If a small group of psychiatrists and other mental health professionals have their way at a conference this week, pedophiles themselves could play a role in removing pedophilia from the American Psychiatric Association’s bible of mental illnesses — the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), set to undergo a significant revision by 2013. Critics warn that their success could lead to the decriminalization of pedophilia.
The August 17 Baltimore conference is sponsored by B4U-ACT, a group of pro-pedophile mental health professionals and sympathetic activists. According to the conference brochure, the event will examine “ways in which minor-attracted persons [pedophiles] can be involved in the DSM 5 revision process” and how the popular perceptions of pedophiles can be reframed to encourage tolerance.
Researchers from Harvard University, the Johns Hopkins University, the University of Louisville, and the University of Illinois will be among the panelists at the conference.
B4U-ACT has been active attacking the APA’s definition of pedophilia in the run up to the conference, denouncing its description of “minor-attracted persons” as “inaccurate” and “misleading” because the current DSM links pedophilia with criminality.
“It is based on data from prison studies, which completely ignore the existence of those who are law-abiding,” said Howard Kline, science director of B4U-ACT, in a July 25, 2011 press release. “The proposed new diagnostic criteria specify ages and frequencies with no scientific basis whatsoever.”
The press release announced a letter the group sent to the APA criticizing its approach, and inviting its leaders to participate in the August 17 conference. “The DSM should meet a higher standard than that,” Kline continued. “We can help them, because we are the people they are writing about.”
APA spokeswoman Erin Connors told The Daily Caller in an emailed statement that her organization was not participating in the conference and would not comment on its aims.
Child advocate Dr. Judith Reisman, a visiting professor at Liberty University’s School of Law, said the conference is part of a strategy to condition people into accepting pedophiles.
“The first thing they do is to get the public to divest from thinking of what the offender does criminally, to thinking of the offender’s emotional state, to think of him as thinking of his emotional state, [and] to empathize and sympathize,” Reisman said. “You don’t change the nation in one fell swoop; you have to change it by conditioning. The aim is to get them [pedophiles] out of prison.”
According to Reisman, empirical data show that pedophiles typically molest many children before finally being caught.
“The data on paroled pedophiles confirms these predators repeat their crimes against children and are known to have escalated them even to murder,” Reisman said.
Several speakers at the August 17 conference, including B4U-ACT director of operations Dr. Richard Kramer and conference keynote speaker Dr. Fred Berlin, of the Johns Hopkins University, have actively opposed sex offender notification laws.
“What purpose does calling someone a ‘pervert’ or ‘predator’ serve anyway, other than to express contempt and hatred?” Kramer wrote in a March 14, 2009 blog entry on the website ReformSexOffenderLaws.org. “How is this productive? It certainly doesn’t protect children. I would urge all SO [sex offender] activists to listen to their own message: Stop buying into and promoting false stereotypes. Stop demonizing a whole class of people, and start learning the facts.”
Berlin has similarly compared society’s reaction to pedophilia to that of homosexuality prior to the landmark 2003 Lawrence v. Texas decision that decriminalized sodomy.
B4U-ACT’s own website puts Berlin’s views front and center. “Just as has been the case historically with homosexuality,” he writes, “society is currently addressing the matter of pedophilia with a balance that is far more heavily weighted on the side of criminal justice solutions than on the side of mental health solutions.”
Berlin’s opposition to, and even noncompliance with, Maryland’s sex offender notification law drew scrutiny from former Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran in the early 1990s.
In 1990 The Baltimore Sun reported that Berlin refused to report pedophiles under his care who were actively molesting children.
In an emailed statement to TheDC, Berlin distanced himself Monday afternoon from other B4U-ACT conference participants’ stated aims, saying that he opposes removing pedophilia from the DSM and that he hopes to stop pedophiles before they act.
Berlin also disputed Reisman’s contention that he wants to decriminalize pedophilia, noting that “society’s interests can best be served by supporting both criminal justice interventions and public health initiatives.”
Reisman remains unconvinced. “His empathy was with the pedophile and the pederast, not with the child victim,” she told TheDC. “He refused to report the criminal to law enforcement because he said they were in treatment.
“Taxpayers pay for treatment and they are molesting kids. They go out to Berlin, and he gets paid by us [the taxpayers] for therapy.”
Reisman also claims that mental health practitioners like Berlin want to place pedophilia on a par with neuroses or clinical depression, and counsel pedophiles rather than incarcerate them.
“The scientific defense of pedophiles follows on the natural outgrowth of … [Alfred Kinsey’s] 1948 book ‘Sexual Behavior of the Human Male’ where he describes the rapes of infants and children, as would any pedophile, as ‘orgasmic,’” Reisman said.
Reisman warns that declassifying pedophilia as a mental illness could result in the repeal of child-protection statutes because the law always follows the input of psychiatry. She points to psychiatry’s normalization of sadomasochism, exhibitionism, and homosexuality as precedents.
“[I]t has been carried from the university to the law, going back to Kinsey,” Reisman said.
And other conference panelists such as Jacob Breslow, a graduate student in gender research at the London School of Economics, plan to discuss how political activists can exploit removing pedophilia from the next edition of the DSM for their own ends.
“Allowing for a form of non-diagnosable minor attraction is exciting, as it creates a sexual or political identity by which activists, scholars and clinicians can better understand Minor Attracted Persons,” Breslow writes in a summary of his upcoming August 17 presentation.
“This understanding may displace the stigma, fear and objection that is naturalized as being attached to Minor Attracted Persons and may alter the terms by which non-normative sexualities are known.