Is Roy Moore A Pedophile? People Attracted To Teens Are Ephebophiles But It's Just As Bad

Roy Moore has continually denied the accusations against him, claiming they are politically driven. Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Correction| Roy Moore, a US judge hoping to fill a now vacant seat in the Alabama Senate, has been accused of sexual misconduct against five women, all who were between the ages of 14 and 18 at the time of the alleged assaults. The accusations may cost Moore his coveted senate seat, but if true, they do not exactly mean that Moore is a pedophile. Rather, Moore may be something called an ephebophile.

Ephedophiles are men and women who are sexually attracted to adolescents who have started puberty and are generally between the ages of 15-16, depending on how early or late puberty may begin, Scientific American reported. Pedophiles, in contrast, are attracted to clearly prepubescent children and hebephiles are sexually attracted to preteen children who have just started puberty but aren't quite done yet. According to psychologists, although these predators may have different sexual preferences, each of their behaviors is just as destructive, regardless of the child's age.

Related: Is sex addiction curable? Kevin Spacey seeks rehab for a condition that does exist

Children are especially vulnerable as they enter and go through puberty, according to Sherry Hamby, founding editor of the journal Psychology of Violence.

"This is a particularly vulnerable time to experience these kind of harms and betrayals, especially because most of the time the assault is by a known perpetrator, someone they trust, which can have psychological and physical consequences," said Hamby, who has more than 20 years of experience dealing with sexual assault victims.

Related: Girls who are raped struggle with horrible health problems all their lives

Even worse, Hamby explained that victims of sexual assault by ephebophiles are often not treated the same as younger sexual assaults victims. The young teens are sometimes blamed for the attack simply because they "look" older than they really are.

"I think that our society is more likely to blame or question if they are being provocative, which of course is ridiculous" said Hamby.

Moore has continued to deny these charges, but some have suggested that even if they are true, there is nothing wrong with consensual relations between an adolescent woman and adult man.The most notable of these was Alabama State Auditor Jim Ziegler, who compared the relationship to that of Mary and Joseph, parents of Jesus Christ.

"Take Joseph and Mary. Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became parents of Jesus. There's just nothing immoral or illegal here. Maybe just a little bit unusual," said Ziegler, The Washington Examiner reported.

According to Hamby, although sexual assault is horrific whenever its committed, often children and toddlers either do not have a very good memory of the assault or do not fully understand what is occurring. On the other hand, older children and teens not only remember the experiences but can react to them differently than victims of other ages. Hamby explained that sexual assault during these vulnerable ages can create significant problems of self-blame, guilt, shame, and can even interfere with the child's developing sexual identity.

One of Moore's victims told The Washington Post that after the assault she became reckless with drinking, drugs, and sex, and even attempted suicide at only 16—behavior that fits in line with victims of childhood sexual assault.

The age of sexual consent in Alabama, the state where the alleged assaults occurred, is 16. When compared to the legal age to buy alcohol (21) or purchase a car (19) in the state, this is low, especially considering that the consequences of sex can be far more drastic, such as an unplanned pregnancy or a sexually transmitted disease.

While the debate of what age a child can consciously make the decision to become sexually active will likely continue, Hamby said the fact remains that unwanted sexual contact is damaging at any age, and looking mature should not be an excuse to ignore wrongdoings committed against adolescents.

An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Roy Moore was a former US judge. It has now been corrected to show that he is currently still a US judge.