The Primary Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse

Supporting Minor Attracted People

In case you are unaware of the distinction between a pedophile and a minor attracted person, a pedophile is someone with an attraction to prepubescent children, while minor attraction is an umbrella term for someone attracted to minors in general. The behavior of sexually abusing a child is often not motivated primarily by pedophilia: The majority of those who sexually abuse children are not sexually attracted to them. While that information may be difficult to believe, it comes from a number of sources. One study showed that one-third of sexual abusers of children have pedophilia while two-thirds do not[1], a Dutch study (p. 65-66) found that 20% of sexual abusers of children have minor attraction (not just pedophilia)[2]. Another study of 146 men who sexually abused children found that 16.2% had pedophilia[3]. The statement of former FBI supervisory special agent Kenneth Lanning[4] also confirms these ideas. While determining precise numbers is difficult due to underreporting, it is clear that about one-third of sexual crimes against children are perpetrated by someone with a sexual attraction to children, while most crimes are not.

Regardless, everyone does better with support, and minor attracted people are no exception. Similar to the stigma facing LGBTQ+ youth, people do better when they have both peer and professional support available to them to guide them through how to ethically and legally navigate what they go through.

What The Experts Say

This idea is not new. In fact, three major experts in preventing sexual harm answered questions about this recently during a special I-AMA (Ask Me Anything) session on Reddit in December. Maia Christopher is the Executive Director of the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers, Karen Baker is the director of the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, and Michael Seto is one of the foremost experts on pedophilia and editor of Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment. The overwhelming opinion in the professional sexual violence prevention community is that helping minor attracted people by offering peer/professional support is the best way to ensure that minor attracted people do not harm children, and suggest that reducing the stigma against minor attraction will help this endeavor and protect children. This can be seen across numerous pieces of research as well[5].

For every minor attracted person that gains a community of like-minded peers that are dedicated to remaining law-abiding, they have social support from people that understand them and issues unique to minor attracted people. For every minor attracted person that gains professional help, they have the potential of finding a bigger support network. In doing so, they lessen the risk factors like depression, anxiety, and self-hate that can lead to acting out against a child, or themselves. We can also help them avoid ideas that can lead to offending. When a minor attracted person can get support without harming a child, it is not only a win for that person, but also for society as a whole.

Sources

[1] Seto, Michael C., James M. Cantor, and Ray Blanchard. “Child Pornography Offenses Are a Valid Diagnostic Indicator of Pedophilia.” Journal of Abnormal Psychology 115, no. 3 (2006): 610–15. https://doi.org/10.1037/0021-843X.115.3.610.

[2] “On Solid Ground: Tackling Sexual Violence against Children in the Netherlands.” National Rapportur on Trafficking in Human Beings, 2014. https://www.dutchrapporteur.nl/Publications/OnsolidgroundTacklingsexualviolenceagainstchildrenintheNetherlands/index.aspx.

[3] Kesicky, D., I. Andre, and M. Kesicka. “EPA-0284 – Pedophiles and (or) Child Molesters.” European Psychiatry 29 (2014): 1. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0924-9338(14)77731-4.

[4] Lanning, Kenneth V. “Child Molesters: A Behavioral Analysis.” National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Federal Bureau of Investigation, December 1992.

[5] Jahnke, Sara. “The Stigma of Pedophilia: Clinical and Forensic Implications.” European Psychologist 23, no. 2 (April 2018): 144–53. https://doi.org/10.1027/1016-9040/a000325.

Shields, Ryan T., Benelmouffok, Aniss, and Letourneau, Elizabeth J. “Help Wanted: Lessons on Prevention from Non-Offending Young Adult Pedophiles.” ATSA, October 15, 2015.

Cantor, James M., and Ian V. McPhail. “Non-Offending Pedophiles.” Current Sexual Health Reports 8, no. 3 (September 2016): 121–28. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11930-016-0076-z.

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