A proposal that long term, recurrent and intense sexual fantasies leading to sexual assault will be re-defined as a mental illness, known as paraphilic coercive disorder (PCD), has outraged special interest groups in Australia.
The manager of the NSW Rape Crisis Centre Karen Willis told Lawyers Weekly that a coalition of interested parties intends to lobby the American Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), in which the revised definition will appear, to express their opposition.
"There is a bit of a ground swell [of interested parties] and comments about the proposal are due by the end of April. We are hoping to establish a coalition ... to protest about the legal implications this might have," said Willis.
While this is not the first proposal for official recognition of PCD, Willis is concerned that this time it might be successful, with potentially serious repercussions for how offenders are dealt with under the Australian criminal justice system.
"[The DSM] is produced in the US but it is internationally recognised. Once the definition is in there, if someone meets the criteria for that mental illness, then that is the diagnosis. Then that evidence, with expert witnesses, could be brought into court," she said.
Willis is also concerned that a test case would inevitably follow, with the potential to set legal precedent and change the way in which courts categorise and sentence offenders.
"It is leaving that door open. If you are a serial offender, then all of a sudden that fact can become part of your defence," said Willis.
The Department of Public Prosecutions declined to comment on the potential effects of the revised DSM, stating that at present, the issue remains in the psychological domain.
Anyone wishing to join the coalition is advised to contact Karen Willis at the NSW Rape Crisis Centre.
- Claire Chaffey