Can PedophilesBe "Cured"?

There is a man here in Massachusetts, who is about to be released from prison. His name is James Porter, and he has readily admitted to molesting over 100 children. As a catholic priest in the 1950’s-60’s, he regularly sought victims among the children of his parishioners…later, after being kicked out of the church, he married and even MOLESTED HIS OWN CHILDREN!
Now the guy has served his sentence…and he is being held as a :sexually dangerous person". What I would like to know:
-this guy has been through several treatment programs, as a catholic priest and as a layman…none of them seemed to affect his subsequent behavior.
-have any pedophiles renounced these horrible actions?
Do YOU think such a person should be confined to prison for life?

This is the $64,000 question (actually, it’s worth far more than that) isn’ t it?

I’m not a psychiatrist, so take my thoughts for what they’re worth, but my understanding is that a pedophile can learn not to act on their impulses, but not eliminate those impulses entirely. The dangerous part is that child molesting is a crime of opportunity. The offender may convince everyone, inlcuding themselves, that they are “cured”. However, they reoffend when the opportunity presents itself. Based on what I’ve read and heard, I would not want a molester anywhere near my kids, “rehabilitated” though he may be.

That then begs the question, shouldn’t they get a life sentence? That’s tougher. I personally think serial offenders (like the guy you mention) should. That’s not due to any “eye for an eye” vengeance mentality, they’ve just destroyed too many lives and are simply untrustworthy in society. I would bet the odds of the guy you mention reoffending are nearly 100%. The only safe option would be Orwellian-type monitoring, which is not real practical or legal.

The “lesser” offenders could probably be released, but with strict guidelines. The minute they try anything remotely resembling trying to gain access to kids (signing up as a coach or mentor or something), lock em back up for a while to warn them.

I know that sounds Draconian, but the potential for damage is just too high to err on the wrong side.

Here’s a relative risk tool:

Rapid Risk Assessment for Sexual Offense Recidivism (RRASOR)
Hanson (1997) recently developed the Rapid Risk Assessment for Sexual Offense Recidivism (RRASOR). The RRASOR, which is based on data from seven studies, contains four items that are easily scored from administrative records: prior sexual offenses, age less than 25, extrafamilial victims, and male victims. The scale showed moderate predictive accuracy (r = .27) and Hanson believes it is useful as a screening instrument in settings that require routine assessments of sexual offender recidivism risk (see Table 2).
The Rapid Risk Assessment
for Sexual Offense Recidivism (RRASOR)

Prior Sex Offenses
(Not including index offenses)
None 0
1 conviction; 1-2 charges 1
2-3 convictions; 3-5 charges 2
4 or more convictions; 6 or more charges 3

Age At Release (Current Age)
More than 25 0
Less than 25 1

Victim Gender
Only females 0
Any males 1

Relationship to Victim
Only related 0
Any non-related 1
And here’s a link for how to interpret the results:

The lower the total score, the lower the risk of re-offense.

It probably depends on the severity of the pederast’s condition, but I know through my mother (psych N.P.), the current consensus on bona fide paraphilias is that they can only be controlled, at best, never “cured”. Arguments over the role of nature vs. nurture in the etiology of pedophilia rage on, but few dispute the prognosis. It presents ethical clinicians with a considerable puzzle: What to do with them? Many pedophiles display serious personality disturbances, which help them cope with their condition amidst a society that abhors their behavior. But in some other respects, they can be sane, productive, even moral individuals, exhibiting needs and wants with which any healthy person could empathize. The dillemma is simply that they cannot fully function in normal adult relationships any more than hetero or homosexuals can function outside of their sexual preference. Their natural inclinations lead them to commit heinous crimes, which they can themselves be made to appreciate, yet these inclinations can never be altered, only curtailed.

FWIW, I think if a diagnosed pederast displays no other criminal tendancies, rather than imprisonment, impose or offer castration and any other appropriate medical intervention (surgical or pharmacological) that negates sexual impulse, desire, and function. This is the closest thing to a cure available.

Why the difference for male victims? At first glance, that seems to suggest that molesting females is somehow more acceptable or understandable? Or is it that those who target both sexes have stronger urges and are more likely to reoffend?

All it means is that, statistically, it seems that if one molests only females, one is less likely to re-offend. No attempt is made to interpret why.

Wouldn’t it be more accurate to say that the score means that one is less likely to be rearrested for a sex offense?

Does a lower rearrest rate automatically mean a lower chance of committing molestation? (Or could it mean that they are more successful in avoiding arrest by virtue of victim choice?)

Probably. But it’s the best marker we’ve got at identifying recidivism.

Automatically? No. But given the sketchy data, it’s the most facile interpretation, a la Occam’s razor.

Thanks for the information and the link, Qadcop.

Do you know if treatment makes any difference to outcome? Also, are only offenses against pre-pubescent children included?


I believe (but don’t know for certain) that the data indicates treatment reduces risk, moreso with those with low RRasor scores, less for those with higher.

I think the study included those molesters of peri- and post-adolescent children too.

Much more data here at the Center for Sex Offender Mangement website

Thanks again, Qadcop. I am reading a book on the subject, and now I have something to compare the author’s ideas against.


Are you stating that people who never commited a crime should be castrated, or did I misunderstand?

Well, it gets back to the severity issue. I think my mother said there was a basic scheme for ranking the severity of a paraphilliac’s affliction, and part of that ranking system involves the number of offenses committed. The lowest-ranked individuals just have disturbing thoughts about deviant sexual acts; the highest ranked ones are dangerous, recidivistic, violent sexual predators who have had many victims.

For the low ranking pedophile, I think even talk therapy might be sufficient, and that person could even lead a reasonably normal life. But the worse the rank, the more aggressive the treatment, and the worse the prognosis. Intermediate cases need to be given Prozac or drugs like it, which tend to restrain impulses, as well as have a negative affect on sex drive. Worse cases still need antiandrogens plus SSRIs or even antipsychotic medications. For the very worst, I guess these days “chemical castration” (meaning really potent antiandrogens) is indicated. I say, instead of chronically pumping these guys up with all the drugs, why not surgically castrate them? It would be easier, and anysway, a lot of these drugs have really nasty side-effects. I think the surgical approach was used in the past, but has now fallen out of favor, for whatever reason. Heck, I even saw this guy on TV, a rapist, who begged the court to get the state to provide him surgical castration; he was convinced he would rape again, and was about to be sprung from the pen. He was denied the request! Why not castrate such individuals? Perhaps Qadgop can fill us in on the ethical considerations involved here.

Not really. But I can say that while castration (chemical or physical) does decrease the rate of re-offense, it does not reduce it to zero. Some offenders will continue to molest despite such invasive treatment.

So I can’t really see why the state must automatically grant a request to castrate someone.

As Qadgop the Mercotan, this is based on the recidivism statistics and not social mores or speculation about the mindset of the perpetrators. If I were to make a WAG as to why the statistics are that way, I’d say that it may be that a male pedophile is more likely to have access to young boys than young girls. So if he is only interested in female victims, he is less likely to easily wind up in a situation where he’ll be able to act on his temptations.

As Qadgop the Mercotan SAID. Sheesh. :o I didn’t mean to suggest that I was him!

Hell, I would… just outta spite.

But it seems the state does provide the antiandrogenic drugs. Maybe I’m wrong about that, but I don’t think so. The problem has something to do with performing the surgery, I think. Too permanent, maybe? Can’t be imposed? I don’t know. I could be off base, as I’m probing some dusty memory-banks here, but I think that was perhaps the gist of it. I have no idea about good cites to support or discount my guess.

This discussion of castration (physical or chemical) reminds me of the oft-quoted statement that rape is not a crime about sex, but about rage or power. So, is the fear that by castrating someone, you might also change them from a child molester to a child murderer? That their crimes would now be crimes of rage?

This debate has raged on this board for quite a while. There are statistics that show a very low recidivism (rearrest) rate for molesters and pedophiles, as well as studies saying they are much more likely to reoffend.

One problem is that it is difficult to track subsequent offences unless the perpetrator is caught. Do some studies try and extrapolate occurances based on the average number that supposedly occur before someone gets caught? That could be really flawed, here’s why- let’s say I get caught drunk driving one time. Was I just unlucky and got caught the first time, or was I an habitual drunk driver who did it over 1000 times before getting caught? (It was the latter, BTW). Sounds like it would be a WAG at worst, and only a slightly-educated guess at best, since it relies on my own testimony!

Well, castration isn’t meant to be punative, at least according to the docs. There’s certainly an element of outside control involved, and given the fucked-uppedness of some of these criminals, resentment of authority could play a role in recidivism, I suppose. From what I hear though, when you’re emasculated and hopped-up on serotonin-enhancing and dopamine-antagonizing drugs, not only can’t you have sex, you don’t much want to have sex. You’re rendered asexual, both in thought and deed, and pacified in a number of other respects besides. Yeah, sounds pretty harsh and Huxleyan, but for some offenders who have no control over their impulses, it’s better than the alternative; this is especially true if they’re emotionally conflicted about it (e.g. they feel true remorse, which, granted, is pretty rare, according to my Mom).