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Pedophiles and child molesters: Not always the same

Many people use the terms "pedophile" and "child molester" interchangeably. Sometimes, a person who is a pedophile is also a child molester. Many times, however, a person is only a pedophile or vice versa. Here is a look at the top reasons why.

1. Molesting is a behavior

Molesting is the act of touching someone, such as a child, in inappropriate ways. Pedophilia, on the other hand, is being attracted to children 11 years old and younger. ("Hebephile" is the technical word for a person drawn to someone who has entered puberty.)

Being a pedophile does not mean the person, typically a man, will always act on his urges. A person sexually attracted to children but who fights the attraction by avoiding touching kids and avoiding child pornography is not a molester.

2. The age difference might not be significant enough

For molestation and pedophilia, the age gap between a person and someone he or she fantasizes about or molests must be at least five years, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, DSM-IV-TR. The alleged offender in question must also be at least 16 and have ongoing fantasies or involvement with children no more than 13 years old and for a minimum of six months.

So, take a 16-year-old boy named John. He is attracted to a 12-year-old girl he met online and even tries to touch her. She is the first person he has been attracted to in this way, so there is no ongoing pattern. He has touched her sexually, but would not meet the criteria for pedophilia as laid out in the statistical manual. However, depending on the nature of the touching, he could be arrested for a sex offense.

Meanwhile, take a 16-year-old boy named David. For the past two years, he has been attracted to children about five years old but has yet to act on it. David meets the criteria for pedophilia but is not a child molester.

3. The causes of child molestation are varied

Pedophilia causes many cases of child molestation. In many situations, however, it does not stem from attraction to children. It may occur due to curiosity, a mental handicap, a medical condition or anti-socialness, for example. So, not everyone on a sex offender registry is necessarily a pedophile.

With police running internet stings and teenagers often lying about their ages, it can be a confusing time if you are arrested on sex charges. Getting in touch with a lawyer can help clarify the situation for you and ensure your rights are upheld.

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