BACKGROUND

Portrait of a child molester: he’s someone you know

DOROTHY SANGSTER June 2 1962
BACKGROUND

Portrait of a child molester: he’s someone you know

DOROTHY SANGSTER June 2 1962

Portrait of a child molester: he’s someone you know

BACKGROUND

When careful parents train their children never to accept candy, rides or friendly overtures from strangers, they may be overlooking a more serious source of danger. In most cases, it now appears, children are molested not by shadowy strangers but by people they have cause to trust.

Two thirds of a group of 55 pedophiles who were studied by the forensic clinic of the Toronto Psychiatric Hospital were not strangers to their young victims, but were well known to the children or their families. A significant number were relatives, and more than half of the offenses took place in the home of either the child or the “friend.” These facts were reported in May to the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association, held in Toronto, in a paper presented by Drs. J. W. Mohr, R. Edward Turner and Richard B. Ball.

Their findings are in line with those of Julian C. Davis, chief psychologist of the Florida State Mental Hospital, who also says that two out of three

child molesters are known to the children they attack. Of the offenses he studied in Miami, 38 percent involved neighborhood children and 20 percent were committed by relatives. “By far the most popular place for the offense was the residence of the offender or the home of the victim,” says Davis.

According to both the Toronto and Florida studies, the popular image of the sex offender as a timid, shy. impotent individual is also out of focus. Some older men answer this description, but most child molesters are young and healthy, and a large proportion are married, with young children of their own. Toronto psychiatrists have established that child molesters experience three peak periods of criminal impulse: in adolescence, in the middle and late thirties, and in the middle and late fifties. The American study found that most offenders were in the 25-44 age group. Their average intelligence was slightly below normal, and educational achievement was much below average.

The Toronto report said pedophiles came from all occupational groups, and added: “Their social interests are mainly accounted for by activities in youth work such as Sunday school and Boy Scouts.”

Among the current studies of the sex criminal, one psychiatrist—Dr. Seymour Halleck of the Wisconsin department of public welfare — speaks up for the young victims. Too often, Halleck declares in the American Medical Association Journal, children who should receive psychiatric care after a sex attack do not get it until years later, when the damage has been done. He makes two recommendations: that all children who have been molested should be brought to the family doctor, for referral to a psychiatrist if necessary; and that parents should report every case of molestation to the police. Many cases are kept secret by parents either because the offender is a relative or a friend, or out of mistaken solicitude for the child. DOROTHY SANGSTER

DOROTHY SANGSTER