Monday, April 25, 2016

Therapeutic Information, Guidelines, And Resources For Pedophiles/MAPs

Immediate Help

Hotline information and links are included at the bottom of this post, and on the right-hand side of this blog. This is a long post with a lot of information to digest and process. If you do not have the time to process the information or read it through several times, please utilize a more immediate resource for your needs.

Introduction

This is a post directed exclusively at MAPs/pedophiles (MAP is Minor Attracted People, sort of a catch-all for attractions people younger than one's self). If you are a parent, I have a blog post that would be helpful for you. I owe some of these answers to a group that is no longer publicly visible. They did a video where they answered some of my questions, and the inspiration for this post came from their answers.

So, with much thanks to their answers and their input, and from what I already know about the ideas around mandatory reporting and therapy that are in the pedophile/MAP community, I would like to formulate a resource specifically for people who are thinking about finding a therapist or someone to talk to about their attractions.

Before I get into this, I want to say a few things up front about views I have and assumptions I make throughout the remainder of this post:

  • Being a pedophile does not automatically make you a risk to children, in my view, or in the view of a therapist who is an expert at treating these issues. Risk is determined by a host of factors. 
  • A decision about whether or not you need therapy, or how you view your attractions, is entirely yours. I cannot dictate what you should or should not do, nor should anyone else attempt to tell you that. 
  • Research and researchers indicate that most pedophiles do not sexually abuse children, and most people who sexually abuse children are not pedophiles.
  • A pedophile is someone who is attracted to prepubescent children and is diagnosed with pedophilia, not someone who has molested a child. A hebephile is someone who is attracted to pubescent children, not a pedophile. 
  • Your attractions rise to the level of a disorder if they cause you distress and interfere with daily life. There is room in the current manual for diagnosing mental health issues for those with a paraphilia-style attraction, such as an attraction to minors, but do not cause distress and therefore are not worthy of a disorder status. In other words, just because you have an attraction to minors does not automatically mean you have a mental illness. Please see my recent post on mental illness and stigma for more details on mental illness.
  • Mandatory reporting is often misunderstood, both by therapists and by the average person and I will explain what mandatory reporting is, legally, and how that affects you seeking out a therapist. Some countries have mandatory reporting, and some do not. The United States and Canada do have mandatory reporting while Germany does not have mandatory reporting, and beyond those countries you will have to find that out for yourself. 
  • I am not an expert or a mental health professional. I am a primary prevention advocate (see disclosures/disclaimers). I am writing about my experiences on this subject based on my knowledge.
  • I am not being paid to write this, nor do I get any financial benefit from this blog in any capacity. Any ads that appear on this blog are not designed or set up by me. There should not be any ads on this blog (please comment if you see one). 
  • Some of this is mental health 101, so if you are familiar with mental health issues already, some of this information may be redundant.

If you want to look at therapy, or feel like therapy would be helpful, I would encourage you to try to find a therapist in your area. If you are skeptical that it could be helpful, but you are disturbed or distressed by your attractions to minors, then I would encourage you to hear me out. Your choice is yours. I will never, ever say that someone has to get therapy, unless I know them personally and they are setting off red flags and I think they are at risk for maladaptive behavior directed at themselves or others. I cannot make any blanket statements here, and there are some people who do not need a therapist to help them with their attractions. Your decision to seek treatment or not seek treatment is completely yours. No one should force you into that decision, unless they are attempting to do so because they are concerned about you (genuine compassion and desiring to help you, not "you might hurt a kid, you sicko, you need a nut doctor!").

For Adolescents

This blog is primarily intended for adults. However, if you are a teenager, you are welcome to use the resources here. Please know that in most countries, you need your parent's permission and support to access therapy resources if you are below the age of majority in your country. There is some information contained here that may be useful to you, but I encourage you to go to the bottom of this page and use the links at the bottom. I cannot be of any more assistance to you other than directing you to those resources, and what you read in my posts.

My Therapy

I have been through sex offender treatment, and I have a therapist who is affiliated with the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers. They are an international organization dedicated to keeping society safe from sexual abuse, but they do so in a research/fact-based manner. They are a safe organization to trust. I cannot speak for them, but from my own experience they take a very positive and individual-based approach to therapy. What works for me in therapy is specific to me, not generalized to all offenders, all pedophiles, or all MAPs.

Therapists differ in how they approach these issues. Seeking out a therapist that does not have experience with sexual issues will likely not be helpful with ways of dealing with your sexual attractions. I recommend using the "Where do I get help?" section on the right-hand side of this blog for more information, which contains referral information and links to learn more about what sex-specific therapy looks like.

What I can tell you about my experience in therapy is that it was entirely focused on me and my issues. The first part of my therapy program was identifying who I was, what I thought, how I felt, and what I believed. The second part was about identifying significant events in my life. The final part of my program was about formulating a plan to ensure that I am taking care of myself and my needs. There were hints that if I did not manage my needs or my issues that I or others could come to harm, but no more than is realistic for any mental health issue. There was no emphasis on me being a risk or a ticking time bomb just because I am attracted to children.

What To Expect

A therapist that specializes in these areas will not change who you are. You will still be you, and a therapist is not attempting to change your personality. What they do wish to change are your habits and beliefs that may interfere with you being at peace with yourself and having good mental health. They will ask you challenging questions, they will annoy you, and they will say some things that you will disagree with. They do this for your sake, not to be mean or cruel. They want you to think, and they want you to make good choices.

Here is an example: Prior to treatment, I was terrible at asking people for any kind of help or for things that I needed. I was extremely stubborn. In some ways, I still am. But going through therapy helped me see that not asking for what I needed or asking for help was not a good habit. I began to see that other people can have insights and responses that not only helped me with whatever I needed, but also showed me that they care about me.

An experienced therapist will not reinforce negative stigmas about pedophilia and pedophiles. They may tell you things you would not like to hear: If you are in the habit of looking at drawn pornography involving children, they may question if that is a good habit for you. They may challenge how you think about things. But they will not do this to change who you are, but to encourage you to think about what is best for you. Their goals for you will be based entirely on your needs, your circumstances, your risks, and your personality. An experienced therapist will not see you as a risk to children because you are attracted to children, they will see you as a risk if your thinking and behaviors make you a risk to children (there is a difference).

Understanding Mandatory Reporting and Ethics

Mandatory reporting can vary by area. In the United States, most therapists, school staff, counselors, social workers, and others who work with children are mandatory reporters. Camp counselors can even be included in that list. Mandatory reporting essentially means that if one of these people knows about a specific child being harmed, or knows of imminent danger to a specific child, or children in a specific area, they must report it to law enforcement. Law enforcement will then evaluate the information they have, and investigate it. An investigation can be non-intrusive, but most are not. The people in the community will likely know about the investigation and the person being investigated.

It is not typically enough for a mandated reporter to have a vague statement from a client (Jimmy Jones is thinking about possibly hurting some kid somewhere), they usually must have some sort of specific targeted place or person (Jimmy Jones is thinking about punching Billy Bob in the face, or Jimmy Jones is thinking about raping a woman at S University). If someone is being treated by a therapist, and the therapist knows of a threat or danger of harm to someone and they do NOT report it, they can lose their license and, depending on the circumstances, be charged with a criminal offense. So there is a tendency to report if the therapist has the idea that someone is at risk for coming to harm from their client.

That situation also applies to self-harm: If a therapist believes that their client is at imminent risk of attempting suicide, they will contact law enforcement, who will then do a wellness check on the person. The client may be mandated to a hospital's psychiatric hold area, and from there sent to a mental ward for further evaluation. It is unlikely that most therapists will report someone just for having an attraction to children, there are usually other factors involved when such a report is filed with law enforcement.

My point is that a therapist has broad discretion over when to report a situation to police when mandatory reporting laws are on the books in a given country. In a therapy/counseling situation, you should always ask any questions about mandatory reporting, and make sure you understand how they deal with mandatory reporting. Mandatory reporting and court order are the only two instances in which confidentiality can be breached by a therapist or counselor in most cases.

By the ethical guidelines within their fields and organizations, therapists will typically uphold confidentiality and take it seriously. This also applies to social situations: Most therapists, if they see you outside of their office, will not acknowledge you unless you approach them. Ethics guidelines prevent therapists from establishing what is called multiple relationships, or creating a friendship with someone in addition to a therapeutic relationship.

Medications

Some therapists may refer you to a psychiatrist (someone who can prescribe medications) for evaluating what medications, if any, may be of benefit to you. You can state what your preference is for medication upfront. When I began my treatment program, I made it clear that I prefer not to use medication unless it is absolutely necessary. My reasons basically involved not wanting to compromise my ability to think, not wanting to use a crutch, and not wanting to be beholden to a drug to stay sane. There are some cases in which medications may be helpful for specific circumstances. I have several minor attracted friends who get a large benefit from anti-depressant medication because they deal with ongoing depression issues.

An extremely overactive sex drive that is interfering with someone's ability to function in daily life might be prescribed medication to reduce that sex drive, and in extreme cases, chemical castration may be an option to consider. Initially, I was prescribed a medication called naltrexone, and while the primary purpose of it is to treat drug or alcohol addiction, it can lower (but not eliminate) someone's sex drive. It does not affect testosterone and is not chemical castration. I use that as one single example of a medication that could be prescribed. I went off of it because the side effects were bothersome, and I felt it was not needed in my situation and my doctor agreed and allowed me to cease taking it.

A therapist will have their own ideas about prescribing medication, and the practice they operate out of may have their own in-house or in-system psychiatrist. The bottom line is that you have control and consent over what medications you take and what medications you are prescribed. For each medication, Google the name of the drug (the long complicated name, not the one that is easy to pronounce). You should be able to locate a list of uses, side effects, and other information that can help you make an informed decision about whether the medication is right for you. Be honest and ask questions, and make sure you understand why a medication is being prescribed and what it is intended to do.

From what I understand of medications, it can take some experimenting to determine the right dosage and combination to achieve the desired goal. Some medications require time to build up in the body before they become effective, while other medications have more immediate effects. Some medication requires accurate timing when taking, others are slightly more lenient in when you can take them. Do not self-medicate with any prescribed medications and listen to your doctor.

Recommendations And Cautions When Finding A Therapist

With all of that being said, there are therapists who have no idea what they are doing, or how mandatory reporting affects these issues. My experience was with a therapist who I know has a lot of experience treating people with sexual issues. She is experienced with victims of sexual exploitation, child sexual abuse, sexual assault, as well as with perpetrators of these crimes. She is also experienced with people who have attractions to minors but have not acted. But there are therapists who do not have these experiences. Your first order of business is to find a therapist who is at least somewhat experienced in dealing with sexual issues. Without that experience, you may be taking a risk by talking about your attraction to children.

When selecting a therapist, you should be asking some preliminary questions, such as:

  • How many years of experience do they have with sex-specific areas? (the more the better)
  • How many clients have they treated with a sex-specific problem? (the more the better)
  • What sex-specific issues have you treated in the past? (you want someone who can understand)
  • Have they treated people who have perpetrated child sexual abuse? If so, how many clients? (at least one is helpful)
  • What are the limits of confidentiality? (they should be able to give a few examples)
  • What is their mandatory reporting policy? (they should be able to give a thorough and understandable explanation)
  • Have they worked with victims of child sexual abuse? (you want to hear yes)
  • Are you affiliated with ATSA? (you want to hear yes, if no, continue asking questions)
  • Are you a sex-positive therapist? (you want to hear yes)
  • Do you use cognitive-behavioral theory? (you want to hear yes)
These questions should be answered in the first meeting with the therapist, or answerable by their receptionist/staff. By asking these questions, you can weed out the people who are unfamiliar with these areas, and people who have a negative bias towards those with pedophilia. Do not worry about understanding terms like sex-specific, sex-positive, or other terms (ATSA is the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers, one of the resources at the bottom of this post). Your therapist, if they are familiar with these areas, will know what they mean, and both terms cannot be answered in a nutshell.


Disclosing Your Attractions

Telling people that you have attractions to children, also called 'disclosure', must be done with caution: Once you tell someone, your information is in their hands. Ensure that it is someone you can trust before you tell them. It may be helpful to feel out what they think about child molestation, pedophilia, or sex offenders. Mentioning it in casual conversation in the midst of a similar topic (like crime, disabilities/mental health, etc.) could be one way to feel out what they think about related issues. Someone who thinks all pedophiles should be killed or locked up indefinitely is a great example of someone not to tell, and if that person is close to you, it may be hard to hear, but you are better off not telling someone who is not a safe person to talk to. Someone who does not know the difference between a pedophile and a child molester is likely also unsafe.

On the other hand, someone who is at least somewhat sympathetic (ie, "Those pedophiles have a terrible disorder and need help") might be slightly safer. You may be lucky enough to hear the person you are feeling out say that pedophiles have an unfortunate disorder and need psychological help, rather than hearing them use choice derogatory terms. My point is that you and only you can gauge if someone is safe to tell. 

The biggest thing to keep in mind is that you have to be careful about who you tell, particularly on the internet. It is generally a bad idea to disclose your attractions online beside your real name and where you live. Disclosing your attractions absolutely has to involve the correct people for your own safety. The stigma, while it is changing and improving, is still extremely negative and most people do not make the distinction between someone who is attracted to children and someone who has molested a child. Many also see anyone attracted to children as a safety risk to children. The trick is finding the correct person or support group to disclose to.

Resources For Understanding Pedophilia For Muggles

The "muggles" means someone who is not a pedophile/MAP, and is a reference to Harry Potter. I cannot give specific guidance for specific situations, as every situation and every individual is different. However, I can point you to my handy list of resources regarding pedophilia. The Tiny URL is on the right if you wish to use that rather than the full URL (a shorter URL can be useful for sharing on Twitter and other places with character limits).

a. Todd Nickerson's Story: http://tinyurl.com/pq8dolk
b. How Should Society Treat Pedophiles Who Do Not Offend: http://tinyurl.com/gn59l7c
c. Philosophical-Based Ethical Thesis on Pedophilia: http://tinyurl.com/hesguaa
d. Understanding Who Does And Does Not Abuse A Child And Why: http://tinyurl.com/hmu6t7u
e. Truths About Pedophilia Can Make Kids Safer: http://tinyurl.com/jnnneg7
f. Why Dehumanizing Jared Fogle Enables Abuse: http://tinyurl.com/j95ymyk
g. Experts Answering FAQ's About Pedophilia: http://tinyurl.com/j62zbfm
i. Description Of Pedophilia In The New York Times: http://tinyurl.com/jspk28n
j. Does Pedophilia Act Like A Sexual Orientation: http://tinyurl.com/gryxcx5
k. Research In The United States About Pedophilia (Help Wanted): http://tinyurl.com/gm5m7ot
l. Pedophilia and Getting Help/Help Wanted Articlehttp://tinyurl.com/kv34t9a

These can be helpful articles for friends or family members to read. It is highly likely, even if you do find someone who is sympathetic towards the issue to disclose to, that they do not know specific information about it. They may have no idea how to help you, or how to be of any kind of assistance. They may make assumptions about why you are telling them the information. Virtuous Pedophiles, linked below, is an online community that can help you through making disclosures in specific situations.

Online Resource Directory:

Hotlines in the United States:

Stop It Now! 1-888-PREVENT 
Stop It Now also has programs in other countries, which may be found by Googling "Stop It Now" alongside your country, if they exist in your country.
The Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers at 503-643-1023
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Do Pedophiles Deserve Respect?

What Is A Pedophile?

A pedophile, as I have noted many times, is simply someone who is, through no fault of their own, attracted to young children. It is someone with pedophilia. Full stop. That is all. A pedophile is not necessarily a sex abuser, nor is a sex abuser necessarily pedophilic (having pedophilia).

Tie-In to Primary Prevention

Preventing child sexual abuse, advocating against it, and advocating against genital mutilation/circumcision (of either sex), as I pointed out recently, are about human rights. They are about the child's right to their body, and respecting that right. The entire point of preventing child sexual abuse is so that a child can grow up free from knowing the pain, trauma, and addiction cycles that can grow from such abuses. It is about respecting the child, who cannot speak up for themselves very well. They are smaller, weaker, not respected or listened to in some cases.

The same can be said about pedophiles, and by pedophile, again, I mean someone attracted to young children. They have no social status if their attraction to children is widely known. The stigma is well-documented, so I will not touch on that much. But my point is that a pedophile does not choose to be attracted to children, but because of that attraction, they can be treated poorly. Pedophiles and pedophilia is also a human rights issue. Do pedophiles have the right to have sex with children? Absolutely not. Most do not even advocate for the ability to do so, although some do, and their voices, perhaps, are heard louder than the majority who do not hold their views. Should pedophiles be treated with respect?

Shocking Reality

Just crunching the numbers, as I did in a previous post, I found that a high estimate of offending to non-offending pedophiles is somewhere around 24% to 76%. In other words, that even if you take a reasonable, medium estimate of pedophiles and compare that to the number of people who exploit children sexually, and then expand that number, you still get the conclusion that most pedophiles do not harm children. I also read two small-sample studies cited in this article that show the majority of child molesters are non-pedophilic. I recently asked some researchers on Twitter how many child molesters are pedophilic. This was their response:

James Cantor, who is a well-known researcher based in Canada, is the one who responded. Elizabeth Letourneau is the director at the Moore Center for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse. Alice Dreger is a sex-positive psychologist. In other words, those people know their stuff. They said that about a third of child molesters are pedophilic.

This blog is dedicated to the primary prevention of child sexual abuse: Preventing it before it happens. The original idea was that, because I have pedophilia and I had no idea where to go for help, and because I ended up abusing a child, I need to spread the message that help is available and effective at treating pedophilia. I needed to make sure that some resource exists for other pedophiles so that they do not molest children. However, the shocking reality is that most pedophiles do not molest children, and most who do molest children are not pedophiles.

So obviously, part of the premise of this blog is faulty. Most pedophiles do not molest children. I still wager that a good majority of them want help navigating their attractions- and yes, the hebephiles and ephebophiles also. But the shocking reality is that what most people believe about child sexual abusers and about pedophiles is simply not true. They are not the same thing. I recently put up a handy Venn diagram on Twitter to explain what all is involved in sexual exploitation of a child:
I could have made it a lot more complex, if you can imagine that. For example, of the pedophiles that view child pornography, there is research to support the idea that those that view do not necessarily pose a risk to children. That is not represented in this diagram. Those that engage in child sex trafficking are more in it for the money than the sexual exploitation, which is also not represented here. The proportion of each group to the related group or groups are also not true to scale, unfortunately.

The Point

The point is that pedophiles who do not molest children deserve our attention, our respect, and our sympathy. As one pedophile, Todd Nickerson, put it, "I’ve been stuck with the most unfortunate of sexual orientations, a preference for a group of people who are legally, morally and psychologically unable to reciprocate my feelings and desires." I made the statement today that a pedophile who does not give in to their pedophilia and instead advocates against child sexual abuse is a hero. I was not attempting to apply that statement to myself, but about Ender Wiggin. Why? Because fighting an ongoing sex drive that is directed at children takes a lot of effort, a lot of courage, and those that do have my respect. A great analogy is a homosexual person who decides to be celibate and fights their attractions for the sake of their religious beliefs: They are just as deserving of respect, no matter how much I disagree with that particular situation.

He, and many others who are 'out' as celibate pedophiles on Twitter, get a ton of grief from haters on the internet who have no idea who they are. Bullying people and hating people just for having an attraction to children, even if you yourself do not understand it, is just as evil as racism. It is just as abusive as any other form of emotional or verbal abuse. It is the same as saying that someone with depression should get over it, the same as saying a rape victim asked for it, the same as saying an abused child should have stopped it, the same as saying someone on the autism spectrum should be normal, and the same as saying that disabled people need to be locked up in a padded room. All of these people are human, and dehumanizing them makes us all blind to child sexual abuse, rape, and other serious crimes and how they happen. The illusion of invincibility protects no one.

It is barbaric and cruel to be barbaric and cruel to pedophiles simply for having pedophilia, just as it is barbaric and cruel to sexually abuse a child. Yes, you read it correctly earlier when I said I abused a child. I apply that statement to myself also: What I did was barbaric and cruel. I have called child sexual abuse by other labels, like child rape, evil, and many other things: Those terms apply also. However, pedophiles have not abused children (contact offense or pornography) in most cases, but are treated as if they had. I believe that stigma is a barrier to the primary prevention of child sexual abuse.

Stigma and Its Effects

Everyone, no matter what issue they are struggling with, begins their struggle believing that they and only they are the one dealing with it. They believe that no one else understands them. This is common to abused children, this is common to rape victims, this is common to bullying victims, GLBTQ youth (or LGBTQ if you prefer)... the list could grow huge if I named every single struggle, but you understand my point. Breaking the belief that no one else understands can be easy, but with enough stigma, enough hate, enough desperation, that belief can become harder to break. Simply knowing the logical fact that other people must struggle with whatever issue it is not enough. Meeting others who have struggled with it is a great start.

The problem with this with pedophiles is that the stigma against pedophiles, the hate, the level of cruelty directed at them is that it drives them further from getting the help people think they need. Pedophiles do not choose their attractions. They do choose how to respond to them, and most choose not to molest children. Confusing child molesters and pedophiles, hating on pedophiles as if they have abused, and bullying people for having pedophilia contributes to the stigma which interferes with preventing child sexual abuse.

Bottom Line

Pedophiles are human beings. I will continue to sympathize with, empathize with, and defend pedophiles who are celibate and make the statement that abuse is harmful. I do this because I believe that doing so is vital to preventing child sexual abuse. Hopefully, I have sufficiently outlined why that is. If defending pedophiles as human beings makes me a monster in your eyes, then maybe you need to reexamine this post, this blog, and why I advocate for the primary prevention of child sexual abuse rather than just following along with an existing prevention program. I have a number of perfectly logical and valid reasons for doing what I do. If all you are willing to hear is that I am defending pedophiles, then you are just another internet troll that will end up on my block list.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Circumcision: Why I Mention It

Introduction

Circumcision has been in the news recently, although you probably skim over it. The Huffington Post recently did an article about it, and the New York Post did an article awhile back. Male circumcision has been claimed to have health benefits and is said to reduce the risk of STD's/STI's. However, the science and ethics of circumcision make it perfect fodder for this blog.

My Story

Circumcision has always been an odd topic for me. Growing up, I always peppered my mother with questions like why my penis had a ring around it, and I was always baffled by her answer: "Because you were circumcised as a baby." So, I asked what that was, only to get, "They removed your foreskin." And I asked what that was, and I never really understood what it meant. All I really understood was that people were healthier without it, that it is easier to clean without it.

Hindsight is always 20/20, they say, and they are right. Finally, when I was in middle school, I saw a picture of an "uncut" male, and I understood what was missing. The part that stood out to me was that the foreskin had veins and seemed to be very much a part of the rest of the penis. That is when I first started feeling loss, and that the choice was not mine. My thought at the time was that my parents had a part of my penis cut off because a doctor said it was better for me. It seemed odd.

Fast forward into high school, and I still felt that same loss, and it was the same in college. As I started getting into learning about child sexual abuse and the issues surrounding it, I was getting into ways of improving myself. I was figuring out that there were things about me that I always saw as permanent that could change. Some of them were psychological- that I could change how I thought about myself. Others were more educational- that I could learn another language, as I had always wanted to do. But one of the tie-ins was physical: That I could restore my foreskin.

Foreskin... restoration?

Yes, foreskin restoration. The process works on the same principle as those that put guages in their ears, or plates, or neck stretching: You put skin or some other body part under a mild amount of stretching/stress, and the body can be molded as desired. There are devices sold that can help accomplish this. I thought it was a great idea because it is a long process that becomes habitual over time.

Ethical Issues

I see circumcision and intactivism (the advocacy for an intact penis and against male genital mutilation, as circumcision is sometimes called) as a basic human rights issue just like child sexual abuse is. In a case of child sexual abuse, the child is subjected to behavior they are not ready to handle and do not have any control over. In a case of circumcision, the child is subjected to a surgical procedure that is usually medically unnecessary and does not have any control over. Both are human rights violations.

While the harm between the two varies, the ethical issues are very similar. Circumcision has risk of complications that in some cases cause permanent damage to the penis. The damage is physical and only partially reversible. The nerves, the mechanism that holds the foreskin to cover the glans/head of the penis, the frenulum and the function and role it has to the function of the foreskin are still lost. While the functions can be partially restored, the skin will not stay on the glans the same as if the penis had never been circumcised.

To take that away from a child without their ability to choose it is barbaric, just as it is barbaric to take a child's innocence by sexually abusing them. The idea that circumcision is done for health reasons is just a distorted justification because of the poor science that is used to support that justification (there are many other articles on the subject), similar to the reasoning that a child molester uses to justify their abuse is just a justification.

A Child Has a Right To Their Body

The bottom line with both issues is the right of the child: In circumcision, the child has a right to an intact body and to make informed decisions about their body. In the absence of medical necessity, the child is being physically altered for no reason. In child sexual abuse, the child has a right to live a trauma-free life that does not involve people crossing their boundaries. That is why prevention advocates often talk about children having the ability to set boundaries and make their own decisions. The right of the child takes priority in both issues, and the concern in both is for the child.

That is why I occasionally tweet about circumcision, and that is why I am an intactivist. I do not see how anyone could be against child sexual abuse because of the rights of the child, but be pro-circumcision and ignore the rights of the child. It does not make sense and is hypocritical to be against one form of human rights violations, but in favor of another violation. My advocacy, if nothing else, is aimed at being consistent.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

"I Was Sexually Abused."

Introduction

What I am about to say will likely evoke a reaction from you, whether you have dealt with sexual abuse/assault or not. That is not the point or the intent. If you can make it past the next paragraph and get to the questions, and read this entire post, then you are a fantastic person, even if you disagree with what I am about to say.

The Facts

I was sexually abused when I was three by a large hairy man when he removed my pants and performed oral sex on me. The abuse was not all that traumatic, except in how it affected my beliefs and what I thought about myself. I was sexually abused around seven or eight years old when a teenager my parents respected exposed his penis to me. I was sexually abused when I was twelve when my mother put lotion on my penis.

Debrief

Those are factual statements. They are not intended to cause sympathy, distress, or otherwise evoke an emotional response in you, dear reader. I put them out there, in the context of this post, because that is where they belong: In the context of this post. I have experience with abuse, on both sides. That is why this blog, and my aims at primary prevention, exist. Do not dare to tell me you are sorry for what I have gone through. If you want to respond, then do so by discussing this issue. Talk about it with people. Bring it up. That is how you can honor the part of me that was lost when I was abused. However, do not pity me or get emotional. I forbid it.

My experience with abuse does not make me an expert. When I share that I have been abused, I share it to say, "I have some experience with this." I do not share it to shame. I quote from many resources that are experts in the area of child sexual abuse precisely because I am not an expert. I do not believe that having been abused, and having abused, mean that you should automatically believe what I say. They do not lend me automatic credibility, nor should they.

Bring It Up? On The Internet?

However, from time to time, I do bring it up in a discussion with someone who rants and raves about perverts and pedophiles and how sick they are. I do it to make a point: There are many victims of child sexual abuse that have moved on from it, and turned it into a positive driving force for change. This is not done out of anger, because that is not healthy. It is done out of an ongoing desire to see a system and a world where the issues and topics are discussed openly, honestly, civilly, and rationally. The discussions, for the sake of our children, must remain civil and rational and free from emotive responses.

It is an incredibly difficult topic to be rational about. I understand that. However, I must point out that many policies and a lot of stigma and damage have been done by reacting out of pure emotion. The policies we currently have in place do not protect children because they were never tested for efficacy. They were whipped up in a frenzy of emotive politics.

How is it used?

I have seen a fair number of people in comment boards, social media, and other outlets saying that they have been abused. I think in many cases they are factual statements. However, also in many cases I think they are intended as statements that discourage further discussion, or conversation enders, if you will. They can also be used to claim expert status, as if to say, "Because I was sexually abused, I know what all sexual abuse is about." I saw one person using it to claim moral superiority over a pedophile.

I have also seen the statement as a way of calling attention to one's self, or their organization. I suspect that there is money to be made in being the subject of the public's pity. I also suspect that there is an element of pride to some of these organizations. I have done my best to ensure that my motivation will never be financial, which is why this blog does not have ads set up (unless Google is putting them there without my knowledge). I have done my best to make sure that the point of these posts, of this blog, of TNF 13, is about the primary prevention of child sexual abuse, not about me.

Use With Care

In short, I think that when that statement is used, it must be used with care. I have intentionally avoided using it in several instances because I thought it could come across as 'pity me'. I have used it to test how someone will react to it, and to see if they were capable of setting their emotions aside to have a rational discussion. They blocked me rather than continuing the conversation, which shows me they are unwilling to contribute to a solution.

Are you willing to discuss these issues? Will you think calmly, rationally, and openly consider ideas? Will you base those ideas on the facts around the issues? Or will you pretend that the culprits of abuse fit a stereotypical mold and hide from the inconvenient truths about child sexual abuse? Will you put organization, money, and politics aside to look at what works and what does not? Will you discuss this rationally to come up with ideas and solutions based in fact?

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Child Sex Abuse Fact Sheet

Child Sex Abuse:
  • A therapeutic definition of child sexual abuse means that child sexual abuse is a sexual activity, be it touch, photography, conversation, etc between a child (generally 15 or younger) and an adult or older youth that results in harm to the child. 
  • Situations can be abusive without being illegal, and situations can be illegal without being abusive. The most important tool is the victim's statement. 
  • A sexual act can be touch OR non-touch.
  • Abuse typically happens in one-on-one situations
  • Abuse typically happens in a residence, not an organization

The Victims:

  • CDC (Centers for Disease Control) estimates that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused by the time they turn 18 in the United States
  • Abuse/neglect victims cost the country around $210,012 during their lifetimes, according to a 2012 CDC report. Cost includes therapy, productivity losses, criminal justice system, welfare, as well as education. 
  • Any time there is an accusation of inappropriate contact, every attention must go to making sure the child tells the story. Never fill in details about what happened with whom, and let the victim share their story, in their words. Never presume to know they have been harmed, let them describe how they feel in their words. You can make abuse worse by not allowing them space to talk.

The Abusers:
  • Most sex abusers in the United States that have been charged in court are on a sex offender registry. As of last year, 270 people per 100,000 people are registered sex offenders, 66% of which involves child sexual exploitation.
  • 5% of new sex crimes are committed by those with a previous criminal record. 
  • Sex offenders have an average sexual recidivism rate of 13%. This rate is lower among child molesters, and higher among rapists and exhibitionists (flashers). In other words, most abusers do not go on to abuse other children.
  • 95% of sex abusers are known and trusted by their victim, meaning that most abusers are in trusted positions of power in relation to the victim. 
  • About a third of child sexual abuse is perpetrated by juveniles. 
  • Only about a third of sexual abusers have a pedophilia diagnosis (James Cantor).
  • The majority of pedophiles (those attracted to young children) do not sexually abuse children.

Resources:
  • Finding a child advocacy center in your area can assist you in finding resources in your geographical location for getting resources such as therapy, forensic interviews, general knowledge, and can point you to other resources that they do not specialize in. Simply Googling "child advocacy center near [location]" will bring up your local options.
  • The side of this page has resources when viewed in desktop mode. Untested on mobile platforms. All links on the side of the page are external.

Preventative Methods:
  • Prevention can be primary (before the act), secondary (during the act), or tertiary (after the act)
  • Most government-backed prevention methods in the United States and abroad focuses on tertiary prevention by punishing, monitoring, or imprisoning abusers.
  • Most educational prevention methods rely on teaching children safe boundaries, how to say no, how to get away, who to tell, and generally focus on teaching children to inform an adult if abuse is happening. They do not typically involve educating adults, except in the way of providing education to children.
  • Primary prevention methods have been recommended by the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers, Stop It Now, Johns Hopkins' Moore Center for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse, and other evidence-based organizations.
  • Educational and tertiary methods are generally the area of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Parents for Megan's Law, Darkness to Light, and Stop Abuse Campaign. 
  • State-affiliated Coalitions Against Sexual Assault (CASA, usually preceded by the state, or given a similar acronym) work at both primary and tertiary angles. Darkness to Light does some work in primary prevention as well.
Other Tip Sheets

Thursday, April 14, 2016

What Is The Biggest Factor In Child Sexual Abuse?

I am going to say something crazy. It is insane! But I need to get there before I just up and say something psychotic. So let me ask you, the reader, some questions. Some food for thought, if you will. I should warn you that the conclusions of this post will probably keep you up at night.

Questions

What do you think causes an adult to abuse a child?

What do you think causes a teenager to abuse a child?

What role does an attraction to children play in abuse?

What role does mental health play in abuse?

What do you think about the victims of abuse?

Do you think abuse was the victim's fault?

Do you think their stories are made-up?

What danger do you think a pedophile, or someone attracted to children, poses to children?

How harmful do you think adult pornography is?

How harmful do you think child pornography is?

If a child came to you and said that a trusted adult touched their genitals, would you believe them?

If you suspected sexual abuse is happening, who would you talk to?

How would you react to an adult who says they were sexually abused as a child?

Do you know what sexual abuse is?

What role do you think sex offenders play in child sexual abuse?

Do you know what your state's laws demand of registered sex offenders?

Are sex offenders only registered as adults?

Do you know what your state's laws are regarding mandatory reporting?

Do you think mandatory reporting can cause child sexual abuse?

How willing are you to challenge your perceptions of any of these questions with factual statistics
and knowledge?

How willing are you to listen to expert psychologists?

Does your willingness to listen depend on the content being shared?

Which side of abuse are you more familiar with: A victim's, or an abuser's?

My Point Is...

...so at what point did you just tune this out? At which question did I hit a sore spot, and cause you to jump to this next segment? Did you make it through all of the questions? Are you angry now? Confused? Overwhelmed? Good.

Comfort Zones

Hardly anyone likes talking about the trauma that children go through, regardless of what the trauma is. Children with trauma is a new area for the average person, and they have no idea how to react. The average person (that would be you) does not have the emotional capacity to tackle most these questions at once. When the topic is trauma to children, people get uncomfortable. Add to that the topic of sex, which people often do not handle well, and you have a recipe for hiding from the topic. In short, these questions may well make you uncomfortable, because you are likely outside your realm of experience, and then you shut down and refuse to go any further. That is why you skipped over to this section.

Here is the thing: Those scary people the news is telling you about? The "child predators", like Jerry Sandusky, Jimmy Savile, a Boy Scout leader, or a Catholic priest? The people that supposedly go after children, have many victims, and would just keep abusing children if left to their own devices? They are the extreme minority of child sex abusers, and they are extremely uncommon overall. Most of the people getting arrested for sex crimes are getting arrested for the first time.

Statistical Reality

We have estimates of how many adolescent and adult men have pedophilia (I will go with 2% (Michael Seto, one of the most respected researcher on these topics, came up with 1%-2%, but other experts have suggested as much as 25%, so I think 2% strikes a reasonable balance...)). We also have solid numbers for how many sex offenders there are in the United States (NCMEC), and how many of them have crimes against children (66%, Darkness To Light's Stewards of Children training). We know that between 5% and 12% of these people will repeat their sexual crimes (here and here, respectively).

If we generalize these estimates, inflate the numbers to account for underreporting (multiply the end result by two or three), and assume that every criminal with a sex crime against children is a pedophile (someone attracted to children), then we can somewhat accurately estimate that between 1.07% and 3.21% of pedophiles are repeat child molesters. We can likewise estimate that 8.91% to 26.73% of pedophiles are child molesters in general. In other words, .0214% of the world's population are repeat child molesters. These are also high estimates, given that not all child molesters have pedophilia and molest children for other reasons. They are also high if the actual number of people attracted to children and young teens is more than 2% of male adolescents and adults. We do know it affects some women. So it is likely that less than 25% of Earth's pedophiles molest children.

What that leaves us with is the conclusion that at worst, almost three quarters of Earth's pedophiles do not molest children, and in a best-case scenario, nine out of every ten pedophiles do not molest children. At this point, we cannot know with certainty how many pedophiles there really are. All we have are estimates. But we can know that most of them do not harm children, because the rates at which children are abused simply do not reflect the estimated number of pedophiles in the world.

Discussion and Secrecy

That conclusion likely surprised you. I could say equally outrageous-sounding things, like that child sexual abuse is actually about unresolved mental health needs, control, and power more than it is about sex. Almost every single one of the facts challenge what the average person believes about child sexual abuse and about pedophiles. Not every child is harmed by a sexual act done to them by an older youth or adult. Most sex offenders do not reoffend. Most pedophiles do not harm children. Almost all child sexual abuse is not perpetrated by a stranger, but by a trusted person in the child's life. At least 35% of abuse is perpetrated not by old men, but by adolescents. I have discussed these statistics and facts numerous times, and you will find them on the FAQ list of any decent sex abuse prevention site like Stop It Now or Darkness To Light. You can also reason them out, or find them with internet searches.

Without discussing these issues, without the research, without the facts, the public (again, that would be you) is left to rely on the stereotypes of child sexual abuse. When that happens, children are left at their most vulnerable. And what happens when you take a hated demographic that does not commit the vast majority of sexual abuse, and presume that they do? More within that hated demographic will be distressed, and self-fulfilling prophecy happens: They abuse children. And worse, what happens when we believe that sex offenders are the biggest risk to children... when they are not? The real culprits escape our attention, and more children are abused. Without discussion, without the facts, without knowing who abuses children and why, our children are in danger.

Conclusion

Failure to discuss the issues and the inability to think rationally and challenge myths is one of the biggest causes of child sexual abuse.

The inability or unwillingness of the average person to discuss these issues directly and indirectly contributes to more children being harmed by child sexual abuse. Only by seeing pedophiles as human beings with an attraction they can do nothing to change can we assist them in remaining harm-free. Only by discussing these issues and knowing the facts can we form policies that protect children. Pushing a hated demographic of people who hate their attractions to children further into desperation only makes matters worse.

Obviously, the majority of the responsibility falls on the child abuser, but at least some of the responsibility falls on society to prevent these things with fact-based policies. Emotion must take a back seat to these fact-based logically-driven policies, because our children are important. Without the ability to think through this issue rationally, more children will be sexually assaulted.

Will you contribute to a solution, and discuss these issues? Or will you contribute to child sexual abuse?

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Defining Child Sexual Abuse: A Therapeutic Approach

It is always helpful to define terms, particularly when terms can be as controversial as the subject matter is. Child sexual abuse is a controversial topic because it is a broad topic. Contained in that one subject are consent laws, mandatory reporting laws, civil laws aimed at improving public safety, SORNA, residency restrictions, sex offenders, law enforcement training, and a slew of other items. Many people love to debate controversial issues.

I used to be one of those people, but on this topic, I have a generally narrower focus. I specifically avoid the legal subjects involving age of consent and mandatory reporting because those issues are never-ending. I also avoid using a legal definition of child sexual abuse, because it is overly broad. It is possible for a legal act of child sexual abuse to occur, yet have the legal victim be an enthusiastic participant in the activity, particularly among older teenagers. It is also possible for teens to send explicit images of themselves to others, and have them be legally charged with child pornography, with themselves being both the legal victim and perpetrator.

That is why I avoid legal conversations. I avoid age of consent, because no matter what number is picked, there will always be someone below that number who is mature enough to consent, and someone above that number who is not mature enough to consent. I likewise try to avoid a legal definition of child sexual abuse: No matter how diligent or understanding the police are, there will always be someone arrested for something that was not harmful to the legal victim.

Therapeutic?

I try my best to be clear that when I talk about child sexual abuse, I use a therapeutic approach. In my treatment group, they considered a sexual offense as an act that crossed someone's sexual boundary in a way that harmed or traumatized them. For me, the definition of child sexual abuse is tied with harm done to the victim: If there was no harm, there was no victim, if there was no victim, it was not abuse. The act is tied to sexual exploitation and the aftermath of the act: If the act was done by someone several years older than the victim, and the act was sexually exploitative, coercive, and resulted in harm, it was abusive.

So... what is a child?

The diagnostic criteria for pedophilia and hebephilia, are an ongoing sexual attraction to prepubescent and pubescent children, respectively. Roughly, we are talking ages 0-11, and 11-14, or children who have not yet hit puberty or are in the midst of puberty. In talking about perpetrators of abuse of said children, there is typically an age difference of at least a few years. For example, an 11-year-old touching the private parts of a 7-year-old would be considered child sexual abuse if the 7-year-old was harmed. Developmentally, such behavior is not expected or considered the norm. If a 7-year-old is touching the private parts of another 7-year-old, that behavior is considered normal curiosity and exploration. The key is an age difference.

Practically speaking...

That is great, but how does that look practically? An adult who photographs a child when they are nude is sexually abusive if that child is harmed in the process, or afterwards by knowing the photograph is on the internet. They are not if the child is unharmed during or afterwards (still illegal). Someone several years older who touches a child's private parts are sexually abusive if the child is uncomfortable with it, and are harmed by it. They are not abusive if the child is unharmed and okay with it (still illegal). Someone who, as a 19-year-old, has sex with their 15-year-old lover, is sexually abusive if the 15-year-old was harmed and did not consent to the act. They are not abusive if the teen was unharmed and consented (still illegal in the US). A lewd conversation between an adult and a child, if the child was harmed, it was abusive (legal unless solicitation was involved).

Those are just a few out of many possible situations. You might ask me, "How can you describe a situation where a child goes through that and isn't harmed? That's impossible." However, those situations are real and documented. There are a number of studies that show that there are some children who are either unharmed, or move past the event enough that it ended up not being traumatic. Running With Scissors is a book where one such situation is detailed by the author. The book is an autobiography. As I have pointed out before, those situations do not justify or make legal the acts that do not result in harm.

Researchers prefer to view those situations as examples of people overcoming potentially traumatic events. I have the perspective that these children are well-adjusted because they were able to accurately examine how they felt about the events, and decided for themselves that they were not harmed. You could say that these children are very robust and emotionally healthy, because they were able to look at an event and decide for themselves how they felt about it. Here is one great example of an act that was consensual, that the teenager did not report harm, but was still illegal and still overreacted to by the adults in their life. Bear in mind that this would have still been illegal if the man was not on probation for a different sex crime. Also, that case is a great example for groups that discuss age of consent laws. They would point out that in most parts of the world, including Europe, that act would not have been illegal. It perfectly illustrates why legal discussions on this subject are never-ending: What if the girl was 15? 14? 12? What if she still consented then? How does she know what consent is?

Primary prevention tie-in?

The presence of these situations is critical to the primary prevention of child sexual abuse, and here is why. The presence of these situations means that there are children who knew their own boundaries and feelings well enough to know when something did or did not cross those boundaries. It is a win for primary prevention, because these select few children were able to express themselves clearly. It serves as a model for what happens when children are able to create, set, and maintain their own boundaries. If they are able to look at something potentially traumatic as a neutral event, they will likewise be better able to determine when something crosses boundaries and causes them harm. It is also a reminder that when approaching a child who was impacted by sexually exploitive behavior, we must let the child tell their own story. It is a reminder that overreacting can make a neutral situation traumatic for the child, and to respect the child enough to tell their own story.

Why the emphasis on children?

When it comes to detecting when abuse is occurring, preventing it from happening, and holding perpetrators accountable, the first priority must be the child. While the surrounding community does have feelings about abusive events, the primary impact is to the child. No one should ever presume to tell a child how to feel, only help the child work through how they feel and what they think. It is extremely common for children who have been abused to care for and trust their abuser. The child has a right to feel that way, just as they have a right to hate their abuser. Without that sort of emphasis on children, it is possible to dictate how the child feels and make the impact and effects of the abuse worse than they initially were. Magnifying the effects of child sexual abuse is obviously not something to be striving for, and that is why an emphasis on children must take priority. Without it, primary prevention cannot happen.

Final thoughts...

I know there are some people out there who might twist my argument here to mean that sexual acts with children are acceptable if the child is not harmed, and I must be clear that just because there are children who are not harmed does not make the behavior on the part of the older youth or adult acceptable or moral. The high potential for harm makes the act immoral and unacceptable, every time. Just because even 15/100 cases do not result in harm does not make the behavior itself okay. Another issue is that child sexual abuse does not always result in readily apparent harm. Sometimes, it can take years for someone to realize they were in fact traumatized.

My own abuse was exactly like that: How I saw what was abusive and what was normal child sexuality got flipped. It was not until I began talking about my past that I came to view what had happened realistically. I felt shamed for the normal experiences because I did not believe I had the right to enjoy them. But I felt that the abusive experiences were normal for no other reason than that they happened to me. And how I felt about everything was a garbled mess because I had no idea how to properly feel or identify my emotions. While it is possible that children involved in sexual acts with older youth or adults will not be traumatized or harmed does not make the behavior acceptable. Just because a handful of alcoholics are able to recover to the point of being able to drink socially with no problems does not mean that all alcoholics will get to that point.