Some aspects of the relation of Western societies in the last years towards pedophilia may be described by words like moral panic, hysteria or witchhunt. Horrible legal penalties are part of this witchhunt.
But there are a lot of other ways of hunting pedophiles:
Another question is the usage of this witchhunt for other purposes:
Nonetheless, there may be also other reasons for this witchhunt. Krauthammer 1996 considers it at outbreaks of irrationalism. The comparison with the classical withchhunt - like the Salem witch trial - is interesting.
A typical witchhunt effect is an increasing number of accusations combined with decreasing number of substantiated cases. Research from Australia and Britain indicated that while expenditures for child abuse [remedies and prevention] have increased greatly in the past decade, the number of substantiated cases has remained about the same (FMSF Newsletter, July/August, 1995, p.3). Data from two states, New Hampshire and South Dakota, appear to show a similar pattern.