When it comes to avoiding certain types of people, even in jail, child abusers, child molesters and pedophiles usually make the top of the list.
At my job I deal with these individuals everyday. There is no way around it and on top of that I have to try to remain unbiased and nonjudgmental which isn’t always easy. I have a three year old son so sitting across from someone accused of killing a toddler and showing unconditional positive regard has at times been one of my greatest challenges.
As a mental health professional, I had to learn how to separate my personal feelings from my professional job and one way I’ve learned to do that is by intellectualizing the situation. That allows me to look at the situation in a rational, interesting, matter of fact way and remove all personal emotion.
That’s what I did today when I sat across from yet another pedophile. It was towards the end of the day and I really did not feel like doing the assessment, but it had to be done so I asked myself, what made this man sexually attracted to children?
Interviewing A Pedophile
This individual was one of the more forthcoming and open pedophiles I have ever talked to. He wasn’t denying his issues or charges, nor did he seem to minimize his actions like most. For the most part, he seemed to take responsibility for what he had done.
Most pedophiles I talk to either deny everything despite the insurmountable evidence proving their guilt. Or, they blame the victim for seducing them, like one married man I spoke with who blamed a 10 year old for causing him to leave his family and run off to another state with her where they were caught in a hotel room.
Talking to this particular man reminded me of the first time I met someone with schizophrenia who was insightful enough to tell me about her hallucinations and how she was able to distinguish what was real and what was not. It was an eye opening experience, better than any book on abnormal psychology I had ever read and it helped me work more efficiently with other clients suffering from psychosis.
What Is A Pedophile?
When most people think of a pedophile they envision a creepy old man or some other odd person. However, from shows like To Catch Predator, we know that most pedophiles are regular neighbors, friends, religious members, family members or even teachers like the individual I spoke with today.
In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), pedophilia is defined as intense, recurrent sexually arousing fantasies, impulsive desires, or behaviors involving sexual acts with a child and that occur over a period of at least six months.
In most situations, the pedophile is at least sixteen years of age and at least five years older than the child.
It doesn’t have to be acted on to be considered pedophilia and generally it causes the person a lot of distress or interpersonal difficulties.
This man says he took a fondness to the young girl he ended up abusing because she came from a troubled background and he wanted to help her.
He says that he became emotionally attached to her and then sexually attracted. While that may be true, I believe he had a sexual attraction to her to begin with.
He went on to have sexual contact with her several times over the course of a school year before he was caught. He would keep the girl after class, after school and even give her rides home.
Her parents (an abusive, yet inattentive father and schizophrenic, disabled mother) weren’t the ones who caught on, but an observant teacher who had her suspicions and once she approached the young girl with her concerns, the girl was able to give numerous details of their sexual activities together including times and locations as well as details of his naked physical appearance.
He was arrested, yet plead guilty to lesser charges and served only a couple of years in prison before being let out on probation as a sexual predator.
Categories of Pedophiles
While most people think of pedophiles as adults attracted to prepubescent children, there are also adults who are attracted to children who are right on the cusp of puberty and adults who prefer children who have already gone through puberty.
Hebephilia describes adults attracted to pubescent 11 to 14 year old children and while not considered pathological, ephebophilia describes adults attracted primarily to individuals aged 15 to 19.
Some pedophiles are called exclusive pedophiles because they are only attracted to children while non-exclusive pedophiles are attracted to both adults and children.
It’s hard to get an accurate number of how many pedophiles are exclusive pedophiles because most of the research comes from pedophiles who have been arrested and they tend to over-exaggerate their attraction to adults in order to appear more “normal”.
Most male pedophiles are homosexual or bisexual when it comes to their attraction to children.
The guy I saw today is married and has adult children. He has an attraction and compulsion for young girls under the age of 13.
How Do They Gain Access To Children?
Pedophiles will go through great lengths to gain access to children. They will volunteer at churches to lead youth groups or offer to coach youth sports.
Ninety percent of sexually abused children are abused by someone they know. That includes a large percentage of family members, caregivers, family friends, neighbors, clergy, coaches and teachers.
This man was an Exceptional Education teacher who worked with emotionally and behaviorally disturbed children. I can’t help but to think, at least on some unconscious level, that he choose both his profession and specialty in order to gain excess to vulnerable children.
The other 10% of abused children are usually preyed upon through sex trafficking and the internet. This is how he got his second offense.
After being arrested once for inappropriate sexual contact with a child, he violated his probation by being caught soliciting a child for sexual contact online.
While he claims he knew better and wanted to put his life back together after his first arrest, he admitted that his compulsion to have sex with little girls caused him to act upon them.
This compulsion or urge is what drives pedophiles. Many of them, like this man, will attempt to live normal lives and fight their sexual attraction to children. Some may be successful at this and never break a law or offend. They will keep these urges and fantasies a secret and suffer in silence for as long as they can.
Most of them will isolate themselves out of fear of the stigma and consequences of being sexually attracted to children and will not seek professional help out of shame and fear.
But can pedophiles be helped? We’ll talk about this in part II.
What It’s Like to Have Borderline Personality Disorder
- Shock– most people experience shock or a sense of emotional and physical numbness as the first reaction to learning someone they care about has committed suicide. It’s the mind and bodies natural way of trying to slow things down until it can try to make sense of what happened.
- Anger– people often feel anger, either directly or indirectly. They may be angry at the person who committed suicide, angry at themselves for not being able to prevent it, or angry at the persons therapist for not being able to “cure” the person.
- Guilt– Loved ones, in an attempt to find answers to why a person killed themselves often ruminate on signs they may have missed. They may blame themselves for not expressing love, for being too distant, for not believing the person when they said they were depressed for the 1ooth time. The “what ifs” can go on and on.
- Fear– Once someone has committed suicide, it’s not uncommon for family members to become afraid that they will lose someone else to suicide or that even they themselves could possibly commit suicide.
- Relief– It’s also not uncommon for family and friends to feel a sense of relief, especially if the individual suffered from chronic mental or physical illness (i.e, intense pain) or even if they person had been on a long, steady decline of self-destructive behaviors such as drug addiction.
- Depression– While it’s natural to go through grief when you’ve lost someone close to you, it’s not uncommon for grief to turn into depression if that loved one took their own life. The person may experience sleep disturbance, lose of appetite and loss of energy. This can translate into feelings of life being worthless and losing joy in things one once found enjoyable.
- Stay Close to family and friends– having a good support system is important to keep an individual from isolating themselves and ruminating on the suicide, especially in the first 6 months. The person may not feel like being around others and may not be ready to talk about their feelings, but they still need to have supportive contact.
- Give children special attention– Children especially may have a hard time coping with a loved ones suicide. They need special attention so that they can express their emotions and talk them out. They need to know that grief is a normal process and need the adults in their lives to model healthy grieving for them, including open communication, sharing feelings and reminding them that they are loved and supported.
- Be aware of special occasions– holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, etc., can all be very stressful times.People may need extra support or checking up on.
When I worked as a high school mental health counselor, I worked with a lot of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender teens who struggled with telling their parents about their sexual orientation.
Many of them felt like they had to keep their sexual orientation a secret which of course caused them a lot of anxiety and even depression. Most of all, they were terrified of not being accepted by their family.
Some of them were so scared that they would be disowned by their parents that they contemplated suicide. This was especially true when the youth came from a really religious family/background.
Luckily none of my students ever went this far, but I did help do grief counseling at a high school after a teen committed suicide due to the guilt and fear he felt about being gay and not being able to come out to his parents.
Some of the teenagers I worked with turned to drugs and alcohol to deal with their feelings. while others turned to self-injurious behaviors like cutting themselves or acted out behaviorally (running away, skipping school, etc.).
Whenever I could, whenever a teen was ready to come out, I always encouraged them to bring their parents in for a family session. Many of them were too afraid to talk to their parents alone and wanted to do it in an environment where they felt safe.
Unfortunately this was something that rarely happened as many of the teens hadn’t yet worked up the courage to come out to their family.
However whenever it did happen, I always discussed the session beforehand with the teen so that there would be no surprises.
I wouldn’t tell the parents anything the teen didn’t want me to tell them, and I always encouraged the teen to lead the conversation while I would be there primarily as guidance and support.
Most of the parents who came to these family sessions already had some clue that their child wasn’t heterosexual. Many more were in denial. Luckily only a very few were visibly upset or angry.
What I wanted the parents to understand is that they didn’t make their child gay nor can they make them not gay.
This was especially true for male students. Sometimes a single mother would blame herself for not making her son “a man” or the father would blame himself for not being “tougher” on his son.
Parents do not make their children gay and “praying the gay away” or “reparative therapy” only works to temporarily change a child’s behavior at best, while risking permanent damage to their self-esteem and mental health.
It doesn’t work.
Parents often feel angry, sad, and scared when they find out their child is gay. For many of them, they have to grieve over the loss of their ideal child. Maybe little Johnny is not going to marry Suzy and have 2.5 kids. Maybe Little Johnny will marry Billy and they will adopt 2.5 kids.
Many of them fear what their child will have to deal with from society on top of any other prejudices they may already be predisposed to (i.e, being Black and gay). It’s important that parents surround themselves with supportive people including support groups like Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG).
While it’s important for the parents to get support, it’s most important that the parents support their child.
The world can be tough enough for the LGBT community, but it’s even tougher for those whose parents reject them.
The teens I’ve worked with who fared the best mentally and emotionally were the teens whose parents supported them when they came out despite their own personal and religious views.
With the support of their parents it made it easier for them to deal with any other negativity they had to face such as depression and bullying. It also allowed them to blossom into the amazing young people they already were.
In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, being homosexual was once listed as a mental illness. We now know that it is not. It is not something to be cured or prevented. It doesn’t go away if we ignore it.
Get over it.
So this is a delicate post to write about so I will try to do it without giving too much detail. This week I came face to face with a highly suicidal person in possession of a firearm.
As the Director of Mental Health at a county jail I deal with suicidal inmates everyday, but they of course are never in the position of anything as lethal as a firearm.
This individual was very distraught, hopeless, felt worthless, overwhelmed and had a history of mental illness. It was an intense situation because of the firearm and the fact that this person repeatedly said that they wanted to die and had nothing to live for.
What made it more intense is that there were officers near by waiting to see if I could diffuse the situation. The number of officers quickly grew from two to at one point as many as six before I was able to get them to give us some space, yet at least two officers remained nearby at all times.
The funny part is that I was never scared. I think I was shocked when I saw the firearm and at times afraid that I was going to witness someone kill themselves. I was more afraid that this person was going to get shot by the officers either accidentally (by the way they were handling the firearm) or on purpose (suicide by cop).
It definitely was a stressful situation that played out over the course of over an hour in the Florida heat. It was a situation that tried my patience, skills and instincts as a therapist.
I was appreciative that the officers on the scene were also patient and allowed me to pretty much take control of the situation. I knew that I was the only one there who could get that close to the person without feeling threatened myself or causing them to feel threatened.
During this “standoff” of sorts, we talked about everything from this persons depressing home life, dysfunctional childhood, isolation from family and friends, and frustrations at work.
We talked, but mostly what I did was listen and attempt to encourage this person to live just one more day. I said, “If you are convinced you want to kill yourself then no one can really stop you, but don’t kill yourself today.”
One day at a time.
After sometime I convinced this person to contact someone in her family over the telephone, something they had been unwilling to do because they were convinced that they were going to kill themselves that day.
Eventually this person agreed to relinquish position of the firearm and was willingly taken into custody where they were transferred to a mental health hospital for evaluation. The situation ended peacefully. That was all I could ask for.
I received several “thank yous” from the officers involved who were also happy that the situation ended peacefully. They didn’t have to shoot anyone. They weren’t shot at. They didn’t have to notify a family member of this persons death.They told me multiple times that they were worried about my safety, but I never was. I never felt threatened or in danger.
I don’t feel like a hero and I don’t feel like I was brave.
What I saw was someone in emotional pain who needed someone with a level head to guide them and that’s what I did. It almost came natural. It’s something I do at work nearly everyday. The only thing that was different was the firearm and the fact that his person was out in the community and not in jail.
I don’t know what happened to this person after they were taken away. I may never know. What I do know is that at least for that day, they chose to live.
One day at a time.
In romantic relationships, we would like to think that it’s always going to be filled with passion and romance, but typically relationships go through phases where the passion and romance seems to die off.
Some of this is natural which is why relationships take work and both individuals have to work on keeping the fire going, but other times this can be deliberate.
Sometimes in relationships, one person will decide to emotionally withhold and this can border on the line of emotional abuse.
I’m not talking about when your partner is upset with you so he or she may not talk to you for a few days, may not want to be touched or gives you the cold shoulder until they get over whatever upset them. I’m talking about something that is much more long term and damaging to a relationship.
Thomas G. Fiffer, in his blog post described emotional withholding as:
Coldness replaces warmth. Silence replaces conversation. Turning away replaces turning towards. Dismissiveness replaces receptivity. And contempt replaces respect.Emotional withholding is, I believe, the toughest tactic to deal with when trying to create and maintain a healthy relationship, because it plays on our deepest fears—rejection, unworthiness, shame and guilt, the worry that we’ve done something wrong or failed or worse, that there’s something wrong with us.”
How Can You Tell If Your Partner is Emotionally Withholding?
If you are in a relationship where you often feel alone, there is a good chance your partner may be emotionally withholding.
There is a difference between someone who is emotionally withholding (a deliberate behavior used to control a person/relationship) and someone who is out of touch with their own feelings due to stress, trauma or other issues.
People who emotionally withhold are purposely withholding love, affection, support and attention in order to control a relationship.
The other person in the relationship may find themselves always pursuing their partner in search of the love, affection and attention that they want. They may find themselves always trying to prove that they deserve love.
People who stay in these types of relationships often do so because it is familiar.
Maybe they grew up in a family where they never felt like they deserved love, were always rejected or felt abandoned. To them, it may feel natural to pursue love and affection, even if it’s painful, because they are not used to it being freely given and without conditions.
Holly Brown, a licensed marriage and family therapist suggests:
Ask yourself how generous your partner is. How invested does he/she seem to be in your well-being, in making sure that you feel positively about yourself? Or is it the opposite–that he/she is maintaining the upper hand by ensuring that you continue to seek approval?“
The person who is emotionally withholding is always trying to keep the balance of the relationship in their favor. They give you just enough to keep you interested. Just enough to keep you searching for the affection that you want and deserve so that you get stuck in this vicious cycle of searching out for their affection.
Most people are not ALWAYS emotionally satisfied in their relationship 100% of the time, but think about how much you feel emotionally satisfied versus how often you feel emotionally starved.
If you feel like you are continuously starving for love, affection, attention and support, then you may have a partner who is emotionally withholding or at the least, emotionally unavailable.
If your partner is emotionally unavailable, consider if this is because he or she is stressed, depressed, going through their own issues that need to be addressed and dealt with, or if it is more malicious and planned out to achieve a power balance in the relationship that benefits them and not you.
Being in this type of relationship can cause the person who is constantly seeking affection to have multiple issues from low self-esteem to anxiety, depression and even sexual dysfunction.
Outside support from friends, family and even a professional may be needed in order for that person to maintain healthy self-love and self-care. It is crucial that you take care of yourself and surround yourself with people who know your worth and value you.
If you are in a relationship where the other person is emotionally withholding then it’s important to remember that you deserve and are worthy of love and it should come freely.
“I do not love; I do not love anybody except myself. That is a rather shocking thing to admit. I have none of the selfless love of my mother. I have none of the plodding, practical love. . . . . I am, to be blunt and concise, in love only with myself, my puny being with its small inadequate breasts and meager, thin talents. I am capable of affection for those who reflect my own world.” – Sylvia Plath
Sylvia Plath, the poet and author of the quote above was a narcissistic parent who committed perhaps the most selfish and narcissistic act of all. She killed herself by sticking her head in a gas oven while her two children were asleep in the same apartment. She did however seal off their rooms with towels so that they would live. Why? Most likely so someone could carry on her memory and mourn for her after death.
How do you think this affected her children? Well her daughter, Freida Hughes is an English poet and painter, but she’s been married three times and is currently divorced. Her son, Nicholas Hughes, suffered from depression and hung himself in 2009.
What Is A Narcissist?
To the outside world, a narcissistic parent may appear to be the perfect example of a gentleman or a loving, supportive mother who is passionate about her kids. However, to the child of a narcissistic parent, they are living a constant nightmare of never being good enough and being constantly reminded of it.
A narcissist is someone who has an inflated sense of self-worth. This is different from what’s considered “healthy narcissism” in which you believe in yourself and your abilities in a realistic fashion. You have good self-esteem, but can empathize with other people and aren’t devastated by mistakes or criticism. Your self worth isn’t dependent on other people admiring you.
On the other hand there is “malignant narcissism”, in which the person has a very fragile sense of self that is dependent on how other people see them. These people have an unrealistic, inflated sense which they use to hide insecurities and shame. They need to be praised, admired and approved by others and are deeply hurt by criticism and honest feedback. Their relationships with others tend to be superficial as they focus mostly on how other people reflect on them with little or no care about the other persons feelings. They believe they are better than everyone else, special even, but can get very sensitive and angry when faced with critique.
For a narcissist, everything is always about them. They are extremely selfish individuals who never give recognition, gratitude or appreciation to those around them. It’s “me, me, me” all day, all the time. If they ask you, “How is your day?” and you reply, “Horrible, I just totaled my new Mustang”, they may reply, “I had a Mustang once. A 1968 convertible. Man I loved that car. Brought it brand new off the showroom floor…”. They really don’t care about you and are only looking for opportunities to talk about and inflate themselves.
Imagine growing up having this type of person as a parent? Someone who is practically incapable of loving anyone other than themselves, when as a parent, you have to give so much love to a child.
Why then would a narcissist have children?
A narcissist does not have a child for the reasons most people do. They do not have children because they want to love and nourish another person, they do so in order to create mirrors of themselves and to create an automatic relationship where they have power and control over someone.
Having control over other people is the narcissists ultimate goal. From an early age the child of a narcissist learns to realize that they exits to please their parent and to be a reflection of them.
Like any child, the children of narcissist will try to please their parent, going through great lengths of anguish and frustration to please someone who will never be pleased for long. One day, if they are lucky, they will realize that it’s the parent who is not quite right, not them.
Until then, these children learn that they are a reflection on their parent and will try to mold themselves, mentally and behaviorally into being that perfect representation their parent wants.
This creates much anxiety as the child is continuously trying to be what they are not in order to please the parent and when they fail, which they will time and time again, they are exposed to punishment that can range from physical to psychological.
These children are often mentally on edge and tormented by the unpredictable and sometimes confusing nature of the narcissistic parent. They may think over and over again that they are a failure, that something is wrong with them . The child may experience a great deal of shame and low self esteem because they don’t feel constantly loved. They are taught that they are only as good as the parent says they are and that they’ll only be loved if they are completely compliant.
Take for example a child who throws a tantrum in the store. Most parents may remove the child, redirect them, or try some other tactic to calm the child down. A narcissistic parent is likely to chastise the child by saying something like, “You’re a spoiled little brat. You always find a way to ruin my life.” Such harsh words for a narcissist are nothing, even directed at their own child.
On the other side of this poor parent-child attachment is neglect. The narcissist parent may be so self-absorbed that the child is neglected and nearly forgotten. Their needs, desires and aspiration always thrown aside for the sake of the parents’ wants and desires.
For example, a daughter going to her high school prom may have all of her desires for the dress she wants and the way she wants her hair styled cast away in favor of what her mom wants her to wear and wants her hair styled. If she doesn’t go along with this and protests, then her mother may call her an ungrateful child and refuse to help her with her big night.
Later in life, these children grow up and often develop narcissism themselves or end up in drama filled relationships with toxic partners because they grew up believing that they were bad and don’t deserve good things to happen to them. They often question if they are deserving of love.
In a healthy relationship with a healthy partner, these individuals wouldn’t know how to respond to unconditional love and would be filled with so much anxiety and discomfort. Understandably they would seek out other individuals who are emotionally unavailable, cold and critical just like the narcissistic parent they grew up with. It’s familiar and sadly, even comfortable to them.
Hopefully, through good relationships, friendships and sometimes therapy, these children are able to recover from the wombs of growing up with a narcissistic parent and not succumb to them.
I’ve spent the last couple of weeks undergoing two courses in trauma therapy, not realizing that an incredibly traumatic event would hit the city I live in. What happened in my city of Orlando in the early morning hours of 6/12/2016 was an unimaginable tragedy.
I woke up that morning and saw all the commotion on the news and in my disoriented state, I was trying to figure out part of the world this tragedy had occurred in, not realizing that it was happening in my city, just fifteen minutes from where I live.
Just hours earlier I was on my way home from a night out on the town, not far from where the shooting happened, when I saw all the rescue vehicles headed in the opposite direction. I had no idea that they were going to what would turn out to be the largest mass shooting in recent United States history.
This touched me. It hurts me, not just because so many people got killed, but that it happened in my backyard. It makes me angry. It touched everyone in the city somehow someway. I had never been to Pulse night club, but knew people who did. My nephew knew two of the victims that got killed.
My sister, the Fire Marshall for the City of Orlando got called to that horrific scene and was shaken by the cell phones ringing on the bodies still inside of the club.
I watched on Facebook as many people I knew; fellow therapists and friends, shared pictures of people they knew and loved who were now gone.
Later that day, I was standing in line at the convenience store when the person in front of me found out that one of her friends was among the dead and right there in front of everyone she broke down in sadness and anger. I was caught off guard. I had just gone out to buy some milk and there I was face to face with the impact of such a senseless crime.
I did the best I could verbally to console her so that she could get herself together enough to drive home, but it was an instant reminder of the many families and friends that were impacted by this man-made disaster.
Thinking about this tragedy, the nonsense of it all, the loss of life and the amount of trauma that will affect not only the surviving victims, but also the victims’ families, friends, first responders and the residence of the City Beautiful disheartens me.
This was a hate crime no matter how you slice it. Hatred of Americans, hatred of homosexuals, hatred of religious freedom, etc. We can’t let hate win.
No one should have to go through this. I could go on and write about gun control laws, terrorism, homophobia, religion or even post-traumatic stress disorder since this is a mental health blog, but I won’t.
I could go on about how the killer himself was probably struggling with his sexuality and hated that so many people could live freely and comfortably in their own identity, but I won’t give him that much of my energy .
What I want is this: for everyone to take some time to visit with and get to know someone of a different culture, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, age, whatever.
Get to know people who may seem different from you.
A few months ago I went to a gay nightclub for the first time just because it was the closes club in walking distance in downtown Minneapolis in negative ten degrees weather and I had a blast! It was something I thought I would never do and was initially uncomfortable with, but I had so much fun I went again the next night.
Stop being xenophobic!
Also take a moment and show love to those you love. My nephew just today told me that if he had not ran into me that Saturday night he had plans on going to that same nightclub and could have been among the dead or injured. Tomorrow is not promised for any of us.
There’s a lot of #prayfororlando going around, but besides praying, do something. If you can’t give blood or contribute to the GoFundMe platform, then at least learn to embrace other human beings and end xenophobia, racism, sexism, religism and any other B.S. that contributes to hate.
On an end note, I am very proud of the way my city, my country and my world are banding together to show support and love for both the LBGTQ community and Orlando as a whole. That’s what love is and that’s the way it should be at all times, not just during times of tragedy.