INSIDE THE MIND OF A PEDOPHILE
A Grand Jury in Pennsylvania fears that as many as a thousand children were sexually abused by priests. This horrifying accusation requires all Christians to understand the persistent nature of pedophilia. Because Jesus Christ is the great physician, it is often assumed that confession, prayer and forgiveness will change a pastor or priest so that he or she no longer has this desire for sexual relations with children. Since we know that Jesus can forgive all sin and may choose to miraculously heal a person from anything, the fact is that the risk of allowing a person with pedophilia access to children is too great. We, as a safe and healthy church, must take action whenever this is found. Like most sexual desires, pedophilia is persistent over the life of the person and no current treatment is effective in changing the person, however helpful such treatment might be in encouraging them to not act on their urges. In this professional article by Neuroanthropology we have a good presentation of the facts on which to have conversations.
In part the authors say:
Role of the Brain
There is significant evidence that indicate structural abnormalities in the brains of pedophiles (Schiffer, 2008). Abnormalities occur when the brain is developing and can be on-set through certain experiences, such as sexual abuse as a child. Abnormalities in the brains of pedophiles may result in compulsion, poor judgment, and repetitive thoughts.
These abnormalities in the brains of pedophiles are caused by early neurodevelopmental perturbations (Schiffer, 2008). The use of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRIs) and positron emission tomography scans (PET) has revealed that the abnormalities of pedophiles exhibit appear in the frontal and central regions of the brain. In particular, there is a decreased volume of gray brain matter in the central striatum. As a result, the nucleus accumbens, orbital frontal cortex, and the cerebellum are all affected (Schiffer, 2008)
These areas of the brain play an important role in addictive behavior. The accumbens is the central mediator of reward signaling and expectation. The striatum and orbito frontal cortex control this reward system. As a result, this contributes to the etiology of pedophilia because a reward deficiency complication disturbs the neurotransmission of dopamine involved in compulsive and addictive behaviors.
Due to the frontotemporal dysfunctions, pedophilia shares neural characteristics with psychiatric disorders that fall in the range of the obsessive-compulsive (OC) spectrum. These impulsive disorders include pathological gambling, kleptomania, and even Tourettes syndrome. While some debate this claim (Schiffer et al., 2007), there is substantial evidence for the existence of physiological and genetic overlaps. In particular, studies have shown that alterations in the frontostriatal circuitry are a major abnormality leading to obsessive-compulsive behavior. Pedophiles tend to act inappropriately and exhibit poor judgment because they lack the ability to control their impulses.
These structural alterations underlie the antisocial behaviors exhibited by someone with pedophilia. Pedophiles are burdened with repetitive thoughts and urges. Consequently, they seek to fulfill these desires through behavior that is socially unacceptable and at times, even illegal. Most pedophiles express shame and guilt after partaking in their immoral behavior because their neurological dysfunctions deal strictly with urges and not emotions (Schiffer et al., 2007).
Is There a Cure?
Pedophilia, like many types of disturbances or diseases, does not have a complete cure. The sexual urges associated with pedophilia may never permanently disappear, and a person’s sexual preference and orientation can be difficult to completely re-orient. At present, treatment primarily focuses on preventing further offenses rather than changing sexual orientation.
Yuli Grebchenko, MD, has done extensive research on pedophiles. He noted that pedophilia is a life-long disorder and stated that, “It needs lifelong treatment” (Lamberg, 2005). Recent studies have demonstrated that psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy can be combined to bring about the most effective treatment to someone suffering from pedophilia (Kersebaum, 2007).
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