If you came to this page, and you have had a sexual attraction to younger children for longer than 6 months, then read on. If you are concerned with whether you might have an attraction because that one child led to you feeling aroused, then you may not have pedophilia. If much of your fantasies involve children, and that has gone on for a long time, then you may have pedophilia. In short, one single instance, or even a few, of being aroused by children does not mean you have pedophilia. But if you are sure that you do have pedophilia, then you may keep reading. If you are not sure, please exit this page.
Repeat this to yourself: "I am not a monster, and I did not choose this." The basic fact of the matter is that most people with a sexual attraction to children do not sexually abuse children (see here for details), and most people who do sexually abuse children do not have a sexual attraction to them. This attraction is called pedophilia. Some of this can be difficult to believe, but you can run by the fact section about pedophilia if you want to know more facts where the information on this page comes from.
The bottom line is that having a sexual attraction to children is still extremely stigmatized, and most people do not have the facts about a sexual attraction to children. It is highly likely that what you have been told about your attraction to children is not accurate: Most people do not know what pedophilia is, or how it differs from sexual attractions to older children. You have a head start by coming to this site, because it contains information pulled from recent research rather than the random stuff you might hear by word-of-mouth.
This page is lengthy in places. To ease navigation, find a section below that fits you.
There are some inaccurate words that people throw around imprecisely that can impact how you read this section. To make it easier, a sexual attraction to children is simply referred to as a sexual attraction to children, and the proper terms are avoided. Increasingly, professionals and those with these attractions are referring to those with such attractions as Minor Attracted Persons, or MAPs, and a sexual attraction to children can sometimes simply be referred to as minor attraction. While use of the word "minor" can be objectifying, we can all agree that it is simpler and less confusing than CAPs. Some of the resources linked below use the acronym MAPs exclusively, or interchangeably with pedophiles. It is typically better for your mental health not to define yourself by a condition that you have (i.e., a person with depression rather than a depressed person), but sometimes these terms must be used for the sake of simplicity.
The first part I want to tell you is that many, many people have learned to live with sexual attractions without hurting kids (you can read some stories here). You can be one of them. The best news is that, according to our best estimates, less than 10% of people who like kids sexually actually go on to sexually abuse them. Most people find friends who can help, or even a therapist to talk with about it when they get that far. But right now, you are where you are. All you need to worry about is that you are you, and no one gets to tell you who you are or what you will do. Your actions are a result of your choices, and if you do not want to hurt a child, then you can simply choose that you will not hurt a child.
But do not beat yourself up because you have an attraction you cannot help.
The second part I need to get into is that we know a lot about this condition. It is called pedophilia, and yes, having pedophilia makes you a pedophile. To some people, being a pedophile means that you have sexually abused a child. However, abusing a child, no matter how people misuse the word "pedophile", does not make someone a pedophile: It is only the sexual attraction to children that makes someone a pedophile. We also know that there are lots of people who are experts in helping people with pedophilia, and you might be able to find one of them at some point. If you are not 18 or the age of majority in your country, you will likely need your parent's permission to get professional help.
A sexual attraction to children, by itself, is not hard to deal with. The part that can make a sexual attraction to children difficult is what you think about you having a sexual attraction to children, and what you think about yourself. Having a sexual attraction to children is not something that you chose. You surely know that much, right? You did not wake up one morning and say to yourself, "You know, I think I will try out liking children, that sounds like a good idea." No, it just happened, and you one day realized that you like kids. It does not make you a bad person, or any less a human being. You might hear otherwise, but simply having an attraction does not make you better or worse than anyone else.
Usually, we apply negative labels to people who do things to other people that are hurtful, and you did not do anything to like kids. Some people might think that having a sexual attraction to children means that you will someday be sexual with a child, and their disgust at you for having a sexual attraction is because they assume that you will molest a child or have already done so. Their assumption is wrong, and it is their fault, not yours. You and only you get to decide how you will behave, and most with a sexual attraction to children choose to never harm a child.
Another piece of good news is that many people who like kids who go on to parent children are not attracted to their own children. You have the option of raising a family, if that is what you want, and you put in the effort to overcome the challenges to making that happen. It may be difficult for you to find someone to date or marry who you are sexually attracted to and who is interested in you, but do not give up just because it is hard. Lots of things in life are hard.
I do not think I can go much further without telling you some bad news. One bit of bad news is that, if you are under 18, you cannot see a therapist about this without your parents' permission, should you feel the need. That means that, if you want to talk to an expert about it, you must tell your parents about how you feel about children, and that can be not only hard, but in some cases, it is impossible or unwise. This can prevent you from seeking professional help. Several sections below discuss who to tell, how, and how to determine who is safe.
Another hard part is how people see you, and dealing with the people that simply do not know, care, or understand what it is like to be in your shoes. There will be people who will tell you things that are wrong, and there will be things you read in the news that are wrong. They can be upsetting. When that happens, you need to have something to read and go back to. This site can be perfect for that, but there are also communities and resources you can go to for help, at the bottom of this page.
Something to keep in mind is that a lot of news media and other people misuse the words “pedophile” and "pedophilia". They are not talking about a sexual attraction to children, or someone with it, but the act of sexually abusing a child and those who abuse them. You can usually figure out how they mean it by how they phrase it. If they are talking about the pedophile’s victims, or a convicted pedophile, or something similar, you can be sure that they are talking about a child molester and are misusing terminology. A lot of people are unable to see the difference between a pedophile and a child molester, or just do not care enough to make a distinction.
At some point in your life, you will probably either come up with arguments or come across arguments that other people have written for why you could act on your attractions and be sexual with a child. Some of these arguments may have points that are logical and based on fact, while many of the main points and conclusions have serious flaws to them.
It may go without saying, but children are not emotionally mature enough to be in a sexual or romantic relationship with an older child or adult. Part of this is because relationships are hard, and children do not have the experience to make them work. Part of it is because children do not have enough social skills to keep up with older teens, children, and adults. They simply do not have the emotional capacity to understand all of what goes on in a relationship.
Sexually, children are totally off-limits, and that includes touching their private areas, sexual actions like oral sex or masturbation, or showing them pornography. Legally, you can get in very serious trouble that can impact not only the rest of your life, but also the life of the child. While it is true that in some cases, a child being sexual with an older youth or adult does not cause the child harm, there is no way to figure out which children will be harmed and which children will not be harmed before the act. That can only be figured out by time after the event. Put simply, the risk of hurting the child is too big, and it is a gamble at best. You do not want to put a severe risk of harm to chance, you want to avoid that risk.
It is also not possible to expect to interact with a child without the child feeling that they must do what the adult or older person says. Children will usually trust authority figures, and they will view those older than them as authority figures. Because of this, a sexual relationship with a child would have to involve manipulating, bullying, and coercing the child in some form, even if you do not mean to bully, manipulate, or coerce the child.
As someone attracted to children, you do not want to hurt a child in this way. You care too much.
One decision that you are going to have to face eventually is telling other people that you have sexual attractions to children. I want to be clear that if you do this, you are taking a risk. Not everyone knows what you know about your attractions. They do not know that you will never act on them, they do not know that most people who have a sexual attraction to children never act on that attraction. To most people, pedophile and child molester are the same thing. In their mind, if you are telling them you have attractions to children, they will automatically wonder what the name of the child you molested was.
That is not to say that there are never safe people to talk with, but it means you need to be very, very careful in deciding who you will tell and how. Why should you tell at all? Because you can get help in facing it. You would then have people you can talk to if things get difficult. You can tell yourself that you are not a monster for having these feelings, but it can sometimes sound so much more believable if it is coming from someone who knows you and cares about you.
You must treat this with a healthy amount of respect, though, because your information in the wrong hands can have a very serious impact on your life. People have lost jobs, places to live and more because the wrong person found out about someone's sexual attraction to children. Some families have disowned a child for having an attraction to children. These horror stories may sound far-fetched, but they can be real
The first thing you could do to figure out safe people to talk with is to review what you know of them. Do they insult or mock gay or transgendered people? If so, they are likely not safe. Do they have compassion for gay or transgendered people? If so, they are likely safer to talk with. Knowing how they treat other people with sexual attractions of other kinds can tell you how they would treat you. Does the person seem to be a good listener, and really care about you? Sometimes, these people might be friends, sometimes they might be family members. It may be easier to tell a good friend first, and have them present if you decide to tell your family, depending on how that goes.
The next thing you could do is feel out how the person feels about a similar issue. Start a conversation about that topic or issue. Some examples could be asking what they think of gay people, mental illness/mental disorders, what motivates child molestation, or just bluntly asking what they think of pedophiles (start by asking what they think a pedophile is: Make it sound like you heard the word and want to know what they think about it, for example).
You can do many of these things without raising any kind of suspicion towards yourself. You will want to avoid saying things like, “A friend of mine told me he’s attracted to kids,” as most people will see right through that and think that you are asking for yourself. It is better to make it sound like you heard about whatever issue (see above examples) you are testing them with, and want to know what they think about the issue. What they say in response can help you figure out if that person is a safe person to talk with.
Does the person dodge the question, and not answer it? Do they have a very, very strong opinion towards the issue? You can usually tell by their words and how they say them if they are responding positively or negatively to the issue you are asking them about, and sometimes you can tell if someone is safe by how you feel around them. Please understand that if you choose to tell someone about your feelings because you feel they are safe, and if that person reacts negatively, this site is in no way responsible. Make that decision with care, and know that you are taking a risk.
Telling your parents may be an option, depending on your situation. Sometimes, telling your parents is an option, and sometimes it is not safe to talk to them. Only you know your situation. While it may be safer to tell a safe friend first and then your parents, only you can decide what is right for you. If you want to get the professional help of a therapist, you cannot do so without your parents' input. This site does have a section for parents and a fact section about pedophilia that may be helpful to present to parents if you do decide to tell your parents.
There are also some success stories about people telling loved ones that they are sexually attracted to children. A success story about a pedophile coming out to his parents can be found here, while a success story about a pedophile coming out to his wife can be found here. Another pedophile wrote an open letter to his mother, which may or may not have been shared. These situations are not common, however.
So, you have felt out the person you want to tell, and you think they might be safe to talk with. So… now what? You can take several paths, and which one you take is entirely up to you:
By keeping it simple, I mean just saying it and being blunt and direct. Something like, “Fred, I need to tell you something that is very important. I have a sexual attraction to young children. If you have questions, I can try to answer them. But I want you to know so that you can support me in staying safe and healthy. I am committed to never hurting a child, but I want to face this with other people rather than trying to face it alone.” If you keep it simple, you should still be prepared to answer difficult questions, and some of these questions may be troubling to you.
Some of these hard questions might be:
Getting professional support can be a great decision that can help you. While therapy can sometimes be viewed negatively and inaccurately by some, the goal of any therapist is to help you improve yourself by identifying unhealthy habits, beliefs, or thoughts and coming up with healthier solutions. Their goal is not to change your personality or any of the things that make you who you are. Their goal is to help you see new things about yourself so that you can make great choices and get to a mentally healthier place than you were when you started seeing them. While therapy may not be for everyone, sometimes the hardest part of having a good experience with therapy is just selecting the right therapist. That is part of why this site exists.
Finding a therapist that specializes in sexual issues and has direct experience with people who are sexually attracted to children can be a challenge. Some of the resources at the bottom of this page have tools or referral forms you can use to find a therapist in your area that does specialize in these issues.
Why do you want a therapist who specializes in these areas? A therapist that does not specialize in sexual issues may not be able to give you accurate information or the kind of guidance and direction you need, and may even report you to the police out of the mistaken notion that simply having a sexual attraction to children puts you at risk for sexually abusing a child. You want a therapist that has more familiarity in these areas to avoid some of those issues.
Some people need therapy to change what they think and believe about themselves, others, and the world around them. Some people do not. If you can accept the ideas from the questions at the top of this page without therapy, then you may not need professional therapy.
While sexual behaviors with children are indeed wrong, there is a need to separate sexual attraction, sexual fantasy, sexual thought, and sexual behavior, as they are four distinct ideas. Sometimes, we may be tempted to think that all four things are the same, and changing that thinking is part of what therapy can accomplish, but that can also be accomplished with time and support.
The bottom line about a sexual attraction to children is that it is separate from behavior: It is a sexual feeling, just like being heterosexual, homosexual, or any other sexuality is just a sexual feeling. Acting on a sexual attraction to children with a child is wrong for reasons discussed above, where acting on other sexualities must happen in appropriate situations but is otherwise perfectly fine, and that is the only difference between pedophilia and other sexual attractions: The ability to act morally on the sexuality with the person you are attracted to. While accepting that and moving past it can be difficult, it is possible.
This is a US-specific organization that educates, certifies, and trains therapists and others in topics related to sexuality. They have a tool to locate sexuality professionals in your area, provided you live in the US.
This is a referral tool that you can use. It is a confidential form where people can get help with a variety of issues. Do not let the name of the organization fool you: They are mental health professionals who only want to help, and they will not assume you have or will molest a child because you have a sexual attraction to children. Under "referral type", select "community outpatient", and under "notes", indicate that you are looking for a therapist who can treat pedophilia.
This site has affiliates that treat forensic (criminal) and non-forensic populations for sexual issues. They may be a useful tool in finding more about therapy, answering questions, and finding a qualified therapist.
This is a UK-based organization aimed at helping prevent sexual offenses before they happen. They have professional resources available specific to the UK.
This is a 12-step program designed for those with sexual addiction or dependency issues. They have meetings in the US, Canada, and a variety of other countries. They also have electronic meetings if your country is not represented, and they have a handy tool at the top to find out if their program is right for you. Similar programs are Sexaholics Anonymous and Sexual Compulsives Anonymous.
This is one of the best-known online support options for those with sexual attractions to children. They operate as a forum, and have a great deal of facts, information, media, and resources available for anyone wishing to know more about pedophilia. Some ideas they present may not fit your background, and you should be prepared to disagree and come back to those ideas later.
This site is a great place to start for anyone with a sexual attraction to children, and has links to some of the other organizations mentioned in this section. Their master list of providers can be found here. This organization was started by a non-offending pedophile.
This organization has a lot of academic information, as well as general information about a sexual attraction to children. While some of their information is slightly out-of-date, it is a great place to get help and find basic information about professional therapy.
Lifeline is a chat/message board aimed at supporting those with sexual attractions to children. They keep specific hours, but it is a great online resource that may fit your needs.
The Global Prevention Project serves as a professional solution to many different internal and external sexual issues, including sexual attraction to children. They are global, and know of resources in many countries.
This site has information available in English, German, Finnish, Spanish, and Russian about pedophilia and how it differs from child sexual abuse. There are some support resources available.
Stop It Now! operates a helpline available in the United States, and they can direct you to resources in those areas as well as serving as someone to talk to. Most contact is anonymous unless you choose to share identifying information. While Stop It Now! does have a UK branch, this site does not recommend them due to their sex-negative approach to fantasy.
This organization is one of many focused on sexual health, and they have a tool that can show affiliate therapists on a map. This can be a useful start for finding therapy, though doing a simple Google search with "sexual health therapists in [location]" may be easier.
Finding the right support for your needs can be a challenge, and part of that challenge is using the correct words to find what you are looking for. Searching for "sexual health therapy" in your area can be a great place to start, and some of these organizations, if they do not directly treat a sexual attraction to children, may know of places that do and can provide a referral. If you live in or near Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, or Illinois, the Center for Sexual Health can provide these resources.
Aside from professional resources, many have found that online resources like Virtuous Pedophiles and LifeLine are very helpful for their situation. Sometimes, it is helpful just to talk with someone who faces something similar.