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You're 16. You're a pedophile. What do you do now?
August 11, 2014 7:26 AM   Subscribe

Inside a group of young paedophiles and their fight to stop themselves from offending. Needless to say, trigger warning.
'I thought how harrowing and confusing it must be to be, say, 13 and realize you're attracted to children. Well, much younger children. With no frame of reference, no one to turn to. As a gay guy, I can relate in some small way to that confusion and dread. There was no It Gets Better when I was coming up. I started looking around to see if there was anywhere that these guys, and sometimes young women, could get help or therapy to deal with this massive thing. And there's nothing. Zilch.'
Luke Malone wrote his Columbia Journalism School thesis about a group of non-offending young paedophiles and their attempts to get help as the most loathed group on earth.
posted by nerdfish (62 comments total) 50 users marked this as a favorite

 
Luke Malone also did a version of this story on This American Life.
posted by gem tactics at 7:33 AM on August 11 [5 favorites]


Thank you for this article. We need many, many more like it.
posted by Melismata at 7:37 AM on August 11


CBC Radio had a piece on Virtuous Pedophiles, an online therapy group. My feelings on the whole subject are pretty mixed, but it seems like there needs to be a way for people to address their issues - the potential harm that could result is pretty devastating if they don't.
posted by helmutdog at 7:49 AM on August 11 [4 favorites]


This article is really amazing. Yes, trigger warning, but anyone who feels like they can handle it should definitely read it.
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:51 AM on August 11


I've already told my story about how little help there is for pre-offending pedophiles. It's a tough situation.
posted by gauche at 7:53 AM on August 11 [7 favorites]


We don’t know, for example, how someone comes by an attraction for prepubescent children in the first place. The research we do have, and this is derived from very small sample sizes, suggests that those attracted to kids tend to be shorter, left-handed, and have a lower IQ than the broader population. Another study found that being knocked unconscious before the age of 13 might be a factor.
Wow.
Desperate for someone to relate to, he started reaching out. “I’d say, ‘I’m a pedophile. I used to have a child porn addiction. I know what you’re going through,’” he said. “‘You obviously need help, and I know someone else around our age who’s like that. I think we could be a good support for you and vice versa.’”
This kid (okay, he's 20 now) deserves every medal there is.
posted by Etrigan at 7:55 AM on August 11 [6 favorites]


This is a great article. But its naive to think it isn't going to be difficult to read.
posted by JPD at 7:56 AM on August 11 [1 favorite]


Ok, can someone tell me, is it just the first paragarph or is there more like that? That was a bit much.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 7:56 AM on August 11


Sincere apologies for the hamfisted trigger warning, guys. I've emailed the mods and hopefully this should soon be rectified. This is, like, my second post on the blue and I clearly need to go back to MeFi school.
posted by nerdfish at 7:56 AM on August 11 [3 favorites]


[moved the trigger warning above the fold]
posted by restless_nomad at 7:58 AM on August 11 [3 favorites]


There's more disturbing stuff in the inside of the article.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 7:58 AM on August 11


Apart from the first paragraph, there's an even more graphic description lower in the article. Pass the paragraph after "I see an innocence in children that would be violated,” he said."
posted by snakeling at 7:58 AM on August 11


I seem to remember a case in the UK where a normal guy with a normal happy life with a happy family developed a brain tumor that changed his personality--for a brief while he basically became obsessed with kids and rape etc. When the tumor was removed he went back to normal. Anyone else remember this?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 7:59 AM on August 11


I seem to remember a case in the UK where a normal guy with a normal happy life with a happy family developed a brain tumor that changed his personality--for a brief while he basically became obsessed with kids and rape etc. When the tumor was removed he went back to normal. Anyone else remember this?
But seven months after the tumour was removed, and after successfully completing the Sexaholics Anonymous program, the man returned home. In October 2001 he complained of headaches and secretly collected pornography once more. But after a MRI scan revealed tumour regrowth and it was removed, the behaviour again disappeared.
posted by Etrigan at 8:03 AM on August 11 [12 favorites]


Ok, can someone tell me, is it just the first paragarph or is there more like that?

There is some later more graphic description of that same scene, but nothing else as graphic as those paragraphs in the rest of it.

If you start reading from the section which begins, "His pornography habit, of course, was merely symptomatic of a larger issue." then it is just general discussion of the wider issues, legality, Adam's attempts to find help and so on. I found it much easier reading after that.

Thanks for linking to this article, nerdfish. There is so much here that we (socially and individually) need to unpick, around not only pedophilia but how we view and deal with child abuse and mental health.
posted by fight or flight at 8:04 AM on August 11 [1 favorite]


He explained that he maintains a clear distinction between those he feels sexually attracted to and those with whom he feels a close paternal bond. He told me he only feels an erotic pull to girls aged seven to 12, and that for two-to-six-year-olds it’s more of a protective, almost brotherly instinct. He said this is what makes him such a good preschool teacher.

This absolutely jarred me. It's not as if there's a bright white line between 'six-year-old' and 'seven-year-old'. Are we really to believe that he only starts being attracted to children when the calendar says they have turned seven? What about the six-year-olds who look mature for their age?

I think this person is being extremely irresponsible by putting himself in this position.
posted by Salamander at 8:08 AM on August 11 [21 favorites]


I think this person is being extremely irresponsible by putting himself in this position.

Which person? If you mean the author, then I think you should consider how helpful our historical (and current) approach of silence and "monstering" of this issue has been for both victims and offenders.
posted by fight or flight at 8:15 AM on August 11 [1 favorite]


No, I mean the person referred to in the quote ('Mike') who is becoming a preschool teacher.
posted by Salamander at 8:18 AM on August 11 [2 favorites]


surely there's a difference between "monstering" and suggesting that pedophiles who self report being attracted to 7 year olds should not be preschool teachers.
posted by nadawi at 8:18 AM on August 11 [48 favorites]


I knew a guy like this - it was one of the first things he told me about himself. I was shocked, but willing to talk to him about it. Later, I realized he did this so there would be a check on him doing anything immoral. I would have seen what was going on and said something to either him or the police. He did the same thing with other people he trusted. With enough informed eyes watching his behavior, I guess he felt safer with his own impulses.

He was a teacher but avoided teaching children, which would have certainly been easy enough for him to get work doing. I remember an odd scene where the school owner was trying to convince him to take a class with children over summer vacation, which he refused to do.

He was an argumentative and difficult person to deal with for many reasons though, very moralistic. We lost touch after an argument, and the last I heard he had returned to his home country.
posted by datadawg at 8:19 AM on August 11 [5 favorites]


Oh yes, of course. Apologies, I misread Salamander's comment.
posted by fight or flight at 8:21 AM on August 11 [4 favorites]


There's a lot of ways where the mental health field has had problems, and one of them is with this idea that thoughts and behavior do not have to be the same thing. This kind of seems to be along the same lines as with suicide. People who express a desire to self-harm, I totally believe that involuntary commitment is appropriate. But what that's meant is that because so few people can be trusted to distinguish between thoughts about suicide and the actual desire to self-harm, I know several people who struggle with frequent intrusive thoughts about committing suicide who feel they can't actually tell their own therapists. I can't help but see this as the same--you have to luck into getting a therapist who understands that there's enough space between thought and action for there to be a space where you can offer treatment without reporting. But that person has to be able to distinguish between that and people who are really at risk of harming themselves or others. That's a lot to ask of someone, even a mental health professional.
posted by Sequence at 8:23 AM on August 11 [6 favorites]


I used be closely acquainted with someone who never fully acknowledged, but clearly struggled with inappropriate attraction to underaged boys. His justification when confronted on the issue was that he was an 'ephebophile' and that his attractions were ok because they were targeted towards post-pubescent children.

Even his mother acknowledged his "problem with boys" to me once. He always dated extremely young looking 16, 17, and 18 year olds- from the time when he was in his mid 20s, continuing through into his 30s, after which time we had a falling out that was partially a result of this issue (and partially because of his alcoholism and emotionally abusive behavior towards me).

I've personally been called some pretty nasty names just for suggesting that maybe these people deserve help- the common response is that these people should all be locked up, secluded on an island, or killed. But since that's not going to happen- isn't it better to help someone, even if we hate them and think they're horrible, if it means that someone isn't going to be abused in the future?
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 8:25 AM on August 11 [2 favorites]


i'm so torn on all of this. i'm a survivor of familial abuse in a family of survivors and pedophiles. something absolutely has to be done. i do worry that this sort of approach will be as successful as pray the gay away programs (not equating pedophilia with homosexuality, just the sorts of support groups that seek to control sexuality). at the same time, i'm fresh out of ideas (other than to not feed any more babies into my family's sickness) so i'm glad that people are trying to find another way forward.
posted by nadawi at 8:26 AM on August 11 [8 favorites]


I read Adam's efforts as less "pray away the gay" and more as addiction control, acknowledging the need, controlling the behavior. The reconditioning treatments are from academic studies discussed later in the article. Those share the suppression and denial approaches of the gay "conversion" organizations.

The success of programs like AA implies Adam's group support and management approach may have some worth, while I'm much more skeptical of reconditioning "therapy", given its other failures (and its history of misuse).
posted by bonehead at 8:55 AM on August 11 [2 favorites]


Plus the doctor quoted in the article says that conversion therapy is exactly what she doesn't want to do.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:57 AM on August 11


i admit i had to skim the article, thanks for pointing those specific parts out. it is more helpful to think of things like aa than conversion therapy as i try to fit this all in my head.
posted by nadawi at 8:59 AM on August 11


Yeah, it looks like Adam's approach (which seems to be the most logical and healthy) is to handle the attraction as an addiction and act accordingly.

Which makes me pretty leery of the guy becoming a preschool teacher. It's like an alcoholic becoming a bartender... sure there are probably people who can resist, no problem, but I'd guess they're in the minority.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:02 AM on August 11 [4 favorites]


This was too difficult for me to read all the way through. But thank you very much for posting it.
posted by zarq at 9:08 AM on August 11 [1 favorite]


hippybear posted a story in a previous thread that I think about whenever discussions come up about how to handle pedophiles/pedophilia.
posted by postcommunism at 9:09 AM on August 11 [9 favorites]


I knew someone who was a pedophile in their heart and had - through what I believe was a constant keeping their finger on the button - never acted on it in any way at all.

I cannot tell you what admiration I had for them - with no reservations. You don't get to choose what turns you on - choosing not to act on it is going against fundamental urges.

And I feel similar admiration for the people described here. My tastes are comparatively vanilla and involve consenting adults of the opposite sex. I can't even imagine what it must be like to have sexual tastes that are starkly and dramatically morally wrong.

(Becoming a pre-school teacher? Hmm. My friend avoided kids whenever possible...)
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:13 AM on August 11 [7 favorites]


I knew someone who was a pedophile in their heart and had - through what I believe was a constant keeping their finger on the button - never acted on it in any way at all.

On the other side of the coin, a childhood friend of mine -- the son of very close friends of my parents -- could not keep his finger off the button. He's been convicted of molestation twice (although there apparently were many more than two victims) and is currently awaiting a civil commitment trial that would send him to McNeil Island for life.

It's all very sad. It is saddest, of course, because he is the monster that many young boys will struggle with for the rest of their lives. It's sad because he took a part of those boys away from their families, and none of those families will ever be the same. It's sad because he himself was a victim of abuse by a priest and received a large settlement from the diocese. It's sad because once he received that large settlement, he stopped working and basically became a full-time predator. And what it's done to his own family is very, very sad. His parents are not the same people they used to be. They are very different people now. I would even say they are literally very different people, if we didn't have to worry about the DNA thing negating the word 'literally.' He has five siblings. It touches every single one of them, and their families, as well.

I wish there had been some sort of early intervention available to him. I don't know if he would have taken advantage of it, of course, but I wish it had at least been an option. The pain he's caused because of every boy he touched branches outward indefinitely and just doesn't seem to stop.
posted by mudpuppie at 9:34 AM on August 11 [13 favorites]


I knew someone, oh, twenty years ago who was a self-described pedophile. 30ish guy. He committed suicide.
posted by Nelson at 9:44 AM on August 11


In all seriousness, would castration fix this?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 9:45 AM on August 11


:-(

Really sorry, mudpuppie.

The whole thing is hard to reason about. Perhaps my friend just intrinsically had greater will - so he's no more morally better than your friend, in the same way that someone who can lift a car off a crash victim is no morally better than someone who is too weak to do so. Perhaps being molested is every bit as impersonal as cancer...

But if we believed that, personal responsibility would be meaningless. I choose not to think that way and act as though one's will can really affect one's actions, and that one is somehow "morally right" to do so. Anything else would be intolerable...
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:46 AM on August 11


MisantropicPainforest: 'chemical castration' is described in the article as a way for people to reduce uncontrollable sexual desire.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 9:58 AM on August 11


I read this an hour ago and had a massive panic attack. As someone with a family that was more or less destroyed by sexual abuse, I've read everything I've been able to get my hands on. Since high school. This is the most devastating, most significant piece of research and journalism on this subject I've ever read. I tend to eye roll a little at trigger warnings but please please be careful with this.

I'm so glad it was written, though.
posted by Pardon Our Dust at 11:46 AM on August 11 [4 favorites]


I knew someone, oh, twenty years ago who was a self-described pedophile. 30ish guy. He committed suicide.

I'd do the same, to be honest. Not even because I'd be afraid I would act on it. Just because having those thoughts in your head day in and day out is the worst kind of hell I can imagine for anyone.
posted by naju at 12:17 PM on August 11 [1 favorite]


In all seriousness, would castration fix this?

I don't want to live in a world where mutilation is used as a punishment, let alone a preventative.
posted by bile and syntax at 3:42 PM on August 11


Apart from the first paragraph, there's an even more graphic description lower in the article. Pass the paragraph after "I see an innocence in children that would be violated,” he said."

This bears repeating. The opening paragraph and the one immediately below this quote are horrible. I feel sick, and I am very rarely viscerally affected by stuff that is "triggering".

I think it's an important subject for people to read about, but christ almighty, be careful.
posted by aclevername at 4:00 PM on August 11


A portion of this was quoted earlier but not the conclusion, which I feel is important (emphasis added):
There is a lot we still don’t know about pedophilia—one researcher described our scientific understanding of it as a series of “pretty big black holes.” We don’t know, for example, how someone comes by an attraction for prepubescent children in the first place. The research we do have, and this is derived from very small sample sizes, suggests that those attracted to kids tend to be shorter, left-handed, and have a lower IQ than the broader population. Another study found that being knocked unconscious before the age of 13 might be a factor. This may sound like quackery, but it points toward biological causation. In other words, it’s likely that pedophiles are born this way.
Though with the head injury connection, "born this way" may be inaccurate. But it certainly suggests biological factors are likely involved, at least in some cases (that doesn't, of course, rule out the possibility that there may be ...different pathways, for lack of a better term).


For anyone who didn't get through the whole thing, here are a couple of things that I think look really hopeful:
“We say we’re really concerned about sex offending and we really don’t want children to be sexually offended and we don’t want adults to be raped, but we don’t do anything to prevent it. We put most of our energy into criminal justice, which means that the offense has already happened and often many offenses have already happened.”

Letourneau is the only U.S. researcher developing science and policy in the field of primary prevention.
And:
When I told Professor Letourneau that I was in contact with a group of young, non-offending pedophiles, she seemed taken aback. In her 25 years in the field she’s had plenty of experience with juveniles who have abused children, but she had never met a pedophile who hasn’t....

I asked her if she’d like to be put in touch with the group, and she jumped at the chance. After speaking with four of them over the phone, which she described as “kind of a life-altering experience,” she flew out and met Adam face-to-face, and has been speaking with him regularly ever since. She said they have taught her things about pedophilia that she didn’t know before, and it’s giving her a clearer understanding of how these attractions develop. She’s now using this information to modify her proposed treatment plan and has brought Adam on as an official advisor.
posted by Michele in California at 4:12 PM on August 11 [3 favorites]


Trigger warning of obliquely discussing the act in the story without detail:

I took the head-injury thing more as a predisposition factor -- i.e. perhaps being short, left-handed and male is a huge disadvantage by itself in terms of developing inappropriate attractions and ties into some deep-seated "beta male" tendencies seen in other sub-human primates...and then heaving a mildly traumatic head injury prior to the age of 13 interferes with some sort of "synaptic pruning" that might otherwise bulldoze over any otherwise "delayed attraction" issues. Combine a perfect storm of predispositions combined with life events and you might end up with an "extreme" pedophile that's attracted to a wide spectrum of ages like Adam.

I bet that he saw more disturbing things than is mentioned in the article that served as his personal "tipping point," but was less disturbed by them because they were a year or two older and full into his "acceptable" range making them seem somehow less terrible or more "consensual" in the often implicit and warped way that many undisciplined males view consent. Less of a perfect storm and a head injury might lead to being attracted to people of your age at the time of injury indefinitely.

Being left-handed alone predisposes people to all sorts of difficulties including suicide and impulsive behaviors. Being short comes with physical and sociological disadvantages that manifest in strange ways. Having a low IQ might predispose one to having a less nuanced understanding of self-discipline and justice. A lower propensity for self-talk that in the highly-intelligent is often self-destructive (depression, addiction, etc that are still managed to some functional level), but in the very-low-intelligent a lack of self-talk and "articulate" internal dialog might predispose them to far more detrimental challenges, ending up in prison due to incursions or violations of the lives of others.

I'm just happy to be a highly intelligent 6' mostly functional bi-polar ADHD lefty with a p-doc that speaks candidly about things like suicidal ideation without flipping out -- instead of a pedophile and can definitely "get" the "born this way" insinuation only because so much of the narrative sounds otherwise familiar with stories of mental illness in the general.

Not to say that they were doomed from birth, but predisposed, like perhaps someone who might develop full-blown schizophrenia by the age of 25, but ends up abusing drugs or sustaining head injuries at an early age and goes completely off the rails far prematurely before they can develop any coping skills or a functional level of adult independence.

It's a huge SIGH. The guy working with pre-schoolers is really asking for trouble IMHO. It's really not OK and I hope something is done and the error is recognized and acknowledged before something terrible happens and Adam's group suffers by association.
posted by aydeejones at 7:20 PM on August 11 [6 favorites]


I just wanted to come back, 12 hours after I first read this, to acknowledge how deeply disturbing and gratuitous I found the graphic descriptions of child abuse in this article, and how fully they distracted me from the point of the article, I've been thinking of this on and off all day, and it feels horrible. I'm not usually very sensitive, but damn.
posted by c'mon sea legs at 8:29 PM on August 11 [4 favorites]


I think the short, left-handed, brain-injured bit is bullshit. We've got a zillion people out there with statistically unusual sexual preferences. Of course there are people wired for kids. FFS, there's more than one person wired for the Eiffel tower!

Anyway, identifying left-handed shorties as pedos does no one any favours. It 's an irrelevant derail.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:01 PM on August 11 [1 favorite]


I think the article could have edited them out without losing the impact. The horror could have been described in other ways - notes from survivors (the bravery of that woman in talking with him was incredible, that's so much strength) but they went for disturbing details that IMO overshadow the rest of the article badly.

I get the virtuous pedophile part but two things stuck out - why aren't they turning over the identifying details of actively abusive pedophiles? I am guessing it's legal risk, but it also seems disingenuous, to get credit for not doing harm while being aware of harm.

The preschool teacher made me ill. The access to siblings, the trust from families - just no. I have personally and professionally dealt with people who want to work with vulnerable children and have Serious Issues. If this is, as it probably is, an addictive compulsion, then acknowledging that means limiting access.
posted by viggorlijah at 11:22 PM on August 11


I think the short, left-handed, brain-injured bit is bullshit. ... It 's an irrelevant derail.

Well, it helps me understand and appreciate how this behavior is driven by brain functions.

These people did not choose to be pedophiles.

Presumably it's an area of active research for folk working in labs and looking at brain development. (I haven't read the article yet.)
posted by sebastienbailard at 11:29 PM on August 11 [1 favorite]


I watched a documentary once about pedophiles that caused me to stop and think. I don't remember much about it except for this one man who was absolutely wretched with grief over his attraction to young boys. He had been in and out of prison for molestation and he just didn't know what to do anymore because the thoughts and the desires would not go away. It was just so sad, he was sobbing uncontrollably about how he doesn't want to do this but he feels he can't help it and he has no where to turn.

So I started thinking about how pedophilia is a cycle, right? Where some people get molested and then some of those people become abusers themselves. I can't remember that man's particular story and whether he was abused as a child, but I remember that story as the one that changed my thinking from "lock-em-up" to lets try to treat this as a disease and see if we can change behaviors because what we are doing now is not going to fix this problem.
posted by LizBoBiz at 7:01 AM on August 12


So I started thinking about how pedophilia is a cycle, right? Where some people get molested and then some of those people become abusers themselves.

It happens. People who have been molested or abused are at greater risk of becoming people who molest or abuse others. In such cases violence in interpersonal and family relationships is a learned response that passes between generations.

But I feel it's really important to note that this cycle is neither inevitable, nor a foregone conclusion. The idea that abusers must grow up to be abusers can be really toxic for survivors. There are people who endured abuse or molestation who never harm others.
posted by zarq at 7:26 AM on August 12 [3 favorites]


I don't know statistics for sexual abuse per se but I wish we would have a more nuanced discussion of such things.

IIRC, children who were abused by parents (general abuse, not sexual specifically) end up abusing their own kids about 30% of the time whereas the statistic for the general population runs around 5% - 6%. People tend to focus on the fact that abused kids are X times more likely than average to abuse. I like to flip that around and say, hey, 70% of people who had these experiences turn out to be fine parents. But 5%-6% of the general population abuse their kids even though many of them were not, themselves, abused and thus should have no "excuse." Isn't that, in some sense, more galling? Why are we picking on the folks who grow up with these huge disadvantages and struggle to do right while going, hey, Average Joe abuser, no big, because it is statistically unlikely and blah blah blah?

One point I would like to make is that if pedophiles are, on average, of lower IQ, well, IQ tends to get framed as roughly correlating to age. In other words, if you have a high IQ, you have the knowledge and ability to articulate of someone older than you. And many people of low IQ wind up themselves horribly abused by people of more normal intelligence. You see these awful cases in the media occasionally where, say, five or six guys of normal intelligence decided to gang rape a woman of low IQ and she didn't resist the terrible things they did in part because of her low IQ.

So I can see that being a situation where a) not being all that smart, they feel more comfortable talking with kids than with people their own age b) they don't trust people of more normal intelligence who are their own age because they have been burned too much and c) having been burned a lot by smarter people, they have learned that's basically how life works: There are victims and victimizers and it is better to not be the victim if those are the only two roles open to you.

That last lesson -- that there are only victims and victimizers when it comes to sex -- is one I learned due to being sexually abused as a kid. But I was one of the top 3 students of my graduating high school class. So I had the intelligence to find my way out of that mental model. Even so, it was a very long, very hard road. If someone has been inculcated into that mindset and also lacks the intelligence necessary to find their way out of it, they can be pretty stuck. For someone not all that bright, it may be that just not getting taught that to start with is their only real hope of not winding up a monster.

No, I am not saying it is okay to molest children. What I am saying is that low level assholery is tolerated pretty casually by most people as not a big deal and this means some unfortunate people see basically nothing but assholery from the people around them. And then we wonder when they can't "behave" themselves better. If, as a society, we decided to try a little harder to deal with people more humanely, civilly, and compassionately, you might see fewer people with problems turn into monsters who spend their lives in and out of the prison system, unable to break the cycle.

In, I believe, the book "Emergence," Temple Grandin tells the story of how, because she was autistic and had poor social skills, she was constantly picked on at school by the other kids. When she was unable to take it anymore, she inevitably would hit one of them. And then she would be punished -- for basically defending herself the only way she knew how as a socially inept autistic child faced with constant harassment by the other kids. Meanwhile, the kids who constantly harassed her received zero punishment or constructive feedback or any brake at all on their bad behavior.

At some point, her parents moved her to a new school. The first time she hit one of the other kids at this school, instead of just punishing her for it, the staff asked for her side of the story. This had never before happened. She was astonished. She was told "hitting is not an acceptable or appropriate response" but the other kid, who had been picking on her, was also told "no, it is not okay to pick on Temple." and Temple got to witness that both halves of the problem here got addressed instead of just being painted further into an untenable corner. That school was a key turning point in her ability to function socially. She learned to not hit other kids in part because for the first time ever someone reached out to her and asked why she did it and helped her stop being the victim of all the other kids, all the time, with no way to stop it.

Also, the gang problem in Atlanta got started due to a small number of Hispanic children moving in and being treated equally horribly by both blacks and whites alike. They banded together so that, as one of the original gang members put it in an interview, "When I walked down the street, now people were scared of me instead of me being afraid of them."

If we want people who are different from the norm to not become monsters, we can start with not treating them monstrously to begin with. I don't know of any studies that show that treating such kids in a more civil and compassionate manner gets better results. But I do know of anecdotal evidence on both sides which supports that supposition.

FWIW, the knocked unconscious before age 13 thing was an epiphany for me personally. I already had reason to believe that an undiagnosed head injury syndrome (which includes poor impulse control) was a contributing factor with one of the people who molested me but, in addition to the anecdotal story of head injury I already felt was a factor, I also know he had been knocked unconscious once at a young age and choked unconscious once probably around, say, age 12 or so. Until I read this article, I had not thought those incidents might be part of why his brain did not work right. I have reason to believe he did not mean to hurt me and felt tortured by what he had done. I have long felt that he was more a victim than I was. I, at least, was not so severely and repeatedly brained as a kid as to be simply incapable of getting my act together in some areas.
posted by Michele in California at 10:16 AM on August 12 [3 favorites]


I don't know statistics for sexual abuse per se

If it helps, the article states that 3% of all men "will go on to" sexually offend against a minor at some point, and also quotes an expert as saying that he believes 1% of the male population is a pedophile (however he defines that). No stats offered for estimating the proportion of these who were abused themselves, other than saying the majority don't abuse others, and stats for female offenders aren't mentioned other than suggesting that they're lower than the male numbers. No real citations listed for any of these, unfortunately. And of course, reporting/detection is always an issue for figuring out accurate numbers.

The low IQ angle is interesting but I'm curious how much of a difference they actually found between "avg pedophile" vs. "avg non-pedophile", and whether it's a meaningful difference given the pretty high variability of IQ within the population. Not to mention variability of the test itself, for an individual at different times - my understanding is that IQ testing is not particularly reliable. Still, if there is a large difference it would be interesting.
posted by randomnity at 11:10 AM on August 12 [1 favorite]


I have not read the article.

Studies of IQ for pedophiles have shown mixed results. My understanding is that because of this, there's no clear and unambiguous disparity that one can point to.

Pedophilia and other kinds of sexual molestation often include dominance and power imbalance dynamics. A difference in IQ could conceivably be a factor there. But it most likely wouldn't be the only factor.
posted by zarq at 11:19 AM on August 12


The article indicated that what statistics do exist are based on a very small sample size. So it isn't really all that much better than anecdata. I still found it valuable if only due to the knocked unconscious detail, as I explained above.

My main point is that X trait can be associated with Y outcome and genuinely be a factor without being causative per se. In other words, my main point was that IF low IQ (or any other trait) is, in fact, a factor, it may be more about how such people get socialized than about their IQ per se. If you have some difference and that difference gets you really routinely crapped upon by everyone around you and no one thinks that's a big deal because they frame it as basically "your fault," then your entire social experience can be negative and it can become an inescapable pattern...etc...

So please don't get too hung up on the detail I used as the example to try to make my point.
posted by Michele in California at 11:25 AM on August 12


I think the author made a poor choice in leaving in the description of that video, it nearly prevented me from reading the article, and I'm sure many people have not been able to get past it. It seems the whole point of the article is to remove some of our visceral disgust when considering (non-offending) pedophiles, so starting it out with something so disturbing seems like a mistake.
posted by Safiya at 11:40 AM on August 12 [1 favorite]


The article indicated that what statistics do exist are based on a very small sample size. So it isn't really all that much better than anecdata. I still found it valuable if only due to the knocked unconscious detail, as I explained above.

*nod*

Please don't take my comment as a criticism of your larger point. That was not my intention, and I do think it may very well be valid. I don't know enough about head injuries to be able to speak with any sort of expertise, so didn't try to address it.

My main point is that X trait can be associated with Y outcome and genuinely be a factor without being causative per se. In other words, my main point was that IF low IQ (or any other trait) is, in fact, a factor, it may be more about how such people get socialized than about their IQ per se. If you have some difference and that difference gets you really routinely crapped upon by everyone around you and no one thinks that's a big deal because they frame it as basically "your fault," then your entire social experience can be negative and it can become an inescapable pattern...etc...

I agree.

So please don't get too hung up on the detail I used as the example to try to make my point.

I apologize if my comment came across that way.
posted by zarq at 11:46 AM on August 12


zarq, you have nothing to apologize for. I just know from long experience that discussions of intelligence can go sideways very badly, very quickly. I was already formulating a reply to the first comment after mine when yours was posted before mine was done (and then still required two edits -- I am not at my best at the moment).

It's a difficult subject and it's especially hard for people who have been molested to try to view pedophiles through a compassionate lens. I have advocated for such views for a long time so I am very familiar with how badly some people can react. Having been molested, I know why. So that isn't a criticism of anyone.

I considered closing my comment yesterday with an offer of virtual hugs but that strikes me as all wrong given the subject matter. I know that hugs were triggering for me at one time and, to this day, if I read something like this, no, I don't want someone touching me, no matter how well intentioned their offer of support. So I don't have any idea of how to make an expression of emotional support in a discussion of this sort. But please don't feel criticized. That wasn't my intent at all.
posted by Michele in California at 11:52 AM on August 12


Thank you, MiC.

I am not at my best at the moment

I understand. Between this article and Robin Williams' death I am also not having a good day. I don't know why I am practically compelled to read articles like this and participate in the discussions that surround them but I am. Meanwhile, I quite literally cannot read the damned thing past a handful of paragraphs without hyperventilating.

Keeping an even keel in these conversations is never easy. Have been trying not to react defensively to things. So thank you for being understanding, too.

For whatever it's worth, I do like virtual expressions of hugs and never take offense at them. But like you, I also go through jittery periods where I don't want anyone to physically touch me, and I always, always go out of my way to try to avoid crowds wherever possible for that reason. Will literally wait an extra half an hour or more for a less crowded subway car in order to not be pressed up against people.

Virtual hugs though... they're the best. :)
posted by zarq at 1:13 PM on August 12 [1 favorite]


I don't know why I am practically compelled to read articles like this and participate in the discussions that surround them but I am.

You are looking for answers that work in a world that mostly doesn't know what really works. In a word, you want healing -- as you should.

(((HUGS)))
posted by Michele in California at 1:19 PM on August 12 [1 favorite]


FYI today The Awl interviewed the journalist behind this piece. Just a heads up - it's, um, a bit too light-hearted for me (nothing out of the regular Awl style but definitely jarring when considering the topic).
posted by muddgirl at 11:32 AM on August 13 [2 favorites]


@muddgirl that's the excerpt I actually linked to above.
posted by nerdfish at 11:36 AM on August 13


Whooops. Sorry I missed that the first time around. I guess the original article was that arresting for me.
posted by muddgirl at 11:38 AM on August 13


Why Matter’s Story About Pedophilia Included a Graphic Account of Abuse. By Mark Lotto, Editor in chief of Matter.
posted by Nelson at 3:50 PM on August 15 [3 favorites]


...we shouldn’t be sheltered by some vague phrase like “a video of unimaginable horror” because we’d never imagine just how horrible it really was.
Well, I thought about commenting on this earlier (and decided not to because I felt it would be opening a can of worms for other people) but, as much as the details disturbed and disgusted me, for me, it was kind of a relief because it was, in some ways, less worse than what I had been imagining. But, then, I don't come from some cushy background and I don't spend my time imagining the world is full of mostly nice people.

And I have mixed feelings about it because, yeah, I would have never guessed that someone would do exactly what was described. But I was imagining other horrors. So, for me, in some ways, knowing what was in the video was a mixed experience of "yeah, I didn't really need to know anyone was that disgusting" combined with "well, at least it is not what I had assumed." (combined with "But, gee, for other reasons, I am not entirely sure it really is less worse than what I had imagined.")
posted by Michele in California at 9:24 AM on August 16 [1 favorite]


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