What help do pedophiles need?
One of the most common things us pedophiles get told by people online — other than “kill yourself” — is “get help!” Of course, by that they mean to imply that every pedophile needs psychiatric or psychological help or treatment to either a) be “cured” of our terrible “illness” or b) to help us “manage” our condition and resist our “urges” and not abuse a child.
The former comes from the misunderstood idea that pedophilia is a “disease” that can somehow be “cured”. While it is true that pedophilia is currently regarded as a mental disorder, there are many nuances and the same could be said not that long ago about homosexuality. In addition, even if considered a disorder, it is widely accepted by the people that research pedophilia and treat pedophiles that the condition of being sexually attracted to children is impossible to change or “cure”. It is not the purpose of this post to explore this though, I will do so shortly in a dedicated post.
The latter is simply based on biased and prejudiced views and a misunderstanding of pedophilia as a condition. The reality is that the only pedophiles people hear about are those that have made it to the news headlines for having molested children or been caught producing, distributing or downloading child pornography, so it is only natural for the public to believe that all pedophiles indulge in one or more of those things and only through a very close monitoring can they be persuaded or prevented from doing so. In their view, a pedophile has to be constantly supervised or otherwise they are a threat to every child they encounter, which is simply ridiculous.
Others believe all pedophiles should be chemically (if not physically) castrated — given testosterone-reducing or otherwise libido-reducing medication — which is apparently the only way they believe a pedophile is able to refrain from acting on our attraction. The reality is quite different though. I will address child pornography in other posts in the future, but when it comes to actually sexually molesting children, it is generally as simple as knowing that it is wrong and that there is a very high risk of causing the child severe harm for a pedophile to refrain from ever doing so. We are not by definition monsters who wish to inflict pain and suffering onto others in order to achieve our own pleasure. We can be as empathetic as anyone and the desire to not cause harm is more than enough for the majority of us to abstain from acting on our attractions. Everyone is in control of their own actions at all times, and if anyone doubts their ability to refrain from acting on their attractions it is a self-inflicted doubt caused by internalizing the prevailing narrative that all pedophiles are bound to molest a child sooner or later, but not because pedophilia somehow impairs one’s self-restraint, because it just doesn’t. As I explained in my article about sexual fantasies, pedophilia is not a compulsion or an irresistible urge, and the notion that it is so is a misguided one based on prejudice and stigma.
Do pedophiles need therapy?
If the attraction to children cannot be made to disappear through therapy, do pedophiles need therapy at all? Like I mentioned above, many pedophiles have self-inflicted doubts about their ability to refrain from acting on their attractions because they have internalized the message that they are destined to do so at some point in their lives. These deeply internalized beliefs are often accompanied by feelings of desperation and self-loathing, and often even suicidal feelings. Pedophiles have no inherent desire to harm children, and the thought that they will inevitably harm one is distressing to the core. In addition, there is a very real risk that these beliefs turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy. This is not something I’m simply making up on the spot; it’s widely acknowledged by psychologists. In this article you can read about how your beliefs about yourself that you have internalized since childhood have a very important impact on your behavior. I’ll quote here just one sentence, which I think sums it up pretty nicely:
«Your beliefs about yourself are like an invisible, underlying script from which you unknowingly act out your life.»
If you insist on perpetuating the false narrative that pedophiles are nothing more than ticking time bombs waiting to explode, you are actually hindering pedophiles’ ability to refrain from acting out on their attractions. Of course some people are more susceptible to those external messages than others, and many are able to realize they are not true and overcome their self-inflicted doubt. But sometimes it takes time, and support. Peer support through online forums like Virtuous Pedophiles can be extremely important, and I read testimonies daily about how the support received there has helped improve a pedophile’s self-confidence in their commitment to never offend. That is not always enough, however, and some pedophiles would greatly benefit from professional mental health support from a good psychologist or psychiatrist, in order to overcome the deeply internalized belief that they will inevitably offend.
In addition, you have to understand what it is like to grow up and realize you are sexually attracted to children. The loneliness, the isolation, the fear that someone will discover this part about you, the knowledge that most people out there would hate you if they knew… these are things many people growing up with more mainstream but still unconventional sexual orientations know very well, and should at least be sympathetic to what it’s like. As I mentioned in one of my first articles, the suicide rates among LGBT teens are four to six times higher than among the general population of teenagers. The fear that the people that are supposed to love you unconditionally — such as your parents and your close friends — would reject you can be the most crippling for a young person. Furthermore, pedophiles face the messages they hear and read in the news and on the internet about how they are the scum of the earth, less than human and deserve to be slaughtered painfully and mercilessly, or physically castrated. Being exposed to these can be incredibly disheartening, and it can take a long time to grow the skin to be able to realize they’re only based on ignorance and prejudice, and that they can be dismissed as the product of blind hatred and little rational thought.
For all these reasons, many pedophiles develop severe depression, anxiety disorders, paranoia and live in a state of constant distress which is not conducive to remaining non-offending. Anyone who knows anything about the subject knows that pedophiles who offend often do so when they are at their lowest. Being in a healthy state of mind is also key in building that self-confidence I talked about earlier. That is not true just for child sexual abuse though, anyone that knows anything about crime prevention will tell you the same thing about any other crime.
Do pedophiles have access to therapy?
People often say that there’s nothing stopping pedophiles from going to a therapist, but the reality is not so simple. Many countries have bought into the incorrect assumption that all pedophiles eventually molest, and have enacted mandatory reporting laws. If someone admits to a licensed therapist that they are attracted to children, they could automatically be deemed a risk and be reported to the authorities, even if they have never done anything wrong in their entire lives. In theory, therapists should only report if the pedophile is admitting to be actively committing abuse or if there is a clear risk for a specific child. The latter, though, is subjective enough that it could spell disaster for any pedophile that has contact with children in their life in any capacity — whether has his own children (like many of us do) or works with children in any way, such as being a teacher, a youth coach, a camp counselor, etc. Additionally, imagine if someone disclosed their attractions to a therapist, the therapist decided not to report him and the individual ended up sexually abusing a child. The consequences for the therapist would be devastating, and therefore they’d much rather be trigger-happy when it comes to reporting than favor patient-doctor confidentiality. Last but not least, although that is thankfully not something too widespread, therapists are human beings often subject to the same prejudices as everyone else, and some genuinely believe the ticking time bomb theory, and that it is right to report a pedophile to the authorities even if they haven’t actually done anything wrong. Since they will face no legal consequences for violating confidentiality, they are free to report that filthy pedo without fear of losing their license.
I have read horror stories of what happened to pedophiles that had never committed a crime or harmed anyone and confided in a mental health professional, only to be reported and have their lives turned upside down, being outed to their friends and relatives, being removed from their homes and essentially affecting their lives in a very negative way. Thankfully, many other pedophiles have found non-judgmental and sympathetic therapists that have been able to help them overcome their depression and self-hatred, and build up their self-confidence. Knowing the risks involved in even admitting your attractions to a therapist, most pedophiles simply never go see one, and even more so those who have the highest levels of self-doubt about their ability to refrain from acting, since they would be the most likely to be reported. So far from helping to protect children, these mandatory reporting laws are deterring the pedophiles that feel like they need the support not to offend the most from getting it. It is as backwards and counterproductive as it could possibly be.
The only way out of this situation is for the public — and over time the legislators — to really understand pedophilia. Refusing to discuss the topic, shoving it under the rug, does nothing to prevent child sexual abuse. The only way forward is to destigmatize the condition of being attracted to children—but never the action of having sex with children — and allow pedophiles to freely, and without fear, seek the help that they so much desire us to get. And that’s why I’m here, doing what I do. In hopes that one day people will not equate pedophile with monster or ticking time bomb, and those of us who feel like we need access to mental health support, either to build that self-confidence in our ability to never harm a child or simply to learn to accept ourselves as decent human beings whose attractions don’t make us evil, can do so without fear. Perhaps that day we will also be able to confide in our closest relatives and friends, because knowing that people accept you for who you are, without you having to hide such an important part of yourself is also incredibly valuable and works wonders in improving your self-esteem and, with it, your self-confidence.
You can help
In summary, I would say that indeed yes, pedophiles need help, just probably not the kind of help you would assume, or for the reasons you may think. And the great thing is that you can actually help.
And you don’t have to be an expert to be able to help. Here are some very simple things you can do:
- Care about your fellow human being who did not choose to feel what he feels and only wishes to live his life peacefully without causing anyone harm.
- Consider that perhaps you don’t know all the facts about pedophilia and child sexual abuse. That maybe what you’ve been told to be true, what you’ve read in the media or heard in the news, isn’t exactly the way it is portrayed.
- Realize that perhaps it is worth listening to the perspective of a pedophile who is committed to never harming a child, that we actually deserve — and have the right — to have our voices heard.
- Understand that pedophile and child molester are not one and the same, and that the former doesn’t automatically lead to the latter.
- Challenge yourself, your prejudices and those of the people you encounter perpetuating the stigma of pedophilia, and contributing to the status quo that is preventing those you so much desire to “get help” from doing so.
By doing these simple things you will be helping pedophiles live happier and more fulfilling lives, confident that they will never act on their attractions. And by doing that you will be helping to reduce child sexual abuse, and I can’t think of a more important reason for you to realize that it is in your hand to make a change. While it is true that pedophiles account for a minority of sexual offenders against children, a single child spared from abuse is already a victory. Wouldn’t you agree?