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Unfortunately, people sometimes mistakenly interpret it as referring to the perpetrator's sexual orientation.As an expert panel of researchers convened by the National Academy of Sciences noted in a 1993 report: "The distinction between homosexual and heterosexual child molesters relies on the premise that male molesters of male victims are homosexual in orientation.Whereas pedophilia and hebephilia refer to psychological propensities, child molestation and child sexual abuse are used to describe actual sexual contact between an adult and someone who has not reached the legal age of consent.In this context, the latter individual is referred to as a child, even though he or she may be a teenager.Although the terms are not always applied consistently, it is useful to distinguish between pedophiles/hebephiles and child molesters/abusers.Pedophilia and hebephilia are diagnostic labels that refer to psychological attractions.To understand the facts, it is important to examine the results of scientific research.However, when we evaluate research on child molestation, our task is complicated by several problems.
In a 1970 national survey, more than 70% of respondents agreed with the assertions that "Homosexuals are dangerous as teachers or youth leaders because they try to get sexually involved with children" or that "Homosexuals try to play sexually with children if they cannot get an adult partner." By contrast, in a 1999 national poll, the belief that most gay men are likely to molest or abuse children was endorsed by only 19% of heterosexual men and 10% of heterosexual women.For example, the proportion was 54% in 2005, compared to 27% in 1977.Even though most Americans don't regard gay people as child molesters, confusion remains widespread in this area.Consequently, it is important to use terminology carefully.Another problem related to terminology arises because sexual abuse of male children by adult men is often referred to as "homosexual molestation." The adjective "homosexual" (or "heterosexual" when a man abuses a female child) refers to the victim's gender in relation to that of the perpetrator.