The "CSA pandemic" - expert compares CSA and pedophilia to COVID

Recently, Prof. Dr. Klaus Beier, head of the German Prevention Project Dunkelfeld providing nationwide anonymous therapy to pedophiles, and some of his colleagues published an article for the Australian Psychology Society, which I found quite remarkable (and not in a good way):

https://psychology.org.au/for-members/publications/inpsych/2021/august-special-issue-3/child-sexual-abuse-as-a-global-challenge

In it, Beier compares CSA and CSAM to the global COVID pandemic and argues basically that we should treat it with the same urgency:

The term [pandemic] describes a globally widespread disease and is generally understood to refer to infectious diseases. The public’s familiarity with the term in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic provides an opportunity to reconceptualise child sexual abuse (CSA) and the use of child sexual abuse material (CSAM) in a similar manner. This too is a health issue so prevalent worldwide that it has, arguably, reached the level of a pandemic.

First of all, this appears to me to be extremely stigmatizing against victims of CSA. CSA is not an infectuous disease. Survivors of CSA are not in danger of “infecting” others with their “disease”, and implying this is just… horrible.

In too many cases survivors of CSA are stigmatized and excluded from society precisesly because people belive that they are somhow “broken” and might transmit their “disease” to others. This comparison supports this way of treating CSA survivors, because after all, if CSA is a global pandemic, then we should quarantine everyone affected, right?

Not to mention that there is no evidence supporting the notion of a global CSA pendemic exploding the same way we saw the explosion of COVID. While it is true that the number of CSAM cases have increased exponentially over the last decades, this is also due to technological developments, more ressources being put into prosecution and laws getting progressively stricter over the years. There is no evidence that CSA cases have increased on the same level; in fact, in some places they have even decreased significantly.

Later, he even goes on to compare pedophiles directly to a “virus”:

It has long been accepted that we will have to learn to ‘live with the virus’. This also applies to paedophilia as sexual responsiveness to the child’s body pattern, which is classified as a disorder in the World Health Organization’s diagnostic manual (ICD-11: ‘paedophilic disorder’)

Not only is this plain wrong (“pedophilic disorder” as defined in the ICD-11 is not the same as “pedophilia”), but it also invokes rhetorics used in the Third Reich, where it was quite common to compare Jews and other “undesirables” to viruses and infectuous diseases.

Despite only a minority of child sexual abusers and CSAM consumers being pedophiles, he basically blames only pedophiles for the damages caused by CSA (which he estimates to be “between €400,000 and €1.2 million per person affected” based on some study):

not only a significant proportion of sexual abuse acts can be attributed [to pedophilia], but also a substantial proportion of the use of abuse images on the internet

That there are many non-offending pedophiles who (even without his prevention therapy) never abuse a child is completely unmentioned by him.

The scene he paints is that of pedophiles (or “potential abusers”) being like viruses, transmitting infectuous diseases, causing immense damages to society at large, and the only cure being “vaccinations” in the form of the preventive therapy that he offers. It is honestly shocking to me, that this ideology seems to form the basis of the founder of the world’s largest therapy program for pedophiles.

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Yeah… I have a hard time taking anything from Australians seriously.

In any case, Project Dunkelfeld is very much a disappointment with this type of rhetoric. It’s not right to compare it to a damn ‘pandemic’ and so much is so wrong.

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I have to wonder where the notion that sexual orientations are contagious or transmissible came from. Especially given that there is not only a complete absence of research demonstrating that, but a berth of research demonstrating the exact opposite.

This framing of pedophilic attraction as some universal temptation, which anyone could fall to given the right circumstances honestly smells of pure projection to me.

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To be fair, not all pandemic-level viruses transmit directly person-to-person, and from my understanding of the article, it’s referring to CSA and CSAM as the “virus,” and the perpetrators/distributors/users as the “hosts.” I think a better way to describe this metaphor is to compare it to the Black Plague: CSA victims are like the victims of that pandemic who could not infect others, while the illness is the trauma, the virus itself is CSA/CSAM, and the fleas and body lice that transmit the virus as the perpetrators/distributors/users.

It’s only pedophiles who hurt kids directly or engage with CSAM who make up roughly half of the “carriers,” but they are really the only ones we can focus prevention methods directly on. That is a significant amount, any impact to which would be a huge help. The article goes on to talk about how therapy and such is what they’re suggesting to put effort into, and if anything, only really points fingers at the lack of sufficient and effective measures being taken by the world’s governments at large to prevent CSA and the spread of CSAM.

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Regarding pedophiles themselves, cancer I feel would be a much more apt comparison as it’s non transmissible and can worsen/metastasize without careful treatment leading to the metaphorical “symptom” which is CSA.

The comparison between CSA/CSAM and the black plague is pretty interesting, but an addendum I would add to that would be the role of the rodents, who exist as the source of the virus, and it’s endemic carriers. It was in fact rodent to flea to human, and not human to flea to human, which described the majority of human cases.

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Let’s not compare sexual orientations to diseases at all shall we?

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I feel it would be pretty uncouth under normal circumstances and I certainly wouldn’t do it, but my point was mainly that even if you were intent on using the “disease” metaphor, the COVID comparison is still one the least coherent ones available. I apologize if that wasn’t more clear in my original post.

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Hopefully you mean: “It’s only paedophiles who may potentially hurt kids or who may potentially engage with CSAM…” As you can’t prevent abusers from doing something they’ve already done.

I get that you presumably mean this coupled with preventing someone from continuing with abuse or CSAM engagement, but as Prostasia’s main aim is primary prevention it seems a bit defeatist to imply that there maybe paedophiles that are somehow unable to function without actually carrying out abuse in one way or another.

I don’t mean to deride your contribution, just hopefully you don’t do what alot of media and other troublemakers do and conflate ‘child abuse’ with ‘paedophilia’. (…or ‘pedophilia’ if you insist.)

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I was referring to the statistic in the article here:

As in, while half of such crimes already committed were not done by actual pedophiles, I’m not sure how anyone could predict who would sexually abuse a child before they’ve done it, as those tend to be crimes of opportunity. Whereas with pedophiles, considering they only make up half of this statistic, making proper therapy and …should I call it quality of life improvements? such as less stigma, healthy communities, and outlets like Prostasia is looking into, then that 40 to 50% could decrease dramatically, which is why the article focuses on the pedophile side of the statistic, rather than making “Third Reich” statements comparing the pedophilic population as a whole to the pandemic metaphor. I’m still new to this whole subject so maybe I’m missing subtext, but the article didn’t come off nearly as damning to me as it did to Op.

Tbh I am curious about the percentage of pedophiles (who are exclusively attracted to minors in particular) compared to the non-pedophilic population, as well as compared to the percentage of pedophiles who offend. Considering they do only make up half of all perpetrators, I’m inclined to believe that there really are considerably more who haven’t hurt anyone even without help. I honestly find that quite encouraging.

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I totally agree.

However, I’ve never been a big fan of statistics; as far as I see it, things can either be or not be, they either could have the potential to happen or they couldn’t and although attention is best directed to where there is greater empirical evidence of an issue that needs it, as far as paedophilia goes, the stigma and hostility it evokes means (as you implied) that there is very little incentive for people to openly admit an attraction to minors.

I, myself, never would, but that’s as much because of a personal belief that the term ‘paedophilia’ is misused or misunderstood by virtually everyone (especially dsm-5 and psychiatry in general) as well as a desire not to allow myself the excuse that I have a condition that I have limited (if any) control over. I also hate the idea of anything being “set in stone” or being so sacrilegious that it is beyond reasonable debate. However, I don’t expect or require any sympathy of these sentiments and opinions either.

In addition, it isn’t unreasonable (human beings being as they are) that there are some who have a deep intrinsic attraction to children, yet are in such overwhelming denial that they openly eviscerate anyone who makes the slightest appearance of not ruthlessly condemning MAPs instinctively. So in this area I’m likely to interpret statistics even less scrupulously than I would normally, but if it helps identify which aspects to focus on, then so be it.

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In the beginning he compares CSA(M) with the pandemic, and later says that pedophilia is “the virus”. So not only is the comparison bad, but it is also kind of inconsistent – unless he subconsciously thinks “pedophilia = CSA”.

But apart from quibbling over details: can we not agree that it is quite awful to compare a sexual preference – something unchosen and a significant part of a person’s identity – to a virus?

Maybe the inhumane nature becomes more clear if we compare it to a similar, historical comparison:

There is a lot to be said about the shaky scientific basis of the article, as many statements in it are unproven or even completely wrong. The figure of “40-50%” is an interesting example.

If you read the work of Seto, you will find that in his first analysis he indeed found pedophilia in around 40% of abusers. However, using the same diagnostic criteria he also found around 15% pedophiles in a random control group, which is way too many considering that most studies assume around 0.1% - 5% of pedophiles in the general public. When his criteria find much more pedophiles in the control group than what we would expect, it is reasonable to assume that he also found way more “pedophiles” among abusers then there actually are.

So he redid his analysis, and used criteria that classified only 10% of the control group as pedophiles (which is still quite high, and probably also too much). Using these criteria, only around 20% of abusers were found to classify as pedophiles. Since then there have been many studies roughly confirming this number, some even finding that they could classify less then 10% of abuers as pedophiles.

So it is at least intellectually dishonest to use the highest number any study ever found, and then even rounding it up to “roughly half”. By then going on to basically put the full blame of CSA(M) on pedophiles and completely ignoring the majority of non-pedophilic abusers in his plan for prevention (which kind of implies that pedophiles are the only “real” danger), he very much contributes to the stigmatization of pedophiles.

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