Note: Prostasia Foundation is a new child protection non-profit that focuses on civil rights, child protection, and sex positivity. If that sounds like something you can support, you can donate or message them with the links towards the end of this podcast about how you would like to get involved.
Welcome to the prevention podcast, I’m your host, Candice Christiansen. Our goal, at the prevention podcast, is to talk about dicey, controversial issues related to preventing sexual abuse. Why? Because it needs to be said. Topics include the biology of pedophilia, risk, need and responsivity principles related to non-contact and contact sex offenders, researchers in the field of sex offender treatment, and more.
Join us bi-weekly, and let’s talk about it.
Welcome to the prevention podcast, I’m your host, Candice Christiansen. We have some amazing people we have come in contact with since we started the Prevention Podcast, and today, I have someone with me that I’m really excited to talk to. His name’s Jeremy Malcolm and he is the executive director of a new child protection organization called Prostasia Foundation, so welcome Jeremy.
Thank you so much for having me!
I’m so happy to have you on, and I’m happy we were able to connect a couple of months ago and to talk about your child protection organization, I think it is so in line with the prevention efforts we’re seeing globally, including our own, so I today really want to spend a lot of time finding out about your foundation and what you’re doing. And with that, tell us about Prostasia Foundation.
Sure. Well, if it’s okay before I do that, I’ll just give a brief bit of background about myself to explain why I’m the person heading this thing, because I don’t have a background in child protection. My background is actually, I was an IT lawyer, originally from Australia, and I had both a law firm specializing in information technology issues, and I also had an IT consultancy where I was dealing with the technical side of the internet. And, this interest led me into doing a PhD in law on the topic of internet governance, which is the study of how we can have one internet and 195 different countries around the world trying to manage how the internet should work.
Now, you’re probably thinking, “Now, what does this have to do with child protection?” Well, one of the issues that of course concerns many governments around the world and many civil society groups around the world is… “How can we stop the internet from being this misused in ways that harm children, whether that’s distribution of child sexual abuse images, or people who reach out to children on the internet in order to groom them?” Those are real problems, and actually the internet activism community that I’ve become a part of doesn’t really have the answers to these problems, unfortunately.
So, I’ve been working, since I’ve finished my PhD, on civil rights, digital rights, and the internet. This includes things like privacy and freedom of expression, all about constitutional rights we have. Now, these are very important, but in some ways, they actually seem to make child protection harder, rather than easier, because we can’t have things like snooping on people’s emails, and checking their web browser to make sure they’re not doing anything bad. Like, that would probably help us catch more child sexual abusers, but it would also infringe the rights of others who aren’t child sex offenders.
Additionally, laws and policies sometimes will target segments within our community who are stigmatized as being most likely to be involved in sexual offending. An example of that is, laws against sex workers. Now, you can have whatever opinions you like about sex work, whether it’s good or bad, but at the end of the day, targeting sex workers as a way of preventing child sexual abuse has a couple of problems with it.
One, it infringes the human rights of those that are not child sexual abusers, and the other is it’s really just not very effective. Most child sexual abuse doesn’t happen through sex work, it doesn’t happen through the kind of people who are being targeted, it happens actually in the home. It happens mostly through situational offending, which means people who aren’t even pedophiles for example, are most likely to be sexual offenders against children.
And also, children themselves can or young people themselves are largely responsible for child sexual abuse that happens, like whether that’s “consensual” (we can put in quotation marks), young teens who are in relationships with each other and sending sexual images to each other, that may be a consensual boyfriend-girlfriend relationship, and yet, because it involved basically what used to be called child pornography and is now called child sexual abuse material, they can be classified as child sex offenders, even though they’re really just in a relationship that’s relatively normal for that age group. So, I had to think about, well, what can we do to prevent child sexual abuse that is consistent with human rights, that is consistent with a free internet, and is sex-positive.
And what I mean by sex positive, for example, is not shaming young people who are doing things like exchanging images with each other, not criminalizing them, also, not blaming sex workers, not blaming the consensual kink community, not blaming pornography users. And again, you can have whatever opinions about pornography, you can think that it’s good or bad, but adult pornography is constitutionally protected, and for some people it is part of their sex life.
For some people, it’s all of their sex life, they have nothing else, but that has to be legal, adult, consensual sexual behavior. We are very strongly against anything that is non-consensual or anything that involves children. I was looking into what we can actually do to address this problem, while preserving human rights and sex positivity. I did a lot of research into this, because I was feeling like I didn’t have the tools that I needed within my day job, where I’m working on the internet and digital rights.
So, what I found out really surprised me. That was that firstly, child sexual abuse can be prevented, and that some of the people who are most likely to be able to prevent it are not who you’d expect. For example, we have three different kinds of prevention: Primary prevention, secondary prevention, and tertiary prevention.
So, primary prevention means you don’t know who’s going to sexually offend against a child. There’s no way, there’s no sign on their forehead saying, “I’m a potential sexual offender,” or, “I just looked at some child pornography,” that just doesn’t happen. So, primary prevention is about targeting the entire community with messages that help them to avoid offending. Apart from messaging, there’s things that can be done, for example, internet platforms can put in place some filters so that known images of child sexual abuse are not being shared. That’s also a form of primary prevention, it prevents this content from being distributed online.
So, primary prevention is that first layer where you’re really targeting the whole community with efforts to avoid or prevent child sexual abuse. But then there’s also something called secondary prevention, which means if there are particular people who are vulnerable to being involved with child sexual offending, you can also target them. So, although it’s very difficult to know who’s going to offend and who isn’t, there are some people who come forward, because they need help in avoiding thoughts, sexual thoughts about children, and dealing with those.
Thankfully, you don’t really have to go searching for them, because they will come and seek help if they need it. So, minor-attracted persons are really a good example of that class of person who is not necessarily an offender, may never be an offender their entire life. But they still need to have community for support, and they do need to have people they can talk to without being reported, without being doxed, without being assumed guilty of something that hasn’t happened yet.
So, organizations like yours, like the Prevention Project, and like Prostasia Foundation are really endeavoring to put together pieces of the prevention puzzle. Including making it possible for minor-attracted persons to get the help that they need, in case they do have feelings that are leading them in a bad direction. So, that’s basically why I came together with some other people who were like-minded with me. We have child sexual abuse survivors, we have mental health professionals, we have people who have direct first-hand experience in the sex industry, we have civil rights experts and lawyers.
So, all of these people have a vision of an organization that can work with lawmakers, with internet platforms, with other civil society groups, and with researchers to build support for prevention. And, we don’t work directly with those, for example, directly with minor-attracted persons, or with former offenders. So, ex-offenders, those who have offended in the past, when we have prevention which is directed against them it’s called tertiary prevention. So, primary, secondary, and tertiary. We don’t work directly with any of those groups, but what we do do is make sure that there is research about ways in which they can be helped to avoid offending.
So, we also then use the results of that research to try to inform policymakers, which includes lawmakers, but also includes people at internet companies or have a dating website, who have any of these websites that could be positive for child protection or could be negative. We work to try and ensure they are positive for child protection, so some of the people who formed Prostasia Foundation formed a meeting with one of the major internet platforms when it seemed that minor-attracted persons were being banned from the platform.
So, we had a conversation with them about, “What are the standards that are being applied here? Can they be applied in a way that would help these people get the peer support they need to avoid offending? Without creating like a terrible situation where people are exposing children to harm?” So, it’s a difficult balance to strike, it’s a really controversial thing as well. That’s one of the other things that the startup of Prostasia Foundation is finding, there’s a lot of people who support what we’re doing, who think we’re doing it in the right way and for the right reasons, but there’s still that stigma there. That’s everyone who works on child sexual abuse. It affects the researchers, it affects journalists who write about the topic, because it’s such an emotional topic for a lot of people, they don’t even want to think about it.
That can unfortunately create a stigmatizing effect on those that work to prevent offending. It’s been a challenging startup period for us and it’s not over yet, we are crowdfunding to support some initial expenses that we have. Ultimately, we’re hoping to get support from institutional donors like charitable foundations, so we can have staff actually dedicated to this mission, working to ensure that the laws and policies that are in place to protect children are actually effective, and are not going to be infringing on the constitutional rights of others.
It’s a vitally important mission, getting there is still an uphill battle. We’re committed to doing it, but got a little ways to go yet.
Well, I appreciate what you’re doing, and I think what I love, I love that it’s “outside the box,” we are well known for being “outside the box,” especially with our podcast. It took us a few years before out MAPs wellness program and our MAP support program became internationally known. So, I applaud you for what you’re doing, I think what you’re doing is great. And I think, you know, you talk about the primary prevention, I think that’s what we see so often, and what you’re saying and what we’re saying is, “Let’s address it from all angles. It’s not black and white. We need to look at all these different angles instead of just going with one lens and one way of thinking.”
So yeah, I love the work you’re doing and I think it’s really important, and my hope is that people listening, we’re now in 50 countries, so my hope is that people listening will get onboard and support what you’re doing so we can continue our efforts to have prevention. Because ultimately, like you said, we want to have prevention about sexual abuse, and we’ve got to do it in a way that’s accurate and efficient, and protects people’s rights, and just makes sense.
I think that’s oftentimes what I’ve seen is, laws are made and unfortunately, they’re not effective. But when there’s this media scare or the focus is inaccurate, and certain populations are focused on instead of the reality, the entire community goes wild and says, “We have to make these laws more stringent, we’ve gotta put our foot down on the internet,” when in fact it’s not as effective. So I just appreciate what you’re doing.
Well, thank you very much, and you’re absolutely right. The laws against child sexual abuse are already as severe as they need to be, and they should be severe, I mean, don’t get me wrong, they should be. But, the difference between going to jail for fifty years or for a thousand years, that’s not going to dissuade someone who’s set on offending. I’ve heard they’re going to be dissuaded by the laws we have now, or you can make them ten times higher, that’s not going to make a difference.
What’s going to make a difference is giving people alternatives to offending, and for many people, that may mean professional support, that may mean peer support, that may mean, and this is where more research is needed, it may be that there are outlets that people who have a sexual attraction towards children can use to manage their attractions without harming anyone. This, for example, might include the use of dolls, which, this is a very controversial topic because it’s very unsettling to think of someone using a doll in a sexual way if that doll resembles a child.
Like, I myself find that a very disturbing thing to think about. However, it really comes down to the question of, “Is a doll going to take the place of the child, or is it going to lead on to sexual offending against real children?” So, this is something that we need to know the answer to. There are researchers out there who believe it may actually help as a substitute rather than being a gateway to sexual offending. So, what Prostasia is going to try and do is raise money for research like that. So we know, should we be banning these dolls? Should we be making them available or leaving them available? Because they are currently legal in the United States, they’re illegal in Canada and the United Kingdom and other places.
But really, before we make these things illegal, we should have the facts in front of us. That’s just one example. There are many examples of where we just don’t know what is going to be most effective at prevention and rather than just jumping ahead and make laws because we feel like we have to do something, we should just pause, take a break, make sure we have our facts straight, and then we can make laws and policies that are evidence-based and are more likely to be effective.
Because really, that’s what children deserve. Children, if we can save one child from abuse, then it’s worth taking the extra time, it’s worth investing the money, and it’s worth planning out what we’re going to do really, really carefully rather than just jumping in and acting on the basis of emotions.
I agree, and I actually love what you said about the dolls, I know that’s one example, but I think it’s a really great example. I’ve thought through that quite a bit. I see articles come out, and again, it’s that laws have been created to ban them and so on and so forth, and I have often wondered, well, what is that based off of?
If we look at, for instance, pedophilia from a sexual age orientation standpoint, and I can speak personally because I have a program that treats people that say, “I’m anti-contact and I’m non-offending which means I never ever want to harm a child, and I live with this attraction every single day, what do I do with that? Everyone else that’s heterosexual, gay, lesbian, bisexual… can have a relationship with an adult, but what do I do? What do I do with this attraction, which can be very lonely, very isolating, and cause people to be incredibly depressed?”
And I think, well, if it’s a sexual age orientation and we’re looking at harm reduction and we want to protect children, could it be a potentially harm-reducing intervention? I don’t know, and I have my own opinions about that. I think it’s worth looking into. Definitely. I think the research needs to be backed by that, so I appreciate you saying that.
Yeah, exactly. It is sometimes hard for people like us who are not minor-attracted, non-pedophiles, to imagine how it must be to be in the mind of someone who has this attraction, but I think it helps if you just realize that every one of us has at sometime had a crush on a celebrity or something like that, or even just someone walking down the street, “Wow, that’s an attractive person.” Now, we know that doesn’t mean we have sexual access to that person.
We have to ask them for a drink, and as an adult, over the course of time, that might actually lead into a sexual relationship. But, as you said, if you’re a pedophile, that’s not an option for you. So, you’re left in a position where you have to be celibate your whole life, particularly if it’s an exclusive attraction. If you’re exclusively attracted to those that can’t consent. Imagine how it would be, to live your entire life that way with nothing to… no prospect of a sex life of your own, unless you can have one by yourself.
So, I think the case of allowing someone who is minor attracted to have a safe, harmless sex life by themselves, I think just as a matter of compassion, I think that’s something we have to think about allowing them, rather than… because what, really, is the alternative? You can’t lock people up who have never done anything and have not intentions of ever doing anything, and yet this is the kind of inflammatory language that we often read online when pedophilia is being discussed. “We should castrate them. We should throw them into jail, it doesn’t matter if a child’s been touched or not.”
Well, my perspective, sure it matters! It matters a lot! There’s a huge difference between a pedophile who’s attracted to children, who never touches children, and one who does. That’s a world of difference. So if we can only shift a few people away from offending that’s an enormous contribution, and that’s something we can really, effectively do because the resources that are allocated to prevention are not enough. There’s way more allocated to enforcement and that’s always going to be a losing battle, because most child sexual abuse takes place behind closed doors, within families, and it’s not usually someone who’s on the police’s radar.
So, enforcement is always going to mean someone has already been abused. If we can prevent just a few people from being abused, then that’s a far better outcome.
I agree completely. I was thinking of Elizabeth Letourneau’s research when she does her presentation she talks about how so much money is spent after the fact or on law enforcement, so why don’t we step ahead of that and do some of this prevention work so we can stop one more victim, right? Stop them from being harmed, and again, I agree completely what we do at the prevention project, there’s also misinformation out there that, the person who could potentially abuse your child is this man who is a pedophile, lurking in the bushes, waiting to jump.
And the reality is… we know there’s research out there that says you can sexually offend and not be a pedophile, there are other reasons for that. So you’re right, the media just shares these stories and also gives misinformation. I see all the time in the media, “This man had sex with a 16-year-old, he’s a pedophile,” but that’s not even the age for a pedophile. So just this inaccurate, misinformation that the whole world just jumps on. Again, I really love that you are taking a stand as someone who was in the IT world and a lawyer, that is really admirable. On my end, I’m a clinician. I’m a trauma expert and a trauma survivor, but I love that you’re coming from the angle of IT and knowing the laws, and stepping in to say, “Let’s combat child sexual abuse from this angle,” which is really, again, admirable.
Well, I thank you very much for your support, and if any of the listeners to this podcast would like to learn more about what Prostasia is trying to do, and maybe would even like to support us, we have a crowdfunding campaign going on. Prostasia.org will get you there, also prost.asia if that’s easier to type in.
We do hope to make this into an operating non-profit with a full-time staff and if we can do that, that would make it, I believe, the first organization of its kind in the sense that we… there are many child protection organizations and many that are focused on prevention, but those that are also focused on upholding civil rights and sex positivity and doing so in a way that involves advocacy to lawmakers and platforms, I think that’s fairly unique. So, that’s kind of what we’re trying to go for here. I really do appreciate the time that you’ve let me on your podcast to talk about it.
Of course Jeremy, is there anything else that you want our listeners to know or that you’d like to share?
I don’t think so, but just follow us on Twitter, it’s @ProstasiaInc on Twitter, and I would also be very happy to talk with anyone who has further questions, just drop me a direct message on Twitter or a note on our website and I’ll be sure to get back to you.
Great! Well, Jeremy Malcolm, it’s been a pleasure! Thank you for coming on our podcast today!
You’re very welcome! Thanks again!
Those of you that are listening, thank you again for taking the time to listen to our podcast and we’ll see you in two weeks. Let’s talk about it.
Thank you for listening this week’s podcast. Please visit www.thepreventionproject.org to learn more about our podcast and our programs. Please remember to subscribe to our podcast at www.thepreventionpodcast.com or iTunes. See you next time!