Predicting a flawed manual that "will haunt psychiatry for many years to come," the chair of the DSM-IV Task Force has issued an urgent call to the American Psychiatric Association to change course on its revision process for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) before it is too late.
Allen Frances' strongly worded appeal in the Psychiatric Times predicts the DSM-V -- scheduled for publication in May 2012 - will usher in a flood of new mental disorders that will medicalize normality, producing "a bonanza for the pharmaceutical industry but at a huge cost to the new false-positive patients caught in the excessively wide DSM-V net."
"In my experience, experts on any given diagnosis always worry a great deal about missed cases but rarely consider the risks of creating a large pool of false positives—especially in primary care settings. The experts' motives are pure, but their awareness of risks is often naive. Psychiatry should not be in the business of inadvertently manufacturing mental disorders."Frances makes special note of the potential for "unpredictable and consequential" unintended consequences in forensic settings:
"Years after the DSM-IV was completed, we learned about the enormous unintended impact of a seemingly slight wording change we made only for technical reasons in the section on paraphilias. A misreading of our intentions in making the change had led to great confusion -- with forensic evaluators using the diagnosis of paraphilia not otherwise specified to justify the sometimes inappropriate lifetime psychiatric commitment of rapists who had no real mental disorder."This prediction is prophetic in light of current lobbying efforts by the paraphilias subworkgroup to create a new "pedohebephilic disorder" category that could vastly expand sex offender diagnosis, proving a bonanza for the sexual offender civil commitment industry.
Frances is highly critical of the "inexplicable secrecy and the lack of openness to outside influence and criticism" surrounding the DSM-V revision process.
"Restricting the free flow of ideas creates enormous blind spots that greatly increase the risk of damaging unintended consequences…. The advisory group is far too small and select to reduce, rather than encourage, heated debate. In producing a new edition of the DSM, your harshest critics eventually turn out to be your best friends because they are most likely to help you avoid pitfalls."He is urging the American Psychiatric Association to create an external committee to review what is going on with the DSM and make recommendations to avoid serious negative consequences in the future.
Frances' important article, A Warning Sign on the Road to DSM-V: Beware of Its Unintended Consequences, is available HERE.
An accompanying Q&A, DSM-V Badly Off Track, is HERE.
Some of my related blog posts are HERE.
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Predicting a flawed manual that "will haunt psychiatry for many years to come," the chair of the DSM-IV Task Force has issued an urgent call to the American Psychiatric Association to change course on its revision process for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) before it is too late.
Saturday, June 27, 2009
The Supreme Court has released three significant decisions:
- The rights of criminal defendants to cross examine crime lab analysts
- When federal courts may act to enforce federal mandates on the states
- When, if ever, school officials may conduct strip searches of students for drugs
CLICK HERE for a written summary or to listen to a 5-minute NPR report.
Friday, June 26, 2009
A spate of media coverage of wacky U.S. sex offender policies is encouraging a sense of smug superiority among the British public. From sex offenders dumped under bridges on one side of the country to those locked in high-tech prevention detention facilities on the other, it isn't the most flattering portrait of the Land of the Free.
Most recently, BBC aired a special report on the ongoing disaster under the Julia Tuttle Causeway in Florida (which I’ve blogged about several times over the past two years). The community living in squalid conditions in makeshift huts and tents under the bridge, with no running water, electricity or toilets, has hit about 70 and just keeps growing.
"Welcome to American justice," Dr. Pedro Jose Greer of Florida International University told the visiting European journalist. "This is the stupidest damn law I have ever seen…. We have people living together with mental and physical illnesses in an environment where people can't possibly sleep because of the cars going by overhead -- where you can smell the urine and see the trash mounting all around us."
If that dirty laundry isn't bad enough, the other recent coverage of U.S. sex offender policies is no more flattering to us Yanks.
Filmmaker Louis Theroux, a quirky British-American best known for his television series Louis Theroux's Weird Weekends, was granted unprecedented access to the infamous Coalinga State Hospital in California, home to about 800 men serving "indefinite sentence for offences that they haven't yet committed and might never," in the words of the review in the (London) Independent.
The resultant documentary aired on BBC, "A Place for Paedophiles," depicts "a Kafkaesque place" where not just the sex offenders but also many members of the staff look pretty darned "creepy," says the Independent.
A Sun profile of Theroux and his film took the opportunity to paint an even kookier picture for the British public:
"They have karaoke nights, put on plays, and on their birthday are thrown a party with cake, ice-cream and gifts…. [They] spend their days at the £268 million centre playing ping-pong or watching DVDs, and they even stage Coalinga Idol contests based on Simon Cowell's talent show American Idol."
After experiencing Coalinga up close and personal, Louis expressed doubt that the Americans know what they are doing when it comes to sex offenders:
"The British system is that when an offender finishes his sentence, he is released on the sex offenders' register. If he then puts a foot wrong he is hauled back to prison. It's a lot cheaper than a system like Coalinga -- and a little bit more realistic."
"Coalinga is the weirdest place I've ever been to," Theroux says in the film. "I can't quite believe it exists. In America this is the latest way of getting a handle on sex offenders…. You assume the people who run this place know what they are doing, but you do question it."
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
It's not terribly uncommon to hear of a woman succumbing to the allure of a ruggedly masculine prisoner.
Sometimes, the love bug bites an attorney. Other times, a female guard. Here in California, I regularly hear about female staff members from various professions caught trysting with civilly committed sex offenders at the state hospital.
Every so often, the passion overwhelms all reason, and the woman helps her boyfriend escape. Last year, we heard the odd saga of a deputy warden's wife in Oklahoma who had been living in a trailer with an escaped convict for more than a decade. (Bobbi Parker is back living with her husband while awaiting trial in that case.)
As with everything, psychologists and other professionals have tried to pigeonhole the women's motivations through labeling -- "the Bad Boy Syndrome," "the Florence Nightingale Syndrome," the abuse victim afraid of intimacy. Of course, as with most human conditions, the motivations are more complex and multidetermined than such labels can capture.
Whatever the reasons, the love bug just bit closer to home.
A 35-year-old prison psychologist has been arrested for allegedly helping in the escape of a 42-year-old killer from Frontenac Institution, a minimum-security prison in Canada where she worked.
Authorities believe Erin Danto, a U.S. citizen from Pennsylvania who had worked in the prison for about a year, had a romantic relationship with Andrew John Wood, serving time for the 1989 murder of a former friend. The two were caught together last Thursday.
In a comment to one of the news articles, someone who knows Dr. Danto called her a "true professional."
Dr. Danto's sad story is a reminder for all of us forensic and correctional psychologists. Be compassionate, but not too passionate. Don't forget the “B” word -- boundaries.
Today's (Kingston) Whig Standard has the story.
- European women drawn to Texas death row inmates, by Scott Farwell, Dallas Morning News
- Modern Love: Kept Together by the Bars Between Us, by Amy Friedman, New York Times (an essay by a newspaper columnist who fell in love with a prisoner)
- Women Who Love Men Who Kill, by Sheila Isenberg (book)
Monday, June 22, 2009
First, click the image above to watch this ad for Despondex, the first-ever prescription depressant. It brilliantly captures how the pharmaceutical industry pathologizes human conditions, mints formal diagnoses to label them, and markets lucrative medications to treat them.
Take bipolar disorder in children.
It has gone from a rare condition to a common diagnosis. In an 8-year period (1994-2002), the number of children diagnosed as bipolar increased by 4,000 percent. Yes, that's right. Four thousand percent. As with the ADHD craze a few years ago, with the diagnostic labeling has come medications for about two-thirds of the newly bipolar. Medications that cause severe long-term health consequences, such as obesity and diabetes.
Now, show me a child who doesn't have radical mood swings. As Christopher Lane describes in Shyness: How Normal Behavior Became a Sickness, the steps to creating a disorder are straightforward:
- Conduct a study.
- Discover a previously overlooked problem.
- Label it.
- Create a formal diagnosis.
- Promote a treatment.
- Marginalize the critics.
Indeed, we are witnessing this manufacturing process in the current effort to create a bizarre new diagnosis of "pedohebephilia" for the DSM-V, as I have blogged about more than once.
But has the psychiatric-pharmaceutical juggernaut gone too far? I am probably being overly optimistic, but I find this past week's developments mildly encouraging.
First came the research study published in the June 17 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, announcing flaws in the much-touted 'Depression Risk Gene' study upon which so much of our popular culture's notion of mental illness rests.
That followed exposes, such as one in the Miami Herald, of pharmaceutical drugmakers' use of ghostwriters to produce ''a huge body of medical literature that society can't trust.''
Just today came two more entries in the series of critical articles about psychiatric diagnosis and the pharmaceutical industry, in newspapers on separate continents -- the London Times and the San Francisco Chronicle.
The Chronicle's lead story focused on the diagnosis of bipolar disorder among children. The London Times article promotes a new book by the brilliant Richard Bentall (whose 1994 book, Madness Explained, deservedly won the British Psychological Book Of The Year award).
Doctoring the Mind: Is Our Current Treatment of Mental Illness Really Any Good? pulls no punches: It "paints a stark picture of a mental health system riddled with corruption and incompetence, in which shrinks live it up on pharmaceutical company cash while patients are disrespected, dehumanised and drugged to the eyeballs."
Bentall isn't some foaming-at-the-mouth anti-psychiatry extremist. He offers rational argument and scientific evidence to back up his claims about the ineffectiveness of modern psychiatric "treatment" and the weaknesses in its underlying biomedical model.
Bentall is not optimistic about change, though, because psychiatry and drug companies "have a vested interest in keeping things are they are."
I am afraid he may be right. Even in the midst of critiques pointing out the long-term harm, more people than ever are popping pills and allowing their children to pop them too. The latest rage, bipolar disorder, has so inundated popular and youth culture that it's even become an aggressive verb on the playground, as in:
"You don't watch out, man, I'm gonna go bipolar on you!"
If we don't watch out, that will be the newest mental defense to violent crime.
Sunday, June 21, 2009
After more than a year in juvenile hall, 18-year-old Dante Green was given the chance of a lifetime: Join a Circle of Support and Accountability (COSA) and turn his life around. That was six months ago. Dante is now out of custody, attending college, and hoping to major in political science at UC Berkeley.
Dante was the first of 15 offenders to enter an ambitious pilot program in Oakland (Alameda County), California, which processes more than 6,000 juveniles through the juvenile justice system each year.
Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth, modeled on successful restorative justice projects in South Africa, New Zealand, Canada, and elsewhere, aims to rehabilitate miscreant youth by holding them accountable to their victims and their larger community rather than simply blaming and punishing them.
Each youth is surrounded by a personally tailored network, his Circle of Support and Accountability, which helps him accept responsibility and design a method to repair the harm he has caused.
Gail Bereola, the presiding juvenile judge, told a reporter she has been surprised at how many victims are more interested in seeing their victimizers rehabilitated rather than just punished: "They're interested in how the young person is going to improve themselves. They want to know what happens when they return to the community."
A Restorative Justice program in New Zealand is credited with a dramatic reduction in youth incarceration, and similar programs in an Oakland school and in Minnesota schools have been credited with reducing suspensions and expulsions, often the early warning signals of a life of alienation and crime.
I have been impressed with the success of the Circles of Support approach with hard-core serial sex offenders. Perhaps the longest-running program with sex offenders was begun by Mennonites in Ontario, Canada, back in 1994, and it has become world-renowned. Recently completed empirical research indicates that surrounding offenders with firm but caring adults makes them far less likely to reoffend as compared with matched controls. Based on the success of Canadian programs, similar Circles of Support are being initiated for paroling sex offenders elsewhere, including in England and, most recently, in the California Central Valley town of Fresno.
The moral: We know what works to rehabilitate criminals. Now we just have to find the resources and the compassion to implement it.
- New American Media: Alameda County Pioneers Restorative Justice for Youth
- San Francisco Chronicle: Oakland program redefines juvenile justice
- Canada: Restorative justice touted for hate crimes
- Australia: "Circle sentencing" ineffective
- Sex Offender Laws: Failed Policies, New Directions by Richard Wright (includes a chapter on restorative justice for sex offenders)
- Circles of Support and Accountability: An evaluation of the pilot project in South-Central Ontario
- Courageous Communities: Circles of Support and Accountability with Individuals Who Have Committed Sexual Offenses
Thursday, June 11, 2009
This masterpiece of potential interest to forensic folks has it all -- great acting, beautiful cinematography, powerful themes, and amazing realism. The realism is no accident. Young filmmaker Cary Fukunaga spent months in Mexico, interviewing both immigrants and gang members about their experiences. He shot on location, and many cast members are nonprofessionals. For example, Edgar Flores, in the lead role as a member of the Chiapas chapter of the brutal Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) gang, is straight off the streets of Tegucigalpa, Honduras.
Despite the specific setting of the tumultuous U.S.-Mexico border, Sin Nombre addresses powerful and universal themes of damnation and redemption. At least, that's how I saw it. In an interview, Fukunaga himself said he sees it as being about family -- "the disintegration and recreation of the family unit in its unique and varying forms."
The plot centers around a chance and fateful encounter between Willy and a 15-year-old Honduran girl, Sayra (Paulina Gaitan), who is riding north atop a train. Through Sayra's journey, viewers get an appreciation for the intense dangers faced by Central Americans trekking toward the promised land.
Without giving away anything, I can give you a bit of background. Fukunaga, raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, was in film school in New York when he saw a New York Times story about a group of Mexican and Central American immigrants who died of asphyxiation and heat exhaustion while trapped and abandoned inside a refrigerated trailer. (Remember that incident? It was front-page news a few years ago.) His short 2004 documentary about that case, Victoria Para Chino, won multiple film awards.
That project evolved into Sin Nombre, as Fukunaga explained in an IndieWire interview. Doing the research, he said, "I learned about the awful journey Central American immigrants went through in order to get to the United States -- crossing the infinitely more dangerous badlands of Mexico on top of (not in) freight trains bound for the US Border. It was like a world that belonged to the old Wild West."
Against the advice of friends, Fukunaga gained intimacy with his topic by taking the same harrowing train-top ride that he would film. (Folks cling to the top of the train rather than riding inside the box cars, because the cars are even more dangerous due to rapists and other criminals.) On his first ride, with 700 Central American immigrants, the train was attacked within three hours:
"We were somewhere in the pitch black regions of the Chiapan countryside. In the alcove of the next train car I heard the distinct pops of gunshots, always louder than they seem in the movies, then the screams of immigrants passing the word: 'Pandillas! Pandillas!' (gangsters). Everyone scattered, I could hear them running past our tanker car. Not having anywhere to run to, I stayed on…. The next day I talked to two Hondurans who were next to the attack. They told me a Guatemalan immigrant didn't want to give two bandits his money so they shot him and threw him under the train. [Later] I learned the police had found the body of a Guatemalan immigrant, shot and abandoned…. Nothing could have driven home the sensation of fear and impotence more than what I had felt firsthand with those immigrants."
Fukunaga's willingness and ability to see through the eyes of others probably owes much to his upbringing. (As Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor put it in her controversial speech, this DOES influence one's perspective!) Fukunaga is described in a Los Angeles Times article as "a wandering spirit with a Japanese father, a Swedish mother, a Chicano stepdad and an Argentine stepmom [who] can't be reduced to the sum of his parts, ethnic or otherwise. Growing up, he shuffled from the suburbs to the country to the barrio ('Crips and Bloods, people getting shot') to the East Bay's hillside bourgeois enclaves. His family, he says, always has been a 'conglomeration of individual, sort of displaced people,' recombinations of relatives and step-relatives, blood kin and surrogate kin, parents and what he calls "pseudo-parents" who treated him like a son."
With this background, Fukunaga was able to capture not only the immigrant experience, but the pathos of gang life in Central America and Mexico, with brutality and hopelessness transmitted from generation to generation. Sin Nombre doesn't give the history or context for the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13), which at 100,000-strong is widely considered one of the most fastest-growing and dangerous gangs in the world.
In brief, the MS-13 is an outgrowth of the 1980s war in El Salvador, which led to a massive migration of up to two million refugees into the United States. Many settled in the Ramparts area of Los Angeles, where the gang was founded. Strict U.S. immigration policies in more recent years have paradoxically worsened the gang problem, allowing the MS-13 to gain footholds in Central America and Mexico. The MS-13 is known for its vivid tattoos, but some say members are moving away from tattoos because they so brilliantly illuminate gang membership for authorities. A documentary on the MS-13, Hijos de la Guerra (Children of the War), can be previewed HERE. A marvelous Los Angeles Times photojournalism project on the gang is HERE.
Sin Nombre is getting widespread acclaim, and richly deserves the directing and cinematography awards it garnered at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival. It's in Spanish with English subtitles, but don't let that stop you.
Monday, June 8, 2009
Appellate court bucks national trend
In another important SVP decision, a California appellate court has ruled that it is Unconstitutional to civilly commit a sex offender who is incompetent to stand trial.
The courageous decision in the case of Ardell Moore tackles head-on the fiction that merely labeling something as "civil" takes away the due process protections that automatically confer to criminal defendants:
"Irrespective of the fact a commitment under the SVPA [Sexually Violent Predator Act] is labeled civil rather than criminal, the defendant’s liberty is severely curtailed," the Court pointed out.
Ardell Moore is diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. Mental health evaluators have described him as floridly psychotic and delusional.
In its well-articulated decision, the court detailed much the same rationale as has long been recognized for criminal defendants. When a defendant is put on trial while incompetent, he becomes "a mere spectator," not able to correct erroneous information, assist his attorney, or testify effectively on his own behalf. All of this substantially increases the probability of a sham proceeding and a resultant miscarriage of justice.
"An incompetent defendant will have no opportunity to discuss his prior behavior and motivating reasons for such behavior with the state's evaluator or with a defense expert, or be able to explain to a jury why the state expert’s rationale for the diagnosis and volitional impairment is not justified. A defendant who is incompetent is at a great disadvantage, as he cannot meaningfully testify in his own behalf, cannot cooperate with his own counsel, nor assist his defense experts in understanding the basis for his behavior or provide evidence to rebut an evaluator’s potentially erroneous conclusion."The appearance of a kangaroo court has not bothered courts in four other states -- Massachusetts, Iowa, Missouri and Texas -- which have all approved trials of incompetent SVP defendants based on the legal fiction that the proceedings are "civil."
Those cases are:
- Massachusetts: Commonwealth. v. Nieves (2006) 846 N.E.2d 379
- Iowa: In re Detention of Cubbage (2003) 671 N.W.2d 442
- Missouri: State ex rel. Nixon v. Kinder (2003) 129 S.W.3d 5
- Texas: In re Commitment of Fisher (2005) 164 S.W.3d 637
Leaning heavily on last year's opinion in People v. Allen, in which the California Supreme Court held that defendants in SVP proceedings have a Constitutional right to testify over the objection of their attorneys, the court reiterated that "in every case" an SVPA defendant has the constitutional right to testify and to present his side of the story, and "mental competence is a prerequisite to the exercise of that due process right. Absent mental competence, a defendant cannot testify or participate meaningfully in the SVPA proceeding."
Moore was convicted in 1987 of kidnapping, forcible rape and forcible rape in concert and was sentenced to 25 years in state prison. As his parole date neared, he was flagged by state evaluators as a possible Sexually Violent Predator.
Two state evaluators, licensed psychologists Beryl Davis and Gary Zinik, testified against him at his trial. Both testified that he suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and was off his medications and too incoherent to talk with them when they tried to evaluate him. Despite his inability to rationally engage with them, they opined that he would likely reoffend sexually if released.
Testified Davis, "When we talk about volition and somebody's ability to control their behavior, when you're florid psychotic, you lose that volitional control, and somebody with a sexually [sic] preoccupation and inability to control themselves sexually would be a significant high risk."
Not surprisingly, after waiving his right to a jury trial Moore lost his trial and was civilly committed. The trial judge ruled that his incompetency did not matter, because the proceeding was civil and not criminal. Quoting from the Massachusetts case of Nieves, the court held:
"We see no reason why the public interest in committing sexually dangerous persons to the care of the treatment center must be thwarted by the fact that one who is sexually dangerous also happens to be incompetent."Since 2000, Moore has been housed off and on at Atascadero State Hospital, where he has remained floridly psychotic, according to subsequent evaluators.
In early 2007, psychologist Vianne Castellano, Ph.D. evaluated Moore and opined that he was incompetent to stand trial: "He is neither able to understand the nature and the purpose of these proceedings nor is he able to cooperate in a rational manner with his counsel or the psychological evaluators."
The appellate ruling means his case will be remanded to the trial court for a new determination of whether he is competent to stand trial. If he is found incompetent, he will be entitled to competency restoration treatment at a state hospital.
As the appellate justices pointed out in their unanimous opinion, there is no real down side. In the event that an SVP defendant is found incompetent to stand trial, neither public safety nor state finances are affected. The defendant remains in custody in a state hospital, as he would have been had he been civilly committed, and "the fiscal burden to the state remains essentially the same."
The ruling is HERE. A previous appellate opinion in the case is HERE.
Sunday, June 7, 2009
Remember my post back in March on the critique of "voodoo" brain science? That article has generated a tremendous amount of buzz, both academically and in the popular press. For those of you who want more info, a neuroscientist blogging at Neuroskeptic (motto: "More brains than a zombie's stomach") has an excellent analysis of the article and the resultant controversies, replete with lots of links. The most extensive discussion and collection of links I have found is over at the Amazing World of Psychiatry blog. Happy reading!
Friday, June 5, 2009
Down but not out?
It may be too soon to call it the death knell, but this week's ruling by a federal judge in Massachusetts certainly dealt a reeling blow to the highly contested pseudo-diagnosis of hebephilia and its ever-more-marginalized adherents.
In the third of three back-to-back decisions in federal court, U.S. District Judge Joseph Tauro said hebephilia just doesn't pass muster as a basis for civilly committing someone as a "sexually dangerous offender."
Hebephilia -- sexual attraction to adolescents -- certainly exists in nature, but the Government failed to meet is burden of establishing by clear and convincing evidence that it amounted to "a serious mental illness, abnormality, or disorder" as required for civil commitment, wrote the judge. Simply put, "hebephilia is not generally recognized as a serious mental illness by the psychological and psychiatric communities."
The case involved Todd Carta, who was due to be released from federal prison after serving time for computer-based child pornography. Carta has a lengthy history of sex with underage males, ages 13 on up, and has acknowledged an attraction to adolescent boys.
The Government's expert, psychologist Amy Phenix, diagnosed Carta with "Paraphilia Not Otherwise Specified: Hebephilia," which she defined as a sexual preference for "young teens . . . 'till about age seventeen."
Phenix's position was countered by psychologist Leonard Bard, who testified that Carta had no diagnosable mental disorder. Bard identified numerous problems with the diagnosis of hebephilia, including its absence from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) and the prevalence of sexual attraction to adolescents among normal men.
The judge got it. In a thorough and well reasoned decision, he deconstructed the legal use of this nebulous diagnosis brick by brick. Perhaps most impressive was his clearly articulated understanding of the importance of adequate empirical research to support a diagnosis:
"Most importantly, the Government has failed to demonstrate that a diagnosis of hebephilia or paraphilia NOS: hebephilia is supported by research in the field of psychology…. Most of the articles put forward by the Government were published by coauthors Dr. Blanchard and Dr. Cantor. Dr. Bard criticized the work of Dr. Blanchard and Dr. Cantor, testifying that they are both on the editorial board of the journal that publishes their findings, which has at least the potential to damage the integrity of the peer-review process. Dr. Bard also criticized the research underlying their conclusions for failing to include a control group and for eliminating a large portion of the samples, among other problems. The five replies criticizing Dr. Blanchard's recent article proposing inclusion of hebephilia in the DSM-V suggest that Dr. Blanchard's work is not widely accepted. Dr. Bard testified that 'it’s the same group that is published over and over again trying to justify [a diagnosis of hebephilia], and they have failed.' "The judge acknowledged that by ordering Carta's release he was not suggesting the convicted sex offender is a model citizen, but just drawing a line in the sand between criminality and mental disorder: Absent a widely recognized mental disorder it is Unconstitutional to "order indefinite commitment on the basis of the offensiveness of Respondent's conduct alone."
This is the third federal ruling in a row against hebephilia. The only other federal courts to address its use both rejected it as a basis for civil commitment. Those cases were U.S. v. Shields and U.S. v. Abregana, both decided last year.
Normally, this might be a "Three Strikes and You're Out" situation. Put the tired old construct to bed.
But fans are frantically trying to rehabilitate and rejuvenate hebephilia by getting it added to the next edition of the DSM (DSM-V). This would get around at least one of the many concerns expressed by Judge Tauro and others, over "the lack of any clear criteria" for making the diagnosis. Spearheading the DSM-V effort is Raymond Blanchard of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Canada, who not only sits on the editorial board of the journal that published his research (as Judge Tauro pointed out in his opinion), but also serves on the DSM-V Sexual and Gender Identity Disorders Work Group. From that influential position, he is lobbying for the addition of hebephilia or a newly minted term – pedohebephilic disorder (what a mouthful!) to the diagnostic bible.
With the DSM-V work groups stacked (see my related posts HERE), we may just have to wait and see. But in the meantime, All Hail to Massachusetts, for landing a solid blow against pseudoscience in the forensic arena.
Judge Tauro's decision is HERE. A list of articles on "Hebephilia and the DSM-V Controversy" is HERE; for more on hebephilia see my essay, "Invasion of the hebephile hunters: Or, the story of how an archaic word got a new lease on life."
Photo credit: Noel Kerns' "Closed," Creative Commons license (entrance to the defunct Mission Four Outdoor Theatre in San Antonio, Texas)
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
With the controversy raging over whether pornography encourages sexual aggression, an important article has gone to press. Based on a review of the existing evidence, the authors say it is time to discard the hypothesis that pornography leads to sexual violence. Despite the theory's inherent appeal, the evidence to back it up just isn't there.
That's according to Christopher Ferguson of the Criminal Justice Department at Texas A&M and Richard D. Hartley of the University of Texas in San Antonio. As they summarize it in their Abstract:
The effects of pornography, whether violent or non-violent, on sexual aggression have been debated for decades. The current review examines evidence about the influence of pornography on sexual aggression in correlational and experimental studies and in real world violent crime data. Evidence for a causal relationship between exposure to pornography and sexual aggression is slim and may, at certain times, have been exaggerated by politicians, pressure groups and some social scientists. Some of the debate has focused on violent pornography, but evidence of any negative effects is inconsistent, and violent pornography is comparatively rare in the real world. Victimization rates for rape in the United States demonstrate an inverse relationship between pornography consumption and rape rates. Data from other nations have suggested similar relationships. Although these data cannot be used to determine that pornography has a cathartic effect on rape behavior, combined with the weak evidence in support of negative causal hypotheses from the scientific literature, it is concluded that it is time to discard the hypothesis that pornography contributes to increased sexual assault behavior.The article, forthcoming in Aggression and Violent Behavior, is available online pending print publication, but it requires a subscription.
Monday, June 1, 2009
In my years as a legal affairs reporter, I developed a lasting respect for jurors and their decision-making process. People who take the time and energy to perform their civic duty are earnest in wanting to do the right thing. Increasingly, they are sophisticated and educated consumers who are innately curious about the topics at hand. Frequently, however, they are turned off by expert witnesses, who may resemble one of the following:
- Ivory Tower: arrogant and condescending
- Swordsman: combative, defensive, hostile, nitpicky
- Waffler: uncertain and inconsistent
- Automaton: stiff, robotic, confusing, unintelligible
- Salesman: slick and overzealous
The solution? Understand jurors’ innate skepticism and boredom, and become an effective teacher, "the translator for the jury in their journey into a foreign land." Writing in the current issue of The Jury Expert, Gabriel says the expert witness must be both understandable and relevant. How?
- Good teachers break down complex topics into understandable language, without being condescending.
- Good teachers anticipate questions. They "make sure they answer those questions, no matter how basic or obvious they seem."
- Good teachers understand that students have different learning styles, and they use "a mixture of tools to convey their information."
- Good teachers display passion. "Aside from a purely professional or academic interest, experts who resonate with jurors seem to have a personal connection that drives them to a particular level of excellence in their chosen field."
- Good teachers narrate stories. They "know that even the driest subjects can be made interesting by highlighting the conflict, the characters, the action, or the environment within the story."