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Part 2: Will Jeffrey Epstein Try the Brain Disorder/Disability Defense?

Updated: Aug 5, 2019

Jeffrey Epstein, The Dalton School 1974

The wheels of justice, like the mills of the gods, apparently, grind exceedingly slowly, but they do a fine job, unless a wrench is thrown into them. Will the metaphoric wrench for Jeffrey Epstein be relying on research that is pointing toward a brain abnormality or a disability covered by the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) in pedophiles?

The insanity defense has fallen on deaf ears with juries and judges, so may we expect this brain abnormality/disability defense to be one that lacks any hope of freedom from prison for him? Can juries be enticed to view Epstein as a victim of a brain disorder and a disabled person rather than a predator and a sociopath who engaged in criminal behavior not solely in pedophilia?

The disability perspective of pedophiles was offered by a law professor who saw these individuals as impaired rather than criminals. A law professor in Australia argued, in an article published in one of the criminology journals there, that there is a "sense of crisis… The significance of the serious sex offender (is seen as) monstrous.” He headlined his article as "Ungovernable Monsters."

The prevailing view, however, it would seem, in the population of the United States would not favor such a perspective of disability since pedophiles have been viewed as the counterparts of Count Dracula; urbane and caring much of the time but concealing a darker, more sinister side.

The search to uncover what initiates or creates sex offenders of children has, naturally, included many blind alleys, including examinations of medical illnesses, chromosomal and hormonal issues. Researchers want clues to keep the public safe from these offenders, but also to provide treatments that will aid the offenders themselves in not re-offending. Keep in mind, however, that pedophilia may be co-morbid with other personality disorders and, therefore, not all of these offenders may wish to receive treatment. Some may enter treatment with the intention of satisfying a legal mandate but harboring the intention of returning to their prior activities against children.

Would we view pedophilia as an antisocial lifestyle rather than a mental or neurologic disorder? The jury is still out on this one and will probably note that there are many types of pedophiles, not one robust group with characteristics that can be categorized and treated as such.

One study looked at an autoimmune disorder for possible indications of this helping them accomplish their two goals. A pilot study of diabetic sex offenders in 1992, albeit with a small sample of only 13 diabetic male sex offenders and 13 nondiabetic sex offenders indicated that those with diabetes as adults tended to have less sexual experience with adults and more with prepubescent females, problems in emotional control, were aggressive in their behavior, showed poor cooperation and disturbances including anxiety, health concerns, family problems, problems with authority, criminality, confused thinking and ruminating.

Although there was no difference in the frequency of violent behaviors between diabetic and nondiabetic sex offenders, the diabetics, according to the study, were more extreme. They also showed more violence toward their children. Making the comparison that diabetic sex offenders are more violent than nondiabetic sex offenders in such a small study can lead to improper inferences regarding sex offenders such as pedophiles and diabetes.

The researchers were searching for some physical factor that had not previously been explored, and they chose diabetes. We already know that diabetes has an emotional component to it and that depression is one of its effects. The proffered association between an autoimmune disorder and sexual violence toward children is spurious and dangerous.

One could suspect this would be tantamount to saying that ice cream had a disturbing and contributory effect on violent behavior. How could that be? When is ice cream most often sold or, in prior years, when was it most often sold? The summer heat brings people out onto the streets and can affect their emotional dyscontrol. We know more murders take place during the hot summer months. People consume ice cream during this hot weather, but ice cream does not contribute to their violent behavior. Circular reasoning can be a more-than-risky thing and readers are cautioned about any research that attempts to makes such connections or unwarranted correlations.

But this is where the research begins to become interesting in legal cases such as Jeffrey Epstein.

Seeking yet another pathway to explain sexually inappropriate behavior, specifically pedophilia, researchers have begun using new technology to explore the brain and brain hormones. Among the new tools are PET (positron emission tomography) and more sophisticated MRS (magnetic resonance spectroscopy) which permits peering into the brain as it performs certain tasks and assessing some of the brain hormones associated with it.

Research over the years has indicated that there are a number of brain and brain hormone abnormalities found in subjects who were deemed to be exercising pedophilia. Among these studies were pet scans (positron emission tomography) which identified certain areas of the brain that would have mediated sexual arousal in normal individuals but which appear to be acting in an abnormal fashion in persons with pedophilia.

A further study which used MRS (magnetic resonance spectroscopy) in imaging brain areas, also measured the brain hormone GABA which is often associated with levels of anxiety. Pedophilia sex offenders showed reduced GABA compared to healthy controls and may indicate that they have a reduction in their inhibition which this hormone would normally have provide. Additionally, it may lead to a lack of anxiety regarding their actions.

While brain alterations have been found to be of interest to researchers, there is, seemingly, little evidence that would support an ongoing and robust theory that pedophilia is a neural biologic disorder a.k.a., a brain abnormality. The defense, while intriguing, would seem to be a feeble one if based on current research.

Is Jeffrey Epstein a disabled person who functions at the behest of his biology? Or, on the other hand as has been indicated in some research, is he someone who engages in criminal behavior that is totally devoid of pedophilia? Both of these are interesting questions which his legal team, obviously, will want to explore in their efforts to exonerate him from a potential life sentence in prison. Current charges against Epstein include not only sex trafficking of young girls, but potential questionable financial actions with regard to major international banks.

Meanwhile, despite the Epstein case, the search for both the origins and the potential effective treatments of pedophilia must continue. Victims are out there today, possibly in reach of their predators, even under the watchful eye of diligent parents.

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