The “benign” pedophile
Prefacing this with the fact that my opinion may be incredibly unpopular, but it is seen through the lens of personal experience, and mine is obviously different to another persons.
The "benign" pedophile
I've been seeing this term used more and more frequently these days, usually by people trying to cover their own asses and excuse themselves for any responsibility, or just by people generally trying to make their world feel safer by deluding themselves.
Having said that, what I'm going to say next is not going to be a popular opinion: I believe that there are "benign" pedophiles.
Not in the sense of they are not abusers, but in the sense that a sadist that rapes a two year old and then kills her is not the same as as someone lusting after 12 year olds from a distance, but never touching them.
I can speak for studies, research and various other facts. I can only speak for experience, and my experience is such that on my 16th birthday, the birthday toast was: "Today, pedophiles worldwide are crying because you're legal". I knew a lot of them. A lot. It's well known that most child molesters are family members or people in trusted positions. This is because they know how to spot the odd child out. I was not at an age where I was unaware of what was happening, it started when I was 10 and they just kept finding me. I made it easy enough; a damaged kid out of a damaged house with zero supervision and no concept of self preservation.
I got lucky in the types of people who preyed on me. They didn't want to have sex with me, at least they never said so. They wanted to put themselves in a disgusting role somewhere between husband and father, and make me dependent upon them. Again, I understood what was happening. I understood logically that a 35 year old doesn't need a photograph of an 11 year old for any innocent reason. It made me feel important. Some would send me money if I said I wanted to buy something, and my mother didn't mind, so it continued.
But then the situation spiraled totally out of control. My parents both went to jail, I was 12 with a 6 year old brother to look after, and his nanny has signed as our temporary foster parent to prevent us being taken by social services. I suddenly had a level of responsibility that made me feel like I was an adult, but I was still a child who needed reassurance and help. I found it in the form of a 27 year old man in a chat site (Oh they love chat sites. It's a hunting ground). A former addict who said he was receiving methadone treatment and working as an account, he mailed me money and morphine and talked to me day and night.
Then he started saying he wanted to come over and live with me. That's when the alarm bells started ringing in my drug addled mind, and I tried to deter him while still keep him talking to me. And then it stopped. He disappeared. I was relieved at that point, but the relief didn't last long. About a month later, I received what still stands out as one of the most jarring phone calls of my entire life. A woman on the other end asked if I was Alice, and I said yes, expecting it to be some bill collector - but instead, she started sobbing hysterically.
It turned out that this 27 year old had informed his psychiatrist that he was moving across the globe to be with a 12 year old he was in love with. He had assumed doctor-patient privilege would cover this kind of information, but the second his psychiatrist saw he wasn't joking, he had him committed. This woman was his fiancé (whom he had told me had left him and stolen a bunch of his stuff) and she had refused to believe what he was saying was real. Until he killed himself, leaving a note saying that if he couldn't be with me, he refused to continue living. And when I answered the phone, I confirmed her worst fears. It felt like being hit with a sledgehammer - What happened to her, what could have happened to me, what had been happening all this time.
In the years that followed, I met more of those kind of men than I care to remember. I've always looked young - when I was pregnant, on my honeymoon, people kept telling my husband in the street that I'm too young, what did he do. And back then, I looked younger, and with braces. But no inhibitions, a drug problem, and a non existent support system.
I had been molested and abused by someone I would never have consider a pedophile - there didn't appear to be any inclination towards children, for all intents and purposes it seemed just like an act of anger specifically against me. I know the difference between that person, and the so-called benign pedophiles. They're both getting off on the same thing at the end of the day, and all of their acts are abuse, and contribute to the proliferance of abuse against children (both in "child porn, in person, trafficking, etc) - they all feed the needs of these people. But they are not always the same, and the damage they cause is not always the same.
One day, I met a 17 year old boy. He was desperate - he thought something was wrong with his mind, because he was getting aroused by looking at little kids, and he needed help. He was unceremoniously shut down in all requests for help. He then started asking just to be put in a psych ward to stop him doing something horrible. The last I saw of him, his parents (who come from a culture that does not discuss sex, let alone these matters) had forced him to stop saying such things, and basically just to shut up. I wonder where he is today? Did he manage to put himself in a psychiatric institution? He recognized something was wrong with him, and did not want to act upon those urges. Did he give up and give in? Is he currently ruining some child's life?
Apparently quite a few calls to the Children's Hotline per year are from pedophiles who are asking for help. I think there are those that know what they want to do is wrong on every level, and go out of their way to prevent it from happening. There are those that try to indulge themselves just with emotional contact with children, theorizing that it's not as bad, and they're actually helping/supporting these kids (didn't Michael Jackson say he was just a friend to all those boys and connected with them on their level? I think quite a few of them actually believe that). Then there are those who seem to embrace their perversions with no regard to human life. They are all bad people, but some are much worst.
I will say this though: When I am outside, walking with my daughter alone - I see the looks, and I interpret the worst possible outcome. When I think of getting a babysitter, I am then immediately suspicious of people who want to spend all day with children (especially toddlers). I refuse to send her to preschool, and it takes a lot of control not to grab her and run away whenever a stranger talks to her or pats her head (very common, Mediterranean culture means they are super friendly with kids). So the damage is there. It's always going to be there.
But I still believe that just like the the Sex Offender registry needs to be reworked to distinguish between offenders, so does the way child abusers are classified. I strongly believe that any pedophile trying to get themselves committed, or asks for help before they hurt someone, need to be taken seriously. I think that more funds should be allocated to social services, so their not as understaffed and underpaid that they repeatedly end up missing massive cases of abuses they are supposed to investigate, but just end up falling through the cracks - there's such a focus on finding perverts online chatting up preteens, but seriously, social services! And I believe education aimed at children to teach them what constitutes as abuse should be taught very early on. There are a lot of instances when children are abused by family members from such a young age and for so long, that they believe it's normal, and don't realize it's not until MUCH much later.
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I think this is a very brave and thoughtful article. The demonisation of paedophiles simply for their desires, rather than for their decisions to act on those desires, does the opposite of protecting their potential victims. On the contrary, it makes paedophiles more likely to commit abuse. If someone knows they can never talk about their feelings to anyone in their social circle for fear of being labelled a monster, they will seek out support elsewhere. That’s just human nature. The only “elsewhere” they can find support is with other paedophiles, leading to a dangerous reinforcement of their urges. The stigma they face if they try to get help will inevitably turn many away from this route. Some will even be refused the help they need, as the author disturbingly highlights.
A society that makes no meaningful distinction between those who want to sexually abuse children and those who actually do it is fuelling that abuse. The same psychology applies to all criminals, of course, and is a major factor in reoffending rates – if a mugger feels they will always be seen as a criminal, they will be tempted to think “well, I may as well just carry on mugging then”. But this mindset is especially true of paedophiles because of the level of disgust they will encounter and the lack of any meaningful attempt to support them in controlling their behaviour.
Furthermore, many paedophiles were victims of child abuse themselves, so in those cases a certain amount of the blame must fall on society for failing to help them.