Today in Baltimore, Maryland, B4U-ACT brought together a range of clinicians, researchers, academics, and minor-attracted persons to discuss key issues regarding the entry for pedophilia in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) of the American Psychiatric Association. The purpose of the meeting was to promote a more comprehensive and accurate DSM. This first symposium of its kind was a success, as 38 people participated in discussion of stimulating presentations by nine distinguished speakers.
The foundation of the symposium was B4U-ACT’s position that the DSM should be based on accurate information about people in the general population. It should be “sensitive to the needs of clinicians and their patients” (as advocated by the APA). Minor-attracted people should be involved in its revision (also advocated by the APA).
B4U-ACT believes that everyone benefits when a variety of reasoned perspectives is heard. Therefore, speakers were allowed to express their views freely and openly. B4U-ACT does not necessarily endorse all of the views expressed. Our policy of free and open expression is in support of the APA’s position that DSM revisions should involve input from “diverse perspectives, disciplines, and areas of expertise,” and that “patient and family” groups be involved. Speakers and attendees specialized in psychiatry, ethics, psychology, philosophy, social work, linguistics, and gender studies.
This kind of scholarly interaction is necessary in light of the numerous unresolved issues raised about the proposed DSM revisions by scholars, researchers, and minor-attracted people. Controversy has arisen over scientific issues, conceptual issues, the purpose of the DSM (to promote mental health vs. social control), and consequences of the DSM entry for society and the people being diagnosed. Information about these controversies can be found at:
Speakers addressed a diverse range of crucial issues related to the DSM, and discussion was lively. Keynote speaker Dr. Fred Berlin (of Johns Hopkins University) provided a conceptual overview of pedophilia from a psychiatric viewpoint, and argued in favor of acceptance of and compassion for people who are attracted to minors, while at the same time rejecting adult-minor sexual activity. Dr. John Sadler (University of Texas) argued that diagnostic criteria for mental disorders should not be based on concepts of vice since such concepts are subject to shifting social attitudes and doing so diverts mental-health professionals from their role as healers. Dr. Nancy Potter (University of Louisville) analyzed the concept of “uptake” — that is, genuine listening — and argued that by giving uptake to minor-attracted people, those revising the DSM would strengthen DSM-5 and contribute to more ethical treatment, but that minor-attracted people must exhibit accuracy and sincerity in their testimony. Dr. Lisa Cohen (Albert Einstein College of Medicine) presented data on the psychological correlates of pedophilia based on forensic samples, and argued that use of non-forensic samples would help researchers separate factors related to feelings of attraction from those related to behavior, and support the development of improved diagnostic systems.
In the afternoon, Dr. Renee Sorrentino (Harvard Medical School) discussed legal, ethical, and medical consequences of the proposed DSM-5 entry for pedohebephilia. Andrew Hinderliter (University of Illinois) argued that the medicalization of social deviance blurs the boundary between the helping professions and the criminal justice system, creating the potential for psychiatry to become a means of controlling undesirables, rather than an agent of healing. Jacob Breslow (London School of Economics and Political Science) challenged assumptions about minors and sexuality which currently underlie policymaking and the DSM. Richard Kramer (the only speaker representing B4U-ACT), analyzed sources of stigma in the DSM, presented survey data regarding MAPs’ feelings of stigma, and provided recommendations for revising the DSM to reduce stigma.
B4U-ACT is a 501(c)(3) organization that promotes communication and collaboration among minor-attracted persons, mental health professionals, and researchers. Its mission is to increase the availability of accurate information about minor-attracted persons and mental health services that focus on their mental health needs. Inaccurate negative stereotypes force minor-attracted people into hiding, leave young adolescents who are attracted to children hopeless with nowhere to turn, and do nothing to protect children. We have received emails from teenagers as young as 15 who were engaged in self-harming behavior or threatening suicide, and could talk to no one about it, because they were attracted to children. Making welcoming, informed, and empathetic mental health services available is the goal of B4U-ACT.
For more details about the symposium, see https://www.b4uact.org/research/past-symposium/. Please direct any questions to B4U-ACT director of operations Richard Kramer at firstname.lastname@example.org.