Trigger warning: pedophiles. I’m sharing this, because I think it is part of a larger, very important conversation. And that’s what I’m after: conversation. Please comment if you have something to say. Keep it constructive, though. I will be deleting ALL comments that do not build and further the discussion.
Slate posted this article a few weeks ago about treating pedophilia as a mental health issue. Moreover, the article suggests we should try to decrease the stigma associated with attraction to children and adolescents for the sake of those who suffer from such attractions but do not want to act on them. The article discusses some promising research regarding treatment, but also findings that pedophilia probably cannot be “cured.” It also addresses some objections to taking this approach.
Now, I agree with the premise of the article. Pedophiles are not inherently monsters. In fact, the stigma is something that has always bothered me, but defending pedophiles is a quick way to become ostracized. Unfortunately.
Why do we consider pedophilia an absolute evil?
In large part it is because we tend to think of pedophilia as a verb, as the act of abusing and molesting children. But it is not. Pedophilia is a condition, the condition of being attracted to children and adolescents. Pedophilia is a noun. It is no more monstrous than depression, than PTSD, conditions we’ve come to treat with sympathy and compassion. We only think about pedophilia when it is forced into our awareness by some overly scandalized story in which the pedophile has already acted, already abused. Our outrage is misdirected from the actions to the condition.
Slate’s article reports on the difficulty non-offending pedophiles have in seeking treatment to help them refrain from acting on their attraction. Mandatory reporting laws and a cultural revulsion have created an environment where people who suffer from these attractions have no safe avenue to seek help or information. The most common treatment for pedophiles is incarceration. Any therapeutic treatment still usually only occurs after someone has offended. How many could have been helped before they offended if help was available? How many tried to seek help before they lost control?
Think about this: how would you react if someone you’ve known for years confessed to being “minor-attracted?” Would you believe him if he said he’d never acted on it? Would you offer support and encouragement as he tried to find help?
On the off-chance that you do know someone in this situation, here is a great resource: B4U-ACT.
This is important to me because it is part of a larger issue. Most people do not want to harm others, and many want to make the world a better place. But, we all have our demons, our baggage, and our tendency toward human failure. Why are we not treating each other with sympathy and kindness all the time? Is it really so hard to identify with someone who is struggling, who is not perfect? One of the great underdeveloped human capacities is empathy. It’s not even important in our culture. And that makes me profoundly sad.
Now, it’s your turn. Sound off and voice your opinion. But, keep it constructive and on topic, please. Can we protect more children by actually decreasing the stigma associated with pedophilia? If we treat pedophilia as a social health issue will less pedophiles turn into abusers and molesters?