April 7, 2012

Hebephilia bites the dust -- again

  Federal judge rules that faux diagnosis cannot be basis for civil detention 

In yet another blow to those seeking to expand mental illness in order to civilly detain U.S. citizens for possible future crimes, a judge has again held that the faux diagnosis of  "hebephilia" is not valid for this purpose.The Good Friday ruling was one in a string of defeats for the federal government in its efforts to civilly detain ex-convicts under the Adam Walsh Act.

Judge Terrence Boyle rejected the testimony of two government psychologists who had diagnosed George Hamelin with hebephilia based on his sexual misconduct with one 13-year-old boy and another boy under the age of 13 (whose precise age was not specified).

Calvin Klein billboard: Fashion industry banking on hebephilia
As opposed to pedophilia, hebephilia involves sexual attraction to youths who have reached puberty. The controversial diagnosis was first proposed by a team of psychologists at a sex clinic up in Toronto. Two members of the Canadian team also belong to the sexual disorders work group for the DSM-5, the upcoming revision of the American Psychiatric Association’s influential diagnostic manual. With sexually violent predator statutes enacted by the federal government and 20 U.S. states requiring a mental disorder as a prerequisite for civil commitment, government evaluators have taken to invoking the label against sex offenders who are neither pedophiles nor rapists.

Wrote the judge in rejecting the label as a basis for civil commitment:
Hebephilia is not listed as an accepted mental disorder in the DSM-IV-TR. Although hebephilia has been proposed to be included as a mental disorder in the revision of the DSM, it has been rejected as a proper mental disorder by numerous psychologists…. [N]oted mental health professionals have opined that sexual arousal to pubescent and post-pubescent minors is not an inherently deviant sexual interest, albeit one that, in this country, if acted on might violate the law.

The Court finds persuasive the testimony of Dr. [Joseph] Plaud on this issue, who states in his report that "a possible diagnosis of a deviant sexual interest in pubescent/post-pubescent males, termed by some psychologists as 'paraphilia NOS hebephilia/ephebophilia,' ... is an invalid diagnosis."

Given that the characterization of hebephilia is a contested issue in the mental health community, the Court finds that it would be inappropriate to predicate civil commitment on a diagnosis that a large number of clinical psychologists believe is not a diagnosis at all, at least for forensic purposes.
I hope the American Psychiatric Association is listening. If they let the proposed diagnosis of pedohebephilia sneak into the DSM-5, it will only contribute to the already massive outpouring of criticism being leveled against them for expanding the range of mental illnesses. A grassroots petition protesting the diagnostic expansions has garnered almost 13,000 signatures to date.

My report on Judge Boyle's January ruling rejecting hebephilia in the case of Jeffrey Neuhauser (Federal judge tosses hebephilia as basis for civil detention) is HERE. My online resource page on hebephilia is HERE. Wikipedia has further background and links on the controversial diagnosis. A USA Today probe of the beleaguered federal SVP program is HERE.