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Editorial: Scapegoating gays because of kiddyfiddling priests

Tue 27 Sep 2005 In: Features

There comes a point when writing about some gay issues that one's journalism becomes very environmentally friendly. When it comes to the issue of “gays are paedophiles”, GayNZ.com probably knows more about recycling than the Green Party! Last year, we published an extensive rebuttal by the New Zealand Psychological Society – written by no less than five experts in the field – which once again reiterated that there is no link between homosexuality and paedophilia. A well-known scientific fact for years, it has not stopped religious types from dragging this boogeyman out at every opportunitiy, usually to distract attention when kiddy-fiddlers have been found within their own ranks. Enter the Catholic Church. One of the most concerning aspects of their gay priest witch hunt is the media reportage of it – the review is supposedly taking place as the Church's response to the paedophile priest scandal. Very little of the reportage on this has questioned the Church's reasoning, and if it has, it's usually by way of protestation from a gay person shoved halfway down the article. In its desire to simply report both sides and move on without digging deeper, the media has unwittingly swallowed a mouthful of Catholic propaganda, and happily disseminated it. Implicit in the media coverage of this issue is the assumption that witch-hunting gay priests is an appropriate response to the paedophile priest scandal. But the Church's logic is flawed, as can be seen below... Psychologists rubbish gays/paedophilia claim 23SEP04 GayNZ.com; New Zealand Psychological Society New Zealand Psychological Society responds to: “The link between homosexuality and child sex abuse”, a 17 September 2004 press release from the Society For Promotion Of Community Standards Inc, the Christian-based lobby organisation previously headed by the late Patricia Bartlett. In its press release the SPCS reprinted claims made by Australian fundamentalist group Festival of Light that stated homosexuals had a “well-documented” greater risk of being paedophiles, claims which psychological authorities say are completely at odds with the body of genuine scientific literature. The Psychological Society responds: The question of homosexuality as an increased risk in factors leading to child sexual abuse has long been disputed. Members of minority groups have often been stereotyped as representing a sexual threat to society's most vulnerable members, leading to a strengthening of prejudice and a rationalisation for a range of societal responses from isolation and alienation of the minority group to the extreme of execution of “hate crimes” upon the minority group members.The media release cites research and makes inferences of poor scientific methodology. It utilises descriptive information on apparent relations between assumed sexual orientation and victim gender to infer a causal relationship. This is inappropriate unless the large number of known risk factors for such offenders are controlled statistically. It erroneously conveys a simple relationship between variables that is not supported by recognised research. This causal relationship is not found in any of the accepted meta-analysis of risk factors for sexual recidivism (1), (2). As an example, the use of aggregate data for one purpose (“40% of sexual abuse victims being boys”) then juxtaposition of that data to another situation (“therefore they have been abused by homosexuals”) is misleading in an apparent effort to support a socio-theological (homophobic) bias. While perhaps seeming logical to a lay-person person lacking in statistical and research knowledge, many of the inferences taken are not logically justifiable. Rather than systematically refute the statements made in the article, a more positive response would be to refer to the body of genuinely scientific psychological literature, which finds that there is no methodologically sound research supporting a homosexual orientation to child abuse. Confusion in terminology used in the area of child sex-abuse can be a cause of mis-interpretation. Paedophilia usually refers to an adult psychosexual d consent. The psychological literature in the field indicates that not all who abuse children are paedophiles, and there are many pathways to the incidence of child sex abuse, for example some offenders have established age-appropriate relationships but become sexually involved with children under unusual circumstances of extreme stress. Many who abuse children are in heterosexual relationships, sometimes established to enable access to the children. Some will abuse both boys and girls, others will enact a preference for gender of the victim. The sexual abuse of male children by adult men is often referred to as "homosexual molestation." The adjective "homosexual" (or "heterosexual" when an adult male abuses a female child) refers to the victim's gender in relation to that of the perpetrator. However it is sometimes mistakenly interpreted as referring to the perpetrator's sexual orientation. The empirical research indicates there is no significant relationship between a homosexual lifestyle and child molestation. It does not show that gay or bisexual men are any more likely than heterosexual men to molest children. This is not to argue that homosexual and bisexual men never molest children, however there is not the causal link implied in the media release. There appears to be practically no reportage of sexual molestation of girls by lesbian adults. The study to which this response refers is un-interpretable. The proportion of lesbians having been sexually abused by women cannot be directly compared with non-lesbians, because the overall proportion of lesbians being sexually abused as children by males is unknown. Aotearoa New Zealand has a leading international reputation in the evidence-based treatment of child sex offenders with Corrections-funded Te Piriti and Kia Marama Treatment Centres, in Auckland and Christchurch respectively. In terms of nationally-based research, a representative sample of two hundred and one men who went through the Te Piriti specialist sex offender treatment programme over a four year period, only 14% self-reported a preference for male child victims. Fifty percent of this sample reported being previously sexually abused with 90% of this abuse from family members (including extended family), 9 percent from known non-family and only 1% from strangers (3). No information on the adult sexual orientation of the reported abuser was identified. However, it was noted that most studies including that of the researcher, found a low proportion had an exclusive preference for male child victims. The New Zealand Psychological Society has as one of its highest principles the respect of cultural and individual diversity, while promoting a zero tolerance for abuse of any kind, particularly the sexual abuse of children, of which all evidence indicates there are severe detrimental psychological consequences. - Keriata Paterson President, New Zealand Psychological Society Expert Advisors and Consultants contributing to this response:Dr Devon Polaschek, Senior Lecturer in Criminal Justice Psychology, Victoria University; Ms Mei Wah Williams, Clinical Psychologist and Lecturer in Clinical Psychology (Criminal Justice), Massey University; Professor Tony Ward, School of Psychology, Victoria University (previously Principal Psychologist of Kia Marama Sex Offenders Treatment Unit); Dr Nick Wilson, Senior Advisor Research, Corrections Psychological Services; Professor Ngahuia Te Awekotuku, Senior Research Advisor, Waikato University. References1) Hanson, R. K.,   

Credit: Chris Banks

First published: Tuesday, 27th September 2005 - 12:00pm

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