By now, you may have read in the news that “pedophiles” are online more due to the pandemic, and that you need to “protect your child from the pedophiles.” Except for one glaring problem: There are pedophiles like me that have zero interest in harming children, and most do not harm children. This might seem like a biased point, but plenty of research supports this:
Are there people online taking advantage of children sexually? Absolutely! But the thing is, this is not as common as some fear-mongering groups would have you think, and once an organization gets you scared enough, you tend to stop thinking critically about the topic. Some suggest that as many as one in five children are solicited for sex online. But several sources debunk that suggestion (here, and here).
While this will rise during the shelter-in-place orders across many states and the new normal of physical distancing to prevent the spread of the virus, the situation is not as dire as some might have you believe, and not only that, there are much better ways to stop the sexual abuse of children than just reporting it when you see it online or find out about it.
Approaches To Sexual Violence That Do Not Work
Right, you would never use a wrench to pound a nail or a hammer on a screw, so why would we use approaches to sexual violence that do not work? Because we have been systemically conditioned to think law enforcement = public safety, and that the police keep us safe. Any person belonging to an ethnic minority group can tell you that is not true. Take for example:
We know that police reaction to sexual violence does not work. Why do we know that? Several reasons:
- It relies on people reporting abuse. Most do not report the abuse because they know the criminal justice system is often overly harsh and do not want to see their loved one harmed by that system, and most sexual violence – 80% of sexual assault and 93% of child sexual abuse – is perpetrated by a friend or family member, not a stranger.
- It relies on the idea that most sexual violence is perpetrated by someone previously arrested for sexual crime. In fact, most sexual harm is not perpetrated by those with prior convictions, and most who do have convictions and reoffend do so with a technical violation of their supervision requirements. In other words, they watched porn, or they were late to a probation/parole meeting, or they missed a curfew by ten minutes.
- Most sexual assault is not, in fact, investigated by the police. This ranges from rape kits not being tested to botched investigations to sexual assault that is perpetrated by police. In some jurisdictions, police can have sex with sex workers in order to secure an arrest/conviction, which many advocates would label sexual assault, not to mention the sexual assault that the criminal justice system turns a blind eye to in jails and prisons.
- The issue of authority: We are conditioned to trust authority figures like the police and government officials, but these authority figures are not immune to perpetrating, ignoring, or mishandling sexual violence. It also teaches children from an early age that these authority figures get to do what they want with zero consequences, even if what they do is not right.
There are many more reasons why police reaction to sexual violence is inadequate as an approach to dealing with sexual violence. This is not to say perpetrators of sexual violence should not be held accountable and responsible for their actions – they absolutely should! However, most criminal justice systems are not equipped to handle the unique needs of survivors, perpetrators, or the surrounding community. There is some discussion around restorative justice circles being one possibility survivors can pursue.
The Details Of Genuine Prevention
Genuine prevention is not using a misrepresented statistic to scare parents into doing things to protect their kids. It is not painting all pedophiles as if they all harm children, and it is not dismissing the voices of minor attracted people who have said for years that we must do more to prevent abuse – without using us as scapegoats. We cannot simply react to sexual abuse and hope to stop the problem. That simply does not work.
Genuine prevention educates the entire community and provides resources for all – yes, all. Even the “drug addict” you hate because you think they are a blight on society. Even the “criminal” that you think is violent, but really just enjoys a nice cup of coffee in the morning. Even the people you hate. Withholding preventative education because “muh freedoms” or because “we can’t teach kids about THAT” is irresponsible and unethical. So what do education and resources look like?
Education means learning the facts: Why, how, and under what circumstances does child sexual abuse happen? Who perpetrates it? How much of sexual abuse is about sex, and how much of it is about meeting some unmet psychological need? Why do people turn to sexual harm instead of getting their needs met in other ways? These facts must be learned at the community-wide level, and yes, that includes children at age-appropriate levels.
For example, up until age five, children can be taught about genitals using their real names – penis, vagina, anus, breasts, etc – and taught that no one gets to touch any part of their body without their permission, and if someone does, they have a right to tell them to stop or tell someone they trust about it. They can and should be taught about sex at age-appropriate levels: What body parts do what, what healthy friendships, relationships, and boundaries look like, some of the warning signs of intimate partner violence and the signs of an abusive relationship, and beyond.
Every person in the community should know where they can go to find resources specific to a given issue. For example, if someone lives in St. Cloud, MN, they should know that they can go to Anna Marie’s Alliance for domestic violence issues, or to CentraCare for sexual health issues. These resources should be talked about openly.
Why? What does any of that have to do with preventing sexual abuse? Well, preventing sexual abuse before it happens means intervening before someone gets desperate or distressed enough to be sexual with a child, whether in person or online. It means people need to know what their resources are before they get to the point of distress, because when they reach that point, they will fall back on what they already know and it becomes harder to reach out to new sources for help. Even if all they have is knowing a crisis line exists, that can be a helpful step.
That includes minor attracted people, and right now, for someone to come forward and say, “I have a sexual attraction to children and I want help with this,” risks a myriad of extremely negative consequences.
Some of these consequences are being beaten up by schoolmates, or even by school staff. Being outed to the entire community as a sexual predator, in the absence of any sexual harm done. Losing one’s job or housing. Being reported to the police by a therapist who is not familiar with minor attracted people or how to help us.
So, helping minor attracted people build our own law-abiding communities is an essential part of preventing sexual abuse. This is not because minor attracted people are doomed to offend or because there is any increased risk of perpetration, but because us having spaces to give and receive support is essential for every single human being on the planet. Every one of us does better with support, and shame does not help anyone seek help, it generally pushes people away from it.
MAP Support Club
MAP Support Club is a community of law-abiding minor attracted people dedicated to keeping ourselves positive and in good spirits. We have a robust set of rules, policies, and take care of our member’s privacy. Launching this summer, we will have our own full website with an automatic invitation form process. For now, we rely on Google forms and some of our resources are temporarily listed on our blog. If you are a minor attracted person, please use the following information to join:
- Go the link.
- Enter the password: iourKy
- Fill out the rest of the required fields
- Optionally participate in some extra questions (for science!)
- Submit the form
You will want to keep these safety and privacy processes in mind if you join. We do not have an onboarding process for MAP allies and select for ourselves those we wish to add.