Thursday, November 26, 2015

Life As A Pedophile

Um... What?

I think this is going to be a very difficult thing for most people to understand, so take a little trip with me. Imagine your crush, the person you would love to go out with. Maybe you already are- maybe you are married. Now imagine that their images are everywhere. They are on people's tee-shirts, on billboards, on television, on those annoying ads on your phones, computers, and tablets. Then imagine not being able to even date them because doing so would harm them.

That world is not very different from the life of a pedophile. Children are everywhere. There are ads featuring children, every time you buy your food there are children around, there are children at the worship service you go to, walking down the street, etc. You probably are completely unaware of just how inundated our society is with children because you are so used to it. But for a pedophile, someone attracted to children (I am not, and never will, use the word 'pedophile' to refer to someone who has harmed a child), that reality is very visible and very daunting. You can only avoid children so much, and you can never act on it.

Morally Unacceptable

Obviously, it is morally wrong, illegal, and socially unacceptable for an adult or older child to be sexual with a child. That is why I used the earlier analogy- to drive home just how unfair it is. A pedophile does not choose to like children, and no one knows, much like homosexuality, what causes the attraction. Some pedophiles are only attracted to children. Others, like me, are also attracted somewhat to older people their own age, or teenagers. Others still are attracted to children, and while it does impact their life enough to qualify as a disorder, they are equally attracted to people their own age. Others do not have the distress or interference that would make it a diagnosable disorder. 

Yet images of children and teenagers, and indeed children and teenagers themselves, are everywhere. Even a drive to the supermarket, I likely see at least fifty to one hundred images or people involving children or teenagers, even if I go at non-peak times. So obviously, I have to be aware of that, and I have to make sure that my thoughts towards it are healthy. I cannot afford to get wrapped up in just how unfair it is that I have these attractions, or how I should not have these attractions, or how wrong they are. I cannot get wrapped up in how unfair it is that I can never act on how I feel. The moment I do, I am at risk for spiraling into a fantasy of a child, which could spiral into other things. The only thing I can do is accept that I feel that way, and move on. If I dwell on it, nurture it, or get angry about it, I am in an unhealthy place. 

Management

Attractions to children can be managed, just like someone with an allergy can manage their allergy, or someone with anxiety can manage their anxiety. So pedophilia is the same as every other mental health issue out there: Treatable and manageable. That is why I often compare my pedophilia with my asperger's. But the difference with pedophilia is that the end result, much like alcoholism or drug addiction, of not managing it can lead to a significant impact on other people. It is unlikely to result in harm to a child for weeks or months, or even years, but the effects are still apparent. 

Typically, withdrawing, isolating, throwing themselves into community work or our jobs is the start. That can lead to going to things like pornography, or child pornography, which is already impacting children and harming people. That can then lead to abusing a child, which affects the child, the child's family and friends, and the surrounding community. At the initial point of isolating, it is already affecting others. Their friends and family wonder what is wrong, but cannot explain why. They seem lonely. If a pedophile does end up abusing a child, it is not a decision they come to easily or quickly. It is months to years in the making. They will be grooming the victim, the family, and the community well beforehand- likely without even realizing it. 

Stigma And The Bottom Line

The point that researchers make - and the point I make - is that anyone, regardless of who they are, can have pedophilia. Anyone at all, and the only way anyone can know is if they say something. Creating an environment where it is not safe to say anything will not allow these people to say something, will not allow them to get help. Secrecy is the greatest enabler of child sex abuse. Pedophiles that do not get help and need it can end up dead due to suicide, on the news for molesting a child, withdrawn, depressed, etc. It is in our best interests to enable them to come forward for help.

So, the next time someone uses the word 'pedophile' around you- ask them what they mean. The next time you express an opinion on child sex abuse- think of what led those people to that point of desperation. The next time you see someone who has an unusual interest in children- ask them if there is anything you can do to support them. Refrain from judging just because you do not understand them. Chances are, you will find someone just as normal as you are.

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