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Mis-Diagnosing Megan's Law Offenders

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Hebephilia is NOT a mental disorder

By Attorney Elisabeth Pasqualini, Criminal Law Division Leader, Harrisburg, PA

Megan's Law defines an individual as being a sexually violent predator (SVP) if:

1) they suffer from a mental abnormality or personality disorder; and

2) that makes them likely to engage in predatory, sexually violent offenses.

If an individual does NOT have a mental abnormality or personality disorder, there can be no finding that they are a sexually violent predator. 

Trained experts in the field of psychiatry use the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as a way of making their findings about an individual.  The DSM is "the bible" utilized by trained psychologists, psychiatrists, and other experts in the field.

One such abnormality, paraphilia NOS (not otherwise specified), is being misused and misapplied as a diagnosis under the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) IV that an individual is a "sexually violent predator."  Paraphilia NOS is being used as a "catchall" diagnosis and may support a finding of being a sexually violent predator, however, it is being misused when diagnosing individuals with hebephilia. 

"Hebephilia" is the attraction of the perpetrator to pubescent people.  While morally wrong to act on such impulses, it does not fit under the diagnosis paraphilia NOS.  Hebephilia is NOT a mental abnormality, however, psychologists and experts for the Sexual Offender's Assessment Board (SOAB) are determining that hebephilia IS a mental abnormality.  Put another way, it is not atypical for an adult to be attracted to a 15-year-old female or find her sexually attractive.  It is morally inappropriate and illegal to act on such impulses.  It, however, is not a mental defect.  The position of the SOAB is contrary to the opinion of the individual that edited the DSM IV.  The editor of the DSM IV agrees with the position of the author.  Hebephilia is NOT a mental abnormality.

Pedophilia is a DSM-IV disorder describing persistent sexual thoughts, urges, or behaviors directed toward an individual generally under the age of 13.  The age of puberty has been falling rapidly and some females are postpubescent by the age of 11. If an adult has sexual contact with an 11 year old postpubescent female for at least six months that would incorrectly be diagnosed as Pedophilia. There is no diagnosis for sexual contact with a postpubescent minor, although the behavior is illegal.

For more information about sexual offenses or sentencing issues, contact the experienced legal team at Shaffer & Engle Law Offices, LLC toll free at the number above or email us.

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