Stigmatizing is never good, not even if used for a good cause. As a pedophile I am confronted with stigmas on an almost daily basis. After each confrontation I feel more or less humiliated, anxious, inferior, unfairly treated, angry, stressed, sad, embarrassed, different, self-conscious, depressed, abnormal, unpleasant, an outsider, alone, defiant, lonely, broken, scorned, excluded, worthless, meaningless, guilty, helpless, overly self-critical and nervous.
Stigmatizing is purposely falsifying facts about and attributing negative features to a group of people. These stigmas are in no way a foundation for a safer society. Stigmatizing disrupts society and creates a fertile soil for verbal and physical violence. Both pedophiles and non pedophiles pay a steep price. On more than one occasion people have been killed for allegedly being a pedophile.
Please do not stigmatize. Be factual.
The most commonly used stigmas for pedophiles have been gathered in a handy myth card. See below.
Cannot be trusted with children – Anecdotal evidence suggests that pedophiles cannot be trusted with children. There is however also a lot of anecdotal evidence proving that pedophiles can be around children and have a positive impact on their lives. Does that apply to all pedophiles? No. Just as it doesn’t apply to all “normal” adults. Having a healthy protective attitude for children is never wrong. However, an out of control fear of pedophiles can lead to some bizarre situations:
All pedophiles collect or make child porn – There is no scientific evidence for this. In fact the Dutch crime reporter @ChrisKlomp says that child porn often has nothing to do with pedophiles. He says in a tweet: “The common demoninator of child porn collectors seems to be loneliness.”
Low IQ – Several studies on the IQ of pedophiles have been carried out. James Cantor, a Canadian researcher, found in a prison population that pedophiles generally have a lower IQ than non pedophiles. However other research concludes that there is no difference. I guess the jury is still out on this one.
Azizian, A., Hutton, S., Hughes, D., & Sreenivasan, S. (2015). “Cognitional impairment: Is there a role for cognitive assessment in the treatment of individuals civilly committed pursuant to the Sexually Violent Predator Act?,” Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment.
Teenage pedophiles do not exist – They do. Most pedophiles discover their orientation at the age of 15 /16. Scientists estimate that 1% to 3% of the male population is a pedophile. Statistically that means in an average high school 2 to 6 teen boys are a pedophile.
An average high school in the US has 750 students –> That means 375 male students –> 1% of 375 students = 4. And of course 3% of 375 students equals 11 male students –> Let’s assume that half of the high school boys don’t know their sexual orientation yet –> This leaves 2 to 6 pedophile teen boys in an average US high school.
It is the tip of the iceberg – A lot of researchers use this phrase to add some weight to their message. It is an attempt to inflate their findings by appealing to latent emotions. My advice: Be factual. Tell the public that you don’t know what the exact figure is. Do not speculate. If absolutely necessary use that other all time favorite phrase of researchers: “More research is necessary”.
All pedophiles are child molesters – A Dutch research found that of all convicted child molesters 80% was not a pedophile. Of course offending pedophiles exist. But the large part of perpetrators of child sexual abuse is heterosexual or gay. Pedophiles do have a higher risk of offending than heterosexuals and gays. But to say that all pedophiles are child molesters is stigmatizing the large group of pedophiles that not offending despite their sexual desire. If anything, the 80% of perpetrators that are not pedophiles might actually learn something of this group of non-offending pedophiles.
http://www.dutchrapporteur.nl/reports/on-solid-ground/ (In English)
Spends years grooming and then strikes – I can see how this stigma originated. Some pedophiles spend years with a child as a coach or a friend. When the pedophile than makes a mistake which leads to sexual contact with the child, this stigma is easily believed to be true. An alternative explanation however is that the riendship of years was followed by a weak moment in the abstinence policy of the pedophile. The idea that all pedophiles are carefully plotting when and where to strike is not true and just plain malignant.
Whichever explanation is right though, this sexual encounter can have grave consequences for both the child and the pedophile.
Incapable of relating to adults – This is a very popular myth. Although I do not know of any research addressing this issue, most pedophiles I know have no problem relating to adults. They hold serious jobs, have an active social life. Some are married or otherwise engaged in an adult relationship.
Being a pedophile is an illness – More and more pedophilia is considered a sexual orientation. You can read more about it in this LA Times article: http://articles.latimes.com/2013/jan/14/local/la-me-pedophiles-20130115 . However, even if it is an illness, it wouldn’t change anything. The sexual orientation of a person is fixed and cannot be changed.
Pedophiles have no morals – The sexual orientation has no effect on ones morals. You have genuinely good heterosexuals , gays and pedophiles. And there are bad heterosexuals, gays and pedophiles. The ethics of person stem first and foremost from upbringing and education. Just because my sexual orientation is different doesn’t mean I throw my ethical beliefs overboard.
Ethical beliefs can be strengthened through debate and practice. Unfortunately most (young) pedophiles are left alone to deal with the challenges that come with being a pedophile. A more open climate to debate and discuss being a pedophile would certainly improve morals.
All child molester are pedophiles – Not necessarily. The aforementioned Dutch research found that 80% of perpetrators of child sexual abuse is not a pedophile. There is a significant difference between a pedophile and child molester. Stigmatizing is naming the first and meaning the latter.
All pedophiles need help – The idea of sending pedophiles to a psychiatrist might at first seem comforting but is a pseudo solution. The sexual orientation of a person cannot be changed. Some pedophiles however could use some help with being (remaining) a non offending pedophile.
Young pedophiles need information on pedophilia and need to have a perspective on life on how to lead a life as a pedophile. Some are in need of pedophile role models.
Others deal with their orientation just fine. They have good jobs and a thriving social life. Some enjoy the contact of other pedophiles to exchange experiences on how to deal with the challenges of being a pedophile in todays world.
Three fora deal with self help:
- Pedofilie.nl – A Dutch information site on pedophilia
- Virtuos Pedophiles – A US site on pedophilia
- Pedofilie.eu – A European board for pedophiles.
- B4UAct – A US site on prevention of CSA made by pedophiles.
Will be a child molester – There is no evidence that being a pedophile it is just a matter of time before you will be a child molester. As stated before, being a pedophile does increase the risk, but more often than not child sex abusers are not pedophiles.
Child sex tourists are pedophiles– “Pedophiles are the smallest group of child sex tourists.” This is a quote of the Dutch website for reporting child sex tourism. The website www.meldkindersekstoerisme.nl is funded by state government and run by an NGO. The largest group of child sex tourists are situational perpetrators, people that have sex with minors because the opportunity was there.
The lonely-and-awkward-men-myth – This is a common myth. Most pedophiles are normal people with normal jobs and a normal social life. Even their appearance does not reveal their sexuality.
Will rape or molest given the chance – I consider this one of the scariest myths. The idea behind this myth is that pedophiles have no morals and are ruthless calculating monsters. It supposes that pedophiles like or even prefer non consensual sex. But just like most “normal” people pedophiles are horrified by the idea of non consensual sex. The morals of most pedophiles are not much different than yours.
Next time you read an article or watch a news item on pedophiles, be sure to have this myth card ready. You can now spot the 16 most commonly used stigmas for pedophiles much more easily.