Wednesday, August 12, 2015

What If? If I could change my past to not offend...

One thing I have done my best to avoid doing is asking myself the big 'what if'. What if my college had given me the right support? What if I had gotten help before I hurt a child? What if help was readily available? What if the same Google search I did then, 'Help for pedophiles/pedophilia', turned up the same useful results the same search does now? 

I have avoided questions like this intentionally, because I am the type of person who can easily go down rabbit trails and worry about things I have zero control over. My driving is an excellent example of that. Throughout treatment, it was readily apparent that asking those types of questions would sideline what I was focusing on: Not what could have happened or might have been, but what did happen. Now that treatment is complete, I think it would be helpful to answer those questions.

Knowing myself as I do, I wanted to work with children. Working with children was the one thing I felt I could do well, besides writing, but I did not feel that I had enough creativity to make my writing do anything for me. It helped me immensely to know that my attraction was not all bad. It could be harnessed to help people. I am also not saying that my situation generalizes. But I think it is worth sharing. 

I had numerous examples of situations where I genuinely helped children, free from guilt and the stain of being sexually attracted. When I was in college, I spent some time with a visitor of a child I knew and had spent time with. The visitor and the kid I knew kept arguing, and knowing the kid, I knew it was something with the visitor. Through talking with him, I learned that he did not appreciate his life and wanted to die, and I helped him to see his situation differently by sharing parts of my own situation- my parents' divorce, my stepfather's alcoholism and emotional abuse, being bullied. Seeing him turn around from depression to being a happy, normal 10-year-old was one of the best moments of my life. That was just one situation.

So hearing from my college that I should not work with children, I was dangerous, and I had to stop working with children rocked my world and terrified me. That is not what I needed to hear. I viewed myself as safe, because of the way I viewed abuse: Anyone I was attracted to would tell, and anyone young enough that they would not tell was too young to be attractive. I dismissed, through this viewpoint, that I could get away with anything, and therefore could not act for fear of the consequences. So hearing that I was dangerous and should not be around children shattered that viewpoint, and also made me more at risk, not less. Self-fulfilling prophecy, even if you know how it works, still works all the same. Being told you might hurt someone when you do not think you will has a huge effect. 

Also, there were numerous positives to working with children for me: People knew me and liked me, not because of what I did, but how I did it and who I was. I was accepted. This broke the view that I was somehow deficient because I had attraction to children. It did not even allow a foothold for a belief about how monstrous I was for being attracted to children. It made me feel like that attraction did not matter, I mattered. That was all I needed, to belong. And then, when I realized my attraction was not normal, and told someone about my attraction, that shattered. That professor viewed me as a safety risk to children. Even having Asperger's, I could read his reaction and disgust and hear his disdain every time we talked about the attraction and how I was managing it- like he was some kind of expert on what I needed. He did not even know how to work with Asperger's, nevermind pedophilia.

If I had been told something different, I could have still maintained the positive views I had of working with children, gotten help to manage things, build a positive support system that knew and could help me figure out what I needed to stay safe. If I had heard something like, 'We think this is a big deal for you, and that you should focus on making it less of a big deal,' it would have made the reality of needing to stop being around children easier to understand and agree with. Instead of hearing, 'You are a danger to children' I would have heard, 'You are not taking care of yourself, so you cannot be effective in helping others'. It still would have stung, but it would not have been earth-shattering. It would have been an opportunity for growth and support. How it was framed scared me away from help, even before I was told that treatment would mean being a sex offender and that the psychosexual evaluation cost $1500 and was not covered by insurance. Of course I ran away from their "help".

Knowing that you have an attraction that people hate and do not understand is not good knowledge to have. Even if the beliefs are not realistic, you want to form beliefs to counter this hatred. I did not choose to be attracted to children. I did choose to let that attraction grow and get out of hand. It is no coincidence that I began viewing sexual abuse material around the time the college 'intervened' by ordering me around. I was depressed, overwhelmed, and terrified. I turned to the pornography to run away from how I was feeling, at the same time I did my best to shut off my emotions, at the same time the pornography was something that allowed me to feel. 

Fast forwarding, one of the biggest things that gave me hope after I was arrested was being able to talk with someone from the Center for Sexual Health about their program, and asking them basic questions: Is it possible to live a normal life? Is it possible to be safe around children? Essentially, I was asking if there was hope to manage the attractions- and every single one of her answers was yes, there is hope. That was when I started believing in myself again. Hearing the judge, my probation officer, and my public defender all say I did everything I could to prevent the abuse with what I knew, and that I had a fair shot at turning everything around for the better, and getting that chance was amazing. That was when I knew I could do it. I had not even started treatment yet. I had five years of probation to look at, and however long treatment would take. But I knew I could do it, because experts in sex offenders told me I could.

I had someone ask me the question, 'What would have had to be different in order for you to not offend?' I think for me, that boils down to what I believed about myself and the right people speaking into my life to tell me the truth about having pedophilic disorder, and help me accept and understand my Asperger's. That is why I share about working with children being so important. It was not the working with children, of itself, that was valuable to me. It was how it made me feel and counteracted the negative self-talk and beliefs about myself. Viewing myself as a monster because I had a sexual attraction I could not change, it was helpful to be around people who reinforced the idea that I was a good person.

When I look back at everything, all of the knowledge I have about what I did, my choices, those that influenced me, and where I was at, I come to the conclusion that I did not have the right support in place, nor did I really have any support in place. I did not have people to talk with about the attraction, because I did not feel safe discussing it- contrast that to having 6 different close friends who are okay discussing it and are positive influences. I did not have a therapist that understood anything about pedophilia. I had no resources, no knowledge, and no real friends. Instead, I had secrets, negative self-esteem, negative beliefs, and a resistance to accepting that I had Asperger's. Ironically, it was my victim and his family that led me to not only accept my Asperger's, but embrace it. I am glad for their influence, because without it, treatment would have been much harder. 

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