Wednesday, April 29, 2015

'Pedophile Priest' and 'Convicted of Pedophilia'

The Biggest Atrocity

One of the biggest atrocities when talking about child sex abuse is not actually the impact on the victim. Yes, you read that right. The biggest atrocity is how the crime is treated. More often than not, you hear about pedophile priests (hey, it rhymes, right?), convicted pedophiles, or pedophiles who stalk children. Some pedophile did this, some pedophile did that. I do not think it is treated seriously enough. The biggest atrocity is that the crime is constantly being minimized in the media, and in our everyday language.

Effects Of Abuse

You see, when someone sexually assaults a child- I used assault that time- they are stealing things from that child, things that child may never get back. They are stealing from them a mentally healthy way of viewing themselves and the world, they are stealing the child's peace of mind and sense of security, they are stealing their emotional well-being, and they are robbing the child of their choices. A child cannot consent, even if they say yes, because they have no idea what they are saying yes to. They could easily be saying yes because the rapist did things for the child to make the child feel like they have to do something to earn them.

In a nutshell, that is what sexual assault does to a child. There are other impacts. But my point is that the word 'pedophile' means 'someone with pedophilia', and pedophilia is just the condition of being attracted to children. Most people with it will never act upon it. Child sex abuse is not about an attraction to children that interferes with the abuser's life. It is about the abuser choosing to sexualize a child, violate their boundaries, and abuse them. It is about the abuser's choices to hurt a child and the impact it has on the child. That choice is made for many reasons, and there are many factors involved. But those factors and motivations are not what caused the sexual abuse, ultimately it was a decision.

Minimizing Abuse

By using the incorrect terms 'pedophile' and 'pedophilia', we are minimizing the impact of child sex abuse on the victim, and we enable people to hurt children more frequently, and with the idea that their actions are the result of some disorder rather than their own choice to harm a child. Imagine you were the victim of a thief stealing your wallet, your identity, and causing all sorts of problems for you. You have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars fixing it, and now they've caught the jerk that did it. And in the headlines, they discuss how his kleptomania kept him from paying for things the way most people do. The guy gets a few months of probation and mandated to a treatment program. My guess is that you would be furious.

That is the sort of minimization that is implied by using these terms improperly. Add to that the sadistic tendency in the media to describe just what was done to the child, and you have a system and a response that is not aimed at the victim getting justice. It is about satisfying curiosity, generating sensation, and indirectly saying, "Look at this shocking thing!" It is clickbait, of a kind.

Prevention And Help

I believe firmly that with the right tools and resources available to actual pedophiles- those with the disorder who may or may not have hurt a child- they can be prevented from ever harming a child, or harming more if they have already. Also, by identifying those at risk for abuse who are not attracted to children, who make up the majority of offenders, we can prevent them from ever harming a child by getting them the coping skills and help they need to ensure they do not abuse a child.

However, in order for that help to be available, we need to look at these people who have not offended as if they have not offended and need help. Not as people who have already hurt children, because those who have hurt children and those who want help for being attracted to children are two very different groups of people. Those who want help cannot get help if they think they will be arrested if they try to get it.

Pornography

Introduction

One interesting topic that comes up in talking about child sex abuse is pornography. I am not just talking about “child pornography”, but that is the main focus here. A common statement that comes up when discussing pornography is the statement 'I'm not hurting anyone'. I think this statement needs addressing. First of all, if the person making that statement is someone who has viewed pornography- child exploitation or not- they probably have no idea how that pornography is made. To be fair, I do not either. What I do know is that making sexual images of yourself, or allowing them to be made, in exchange for money always brings up concerns regarding choice. 

Ethical Concerns

If someone is selling their body for money- prostitution, pornography, whatever- then there is an economic reason that they are allowing these images to be made, and most people I know do not choose their economic situation. Add to that already complex issue of choice the fact that most images end up somewhere on the internet and you have a slew of ethical issues addressing the viewing of pornography- and so far all I have thrown ideas around about is adult pornography. When an image ends up on the internet, there is no controlling who can see it, search it, view it, download it, or use it. There is also no controlling how that image is used.

Add just the second issue- the issue of the internet- and apply it to child rape. The children in the videos or images of “child pornography” are not old enough to understand what is happening to them. They have zero choice in what is happening, how it happens, when it happens, or who sees it. My point is that viewing pornography of anything other than something that someone uploads themselves, for free, and erotic art that is drawn has a great deal of ethical issues surrounding it. You, whether you view adult, child, or any kind of mainstream pornography, impact the person in the picture simply by viewing it. Chances are, the impact just from wondering who has viewed it and who has not is immense.

Creating Virtual Demand

I have tried to capture as best I can the impact that pornography of any kind can have. No matter how you view it, you when you view an image, the fact that the image was viewed by an IP address is logged. If nothing else, you participated in the popularity of what you are viewing and led more people to see it. Pornography is not victimless, ever, even if it is adult pornography. This is because viewing it, even from the privacy of your home, creates a demand. Not only do you demand more pornography because of its addiction, you create the psychological demand for more to be created by indirectly telling the creator, statistics counter, and the internet in general "I want this". Clicking on an image sends that message, whether that message is intended or not.

Therapeutic Definitions

When it comes to “child pornography”, the psychological definition is far more important than a legal definition. After all, a legal definition of “child pornography” could make a 12-year-old who sends a nude picture of themselves a "distributor of “child pornography”". You could also have children who were filmed or photographed, nude, that were not all that affected by the act and were not traumatized by it. And yes, there have been cases where teens are charged for sexting pictures of themselves, or possessing images of themselves or others. 

A therapeutic definition of "“child pornography”" means that if there was a victim, in other words, if there was trauma to a person who had their picture or a video taken, then it is “child pornography”. What matters most to the issue of pornography, particularly “child pornography”, is whether or not someone was harmed, forced, or coerced into producing the content by their economic situation, manipulation, violence, threat of violence, etc. Only the person involved can tell you that. 

Some opt to use different terminology for “child pornography”, like 
child sexual exploitation material. I appreciate the rationale behind using more accurate terminology, but there are some longer terms that present a challenge for most humans (child sexual exploitation material is fairly long to type, and CSEM will just confuse people, for example). I use “child pornography” with definitions like that in mind, and I use a therapeutic definition for similar reasons. The respect needs to be to the perspective of the victim, not how surrounding society reacts to the issues.

For a much bigger picture on why “child pornography” impacts its victims, see 
this story and this one. It is disturbing beyond words. If you are or have viewed “child pornography”, you should read it. If you are a victim, you should use caution in reading it, as it may be triggering. However, I think it would still be of value to victims as well as offenders or at-risk peoples. There is also a great research paper, as well as a study, that discusses these issues as well.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Pedophilia, Sexual Attraction, Sexuality and 'Cures'

Throughout my time in treatment, I have been asked a great many questions and seen a great many statements and questions both in the news and by my friends regarding attraction to children, or pedophilia (pedophilia being the disorder, not the label for those who abuse children). One question I was asked by a friend is, 'What is the difference between your attraction to children, and a homosexual's attraction to the same sex?' I would like to take the time to answer that question and others like it.

In one sense, my attraction to children is no different from attractions to the same sex, or other sexualities (I use the word sexualities to acknowledge that sexual attraction spans much more than just heterosexuality and homosexuality- sexuality is a continuum, much like autism or politics and there are no neat categories that everyone fits into). It is not an attraction I chose to have, and it is not something that is likely to change. Just like other sexualities, my response to my attraction is my responsibility: Some try to ignore their sexuality, some acknowledge it but do not wish to feed it, some embrace it, some act on it and seek partners fitting their sexuality. But unlike other sexualities, my attraction is to a population that cannot consent to and is not ready for sex. Legally and morally, it is not something I can ever feed, embrace, or find a partner for.

My view of my attractions are that they are not changeable, but nor are they something that I am comfortable taking any further than attraction. Practically speaking, when I see a child and I find them attractive, I acknowledge that feeling and choose to move on rather than dwell on that feeling. Sometimes I do have fantasies of children, and that makes me uncomfortable, but it is not something I beat myself up over because that is just as unhealthy as seeking those fantasies out. If they happen they happen, but I move on. That is what makes attraction to children different from other sexualities.

With that being said, some well-intentioned people have often asked the question, 'Can sex offenders be cured?' I think this is an atrocious question because of how it asks what those people really want to know: Can sex offenders reach a point where they are safe in society? That question is very different from 'can we cure them' because it assumes that a sex offender has some sort of disease that is cureable. Yes, the mental health diagnosis that sex offenders often receive- bipolar, anxiety, depression, ADHD, autism, pedophilia, and others- have a direct hand in the offense that the offender committed. My autism played a very big role in my offending, because of how I interpreted the world around me and how I viewed things. It affected what I believed about myself and other people. I believed no one could understand me, I was a monster, and that I was doomed to follow my parent's mistakes.

That does NOT mean that people with anxiety will offend sexually against other people, or that everyone with pedophilia will hurt a child. It means they have a mental health issue that significantly impacts their life. Those issues can be managed to the point where the person is healthy and safe in society. Most people meeting me these days are not even aware of my autism unless I say something about it, or they have worked with people with autism before, and when I explain what autism is and how it affects my ability to communicate, they find it hard to believe that I have something 'wrong' with me.

I am offended by the idea that I need to be cured. I cannot go back in time and erase my offense, as much as I would like to take back the pain I caused. I cannot not be a sex offender. I offended sexually against someone and violated their boundaries. By definition, that makes me a sex offender. I cannot change the action I took, therefore I cannot be cured of having taken that action. Similarly, I do not have a disease. I have two mental health disorders that I have learned to manage so that I can live a normal, healthy life. I have to pay attention to things that some people do not, and I have to avoid situations that some people do not. That does not make me unsafe, risky, or diseased. It makes me human.

The biggest thing my treatment has taught me is that understanding myself and others better leads to empathy towards myself and others. What that empathy means is that I am not alone in whatever I am dealing with. In a population of 7 billion people, I am never alone in facing something. Hopefully, you can understand this issue more by understanding me. And hopefully, that understanding can lead to breaking down the things that prevent people who are seriously wrestling with their sexuality and attractions from hurting other people, and getting help instead. I would not know about my treatment program unless someone had told me about it, and I would not have graduated from that program if someone had not taken the time to understand me and help me.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

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