Ger­man hos­pi­tal uses ther­apy to help ‘treat’ pe­dophiles

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH -

BER­LIN: A man looks with in­ter­est at the child sit­ting in front of him in the metro, as a voice asks off-screen: “Do you like chil­dren in ways that you shouldn’t?” “Help is avail­able,” adds the ad­ver­tise­ment broad­cast on Ger­man tele­vi­sion and over the in­ter­net, urg­ing peo­ple who feel sex­u­ally at­tracted to chil­dren to join a unique ther­apy pro­gram called “Don’t of­fend” (Kein Taeter wer­den).

Launched some 11 years ago, the largely pub­licly funded project by Ber­lin’s top univer­sity hos­pi­tal Charite calls on pe­dophiles to un­der­take a treat­ment that helps them con­trol their urges. More than 7,000 peo­ple have sought in­for­ma­tion on the pro­gram which is of­fered in 11 cen­ters across Ger­many. Of these, 659 peo­ple have un­der­taken the ther­apy, with 251 com­plet­ing the en­tire pro­gram. An­other 265 are cur­rently be­ing given treat­ment ei­ther in group or in­di­vid­ual ses­sions.

The Ger­man ini­tia­tive is unique be­cause it deals with po­ten­tial sex crim­i­nals, or those who have al­ready com­mit­ted abuses but have man­aged to es­cape jus­tice. Other pro­grams deal with con­victed pe­dophiles who have also been is­sued spe­cific or­ders to seek med­i­cal care.

Klaus Beier, who leads the pre­ven­tion net­work as well as Charite’s sex­ual medicine in­sti­tute, has no il­lu­sions about the pro­gram. “Pe­dophilia is not cur­able,” he said. “But it can be treated,” he added, stress­ing that “a pe­dophile can learn to con­trol his urges.” Treat­ing urge to pre­vent crime - The project is grounded on the prin­ci­ple that sex­ual at­trac­tion to chil­dren is a med­i­cal prob­lem, and as Beier said, “not a crime” un­til the urge is acted upon.

Sex­ual pref­er­ence dis­or­der

The World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion too clas­si­fies pe­dophilia as a “sex­ual pref­er­ence dis­or­der”. Over one or two years, dur­ing two-hour ses­sions every week, the pa­tient is taught to de­velop strate­gies to stop him­self from act­ing on his ten­den­cies or from con­sum­ing child pornog­ra­phy. The pro­gram also helps the pa­tient to ac­quire a level of em­pa­thy to­wards po­ten­tial vic­tims, which could go to­wards dis­suad­ing him from hurt­ing them.

The pa­tient can choose to re­main anony­mous through­out the treat­ment, even with his ther­a­pist, and at the end of the pro­gram, he can re­quest fol­low-ups. Med­i­cal help, such as chem­i­cal cas­tra­tion, is also of­fered on a vol­un­tary ba­sis. Sci­en­tists from around the world in­clud­ing coun­tries in North Amer­ica as well as Switzer­land and In­dia, have been watch­ing the project with in­ter­est. “In France, we are still at the start­ing point on cre­at­ing a pro­gram that is sim­i­lar to Ger­many’s,” said a psy­chi­a­trist at France’s health and med­i­cal re­search in­sti­tute Inserm, Serge Stoleru. He said the re­sponse from au­thor­i­ties had been that “pe­dophilia is a tricky sub­ject.”

But even in Ger­many, one of the coun­tries scarred by a mas­sive pe­dophile pri­est scan­dal in the Ro­man Catholic Church, the ther­apy pro­gram is con­tro­ver­sial. Not only is there strong so­ci­etal pres­sure against the pro­gram, Beier said that even in the phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal world, there is “great ret­i­cence” to­wards de­vel­op­ing medicine for pe­dophiles that could take ef­fect rapidly. How­ever, Jerome Braun, who leads a child pro­tec­tion foun­da­tion called Hansel and Gre­tel that co-funds the ther­apy pro­gram, said that pre­ven­tion work must not only be tar­geted at bring­ing aware­ness to po­ten­tial vic­tims in kinder­gartens or schools. “It should also look at po­ten­tial crim­i­nals be­cause each act pre­vented is a child saved,” he said. —


NAYPYI­DAW: Soe Lwin Nyein, direc­tor of Myan­mar’s public health depart­ment speaks at a press con­fer­ence. —

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