There are many terms and abbreviations that may come up on this site that you may not be familiar with. If you saw a term you want to look up, you can use the “find” function by pressing “Ctrl+f” on your keyboard, or browse below. If the word you have questions about is not present, contact the author.
Contrary to public perception, the word “pedophile” was originally meant to refer to those with pedophilia, a sexual attraction to prepubescent children, generally younger than 13 years old. Common usage would define the word “pedophile” as some sort of monster, someone who preys on children. However, this site and the affiliated blogs use the word “pedophile” exclusively to refer to someone with a sexual attraction to children, regardless of a diagnosis of pedophilic disorder, regardless of whether that person has sexually abused a child, and in direct contrast to public usage of the word. If child sexual abuse is to be prevented before it can happen, we must narrowly define and understand “pedophile” to mean “someone with a sexual attraction to prepubescent children”.
People Who Sexually Abuse
These are people who have sexually abused a child. They are differentiated from sexual offenders on this site to acknowledge the fact that most abusers are not caught and registered because of underreporting, and the fact that most sexual crimes are perpetrated by people with no prior record. This term is used sparingly to reflect these facts, and it is inadvisable to label people as if all they do is sexually abuse children.
Sexual offenders are people who have been convicted of a sexual crime, and are required by the laws in their area to register with law enforcement as a sexual offender. While sexual offenders are more often in public awareness, they represent the lowest risk to children and the minority of overall sexual abusers according to the data we have on underreporting and who perpetrates sexual crime. This term is used sparingly to reflect these facts, and it is inadvisable to label people as if all they do is sexually offend.
This is an acronym used to refer to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, and other sexualities and gender identification. You might simply think of this as being non-heterosexual and gender non-conforming, though there are minute differences. If someone wishes to be addressed with a particular pronoun, it is extremely rude and disrespectful to ignore their request, intentionally or unintentionally.
Child Sexual Abuse (CSA)
Child sexual abuse is a sexual act or communication that results in harm to a child (generally, someone 15 years old and younger, but can include up to age 18 depending on the location). Abuse can take many forms, and not all of them are illegal in any one country, state, or province. What makes something abusive is how the act is received or felt (trauma felt by the victim), not its legality or illegality. This distinction is made to prioritize and validate victim/survivors whose perpetrator may not have been charged or convicted with a crime while recognizing that the criminal justice system can make mistakes.
Harmful Sexual Imagery
These are photographs or videos that depict (real) children in sexual situations. “Child pornography” is an inaccurate term, as children are not paid in this material, are not acting, cannot consent, and are being sexually abused or exploited. It is better to describe groups that collect/distribute such material as “child sexual exploitation rings” than it would be to call them “child pornography” or “pedophile” rings. These term recommendations do not refer to sexual images of children that are drawn or are otherwise fictional, and that distinction is important both ethically and legally.
At-risk populations can be many things. It can be someone who has abused a child but the abuse is not known to anyone but the child and the person abusing them (no disclosure). It could be someone who has not yet abused a child, but is at risk for abusing a child – minor attracted people, people who have at least one adverse childhood experience, those who abuse drugs or alcohol, or even those who need mental health support, but lack access to that support.
Regardless of the situation, these are groups of people who are in a sensitive spot with their mental health and need your support in making good decisions, not your judgment for what they may be facing. They need your help and resources.
Mandatory reporting refers to the legal requirement that some professionals, organizations, and even individuals can face. If the person to whom the requirement applies is aware of a specific person who has been harmed, or is about to be harmed, the person is then required to notify law enforcement about the situation. Requirements and specifics of how they are applied are highly dependent upon location, and you are encouraged to look up what your requirements are in your area.
Minor Attraction and Minor Attracted People
Sometimes, people refer to a sexual attraction to children broadly as minor attraction, and to those with such an attraction as minor attracted persons or MAPs for short. This is an umbrella term created by professionals to simplify research in this area, and is not intended to minimize or condone the sexual abuse of children.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders, Fifth Edition is the “psychology Bible” used by professionals to diagnose and understand mental health issues.
Ephebophilia is the primary sexual attraction to children who have just completed puberty, typically 15-19 years old. Primary sexual attraction means that the bulk of sexual arousal and fantasy is towards people 15-19 years old, and not towards one’s peers. Ephebophilia can be a concern depending on the intensity and exclusivity of the arousal felt towards children. It can also be concerning if someone with hebephilia is denying the reality of their attractions, viewing themselves negatively because of it, or wishing to act out on their attractions.
Hebephilia is the primary sexual attraction to children while they are in puberty, generally those 11-14 years old. Primary sexual attraction means that the bulk of sexual arousal and fantasy is towards people 11-14 years old, and not towards one’s peers. Hebephilia can be a concern depending on the intensity and exclusivity of the arousal felt towards children. It can also be concerning if someone with hebephilia is denying the reality of their attractions, viewing themselves negatively because of it, or wishing to act out on their attractions.
Pedophilia is the primary sexual attraction to children who have not yet hit puberty, generally those under 13 years old. Primary sexual attraction means that the bulk of sexual arousal and fantasy is towards people under 13 years old, and not towards one’s peers. Pedophilia can be a concern depending on the intensity and exclusivity of the arousal felt towards children. It can also be concerning if someone with hebephilia is denying the reality of their attractions, viewing themselves negatively because of it, or wishing to act out on their attractions. Pedophilia is typically seen by researchers and experts as a condition that is separate from the diagnosable and treatable pedophilic disorder. While the disorder can be treated, the condition is considered a sexuality and generally does not change.