Prevention Podcast Transcript: Joseph, Bringing a Voice to the Voiceless

Note: This transcript was done by Robert West.

Original audio.

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 relating 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.

Meg:

Well hello, everyone, and welcome to The Prevention Podcast! This is Meg Martinez-Dettamanti, co-host with Candice Christiansen, who is not here today, and I am interviewing Joseph. Hi, Joseph!

Joseph:

Hi, how’s it going?

Meg:

Good, how are you today?

Joseph:

Doing very well, thank you.

Meg:

Lovely. Joseph, we’re so excited to have you on. So, we met each other via our Twitter page, because Joseph is a journalist filmmaker turned MAPs ally, who’s creating an amazing documentary that we’re going to talk about today. But first, Joseph, kind of share with our listeners who you are, and your story on how you came to be a MAPs ally.

Joseph:

So I guess I’d start off by saying I’m a UK-based filmmaker, kind of doing my research on what my next story can be. So I came across Todd Nickerson’s Barcroft interview and was fascinated by some of the personal stories that gave. And from that, I did a couple… a bit more research on looking at different types of organizations, like VirPed, coming onto the more charitable organizations that deal with prevention projects, and I felt like this was a different angle, a different perspective, from the mainstream narrative that we hear, that, you know, pedophile equals monster, pedophile equals the worst possible thing in humanity. And what I saw was the opposite. I saw individuals who have been misunderstood. I see individuals that are looking for help. And I also see that if help is available, it’s few and far between. Maybe it’s the Dunkelfeld Project in Germany, maybe it’s the Stop It Now! helpline in the UK, maybe it’s you guys in Utah, but apart from a couple of hot spots, there’s not much out there.

And over the past nine months, still continuing doing the research, getting more in-depth information, coming across the Lucy Faithfull Foundation here in the UK, it’s one of the things where, when talking to people, talking to, you know, people on Twitter, talking to people on the forums, on Discord or whatever, is trying to connect people who are seeking help and people who are able to offer that help. And sometimes it’s not easy for everyone. But the key thing that always comes up is destigmatization, on both ends. So you need people who need to feel comfortable to come forward, to seek help, and then you need people to feel comfortable to give help.

And my goal, ultimately, is to show the human aspect to this issue, to show my audience the common human traits that arise when dealing with this issue. Because the common threads of, kind of, people suffering isolation, suffering fear, suffering depression, but yet showing a great amount of bravery is something that anyone can relate to. And I think, for this community, when we show those aspects, I think that’s when we are at our strongest in promoting what I do envision, as a future where we can talk openly about these issues. Because that’s the best way we can solve them.

Meg:

I absolutely agree, and I really love everything that you said. It is really easy for us to think about a pedophile as a “creepy man next door,” you know, who drives a van with no windows, or whatever other stereotype that you can come up with. And so, I think it’s awesome though, that you’re pointing out what we actually all have in common, rather than the one or two things that we have that we don’t necessarily understand or can relate to. As you were saying, most people don’t relate to finding a child sexually attractive. They don’t get it. They think it’s disgusting. But people can relate to fear of judgement, fear of being themselves, fear of self expression, a desire to fit in, having depressive fealings of fealing isolated. And so I think it’s a beautiful endeavor for you to try to connect with people on that plane of what they can relate to.

Joseph:

Yeah, I mean, absolutely. That’s the goal that the team and I are doing our best to achieve, and we understand that, uh, this is a delicate topic. We come from a perspective where… a very much privileged background, in that we’ve never had to face with the issues that come with, you know, child sexual exploitation. Um, this is very much something that we’ve come across by the by, and I think a lot of people do. I think what kept us looking and talking to people, reading people’s stories, that’s what kept us staying. And I really do feel like capturing this in a film, you really force someone to sit down and kind of listen to a new perspective, really can change hearts and minds.

Meg:

So Joseph, you mentioned that you’ve always been a journalist and a filmmaker out of the UK, and you said briefly, “I was just looking for my next project.” And so, how were you exposed to, let’s say, this issue, this population, this project? And what specifically about it made you decide, hey, this is my next project?

Joseph:

Um, I reckon it just comes down to, you know, you’re always looking for something new, you’re always looking for something different, and I felt like there are bits and bobs of things about non-offending pedophiles and about that community, but nothing to the extent where, you know, you truly connect to the characters. It’s more of a kind of, it’d be like a similar experience to like a freak show. I mean, kind of like you’re pointing at something at the circus, it’s just a bit strange. It doesn’t fit in the narrative. And I don’t think these films kind of explore that human element, that human commonality that we all share. And so that’s why I’m, the team and I especially, we want to get this right. We don’t want to do a batch job and mess it all up. It’s why we’re taking the time to talk to people consciously on a daily basis. It’s why we’re taking time to do our research. It’s why, you know, I was recently in Paris, I’ve recently been in Nottingham, going to different types of prevention conferences to really understand the challenges that, you know, people that are providing support and people who are trying to receive support face. So that we can give an accurate story and really represent these people. Down to me personally, five, if it’s taken me nine months to be able to sympathize and connect with these people, you know, if I’m able to put that in a 90-minute film, I feel like we can really make a difference.

Meg:

I do too. Again, I really love that you’re showing this human side of it. Instead of saying, oh, has anyone heard of a non-offending pedophile, and let’s point our fingers, and this is odd, and this is weird. I think that it’s awesome that you’re showing, again, what other people can relate to. Because I truly do agree with you that those are the things that are going to help people understand more, possibly change some minds about stigmatization, and stereotypes that they have in their own heads. I have a question that came up when you were talking about, not only visiting people that are non-offending pedophiles or MAPs, but also the people that are treating them. And one of the things that comes up sometimes when we’re in conversation is the focus on prevention vs. wellness, and how that can be integrated. And I think where you’re coming from, this more human, empathetic space, have you been focusing more on the wellness of MAPs, or is prevention still a huge part of the film you’re making?

Joseph:

I think both those elements are crucially important. I mean, you can have as much prevention as you want, but if people aren’t being treated with dignity and respect, how good is that prevention really? Like, those two things need to be together in unison. While you were asking me the question, I was kind of having flashbacks of when I attending the Nottingham prevention conference. One of the key talks was about the use of language and how important that can be in creating an open space for people when receiving prevention treatments or prevention support in any way or form that may be, and just as that supported their mission in their prevention strategies, it’s equally important in our journalistic filmmaking perspective. Because, you know, we’ve got the luxury of being an independent production, where we can do whatever we want, to the benefit of our contributors. Uh, you know, this isn’t something that can be a batch job where we’re going to have studio executives down our throat, saying do XYZ, you know, make this person into a monster because that’s simply not why we want to do this. There’s no point, I might as well end now.

Meg:

Right, I love that idea of being considerate of language that you’re bringing up, because I do notice, you know, both MAPs and treatment providers, have kind of um, running dialog about the use of the term “prevention,” and if we’re talking prevention, are we demonizing MAPs? And assuming that they’re going to offend or act out? Or are we looking at it from this holistic prevention of several things that could be detrimental? Sometimes because we have the term “prevention” in our names, we do get MAPs that are offended, thinking we’re assuming that they will offend, assuming that they will create a contact victim, and they really have no desire to do that, and really want to focus on their quality of life. Yet, like I said, we still utilize the term “prevention,” because that, in turn, for us, is part of our quest for well-being for them.

Joseph:

No, uh, it is a difficult conversation to have. I do understand those individuals and their perspective. But at the same time, and particularly in the UK, and in accordance to what we want to achieve in this film, is, you know, we want to change people’s minds. And the… it’s a difficult one, because, especially, like I said, a lot of the UK projects, some of them are charities, and some of them are government-funded. And in doing so, you need to find a balance in saying to the general public, this is helpful, and using language and terms that make the general public feel safe, even though, if they haven’t gotten totally on board of what might be our train of thought, they’re certainly on the way, and yet, finding that balance so you’re open for MAPs and non-offending people to use these services. So it’s definitely a difficult balancing act, to please the two parties. And, you know, there’s no need, especially in accordance to our film, we don’t want to preach to the converted, because as I said before, there’s no point, we want to, we’re aiming for those people who do think, by being a pedophile you are automatically a child molestor just by the bane of your existence. And it’s those perspectives that we want to change, it’s those ideas that we want to challenge. Because that’s going to help in the long term. That’s going to go towards our goal of destigmatization.

Meg:

And so, aside from being a journalist and filmmaker to begin with, why did you choose to have a film or a documentary be the way that you get this message out there?

Joseph:

Um, so I think that brings me to the topic of the effectiveness of different types of media. I mean, two reasons. I think, you know I’m using my skill set of documentary films, along with my team skills. But I personally think that it’s one of the best forms of media in connecting and understanding a different person’s perspective. Your podcast has certainly got, has its benefits on telling people, kind of key bits of information, and you’re able to do that relatively quickly. But of course there are drawbacks of a film, you know, it takes a while to make, costs lots of money, but I think it will be worth it in the end, when are are able to tell human stories that are relateable, that can really change people’s perspectives.

Meg:

I agree with you, and this is truly why we did start this podcast, is because we were heavily involved in social media, and there was so much back-and-forth, and I think that there are people that you can really reach and connect with, but for the most part, it’s really easy for people to continue bullying each other, continue trolling each other, through social media. They don’t have to see another person’s face and get a window into their life. And so, you know, having both the podcast, where you’re hearing another person’s voice, and hearing them tell their story, and listening to a longer-term conversation, as well as a film that visually will show you somebody’s emotional reactions as they’re telling their story and you get that human perspective. I think it truly elevates the message that we’re trying to send.

Joseph: I definitely agree. Because, just simple things, you know, what I found over the last couple of months is jumping from different social medias, so I’ll spend time on the @VirtuousTheFilm Twitter, I’ll spend time on kind of the main VirPed forum, on Discord chat, on Tumblr, and you are always, like, jumping about all the time, and each form of communication has its advantages and disadvantages. I mean, I remember only last night, I got into my first, kind of, Twitter fight. And that’s not done in my personal life, but it was entertaining to some degree.

The, you know, at the end of that I didn’t really get anywhere, and I was quite disappointed at that. Um, I then looked in the people’s profiles, and I don’t think they would be very convincing, I think they had, uh, Make America Great Again hats on. So I don’t know how forthcoming they would have been. So yeah, it definitely, the different… especially with people who are psychologists in this field that are dealing with prevention initiatives is, the general language can be very academic, which fits pefectly in their field, but to your average Joe, is not kind of relatable.

And you know, we watch films and videos almost every day, or TV shows, and that’s, you know, the average person on the street, that’s the audience we would want to go for. We don’t want to go for the Twitter trolls, or the academics who will happily read a hundred-page theory and analysis, it’s for, you know, your average person…

Meg: Right.

Joseph: …who will hopefully change their minds and share their new perspectives.

Meg:

And again, what a great point. Because I think social media can be a beautiful way to connect to people, and actually a way to connect to a lot of people, but your target audience that you’re looking for, as you said earlier, is not to necessarily preach to the converted, but to reach people who may not have even developed an opinion about this, and help them to kind of get this perspective before they get the perspective of the trolls, or they continue to make assumptions that may have been present from earlier experiences or other people’s experiences. So, I actually think it’s really exciting to see a group of young individuals decide to spend their time on something so valuable to society. I mean, as a journalist or filmmaker entrepeneur or somebody who’s starting out in this industry, like you were saying earlier, you could pick a variety of topics to focus on, yet you’re choosing something that’s going to be so beneficial to this population.

Joseph:

Yeah, I mean, like everyone, you want to have a positive impact. And you can make a film about a number of things. But at the same time, you don’t want to do something that’s already been done, you don’t want to do something that’s cliche. And, you know, I… there was a lot of trepidation in deciding to really go ahead with this project. I mean, I was spending time, just being nosey almost, for at least two months, before I said, okay, this is the story I want to tell. These people’s voices need to be heard. And in that two months, there was a lot of, you know, back-and-forth between me and colleagues, being like, you know, you’re going to be known as, you know, Virtuous the Pedo Guy who made that film for the rest of your life.

So, that was always something to consider. But, at the same time, this is something that I feel passionately about. Um, you know, like I said earlier, you know, I’ve got no relation to anyone who’s had any kind of experience like this, but at the same time, I think I’ve got the outsider’s perspective, where I was that person, say a year ago, that, you know, didn’t see a difference between a pedophile and a child molester. At the same time, I know I’m quite an open-minded person, and I, you know, I’m always on the fence on new ideas and new topics, and all it takes is something interesting, something visually stimulating, something fun to watch, to change the minds of people on the fence. Um, you know, and that is the goal. That’s what we want to do.

Meg:

I love it. I love it. And this is where you and I have a lot in common, because I come from the same background. I don’t necessarily have a personal experience as a victim of child sexual abuse, or with a pedophile, or a non-offending pedophile or a MAP in my life. Instead, I found my way to this population clinically, and decided that their voices needed to be heard as well. And I love seeing other allies come together, and, as is the goal with your film, getting the general population and general public and society on board with: Hey, these are people too, their voices deserve to be heard, and they’re going through stuff that we can all relate to.

Joseph:

Yeah, exactly. And you have to remember, these, it’s the general public that vote for politicians, and it’s the politicians who make key decisions on money for potential prevention projects. So it all kind of, it all adds up and has the potential to have a very strong impact if we, you know, can change people’s minds. Obviously there will be those people, and I’ve met a couple on Twitter, where they’re lost causes. But it doesn’t take that much to change one person’s mind, and then for them to tell three friends, and so on. You can have a great domino effect.

Meg:

Yeah, Joseph, I think it’s a beautiful endeavor, and I can’t wait to see the film. So, tell us all, where are you at in the process of it, and when is it going to be released, and when can listeners expect it?

Joseph:

Um, so, the film is still in its kind of development research stage. We really want to do as much research as possible to really get it right. But we are coming to this stage where we are looking for help from the community. This is a film for the community, about the community, and it can only really work in convincing the general public to hear these voices if we get support from the community. So this is my, kind of, direct message to everyone out there. If you are interested in sharing your story, be it small or little, I’m sure you guys can drop a link to our Twitter or our emails. We’re always happy to hear from people’s perspectives. We’re always interested, and we can get some discussions going to see in what form, you know, people can partake in this documentary. Um, you know, we’ve got the full gamut, being completely anonymous to not at all.

Meg:

If our listeners or others out there are interested, tell me a little bit about how you could keep their stories or their identity confidential as you film.

Joseph:

Um, well, like I said before, we’ve got the benefit of being completely independent, so we’ve got total creative control on how we want to deal with this issue, these issues. Uh, there’s like a whole spectrum of things that we do, from just filming people’s hands, to all the way showing people if they’re comfortable showing their faces, exploring their lives. Uh, but in between that, you know, we can film people from the back of the head, we can distort their voices, we can shoot them but have a silhouette figure, um, all kinds of creative ways to hide people’s anonymity if they wish so, and to make sure that our contributors are 100% comfortable with what’s going on. Um, you know, all those options are open to people, just so we’re able to get their story out there and share it with the world.

Meg:

Well, and we run into that a lot here on the podcast, but it’s easy to give someone an alias and distort their voice without having to worry about a camera in their face, and so I think it’s great to let listeners know, if you want to share your story, but there’s that overwhelming fear or worry about being exposed at all in your daily life, then I think it’s great that they know that there are these other options. And I’m assuming you’ll also be able to be in contact with people, to answer any questions they have about what being a contributor would look like.

Joseph:

So it’s a very difficult balance when dealing with this, because it is a catch 22. Really, our goal is to make a film that destigmatizes these issues, and the best way to do that is by showing and trying to relate to these stories. The most effective way that I’ve seen that achieved, and kind of like why I’m in this position today, is kind of the bravery that was shown by Todd’s work, and also Gary Gibson’s work. They fantastically have been able to get their message out there, uh, so great bravery from those guys.

Meg:

Certainly you’re open to people who maybe want to keep their identity anonymous.

Joseph:

Yeah, I mean we’re open to, kind of like, the full spectrum of, you know, so long as people are comfortable, we’re comfortable. So long as they’ve got their stories to tell, you know, we’ll tell those stories. We’re fine with that. But, you know, you can’t downplay that the most successful, you know, pieces to camera have been the works of Todd and Gary. Um, you know, there’s no doubt that by seeing someone’s eyes, you connect with them. And I think it’s important to know that it takes people like Todd and Gary to, you know, if they can lead the message of destigmatization in my mind, then it can take someone else who’s considering it, to do that for someone else. And, sort of, the more of that, the better, in kind of the mission of destigmatization, in helping other individuals come out, seek help, and in helping the providers of prevention projects to be able to do their work more openly with the public. So yeah, at the same time, that doesn’t diminish the bravery that it takes to come out in any form.

Meg:

Yeah.

Joseph:

It’s just that some are more effective than others. And I just want to make sure that that gets across.

Meg:

You know. I do, I do want to reiterate that Gary and Todd have been very brave in what they’re doing, and it’s been really effective. I mean it’s something that’s helped you create the film that you’re creating, by seeing Todd’s interview and then connecting with Gary when you’ve seen his work…

Joseph:

Yeah.

Meg:

…as well. And so, I totally get what you’re saying, that you by no means want to diminish people that might feel more comfortable, you know, having voice distortion or being anonymous. But if there is somebody out there that’s willing to be public, and publicly show who they are, and as you said you, you know, connect with people, let them see their eyes, I think that that could be extremely effective as well.

Joseph:

Yeah, no, you said it beautifully.

Meg:

Okay, so, it’s been so lovely chatting with you, Joseph, and how bout we have you back on when it gets closer to release of “Virtuous the Film”?

Joseph:

Definitely, I’d love to show you guys, and thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate it. It’s been a great experience. I’ve never done a podcast before, so it’s very exciting.

Meg:

And it was wonderful. Thank you so much, and have a wonderful day.

Thank you for listening to this week’s podcast. Please visit http://thepreventionproject.org to learn more about our project and programs. Please remember to subscribe to our podcast at https://thepreventionpodcast.com or iTunes. See you next time!

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