Can pedophiles be treated?

1. Priests and sex abuse

2. Treating pedophiles

3. Does it work?

4. Is he safe?


Sex offenders may find young children over the Internet. U.S. National Commission on Libraries and Information Science.








FBI most wanted fugitive Robert Lee Lyons, Jr. was indicted for sexual assault, lewdness with a child, and using a minor to make porn. FBI.


Making sense of it all
Treatment results, whether good or bad, help answer the most pressing question about pedophiles -- how do we know they can safely be released? "It's a probabilistic, professional judgment," says Plaud, that must reflect state laws, including the new civil commitment statutes.

Children using a computer.

The risk, he says, will never be zero. "It's a balancing between what we know and can measure, in terms of important variables, and civil liberties."

Making these calls is tough, and mistakes will happen. But until laws change, Plaud says psychologists will remain on the hot seat. "If society decided that anybody who committed a sex crime should go to prison for life ... then psychologists would not have to make the decision."

Too pessimistic for our own good?

Thin white male with blond hair.The widespread public pessimism about treatment, Plaud says, reflects the fact that "the exception is what tends to prove the rule... Most people labeled as sex offenders are not predatory, violent persons who prey on children. Most sex crimes are done by people known to the victim, a family member or a friend, it's usually not violent although it does involve touching, fondling."

Having said that, Plaud agrees there are "psychopathic, pedophilic monsters. If they recidivate, and hurt or kill a child.... that's what the public pays attention to. They need to pay attention to that, but that's not what we're talking about for most part.... There is successful treatment."

While the public may think that treatment is hopeless, the truth is more complex. "You hear overzealous people claim that everybody can be treated," says Berlin, "and others say no-one can be treated. There's not one answer. ...Anybody who says everybody can be helped, or no one can be helped, is just wrong."

Read more in our bibliography.



  back more
  The Why Files  

There are 1 2 3 4 pages in this feature.
Bibliography | Credits | Feedback | Search

©2002, University of Wisconsin, Board of Regents.