Understanding child sexual abuse through the lens of ‘Pedophilia’

In recent times, there is an increasing number of news and stories about pedophilic acts, child sexual abuse by an adult; such a perpetrator is labelled as a ‘pedophile’. To understand where such an act originates from, the meaning of pedophilia and related aspects are discussed below. 

First, let’s look at the derivation of the word ‘pedophilia’  to understand its meaning; i.e. the Greek words “paidos” means child and “philia” means love. Second, pedophilia is widely known as pedophilic disorder clinically. The pedophilic disorder is marked by recurring, intense sexually arousing fantasies, sexual urges, or behaviours involving sexual activity with children (usually 13 years old or younger) for a period of at least 6 months. The individual is at least 16 years or older and at least 5 years older than the child. It causes marked distress or interpersonal difficulty in the person experiencing these sexual urges or acting on them. 

child sexual abuse through the lens of ‘Pedophilia’

A pedophilic act can occur anywhere, in schools, parks, at home, and the perpetrators may be a stranger or somebody the victim knows such as relatives or neighbors. A pedophile has sexual urges directed at young children repeatedly; they also have sexual dreams and fantasies about them, which they may or may not act on. Pedophiles exhibiting a pedophilic act includes but is not limited to the following behavioral expressions:

  • Flashing – exposing their genitals to a child 
  • Physical contact with the child
  • masturbating in front of the child 
  • undressing the child 
  • Possessing and trading child pornography or direct observation

According to various research studies, the prevalence of pedophilia is higher in the male population. Studies found associations between pedophilia and lower IQs, poorer scores on memory tests, greater rates of non-right-handedness, greater rates of school grade failure over and above the IQ differences, lesser physical height, a greater probability of having suffered childhood head injuries.

It is clinically recommended to seek therapy and counseling for a pedophile or a pedophilic act. Cognitive-behavioral treatments are used to reduce pedophilic sex drive and strengthen inhibition of pedophilic behavior. Antiandrogen drugs are used to decrease testosterone concentration in patients.