‘Ours is preventive approach, we are trying to avert child abuse incidents’

Namrata Devikar
Sunday, 18 February 2018

Dr Klaus Beier, Director, Institute of Sexology and Sexual Medicine, the Charite Institute, Berlin, during an interaction with Namrata Devikar, spoke about preventive measures to stop child abuse by interventions that identify people with paedophilic tendencies. 

How did the project from Germany to recognise and help men with paedophilic tendencies reach other countries including India?
We started 12 years ago in 2005 in Berlin. It was a new initiative in Germany. However, with an increase in response, after three years, the government chipped in. They realised that there was a group of men with such tendencies and they were almost one per cent of the entire population in Germany. That number is actually huge. In Berlin, we have 2,000 men, who have sought help while the number is 8,500 across Germany. Similarly, for India, this number becomes 3.5 million men, that is, one per cent of the population of men. Also, we have taken a preventive approach, under which we are trying to actually avert incidents of child abuse. Right now, we have enquiries from men across the world, who need our help and guidance. We have developed a website www.troubled-desire.com. The website is custom-designed according to legal and cultural aspects of every country.

Does the law, Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) in India, pose challenges to those who are trying to help men with these tendencies?
Many colleagues have felt that the law is not preventive. Hence, that can be a challenge. Also, as every offence has to be reported under the law, we witness that around 90 to 95 per cent cases are not reported, which is a huge number. However, no matter how many offenders are there, the outcome for children is huge. It is estimated that around 20 per cent of children suffer child abuse, which could have been prevented by proper awareness about the issue. The damage, in this case, is irreversible. In order to be more effective, we need to go beyond the stigma as a society.

Can we say that the number of child abuse cases has reduced because of this intervention?
In these cases, we can measure the before and after effects of the treatment. So, we can safely say that we have averted a lot of incidents. The number of people with such tendencies is huge. Through treatment, we can influence the behaviour, understand risk factors, and measure potential offenders. This is evident through the treatment. Also, children who have experienced child abuse tend to develop future problems in mood, psychological and anxiety disorders. They can also develop cardio-vascular troubles. The child may also go through neuro-biological disorders and immunity changes, which is a huge burden on society. 

Is there a need to seek similar interventions for the convicts in India?
In order to seek preventive measure, we need to have interventions not only for those who have not offended but also for those who have. I suggest that the government should conduct a study, wherein those convicted are actually tested for paedophilic tendencies. Even after conviction, their preferences would not change. So, they would need treatment. But our programme focuses on those who have not yet offended and are aware of their preferences. We strongly believe that not everyone inclined to paedophilic tendencies is an offender. We also strongly try not to condemn preferences. We are condemning only the behaviour. 

Any new techniques coming up to see if a person has such preferences?
In Germany, we observed that the concept of neuro-imaging is coming forward. In this, we measure arousal activities in the brain. The activities are the same for people, who are attracted towards women and children. However, the images we show them are different. The difference is the signal. This new technique is very interesting.

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