The following is a special message from B4U-ACT chairperson and co-founder Russell Dick. Previously sent to some donors and members of groups affected by our work, it is an account of B4U-ACT’s accomplishments in the year 2021 across its many programs and activities.
One of the primary educational events of B4U-ACT had been annual workshops for therapists, students, academics, and MAPs that were co-planned and co-led by therapists and MAPs. The success of these workshops was largely due to therapists having the opportunity to get to know MAPs through hearing their life stories in-person and chatting with them at their shared table during lunch and session breaks. Unfortunately, the pandemic prevented the workshops the past two years. With the workshops relying upon the face-to-face interactions of therapists and MAPs, it was decided not to have virtual workshops.
Despite the pandemic preventing us from having the workshops for the past two years, B4U-ACT has remained active and dramatically expanded our outreach. In 2019, we began a Research Email Group for international researchers conducting studies related to the wellness of MAPs. The goal is to help researchers network and support each other, and to nurture a community of researchers studying MAP mental health and wellness. The group currently has 64 members, including graduate students, new researchers, and established researchers (including several internationally recognized “experts” on “pedophilia”), as well as minor-attracted people and mental health professionals.
The Research Email Group meets online once a month for a Research Colloquium during which a researcher presents his/her recently published or current research. Participants discuss the structure of the research, assessments used, interpretation of the data, implications for MAPs/researchers/therapists, and the implications for future research.
During the last year, we’ve consulted and provided input from minor-attracted people to researchers on 16 new and ongoing studies. These studies were on a broad range of topics pertaining to MAPs and have involved 25 different researchers representing 15 academic institutions in Canada, the United Kingdom, Finland, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Belgium, Cyprus, Indonesia, and the United States. When the research sufficiently addresses issues that B4U-ACT supports and involves surveys of MAPs that do not contain false assumptions or stigmatizing perceptions, we announce them on our website and within our Peer Support Group so that MAPs might volunteer to participate in the studies. We are also in the early stages of collaboration with five other studies.
In January 2021, we published the first issue of our new quarterly online research review journal, B4QR, with short, critical summaries of new research concerning minor-attracted people. The five reviewers included not only researchers and students, but also minor-attracted persons. The first issue covered eight studies published between August and November 2020, on topics ranging from the categorization of mental disorders to the current state of research on child-like sex dolls, and much more.
The Spring online edition of B4QR presented reviews of eight articles published (usually in preprint) between December 2020 and March 2021. It had numerous research articles that focused on the issue of MAP stigma and interventions for stigma reduction. This shows that the topic of MAP stigma is a very hot one in the sexuality and therapy research about MAPs right now, which is a reality that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.
The Summer 2021 edition of the Research Journal included reviews of seven recent publications. The first three concerned one of our core topics of interest: the stigmatization of minor attracted people. The following two publications investigated mental health professionals’ knowledge and attitudes on issues related to minor attraction. The last two publications address methodological and theoretical issues in the study of the prevalence of minor attraction in the general population. The journal concluded as usual with the “Meet the New Generation” honoring a young scholar.
The summer of 2021 saw the publication of a landmark book for the field of MAP research: Professor Allyn Walker’s A Long Dark Shadow: Minor-Attracted People and Their Pursuit of Dignity. Therefore, the Fall 2021 issue of B4QR dedicated a special review for this important book. The next three articles reviewed covered different but equally interesting topics: MAP’s reasons for having or desiring romantic and sexual relationships with adults; the coming-out process of 16 men recruited via the online forum of the Czech and Slovak Pedophile Community; and an examination of the association between treatment motivation and “maladaptive coping” (e.g., substance abuse) among MAPs. The final two reviews are studies on the prevalence in the general population of attraction to children. We again honored a young scholar in the “Meet the New Generation” section that concludes the journal. All issues of B4QR are available for free on our website under the Research tab.
The latest issue of our online Newsletter included news updates, a special report on MAP Mental Health During the COVID-19 Pandemic, and A Therapist’s Perspective on the B4U-ACT Referral Service.
When B4U-ACT was established in 2003, the original focus was on developing a pool of qualified, non-stigmatizing, welcoming therapists in Maryland devoted to the well-being of MAPs and a MAP hotline through which MAPs would be referred to one of these therapists. However, we soon realized that most of the therapists wanting to work with MAPs were exclusively focused on protecting minors from MAPs and were not focused on the well-being of MAPs. We, therefore, began by having workshops for therapists.
Fortunately, we were eventually able to develop a Signatory Therapist Program for qualified therapists who agree to abide by B4U-ACT’s Principles and Perspectives of Practice, and our pamphlet Psychotherapy for the Minor-Attracted Persons. MAPs who contact B4U-ACT seeking a therapist who will focus on their wellbeing are referred to one or more of the Signatory therapists. In 2021 we averaged 15 requests for referrals each month. Unfortunately, however, we only have a small number of Signatory therapists and we only have Signatory therapists in 16 states and 3 countries, leaving 34 states unrepresented in our signatory mix. In November and December, we had requests from 23 different states. Over the year we also had requests from MAPs in Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, Vietnam, Argentina, and Columbia.
As a result of the pandemic and the social distancing around the world, there has been an increase in the demand for mental health services. Minors and adults who are attracted to minors, who were already responding to the demonizing messages about MAPs with depression, suicidal thoughts, anxiety, and social isolation, feel even more socially isolated during the pandemic. [See our Newsletter article “Where Stigma Meets Isolation – Mental Health Support for MAPs During COVID-19”: B4U-ACT Newsletter Spring 2021]
Our limited number of Signatory therapists have full caseloads and are frequently unable to take more clients. State licensing requirements generally require therapists to be licensed in the state in which their client lives, so even with the increased utilization of online therapy during the pandemic, MAPs in the 34 states in which we lack Signatory therapists are often left without an available therapist. B4U-ACT needs more therapists throughout the country and the world to apply to be in the Signatory Therapist Program. As seen above, there is a high demand among minors and adults who are attracted to minors. For information on how to apply: How to Apply to Be a Signatory Therapist
We continued to have our monthly online Dialogue on Therapy discussions with therapists, researchers, students, and MAPs. Topics included: improving treatment programs for MAPs who have acted or are concerned they may do so; narratives about MAPs (explicit or implied) that are commonly found in professional articles about MAPs; the connections among intimacy, sexuality, and mental health, and how they apply to MAPs; B4U-ACT’s guide to Psychotherapy with Minor-Attracted Persons; MAPs’ interactions and/or relationships with children and adolescents; how therapists might support MAPs having more fulfilling romantic and sexual lives; meeting the needs of MAP youth; and, the effects of the Allyn Walker controversy.
Our Peer Support Forum moderators brought a number of issues to the Board: clarification of their goals and function; supporting freedom of expression and dealing with differences of perspectives and beliefs; responding to anonymous participants in crisis (e.g., suicidal or homicidal); and, how to best serve the needs of the participants. They developed a survey to solicit input from the participants. They also reached out to the Signatory therapist group to receive guidance on how to respond to participants in crisis and will be developing a procedural guide for how to effectively respond to participants in crisis. The Peer Support Forum’s website is being redesigned and will be implemented in coming months.
The Family and Friends Support Group had minimal participation in 2021, but we remain hopeful that more family members and friends of MAPs will join. Previous participants have reported how useful it was to them, particularly when they were first learning of their family member or friend’s orientation to minors and needed information and support in responding to their loved ones.
Our volunteer web designer is currently working to develop a new, high-quality website for B4U-ACT. We look forward to its implementation and new features.
B4U-ACT is frequently contacted by incarcerated persons who are attracted to minors who have had little or no information provided to them about persons like them, the causes of their unique orientation, how to understand it, how to deal with it within a society that villainizes them, the myths surrounding attraction to minors, and how to accept their orientation and choose not to have sexual activity with minors, while leading a happy, productive, and fulfilling life. They want information about B4U-ACT and other resources. Persons who are currently incarcerated are without access to the Internet and want copies of information from our website. During 2021 B4U-ACT sent over 80 letters and printouts responding to such inquiries.
As you can see from the above, B4U-ACT continues to be unique in that persons who are minor-attracted are involved in planning and conducting all that we do. They are members of the Board, they co-plan and co-lead the workshops, they make presentations at university sexuality classes, they moderate the online Peer Support Group, they compile and publish the online Newsletter, they are among the reviewers who compile the Quarterly Research Review Journal, they assist researchers in designing research that doesn’t contain false assumptions about MAPs, and they volunteer to participate in the research that we think will seek non-stigmatizing and factual information regarding persons who are attracted to minors.
B4U-ACT has no paid staff and accomplished all of the above with a small number of dedicated volunteers. Despite not having workshops the past two years, we nevertheless have numerous ongoing expenses: post office box rent, Board liability insurance, Maryland NonProfits membership, domain name renewals, software updates, postage, etc. Although we were started with a grant from the State of Maryland, we no longer receive that grant. We are totally dependent upon individual donors. Anyone wanting to donate to support all that we do can make donations at https://www.b4uact.org/get-involved/donate/.
Russell Dick, MSW
Chairperson & Co-founder