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Mis-Diagnosing Megan's Law Offenders; The disappearance of Hebephilia

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The concept of "hebephelia" has disappeared altogether from the DSM V

By Attorney Elisabeth K.H. Pasqualini, Megan's Law Attorney, Harrisburg, PA

As pointed out in a prior blog in June 2011, hebephilia is not a mental disorder.  However, recent proposed changes to the Diganostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) V introduce "hebephelia" as a specifier under the broader group of "Pedophilia."  Hebephelia is the preferential attraction to pubescent children.   It is not tied to a specific age.  However, the inclusion of hebephelia into the DSM V now provides the Sexual Offender Assessment Board with basis to identify an offender as a sexually violent predator. 

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 has been 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.

Pedophilia is a DSM-V disorder describing persistent sexual thoughts, urges, or behaviors directed toward an individual generally under the age of 13. However, this is a qualitative analysis and not a quantitative one.  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 or email us.

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