University of California, Davis – Health System
If someone· downloads child· pornography onto their computer· , is that an indication· they’re a pedophile , or might become· one in the future· ?
That question· is gaining the attention· of forensic psychiatrists as never before , thanks to recent legislation making possession· of Internet child· pornography a federal crime· constituting an unlawful· transmission· of information across state· lines .
“A large· number· of cases are going to court· and attorneys are calling us , wanting to know· what is the reason· this person· has child· porn on their computer· , ” said Dr . Humberto Temporini , a forensic psychiatrist at UC Davis Health System . The answer· is often unclear — not least because Temporini and his colleagues are still in the process· of developing a standardized to evaluate· the risk· , or lack· of it , posed by someone· who collects kiddie porn on the Internet .
The stakes are high· . Dr . Charles L . Scott , associate professor of clinical psychiatry at UC Davis Health System , described the challenge· facing forensic psychiatrists this way: “How you assess· the possession· of Internet child· pornography without the risk· of offending , without the risk· that the person· will actually out and molest· a child· ? “
Such questions will addressed at a panel discussion· Sunday at the Marriott hotel· in downtown Chicago dubbed “Internet and Child Pornography: The Impact on Forensic Assessments . ” The panel , part· of a four-day conference· sponsored by the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law , will chaired by Temporini , an assistant· clinical professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences . Scott , chief· of the department’s Division of Psychiatry and the Law , is part· of the panel .
The AAPL conference· , an annual event· for forensic psychiatrists , seeks to cover· the major issues facing the profession· . Because Internet porn is still a relatively new phenomenon· , Scott said there is a dearth· of studies on its relationship· to sexually criminal· behavior· . As a result· , Scott will address· the issue· of Internet child· pornography by taking a look· backward .
According to Scott , federally commissioned studies , one in 1970 and the other in the 1980 s , failed to find· a strong· correlation between viewing erotica and acting out sexually . He said that the decriminalization of pictorial· pornography in several northern European countries in the 1960 s and 1970 s was not accompanied by an increase· in the frequency· of rape . Case studies of offenders — which Scott describes as potentially limited because they depend· on self-reporting — have· also not shown a clear link· between pornography and the commission· of sexual· crimes .
A study· of 11 pedophiles found that the majority· did not begin· viewing child· pornography “until after they had started their offending activity· against children , ” Scott said . And in a 1991 study· of 160 adolescent males charged or convicted of crimes , 70 percent reported that pornography played no role· in their illegal activity· .
Scott said the nature· of the pornographic material· is a factor· . Extreme porn depicting sadism , bestiality and the like may “part and parcel” with sexually criminal· behavior· . But he said it’s difficult to that any type· of pornography causes someone· to commit· a sexual· crime· .
“Now , does it foster· such behavior· or continue· it ? ” asked Scott . “That hasn’t really been studied . “
Both Scott and Temporini said one thing is clear: The Internet has made it easier for large· numbers of people· to view· child· pornography .
“The ease· of and sense of privacy· is greater , ” Scott said .
According to Temporini , people· caught with child· porn on their computers typically claim· that the material· was sent to them unsolicited .
“You can accept· that if it’s just one or images , ” Temporini said . “But if it’s 200 or they’ve created a special folder· for the images , then such excuses aren’t very believable . “
One thing that muddies the water· a , Temporini said , are so-called “vigilantes , ” people· who collect· child· porn through the Internet as a to flush out pedophiles . Temporini said forensic psychiatrists can determine· a person’s “pedophile interest” by subjecting them to a battery· of tests regarding their sexual· history· and other issues . But he said it remains difficult to predict· what someone· possessing Internet pornography might to a child· .
“The tests don’t tell· us much about that , ” Temporini said .