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.