In my research, I’ve interviewed people who are attracted to children, but who have never harmed a child and never want to. They often believed the messages society says about people like them, so they were scared they were “monsters” who were “destined” to become abusive, and they wanted help to keep themselves—and children—safe. If we want to prevent child sexual abuse, we have to make help widely available to those who want it. Many of those I’ve spoken to for my research told me VirPed helped them through their peer-led support.
‘Pedophilia’ refers to the sexual interest in children, whereas ‘child molestation’ refers to the actual behavior. Despite the common notion that all pedophiles are child molesters in waiting, very many–perhaps even most–pedophiles know they cannot express their sexual interests and work to be celibate, for their lifetimes, with no support from anyone. These are the Virtuous Pedophiles, and they deserve every credit and support we can provide them. All our current science indicates that men don’t ask to be attracted to children any more than anybody else asks to be attracted to whatever they’re attracted to. The media are rife with broadcasters and editorialists who capitalize on the anger and hate that can puff up ratings. Rarely discussed are the crimes that don’t happen and the people who are in a position that most of us could hardly imagine. With all of my science and all of my research, I have not been able to find a way to turn pedophiles into non-pedophiles. But I do believe that, until there is such an option, it is the Virtuous Pedophiles who are doing what is ethical and what only few of us can envision. I congratulate them, their sense of right and wrong, and their humanity. I suspect that only few people could pass the test we demand of them.
A growing body of research suggests that a large proportion of pedophilic men—-perhaps a majority—-have never touched children sexually. I have for years felt sympathy for pedophiles and thought that society should do better by them. No one chooses their sexual preferences, and pedophiles have a burden that most of us do not have. They should be helped more and demonized less. Many can resist their urges, and we ought to make it easier for them to do the right thing. Making pedophiles feel that they are worthless and despised can only make it more difficult for them. Virtuous Pedophiles performs a vital role by providing a community for pedophiles who are committed not to sexually abuse children. Older, more experienced members provide examples to younger members, as well as offering practical advice on how to live law-abiding, satisfying, and meaningful lives.
From clinical experience through the German Prevention Project Dunkelfeld (PPD), running since 2005, it is known that there are pedophilic and hebephilic men willing to take on the responsibility for their sexual preference in such manner that they are prepared to go to great lengths in order to prevent child sexual victimization through sexual contacts or the use of child abuse images. According to these experiences it is time to establish this approach in other countries providing therapy for these men to deal with their sexual preference in a way that enables them to develop strategies for the prevention for sexual assault-—hands on and on the internet. Pedophilia is not synonymous with child sexual abuse. Some pedophiles never abuse children. I support Virtuous Pedophiles in its efforts to reduce child sexual abuse by helping pedophiles to never molest children.
Pedophilia is not synonymous with child sexual abuse. It is so important for people to understand that not every person who is sexually interested in children will cause harm to a child. Many people who are sexually interested in children are committed to ensuring they never abuse a child and as a society we should do what we can to provide them support. Virtuous Pedophiles is one of the few resources available to people who are committed to not acting on their sexual interests. I support Virtuous Pedophiles in its efforts to provide a safe place for those in need and prevent child sexual abuse.
Pedophilia is not synonymous with child sexual abuse. Some pedophiles never abuse children. I support Virtuous Pedophiles in its efforts to reduce child sexual abuse by helping pedophiles to never molest children.
I helped to found StopSO, with some colleagues, back in 2012 because we were so concerned about the lack of support for people troubled by their sexual thoughts and urges. As a group of sex and relationship therapists, we understand that many people have difficult sexual feelings–feelings that society finds it hard to be honest about. We all need to work towards a society which is able to provide help and support to people before they offend, so that lives are no longer ruined. As we know, no one chooses their sexual attraction. Many people who are sexually attracted to children successfully resist offending behavior. As a society we need to arrange things so that more people who are sexually attracted to children can successfully resist acting on that attraction. Both StopSO and VirPed are part of a new wave of thoughtful and compassionate responses towards the challenge of reducing sexual offending and supporting adults sexually attracted to children.
Our Helpline hears from adults and the occasional youth, who are both committed to keeping children safe and are struggling with sexual feelings and thoughts towards children. We hear anguish, fear and often a sense of hopelessness from these folks. They’re scared about what their lives might look like, and how they’ll ever be able to have a happy and ’normal’ life. We frequently hear, ‘I’ll kill myself before I ever hurt a child’. Our 25 years of listening to these individuals has taught and shown us that those with these feelings are not destined to harm a child, and are desperate to find help to live fully and safely. To help them and in addition to emphasizing the importance of specialized help, we refer them to Virtuous Pedophiles for support in staying safe and refraining from sexually abusing a child.
People do not choose to be attracted to children or adults any more than they choose to be attracted to males or females. Not all pedophiles are child molesters (or vice versa). Child molesters are defined by their acts; pedophiles are defined by their desires. There are pedophiles and hebephiles who never act on their sexual attraction towards children. They cannot be blamed for what they feel, and they should be supported for the constant self-restraint they must exercise in order to behave ethically. I support Virtuous Pedophiles in its efforts to reduce child sexual abuse by helping pedophiles to never molest children.
For some, pedophilia is a condition with devastating personal and interpersonal effects. But, it doesn’t have to be. Many thousands of minor attracted persons around the world struggle daily to remain safe and to respect the sexual boundaries of modern society. As an organization, Virtuous Pedophiles offers support, guidance and, most of all, hopeful encouragement that those struggles are not in vain.
Persons do not choose to be sexually attracted to children. In growing up, some individuals discover themselves to be expressing such attractions. The organization known as “Virtuous Pedophiles” is comprised of individuals who, out of a sense of concern for the well-being of children, are committed to not acting upon them. I fully support their goals and their efforts, and I commend them for their integrity and decency.
I believe that science and society can learn a great deal from people with sexual attractions to children who are trying to learn how to best avoid acting on those impulses. The organization Virtuous Pedophiles can be of substantial help in this.
Pedophilia is not synonymous with child sexual abuse. Some pedophilic individuals have never abused children, and many sex offenders with child victims do not have pedophilia, offending instead for other reasons. I think it’s critical that we do more to help prevent child sexual abuse by offering help to pedophilic individuals who do not want to act on their sexual interest in children, in addition to our efforts to protect children and to prevent further child sexual abuse by treating identified offenders. Though I dislike the organization’s name–I think the word “virtuous” puts off some people as smug, or self-righteous–I support Virtuous Pedophiles in its efforts to prevent child sexual abuse by offering compassion and help to people with pedophilia.
Pedophilia is defined by a persistent sexual interest in children. It is different from genetics, gender, orientation and drive. All sex acts are voluntary and all people with pedophilic interests can choose to be lawful. Fortunately, they can also do more since sexual interest is far from immutable and new sexual interests, including non-pedophilic interests, can be discovered and enhanced. There is no scientific evidence pedophilia is incurable. I applaud Virtuous Pedophiles for its efforts to assist people with pedophilic interests to obtain treatment and to lead productive, meaningful and law-abiding lives.
VirPed is a beacon of optimism and encouragement. The members of VirPed are changing the discourse on paedophilia at a profound level. Many adults who are sexually attracted to children choose not to act on that sexual attraction. For some, it is because they understand that adult sexual contact with children is abusive, not because it is illegal or because it is culturally disapproved of, but because, as we learn more about how the developing brain of the child is physically structured according to her or his psychological environment, we understand better how a physical ‘rewiring’ of the brain can take place when the child is in a situation of intrusive intimacy. What may be traumatic to the child may seem loving and gentle to the adult. There are still scientists who would like to argue that adult sexual contact with children is no more than mere ‘intergenerational intimacy’. It took decades for some scientists to concede that tobacco smoke causes lung cancer, and we still see climate-change deniers even now, so perhaps it should not surprise anyone that the harm of child sexual abuse remains contested.
In my clinical career, I’ve worked with child sex abusers who were not pedophiles, and also with pedophiles who had never abused a child. People who struggle with attraction to children do so in silence and shame–sadly, it is clear those are two conditions for tragedy. Like so many people, people with pedophilia live in fear of their sexual arousal and response, worried that their desires, or the porn they watch, will ruin their lives. Groups such as VirPed offer these individuals support to examine and understand themselves, their desires, and through this, to exert greater choice and control over their behaviors. Ultimately, it is only through such dialogue, support and accountability, that we may move towards a healthier society.
While most people use pedophilia as a stand-in word for child molester, this is a mistake and is part of the stigma associated with being sexually interested in children. Pedophile and child molester are not the same. Many people who offend against a child are not pedophiles; many pedophiles do not act on their sexual interest in children. In a society where pedophiles are vilified and ostracized, Virtuous Pedophiles provides the essential service of supporting men and women with pedophilia to not act on their sexual interest. The value of Virtuous Pedophiles is immense. The rest of us need to work toward being less cruel and stigmatizing towards people who have a sexual interest they did not ask for and to work toward creating more supports and therapy options for people with pedophilia.