In the world this past week the curtain was pulled back to reveal an International sting identifying 72 individuals (all of whom are men) charged with the sharing and distribution of website images depicting physical and sexual abuse on infants and children. The private networking site called Dreamboard consists of over 600 members.
More illuminating is that Dreamboard is a part of a larger more sophisticated online child abuse network promoting pedophilia, called Dreamland. Dreamland is a private, online bulletin board in which as many as 600 members could file share upwards of ten thousand videos or images of sexually abused infants and children.
A member's level of contribution defined the member's level of access. Those members who "merely" swapped and exchanged images (file sharing) had more limited access as compared to other members "prestige" access that photographed, uploaded and swapped newer more violent images of their personal physical and sexual assaults on young children. Those members ranked in what was termed, "Super VIP." What was revealed this past week speaks to those horrors and atrocities that humans are capable of inflicting on the smallest and most vulnerable among us - children and infants.
But, no sooner were the Dreamboard events splashed across global media venues they became eclipsed by and buried under other fast breaking, news worthy expos the kind that speak to downgrades in a national credit rating, global war crimes and credit concerns.
I suspect that while the Dreamboard fallout is far from over, the collective and visceral disgust that was felt when learning of the multinational sting operation was too horrific to remain "on the front pages."
As a licensed therapist who works with trauma and sexual addiction, I see people, behavior and associated definitions as being along a continuum. People (clients) and their behaviors (either collectively or individually) will ultimately come up against my defined continuum of behavior that may be healthy, traumatic expression, addicted, compulsive, morally void or outright sociopathic.
Further, my personal definitions or consideration for my clients' sexual behavior may be seen as acceptable or offensive to some. Simply because what I define as acceptable or not, may not coalesce with another. I don't think there is a clear cut understanding or explanation for the clients I see or the behaviors of humanity.
Trained and experienced therapists among us who treat organic, sexual disorders and sexual compulsivity grapple with the theoretical and real-life meaning and definition of human behavior. While no two therapists may see eye to eye on what constitutes a clinical description for sex addiction - an issue currently debated before the American Psychiatric Association. The next and fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the controversial "go-to manual" for clinical designation and classification of mental disorders, is currently in planning and preparation. The publication date is revised for May 2013 - we are likely to agree on this: all sex offenders are not addicts and some sex addicts may become sexual offenders. Nonetheless, sex addiction is no more considered sociopathic than drug addiction, gambling, eating disorders and alcoholism.
While individuals who struggle with addiction may also exhibit and indulge in sociopathic behavior the definition of addiction as defined by The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) does not include the word sociopath in its definition no more than sexual compulsivity. More often than not, the words addiction, like sex addiction and sociopath are mutually exclusive.
It is important to delineate that sex offenders may engage in sexually compulsive behavior; however not all sexually compulsive behavior involves sexual abuse to minors and therefore, deemed sex offending. Before an individual is classified as a sexual offender and branded by society as sociopathic, a psychosexual evaluation and other mental status examinations are administered by a trained professional.
I see my role as a human practicing in the capacity of caregiver, to be as open and accepting of behaviors in which my clients engage, until such point that I can no longer be objective or open to empathic understanding. At times, and not as of yet, I may come up against my own biases and for reasons of self-care, draw the line in my own defined continuum of unacceptable. Trauma, sex and humanity will for sure never cease to confound, dismay or even disgust.
The sex addict who struggles is worthy of the same compassion as the alcoholic, eating disordered woman and medical provider who abuses prescription pills. Sexual offending behavior along the lines of Dreamboard are deemed illegal and by most societal norms - repulsing. I suspect that events such as Dreamboard's recent detection, while news worthy, is too incomprehensible for most individuals to absorb let alone read in sordid detail.
As I explain the world to myself, there are times that sociopath and sex addict may not be mutually exclusive. Neither, by comparison may a sociopath and medical care provider. Extrapolating along that trajectory neither may a sociopath and a parent. Unfortunately, the two descriptors can and at times do co-exist with devastating results. History has shown us that time and time again. We humans are capable of horrors and atrocities beyond imagination and I suspect until science intervenes, the collective "we" always will.
Debra L. Kaplan, MA, LAC, LISAC, CMAT, CSAT-S is a licensed therapist in Tucson, Arizona. Ms. Kaplan specializes in the treatment of sexual addiction/compulsivity,
Complex traumatic stress and dissociative and attachment disorders. Debra publishes and presents nationally on trauma and sex addiction. She maintains active memberships in the Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health (SASH), the International Society for Traumatic Stress (ISTSS), International Institute for Trauma and Addiction Professionals
(IITAP), and EMDR International Association (EMDRIA).