known and I should have stopped the events that led to the abuse and its tragic consequences for these boys in my care and their families,” Paterson said.

“My abject failure to provide for you a safe and secure place at Knox strikes at the very heart of a responsibility of a headmaster.”

Although Paterson has not been charged with abuse personally, the commission did hear evidence that in 1989 he inappropriately touched a female student during rehearsals for a stage show with another school.

Paterson is due to give evidence to the Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse about how he managed the teachers accused of abusing students. The body was formed in April 2013 to probe accusations of sexual misconduct in state institutions including schools, orphanages and places of worship, and was extended in September 2014 to deal with the thousands of victims who have come forward.

TIME Crime

School District: Student Is Partly to Blame for Sex with Teacher

Teacher-Sexual Consent Elkis Hermida
California Department of Correction/AP This undated photo provided by the California Department of Correction shows Los Angeles school district teacher Elkis Hermida, who was sentenced in 2011 to three years in prison for lewd acts against a child.

A 14-year-old's sexual past and willingness to engage in sex with a 28-year-old teacher was fair game in a Los Angeles civil trial

Correction appended, Nov. 17, 2014

An underage girl can consent to sex with a teacher and her sexual history is relevant when considering who is liable for damages in such a case. That’s the argument a lawyer for the Los Angeles Unified School District made in court after the family of a 14-year-old girl sued the district after it was revealed that a teacher had sex with her.

The teacher, Elkis Hermida, was sentenced in criminal court in 2011 to three years in state prison for lewd acts against a child. Hermida, a middle-school math teacher, had sex with the underage girl for a period of six months. But in civil court, where the lawsuit was brought and decided in the district’s favor in late 2013, responsibility for sex between a teacher and an underage student is less clear, the school district argued.

The district said that the underage girl knew it was wrong to have sex with her teacher and the district had no knowledge of what occurred and was therefore not liable, according to public radio station KPCC, which reported details of the trial for the first time on Nov 12. The district also said, according to KPCC, that the girl was partially responsible for the sexual relationship, even though she was younger than 18, the age of legal consent in California. Liability in the case hinged on whether the district knew anything about the teacher or his relationship with the student that made it negligent in the case. A jury found the district was not negligent, but the legal strategy of placing blame on the underage girl has rocked Los Angeles and victims’ advocates who say it could set a dangerous precedent.

“The blame the victim strategy that they adopted is very dangerous for the public at large,” says John Dion, an attorney and deputy executive director of the National Center for Victims of Crime. “It creates a real chilling effect of people coming forward. When they don’t come forward, child sex abuse is allowed to continue. This is a crime that flourishes in secrecy.” In criminal cases in California, defendants are typically not allowed to bring up the sexual pasts of alleged victims, but in the civil case involving the district, the girl’s sexual history was revealed at the trial.

“She lied to her mother so she could have sex with her teacher…She went to a motel in which she engaged in voluntary consensual sex with her teacher. Why shouldn’t she be responsible for that?” attorney Keith Wyatt, who represented the L.A. school district in the civil trial, told KPCC in an interview. After KPCC aired its interview with Wyatt, he apologized in a statement, saying his remarks were “ill thought out and poorly articulated.”

Still, Cynthia Godsoe, a law professor at Brooklyn Law School who specializes in children and the law, says the legal strategy itself is shocking. “Given that the state legislature has said people below 18 years old are not mature enough to consent, I think for an attorney representing a public entity to argue that it’s her fault is not ok,” says Godsoe. “He’s arguing flat out that she’s not a victim and there’s already been a finding in criminal court that she is. I find it kind of amazing.”

The girl’s family is appealing the court ruling. Holly Boyer, the attorney now representing the girl, said she expects to file an opening brief with the appeals court within a month.

Correction: The original version of this article misstated the name of Cynthia Godsoe’s employer. It is Brooklyn Law School.

TIME Opinion

Lena Dunham and Feminism: Beware the Vitriol of the Sisterhood

The debate over revelations in Dunham's memoir is not just about the propriety of a child's sexual curiosity. It’s about women who make us uncomfortable.

Correction: Appended, Nov. 5.

“Sisterhood is powerful. It kills. Mostly sisters.”

Those were the words of Ti-Grace Atkinson, an author and philosopher, when she resigned from the Feminists, a radical group she had founded in the late 1960s. They were repeated, forty years later, in the New Yorker​ by Susan Faludi​, who ​described them as “one of the lines most frequently quoted by feminists.”

​If Lena Dunham’s latest lambasting is any indication, the words are still applicable today. The vitriol of the sisterhood is alive and well.

The latest controversy over Dunham goes like this: Last month, the 28-year-old creator of Girls published a memoir, Not That Kind of Girl. In the book, much in the same way her HBO series does, Dunham takes on all sorts of taboos, in revealing, unfiltered, at times uncomfortable sections on virginity, sisterly intimacy and platonic bed sharing, date rape, and more. She is graphic in her sexual descriptions, including a passage where she describes, as a 7-year-old, looking inside her younger sister’s vagina (to discover that her sister had placed pebbles in it, presumably as a prank).

The scene is cringe-inducing. It’s uncomfortable, no doubt. It’s also funny. I ​laughed, ​turned the page and kept reading. Little kids do bizarre things.

I​t appeared that so did everybody else — until last week. That’s when an article in the National Review – written by Kevin Williamson, a man notable for an article on how “Laverne Cox Is Not a Woman” and seeming to suggest that women who get abortions should be hanged– eviscerated Dunham for the chapter in her book about rape (he questioned why, if the story of an assault she suffered in college were truthful, she never “felt the need to press charges, file a complaint, or otherwise document the encounter.”) The right​-wing website TruthRevolt then picked up the ​thread, ​homed in on the sisterly vagina scene ​(along with a typo stating that Dunham was seventeen not 7) and declared in a headline (over which Dunham is now allegedly suing): “Lena Dunham describes sexually molesting her sister.”

In the version of things in my head, here’s how I would have expected this scenario to play out: ​

A few right wing publications and gossip blogs would pick up the story. ​The New York Post would write a ​snarky headline. ​Dunham would respond ​on Twitter (which she did). Her sister, who is her best friend and tour manager, would chime in (which she did). Feminists would jump to her defense. What she did as a seven-year-old may bother people, but that’s precisely Dunham’s form of art. That doesn’t make it abuse.

And yet​…​ here is how it did play out. ​Dunham was swiftly called a “predator without remorse” — mostly by other feminists on Twitter.​ She was compared to R. Kelly, Bill Cosby, and Jian Ghomeshi. She became the subject of a hashtag, #DropDunham, which called on Planned Parenthood – which has joined Dunham on a number of stops on her book tour – to disassociate from her immediately.

​And on feminist listservs, Tumblr blogs and elsewhere, the pile-on began. She was “creepy.” “Not normal.” A “self-promoter.” “Full of herself.” A woman who needs to “sit the f–k down and learn something.” ​She was told to “get some boundaries.” To “stop being weird.” Her story was, as one blogger put it, “best kept in the confines of your family kitchen over Thanksgiving.”

This was not the National Review talking. These were fellow feminists.

Yes, she had defenders: Jimmy Kimmel tweeted that suggesting “a 7 yr-old girl is even capable of ‘molestation’ is vile​”; a sex researcher at the Kinsey Institute wrote that “it’s normal for kids to explore with each other;” prominent feminist voices like Roxane Gay (who called Dunham “gutsy” and “audacious” in a review of her book), Katha Pollitt (who donated to Planned Parenthood in Dunham’s honor); and a group of women who launched a Tumblr to curate all sorts of youthful (and at times unsettling) stories of sexual exploration. ​(Dunham responded again, too, writing in TIME that she takes abuse seriously and noting that her sister had given permission for her to publish the story.)

And yet the vitriol from her critics was so intense, so personal, so almost gleeful, that it was hard not to wonder if this was really about Lena Dunham at all.

“Honestly, I don’t think I’ve even seen this level of outrage over Bill Cosby,” one friend commented, referring to the allegations of sexual abuse against Cosby.

Why, whenever there is a powerful woman speaking about feminism publicly (including, ahem: Sheryl Sandberg, and please see the disclosure in my bio) must they become so polarizing as to make feminism, as one journalist put it, “a bipartisan issue“?​ (It’s worth noting that among my cohort, anyway, there has been far more discussion about Dunham than about the elections).

Feminism is about giving women equal opportunity, equal voice, equal power. And yet, over and over again, when female voices attain that power, we – other women – parse and analyze their every move, public and personal, with an absurdly critical eye. We see it in politics, in pop culture, in film. From Hillary Clinton to Sandberg to Anne Hathaway. (As Roxane Gay put it in a piece for The Rumpus, “Young women in Hollywood cannot win, no matter what they do.”)

To be clear: There are plenty of people who think Dunham’s behavior toward her sister was questionable, and that’s a valid argument to have. (Though “inappropriate” is a whole lot different from “molestation” so say the experts.) There are others who’ve argued that acknowledging Dunham’s race, and privileged background, are crucial to this conversation. (I happen to disagree – but that too, is a discussion worth having.)

But this has become a witch hunt – and it has everything to do with​ how we view women like Dunham.

Feminism has a long history of what Ms. Magazine, in a 1976 piece by Jo Freeman, called “trashing.” That is, taking jabs at women who suddenly rise up, helping elevate them, but then tearing them down when they become too successful. “This standard,” Freeman wrote, “is clothed in the rhetoric of revolution and feminism. But underneath are some very traditional ideas about women’s proper roles.”

Dunham is a perfect target for trashing – because she doesn’t fit into our traditional molds. She is loud, out there, imperfect, messy, and some might say maybe even a little gross. She speaks openly about feminism, and sex, the ambiguity of consent, and she doesn’t apologize for it. She makes people uncomfortable. And while she may have risen up propelled by the support of other women, somewhere along the way, she lost her likability – as powerful women often do. She is just a little too loud, a little too unapologetic, a little too overtly sexual, a little … successful.

But that doesn’t make her a molester.

Dunham has always presented herself as flawed. She has never made herself a paragon, or claimed to represent us all. Yes, her character on Girls called herself a “voice of her generation.” She is also not her character (and has said repeatedly that it was just a line). And she’s not a politician, she’s an artist. It is her job is to push boundaries. To speak loudly. And, yes, to self-promote – and sell books.

Dunham’s accomplishments are what feminists should want women to aspire to: she is the writer, director and star, making art about women, from a woman’s point of view, in an industry that is still dominated by men. She doesn’t represent all women — and she shouldn’t have to. But she is willing to say what many other high-profile women won’t (at least not publicly). Yes, she has a voice that creates controversy. Yes, she makes people uncomfortable.

But why do we hold her to a seemingly higher standard? Why must her voice represent us all?

No one can be “everything to everybody,” Freeman wrote back in 1976. And neither can Lena Dunham. Like her, don’t like her. Watch Girls, don’t watch it. But let’s not forget: There is room for more women than Lena Dunham at the top.

Jessica Bennett is a contributing columnist at Time.com covering the intersection of gender, sexuality, business and pop culture. She writes regularly for the New York Times and is a contributing editor on special projects for Sheryl Sandberg’s women’s non-profit, Lean In. You can follow her @jess7bennett.

Read next: Lena Dunham: ‘I Do Not Condone Any Kind of Abuse’

Correction: The original version of this story attributed a quotation to National Review writer Kevin D. Williamson that he did not say. The story has been updated to remove the quotation.

TIME Living

Lena Dunham: ‘I Do Not Condone Any Kind of Abuse’

Lena Dunham
Jeff Kravitz—FilmMagic/Getty Images Lena Dunham

Lena Dunham is a writer and actress.

In an exclusive statement to TIME, the author addresses recent controversy over a passage in her book, Not That Kind of Girl, regarding her relationship with her younger sister

I am dismayed over the recent interpretation of events described in my book Not That Kind of Girl.

First and foremost, I want to be very clear that I do not condone any kind of abuse under any circumstances.

Childhood sexual abuse is a life-shattering event for so many, and I have been vocal about the rights of survivors. If the situations described in my book have been painful or triggering for people to read, I am sorry, as that was never my intention. I am also aware that the comic use of the term “sexual predator” was insensitive, and I’m sorry for that as well.

As for my sibling, Grace, she is my best friend, and anything I have written about her has been published with her approval.

Read next: Lena Dunham Goes on ‘Rage Spiral’ After Abuse Allegations

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Media

What John Grisham Got Right About Child Pornography

2014 Bookexpo America - Day 3
Taylor Hill—Getty Images Author John Grisham attends the 2014 Bookexpo America at The Jacob K. Javits Convention Center on May 31, 2014 in New York City.

Jacob Sullum is a senior editor at Reason magazine and a syndicated columnist.

There is clearly something wrong with a justice system in which people who look at images of child rape can be punished more severely than people who rape children

Last week John Grisham, the best-selling author of legal thrillers, triggered a storm of online criticism by arguing in an interview with the Telegraph that criminal penalties for possessing child pornography are unreasonably harsh. Grisham, who has since apologized, spoke rather loosely, overstating the extent to which honest mistakes account for child-porn convictions and the extent to which those convictions expand the prison population.

But he was right on two important points: People who download child pornography are not necessarily child molesters, and whatever harm they cause by looking at forbidden pictures does not justify the penalties they often receive.

Under federal law, receiving child pornography, which could mean downloading a single image, triggers a mandatory minimum sentence of five years—the same as the penalty for distributing it. Merely looking at a picture can qualify someone for the same charge, assuming he does so deliberately and is aware that web browsers automatically make copies of visited sites. In practice, since the Internet nowadays is almost always the source of child pornography, this means that viewing and possession can be treated the same as trafficking.

The maximum penalty for receiving or distributing child porn is 20 years, and federal sentencing guidelines recommend stiff enhancements based on very common factors, such as using a computer, possessing more than 600 images (with each video clip counted as 75 images) and exchanging photos for something of value, including other photos. In a 2009 analysis, federal public defender Troy Stabenow showed that a defendant with no prior criminal record and no history of abusing children would qualify for a sentence of 15 to 20 years based on a small collection of child pornography and one photo swap, while a 50-year-old man who encountered a 13-year-old girl online and lured her into a sexual relationship would get no more than four years.

Nine out of 10 federal child-porn prosecutions involve “nonproduction offenses”: downloading or passing along images of sexual abuse as opposed to perpetrating or recording it. As a result of congressional edicts, the average sentence in such cases rose from 54 months in 2004 to 95 months in 2010, according to a 2012 report from the U.S. Sentencing Commission (USSC). The penalties have become so severe, the commission noted, that judges frequently find ways to dodge them, resulting in wildly inconsistent sentences for people guilty of essentially the same conduct. In a 2010 survey, 71% of federal judges said mandatory minimums for receiving child pornography are too long.

State sentences can be even harsher. Dissenting from a 2006 decision in which the Arizona Supreme Court upheld a 200-year sentence for a former high school teacher caught with child pornography, Vice Chief Justice Rebecca Berch noted that the penalties for such offenses were more severe than the penalties for rape, second-degree murder and sexual assault of a child younger than 12.

These draconian sentences seem to be driven largely by the assumption that people who look at child pornography are all undiscovered or would-be child molesters. But that is not true.

The sentencing commission found, based on criminal records and additional information in presentencing reports, that 1 in 3 federal defendants convicted of nonproduction offenses in the previous decade had known histories of “criminal sexually dangerous behavior” (including prior child-pornography offenses). Tracking 610 defendants sentenced in fiscal years 1999 and 2000 for 8.5 years after they were released, the USSC found that 7% were arrested for a new sexual offense.

Even allowing for the fact that many cases of sexual abuse go unreported (as indicated by victim surveys), it seems clear that some consumers of child pornography never abuse children. “There does exist a distinct group of offenders who are Internet-only and do not present a significant risk for hands-on sex offending,” says Karl Hanson, a senior research officer at Public Safety Canada who has co-authored several recidivism studies.

Another argument for sending people who look at child pornography to prison, emphasized by the Supreme Court in its 1990 decision upholding criminal penalties for mere possession, is that consumers create a demand that encourages production. Yet any given consumer’s contribution to that demand is likely insignificant, and this argument carries much less weight now that people typically obtain child pornography online for free.

Defenders of harsh penalties for looking at child pornography also argue that viewing such images imposes extra suffering on victims of sexual abuse, who must live with the knowledge that strangers around the world can see evidence of the horrifying crimes committed against them. But again, any single defendant’s contribution to that suffering is apt to be very small.

Tellingly, people who possess “sexually obscene images of children,” such as “a drawing, cartoon, sculpture, or painting”—production of which need not entail abuse of any actual children—face the same heavy penalties under federal law as people caught with actual child pornography. That provision, like the reaction to Grisham’s comments, suggests these policies are driven by outrage and disgust rather than reason. There is clearly something wrong with a justice system in which people who look at images of child rape can be punished more severely than people who rape children.

Jacob Sullum is a senior editor at Reason magazine and a syndicated columnist.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME sexual abuse

We Need to Make It Easier for Pedophiles To Seek Help

Recently released audio purports to reveal the actor Stephen Collins admitting to molesting children.
Jordin Althaus—ABC/Getty Images Recently released audio purports to reveal the actor Stephen Collins admitting to molesting children.

All too often, our attention, resources and shock are focused on what happens after a crime is committed—we need to be asking how we can prevent child sex abuse

I don’t know Stephen Collins. Or his wife. Or their therapist.

All three are embroiled in a child sexual abuse investigation that has likely taken on added significance given the release of an audiotape in which Mr. Collins appears to admit to illegal sexual behavior against three girls. The revelation was shocking, and it leads to a familiar set of questions.

To me, one stands out: How could this have been prevented?

As a public, we’re always shocked to learn that an apparently upstanding citizen has molested children. The news flies in the face of our collective perception that sex offenders are monsters. But there are two problems with this perception.

It blinds us to warning signs when a potential offender is someone we know, love or respect—someone who is patently not a monster: The teenage boy who prefers the company of little kids to peers. The step-father who insists on putting the girls to bed by himself. The pediatrician who asks parents to “wait outside.”

And the idea that all sex offenders are monsters, and monsters are unpredictable, draws resources and political attention away from effective prevention efforts. We spend far more to address sex crimes after they happen.

In a case in which I served as an expert witness, “Tommy,” age 12, was convicted of sexually abusing his younger cousin. He spent five years in a juvenile prison—about $50,000 per year, to the cost of taxpayers—and another five years in a sex offender civil commitment program—another $63,000 a year. Never mind the court costs. By the time Tommy was released, his home state had “invested” over half a million dollars in him. By comparison, the priciest violence prevention programs rarely cost more than $10,000 per family.

Yet we don’t have prevention programs that target adolescents at risk of sexually abusing children, even though they account for more than 50% of cases. All the emphasis is on after-the-fact policies. We must treat victims. We must detect and stop offenders. But if we really want to reduce harm, we need a stronger culture of avoiding the problem to begin with.

In my 25 years of research on sex-offender assessment, treatment and policy, I’ve met hundreds of offenders and reviewed the records of thousands of boys and men charged with sex crimes. But until last year, I’d never spoken with a non-offending pedophile. And until I did, I really did not recognize their existence. They were largely invisible, because the stigma and risk of coming forward to ask for help was simply too great.

Everyone loses when we ignore this group of non-offenders. I’ve spoken to young men who were horrified to realize they were attracted to younger children in adolescence, and that they were not growing out of their attraction. They described appalling childhoods, living in self-imposed isolation for fear of being discovered and labeled a pedophile. Several expressed self-loathing. Many considered suicide. As adolescents, they wanted help controlling their sexual impulses, but had nowhere to turn for help.

In Germany, where therapy is confidential (and where recording conversations without peoples’ knowledge or consent is illegal), thousands have reached out to the Prevention Project Dunkelfeld, which specifically targets men and adolescent boys—both ones who have acted on their impulses and ones who haven’t—attracted to children.

In the U.S., the stigma of pedophilia and the fear of criminal consequences is so great that non-offending pedophiles rarely seek help. Those who do may be turned away by professionals who are untrained or unwilling to help. These adults and adolescents are left to struggle on their own. Many – too many – do not succeed.

The best prevention programs focus on the individuals at highest risk of offending. But to get those individuals into an intervention, we must destigmatize the act of asking for help. The problem behavior must remain stigmatized, of course. But the act of asking for help should be met with encouragement and effective professional interventions.

When we hear about the next supposedly upstanding citizen offending against children, we’ll still ask how it happened. But it’s so much more effective to ask how we could have stopped it from happening in the first place. We will have that answer only when we insist on reasonable resources to develop a culture of prevention.

 

Elizabeth J. Letourneau is Director of the Moore Center for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse and Associate Professor, Department of Mental Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME sexual abuse

Childhood Sexual Abuse Raises Heart Disease Risk In Adulthood

Researchers link early sexual abuse to greater risk of developing blocked heart arteries

Sexual and physical abuse during childhood can have long term effects on both mental and physical health, and previous studies have linked childhood sexual abuse to a greater risk of heart attack and other heart events—but it has been unclear exactly why. New research published Thursday in the journal Stroke adds to the case, showing thatwhether or not women had other risk factors for heart problems, a history of childhood sexual abuse remained a strong potential contributor to their atherosclerosis.

“What was a surprise was that when we controlled for [heart disease] risk factors, such as smoking and obesity, the association didn’t go away. We just couldn’t get rid of the association,” says Rebecca Thurston, director of the Womens’ Biobehavioral Health Laboratory at the University of Pittsburgh, who led the research with a team of colleagues.

MORE: Viewpoint: Why a Mandatory Child Abuse Reporting Law Could Backfire

More than 1,000 middle-aged women of various ethnic backgrounds from across the U.S. had yearly clinical exams beginning in 1996 for 12 years. At the end of the study, they also answered questions about sexual and physical abuse and had an ultrasound of their carotid arteries. About a quarter of the women reported being sexually abused as a child, and a similar percentage reported the experience as an adult.

When Thurston compared the women’s answers to their ultrasound, she found that those who reported childhood sexual abuse showed higher rates of plaque buildup in their arteries. They also had hearts and vessels that looked about two to three years older than those of women who hadn’t been abused.

MORE: Psychological Abuse: More Common, as Harmful as Other Child Maltreatment

Thurston’s findings suggest that whether or not the women had other risk factors for heart problems, their history of childhood sexual abuse remained a strong potential contributor to their atherosclerosis.

Thurston plans to continue the work by studying women who have had heart events – in this study, only women without heart disease were included – to see if the correlation still holds. She also wants to better understand how the early abuse affects women in later life. There is some evidence that traumatic experiences may change the stress response system in lasting, and possibly permanent ways.

While none of the women had signs of heart disease at the start of the study, Thurston says the results hint that physicians should be considering childhood experience, particularly traumatic ones, as part of comprehensive heart care for women. If the results are validated, then they might lead to ways of intervening with stress reduction or other psychological techniques to hopefully slow down the hardening of the arteries and lower their risk of heart disease.

TIME United Kingdom

UK Police Arrest 660 Suspected Pedophiles

Arrests follow a string of pedophilia scandals in the country

UK police have arrested 660 alleged pedophiles following a six-month investigation. The suspects include doctors, teachers, scout leaders, care workers and former police officers.

The UK’s National Crime Agency said Wednesday that the operation occurred across the UK and involved 45 separate police forces. The agency estimated that over 400 children have been protected as a result.

The operation, which was kept secret until the arrests were made, involved targeting those accessing pedophilic images online. A total of 39 of those arrested were registered sex offenders though the vast majority was unknown to the police. Those who have been charged are accused of a range of crimes, from possessing indecent images of children to serious sexual abuse.

“This is the first time the UK has had the capability to coordinate a single targeted operation of this nature. Over the past six months we have seen unprecedented levels of cooperation to deliver this result,” said the agency’s deputy director general, Phil Gormley.

This spate of arrests follows a string of pedophilia scandals that have dogged the UK. Last week, allegations were made that politicians in the 1980s repeatedly abused vulnerable children.

This news was given greater credence amidst the UK’s ongoing police inquiry, Operation Yewtree, into the abuse of children by high-profile celebrities. Many of the alleged assaults happened decades ago.

TIME

X-Men Director Teases Sneak Peek of X-Men: Apocalypse

James McAvoy portrays Charles Xavier in a scene from "X-Men: First Class." The “X-Men” franchise will get another boost in 2016 with the release of “X-Men: Apocalypse.”
Murray Close—AP James McAvoy portrays Charles Xavier in a scene from "X-Men: First Class." The “X-Men” franchise will get another boost in 2016 with the release of “X-Men: Apocalypse.”

The director of 'X-Men: Days of Future Past' has posted an Instagram photo of the beginning of the next 'X-Men' film

Get excited, Marvel fans: The director of X-Men: Days of Future Past posted a photo of the treatment for X-Men: Apocalypse, the next film in the franchise.

Director Bryan Singer created a new Instagram account Tuesday to which he immediately posted the image. Singer’s picture shows part of the first page of the treatment for X-Men: Apocalypse. The treatment, which can be thought of as a detailed synopsis, seems to continue where the post-credits scene of X-Men: Days of Future Past left off.

The film opens in Ancient Egypt. We’re immediately confronted with the four horsemen — Pestilence, War, Death and Famine — who are the servants of Apocalypse, the film’s main villain.

The photo has done more than set fans’ pulses racing. The image, and a photo Singer tweeted last week of him and the film’s co-writers, indicate that the director will be working on the film, something which some observers doubted after allegations of sexual abuse emerged against the director in April and May.

Your browser is out of date. Please update your browser at http://update.microsoft.com