Ben

I am now in my mid 40s, living in Australia. I first realized I was attracted to the junior male form when I was around 12 or 13 and hoped it was just a phase I was going through. As I became older, it soon became apparent that I was attracted only to boys younger than me.

I kept my feelings to myself for many years. When I was 18, I watched a TV program that provided a help line for minor-attracted people, but when I called the number, there was no specific help available in my local area. The operator suggested I visit my local doctor instead. I had no confidence my doctor could help me, so my search for help stalled.

When I was in my mid-20s, I read (or possibly misread) a signal from a 13-year-old boy I was close to that developed into a sexual relationship, my first ever. The result was a criminal conviction and probation.

I came out to my parents and my sister before my trial. I wanted them to hear it from me rather than to read it in the local paper. They supported me and continue to support me.

Before the court case, I met the mother of a friend of the boy’s. She was a very understanding and compassionate single mother of four boys. After her sons told her about my past, I came out to her and she supported me through my trial. When her boys went to live with her ex-partner, she came to live with me. We became close and even though I am not attracted to the female form, we had a child together. We will soon celebrate 10 years of marriage. To this day, it still surprises me that I am in this relationship, as I never thought I would ever be married and have a child of my own!

With my legal problems behind me, I was scared that I might again become too attached to a boy and began pushing away any that I felt I was getting too close to. This included my four step-sons, who eventually came to live with us.

Through personal development and the support of friends, I was able to forgive myself for what happened in my 20s. I learned to trust others and in the process, to trust myself. I also came to accept that being a minor-attracted person (MAP) was how I was born, that I couldn’t change it but that I could make my own decisions about my behaviour. Being able to connect and talk honestly and openly with non-MAP men about these attractions was life-changing for me and the positive effect on my mental health was huge.

I have now come out as an MAP to quite a few trusted friends and want to change the commonly held beliefs about us. If everyone had a son, brother, cousin, uncle, or friend whom they trusted and admired and who was able to explain to them what it is like to be an MAP, I believe that is what would make a difference to how we are perceived.

I should point out that I took a risk each time I came out to someone, but this was a risk I thought was acceptable for me and my situation at the time. So far this has worked for me, but this may not suit everyone.

Without professional help, it took me nearly 30 years from the time I realized I was attracted to minors, to feeling comfortable with who I am.

I am convinced that if there had been some professional help readily available to me as a young adult, then I would have come to terms with and managed my feelings for boys much sooner. It is also likely that rather than searching for answers for much of my life, I would have been happier and more confident.

Over the last few years I have become involved in some local men’s groups. I have shared about my own past and heard about challenges other men have faced. This has helped me gain some perspective and realise the challenges I have faced are not especially unique even though my attractions may be.

In many ways, and for much of my life, I let my attraction to boys define who I am. More recently, I am able to see myself as a husband and father, and professional in my work.
Keeping busy stops me feeling sorry for myself and besides work and family, I attend and help run men’s weekends, help with some local sustainability initiatives, and enjoy motorcycling, photography and travel.

If you can relate to anything I wrote here then I hope that this helps you realize you are, in fact, not alone.

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Tom

I’m a 21 year old guy attracted to girls between the ages of 4-11. Towards girls younger than 5, it’s almost entirely an emotional attraction. I have this great affection for them and want to protect and care for them. As they get older, they become more attractive and the emotions start to feel more romantic as well as protective.

This all started when I was 13 and I began working in the 2-3 year old class at my church. I really enjoyed it and soon discovered that I had a talent working with kids. Looking back I can see my attraction starting around that time although it wasn’t until I was 16 that I really noticed that I was attracted to children and not until 18 that I finally admitted to myself that I was an MAP. With that realization, at that point in my life, I spiraled down into depression.

Throughout my adolescence I kept doing volunteer work with younger kids. The mentality I had was that I was only sexually attracted to older girls so if I avoided them there would be no problems. However, one day I was even more depressed than usual because it was my birthday and I had no friends to celebrate it with. While I was at church in the pre-K class, a girl I had a protective “crush” on was being extremely adorable, I just wanted to hug her and know that someone cared about me. I didn’t do anything inappropriate but it was then that I started to think that this was a problem.

I reached out to some people I knew online (non-MAPs) and told them about my attractions. A few stopped talking to me, however I did find one person who was willing to stick with me and help me figure all this out and it changed everything. I was finally able to talk about my feelings and all that I was going through. I also reached out to other MAPs and eventually had a large group of people that I talked to almost every day. With their help, I began to accept myself and slowly the weight of my minor attraction lifted. While I’m still very much attracted to children, it is now much easier to manage and live with.

Now at 21 years of age, I’m studying hard in college and am transferring to a four year university in the fall and will be living in the dorms. I’m very excited about meeting new people and making new friends. Aside from helping kids, I also enjoy reading, playing video games, and spending time with my family. I still struggle with hiding such a huge secret from everyone I know, although I confided in my brother and sister and they’ve both been very supportive of me. I’m so thankful for that. My life isn’t perfect, but I feel that things are finally moving in a positive direction. I finally have hope for the future.

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Sterling

I’m a minor-attracted person (MAP). As I write this in 2012, I’m in my late 50s. I thought of myself as a normal hetero guy until about the age of 54 or so. I was married for 16 years and am now divorced with a steady girlfriend (roughly my same age) for the past 8 years. I have been passionately attracted to adult women, so I am luckier than many.

However, signs have been there all along. I’ve always preferred women who looked more child-like and retained a playful and child-like personality. Young girls, on the other hand, make my heart soar. Even if they are being difficult and unpleasant, I can patiently accept that and still feel affection.

Up until I was about age 30, children in general and girls in particular were a mystery to me, being the younger of two brothers and having no other children in my life. Then my ex-wife and I had two daughters, and everything changed. I was an involved parent, spending a lot of time with my daughters and their friends. I really ‘got’ children, understood their feelings and respected them, and they in turn liked me. I knew I felt a deep tenderness and affection for them, but my pedophilia was obscured because parents often feel that way towards children. But the signs were there. While I felt a special love for my daughters, I felt a different romantic attraction for their girl friends.

I was quite conventional in all things sexual up until the age of 54 or so. Faced with an empty nest, free time, and mid-life unease, I spent a lot of time figuring out my sexuality. I had a revelation that I was attracted to girls well below puberty, but my protective instincts towards the girls has led me to repress the sexual and romantic nature of my attraction. For example, I recently saw a movie that began with a still photo of a girl. I thought she was sexually attractive, until the still photo became a real girl with personality and issues to face. The sexual attraction vanished and was replaced by compassion for her story.

I used to volunteer with younger children, even as my own girls went into middle school, but have since stopped, because I found the interactions more frustrating than satisfying. This is unfortunate because I know the kids were nurtured by my love and attention.

That is the major downside to my attraction: the isolation. I am lucky to have a therapist I can talk with freely about it, but there is no one else in my life that I can trust in that way. There is a whole side to my life I cannot share with my girlfriend or broader social network. I also feel alienated from a society that hates me for my thoughts. Perhaps someday, I’ll find another MAP in the greater Boston area who could be a real friend and ease my sense of isolation.

Sexuality comes in many forms. While my preferred form can only be practiced privately and alone, I can still appreciate the joy it gives me.

My life has been far more than the romantic and sexual aspects. I already mentioned my daughters. I have also had a successful career in high tech, been involved with a liberal religious congregation, and taken an activist role in politics. Puzzles and games, nature, and dancing are a few hobbies. I read widely and am also an amateur writer.

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Matthew

I am in my late twenties and have been aware since around the age of thirteen that I have an attraction to younger girls.

My first recollection of this involved a girl of ten when I was thirteen. Even though we were fairly close in age I remember knowing that I couldn’t just ask this girl out on a date the same way I could with my junior high peers. So at that point in my young life, I was already making an unconscious distinction between “teenager” and “kid.”

The word pedophile didn’t pop into my head right then and there, but as the years passed by and I reached my late teens but was still noticing ten-year-old girls, I knew then that the word fit. Around that time, I had been writing a story for an English class with a protagonist that clearly had feelings for a young girl.   Not wanting to raise the suspicions of my English teacher, I had the narrator state that he is not a pedophile, but I knew as I was writing it that in real life, I was.

Growing up, my attractions felt like a special little secret. It would always make me happy when I saw pretty little girls, whether they were friends of the family, kids in lower grades, little sisters of friends, or young girls on TV and commercials. I still never had much experience with intimate relations as I grew older and would even keep my feelings for “age-appropriate” girls to myself, because I was a naturally private person. I wasn’t really vocal about anyone I was attracted to, especially the much younger ones. I always knew that I wasn’t the kind of person typically portrayed in the media; however, I sometimes thought I was the only one of my orientation with genuine loving feelings for younger people.

When I was in my early twenties, I had been looking for pictures of a little girl who was in a short film that I had recently watched. There weren’t many online, but she was briefly mentioned on a site dedicated to people attracted to young girls, and so for the first time, I was able to share my interest with others like myself. This was an incredibly happy and exciting time for me, as I first started to realize I was not alone.

At times my fondness for younger people has felt like a hobby. I enjoy reading stories and watching movies about youth –their struggles, triumphs, discoveries, and explorations. I have my favorite little girl celebrities that I try to find photos of, rent all the movies they’ve been in that I can find, or watch television interviews that they’ve done.

I’ve had other interests and passions in my life too. I’m a science fiction fan and have collected comic books for years. Occasionally I’ll write my own stories, and even though I’ve never tried to have anything published, the desire to do so has always been in the back of my mind. I’ve had friendships that have come and gone, and a very caring family that I love very much, including extended relatives of mine that I consider good friends.

I work in a retail store frequented by families, and the girls who come in just brighten my day. Even though I rarely say a word to them, it’s still a delight and treat to see them. Over the years, I’ve watched some little kids grow up into beautiful mature young women, and I know that as time passes, there will always be a part of me that will wonder where they are or how they’re doing, even though they will always remain total strangers.

I do know one girl that I only get to see around once a year, she always enjoys spending time with me when she visits. We play with legos and stuffed animals or collect insects in the backyard. She enjoys my company a lot and gives me a hug every time I first see her. Each year, I worry she will have forgotten about me, but then she’ll walk up to me after having greeted everyone else in my family and give me a second hug, probably not thinking twice about it, just a casual second hug, but it still means  a lot to me.

I can picture her letting people know about how kind and caring I was with her, how respected and safe she felt. I wish perhaps a video like that could exist to help spread the word to people about all those like me with a gentle and caring soul. Even though such a message will likely never be made because my orientation will always remain secret, I take comfort in knowing that I have always been and will continue to be a positive influence in her life and possibly the lives of other young people as I grow older, and that’s what really matters to me.

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B4U-ACT Issues Statement for World Suicide Prevention Day

Advocates of Stigma Contribute to Suicide

With the approach of World Suicide Prevention Day this Saturday, it’s time to address a contributing factor to suicide that’s been taboo far too long—especially since a small group of ideologues is fighting to suppress discussion and worsen the problem.

Most of us know that stigmatizing people for something they did not choose is harmful and unjust. Intense stigma can contribute to suicide risk and prevent people from getting help.

Many people face intense stigma about their sexuality. No one chooses who they are emotionally and sexually attracted to. Instead, they discover it, usually in early adolescence. Most of us are aware that gay teens often discover their orientation in middle or high school, and that the stigma they face may increase their suicide risk.

There’s an additional reality that may be hard to accept, but that must be faced if we’re serious about combating suicide. Some adolescents discover they’re preferentially attracted to children or younger adolescents, and this stays with them throughout their lives. Most of us want to believe that only older adults have such feelings, but sexual feelings don’t suddenly appear in adulthood. Experts estimate that in puberty, 1% to 7% of all boys first experience preferential attraction to younger children that will be lifelong. In a recent survey,* adults attracted to children or young adolescents reported they first experienced these feelings at a median age of 13.

It’s crucial to distinguish between feelings and behavior. Research suggests that many, maybe most, people attracted to children or adolescents do not act on these feelings. Certainly most youths who discover they’re attracted to younger children haven’t acted on those feelings.

Stigma puts these teenagers—and the adults they may grow into—at risk for suicide, and makes them afraid to seek help. Almost half the survey respondents had seriously considered suicide—at a median age of 19—and 13% attempted it. A growing number of teens attracted to children are seeking anonymous support at online mental health forums. One 15-year-old recently posted that he felt like killing himself and couldn’t talk to anyone in real life about it.

This is why a Westminster, Maryland organization is working to end the secrecy, fear, and lack of knowledge surrounding the issue. Through workshops and conferences, B4U-ACT facilitates discussion among clinicians, researchers, and law-abiding minor-attracted people. Attendees at its symposium last month in Baltimore called it “eye-opening,” “valuable,” and “impressive.” One clinician praised it on her university’s listserv, and another decided he wanted to serve minor-attracted clients. Psychologists and parents who didn’t attend but have dealt with the issue first-hand wrote to thank B4U-ACT for its work.

But over the past three weeks the symposium has been attacked by a small group of writers opposed to sexuality research and gay rights. One of them is Judith Reisman, who over the past three decades has become well-known for her wild, reckless, and unsubstantiated accusations against the gay movement and the entire field of sexuality research. Her like-minded colleague Matthew Barber recently drew public criticism for blaming suicide among gay youth on the youth themselves. Both are now using distortions and fabrications to mischaracterize the purpose of B4U-ACT and its symposium. They hide the fact that most symposium attendees advocated compassion for minor-attracted people while rejecting adult-minor sexual interaction. Reisman and Barber’s misinformation is being propagated uncritically by writers and bloggers sympathetic to their ideology.

These writers violate basic humanitarian principles. They attempt to suppress information and impede rational discussion by diverting attention from the problem and inflaming fear. They encourage hating both the sin and the sinner. Worst of all, they advocate condemning, stigmatizing, and removing from society a segment of the population—including young teenagers—for feelings (not behavior) they did not choose. Their approach would drive people further into hiding, putting both them and children at risk.

Unfortunately, a popular mainstream commentator has endorsed a similar response. While acknowledging some merits of B4U-ACT’s work, in a recent article Keith Ablow repeated misinformation about B4U-ACT’s goals, explicitly rejected attempts at understanding, and advocated stigmatization. But stigmatizing people’s feelings doesn’t make them go away, and driving them “out of mainstream consciousness into the shadows,“ as Ablow advocates, only results in widespread ignorance and endangers children and youth.

We must resist fear-mongering calls to silence discussion and increase stigmatization. To combat suicide effectively, the best policy is clear: create an atmosphere where it is safe for those at risk—and those who care about them—to talk honestly about it.

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B4U-ACT Holds Scientific Symposium on Pedophilia and DSM

Today in Baltimore, Maryland, B4U-ACT brought together a range of clinicians, researchers, academics, and minor-attracted persons to discuss key issues regarding the entry for pedophilia in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) of the American Psychiatric Association. The purpose of the meeting was to promote a more comprehensive and accurate DSM. This first symposium of its kind was a success, as 38 people participated in discussion of stimulating presentations by nine distinguished speakers.

The foundation of the symposium was B4U-ACT’s position that the DSM should be based on accurate information about people in the general population. It should be “sensitive to the needs of clinicians and their patients” (as advocated by the APA). Minor-attracted people should be involved in its revision (also advocated by the APA).

B4U-ACT believes that everyone benefits when a variety of reasoned perspectives is heard. Therefore, speakers were allowed to express their views freely and openly. B4U-ACT does not necessarily endorse all of the views expressed. Our policy of free and open expression is in support of the APA’s position that DSM revisions should involve input from “diverse perspectives, disciplines, and areas of expertise,” and that “patient and family” groups be involved. Speakers and attendees specialized in psychiatry, ethics, psychology, philosophy, social work, linguistics, and gender studies.

This kind of scholarly interaction is necessary in light of the numerous unresolved issues raised about the proposed DSM revisions by scholars, researchers, and minor-attracted people. Controversy has arisen over scientific issues, conceptual issues, the purpose of the DSM (to promote mental health vs. social control), and consequences of the DSM entry for society and the people being diagnosed. Information about these controversies can be found at:

www.b4uact.org/science/symp/2011/refs.htm#crit and
www.asexualexplorations.net/home/paraphilia_bibliography

Speakers addressed a diverse range of crucial issues related to the DSM, and discussion was lively. Keynote speaker Dr. Fred Berlin (of Johns Hopkins University) provided a conceptual overview of pedophilia from a psychiatric viewpoint, and argued in favor of acceptance of and compassion for people who are attracted to minors, while at the same time rejecting adult-minor sexual activity. Dr. John Sadler (University of Texas) argued that diagnostic criteria for mental disorders should not be based on concepts of vice since such concepts are subject to shifting social attitudes and doing so diverts mental-health professionals from their role as healers. Dr. Nancy Potter (University of Louisville) analyzed the concept of “uptake” — that is, genuine listening — and argued that by giving uptake to minor-attracted people, those revising the DSM would strengthen DSM-5 and contribute to more ethical treatment, but that minor-attracted people must exhibit accuracy and sincerity in their testimony. Dr. Lisa Cohen (Albert Einstein College of Medicine) presented data on the psychological correlates of pedophilia based on forensic samples, and argued that use of non-forensic samples would help researchers separate factors related to feelings of attraction from those related to behavior, and support the development of improved diagnostic systems.

In the afternoon, Dr. Renee Sorrentino (Harvard Medical School) discussed legal, ethical, and medical consequences of the proposed DSM-5 entry for pedohebephilia. Andrew Hinderliter (University of Illinois) argued that the medicalization of social deviance blurs the boundary between the helping professions and the criminal justice system, creating the potential for psychiatry to become a means of controlling undesirables, rather than an agent of healing. Jacob Breslow (London School of Economics and Political Science) challenged assumptions about minors and sexuality which currently underlie policymaking and the DSM. Richard Kramer (the only speaker representing B4U-ACT), analyzed sources of stigma in the DSM, presented survey data regarding MAPs’ feelings of stigma, and provided recommendations for revising the DSM to reduce stigma.

B4U-ACT is a 501(c)(3) organization that promotes communication and collaboration among minor-attracted persons, mental health professionals, and researchers. Its mission is to increase the availability of accurate information about minor-attracted persons and mental health services that focus on their mental health needs. Inaccurate negative stereotypes force minor-attracted people into hiding, leave young adolescents who are attracted to children hopeless with nowhere to turn, and do nothing to protect children. We have received emails from teenagers as young as 15 who were engaged in self-harming behavior or threatening suicide, and could talk to no one about it, because they were attracted to children. Making welcoming, informed, and empathetic mental health services available is the goal of B4U-ACT.

For more details about the symposium, see https://www.b4uact.org/research/past-symposium/. Please direct any questions to B4U-ACT director of operations Richard Kramer at rkramer@b4uact.org.

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B4U-ACT Notifies APA of “Inaccurate and Misleading” DSM

July 25, 2011 — B4U-ACT has sent an open letter to the Board of Trustees of the American Psychiatric Association (APA) notifying the organization of the inaccuracies and misleading information contained in the current draft of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), currently under revision.

The letter requests the establishment of a working relationship between B4U-ACT and the APA’s work group in charge of revising the diagnostic criteria for pedophilia. B4U-ACT is a 501(c)(3) organization that promotes dialog between mental health professionals and people with a sexual attraction to children or adolescents.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual is the authoritative publication of the psychological sciences that provides the profession’s descriptions of mental disorders and their symptoms.

“The current revision of the DSM is full of inaccurate and misleading information on people who are attracted to children or adolescents,” said Howard Kline, science director of B4U-ACT. “It is based on data from prison studies, which completely ignore the existence of those who are law-abiding. The proposed new diagnostic criteria specify ages and frequencies with no scientific basis whatsoever. The DSM should meet a higher standard than that. We can help them, because we are the people they are writing about.”

Co-founder and chair of the B4U-ACT board, Russell Dick, a licensed social worker with 38 years of experience working with people who are attracted to minors said, “People with this attraction struggle to lead lives consistent with society’s rules. If we want them to succeed, we need to give them a reasonable level of support by providing them with welcoming, informed, and empathetic mental health services. The current revision of the DSM hinders that goal.”

Richard Kramer, director of operations for B4U-ACT, added, “Inaccurate negative stereotypes perpetuated by the DSM force people into hiding, leave young adolescents who are attracted to children hopeless with nowhere to turn, and do nothing to protect children. We have tried every available avenue to get the work group to meet with us and begin addressing this problem. We had a conference call with them last June, where it was apparent that they did not understand the stigmatic effects of the DSM. They then reneged on their promise of follow-up communication. Consequently, our only recourse is to go over their heads to the Board of Trustees of the APA itself.”

B4U-ACT is holding a symposium on pedophilia and the DSM in Baltimore on August 17. One of the ways it suggests the APA work group could start working with them is to send a representative to speak at the symposium. The work group has ignored the invitation.

Read the full text of the letter to the APA trustees at https://www.b4uact.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/b4uact-20110713.pdf.

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B4U-ACT Invites DSM-5 Paraphilias Group to Symposium

B4U-ACT sent the e-mail letter below to all members of the DSM Paraphilias Subworkgroup and leading officials of the DSM Task Force, inviting them to come and speak at its upcoming symposium. B4U-ACT suggested this as a way to restart the conversation begun the previous summer with a conference call between DSM officials and B4U-ACT, and thereby take steps “to ensure not only that the DSM is founded in sound science, but also that it does not engender stigma or diminish availability of care, and takes valid patient input into account.”

No reply was received.


Subject: B4U-ACT Symposium on Pedophilia and the DSM
From: Howard Kline
To: Ray Blanchard, Martin Kafka, Richard Krueger, Niklas Langstrom, Kenneth Zucker, David Kupfer, Darrel Regier, William Narrow
CC: Richard Kramer, Russell Dick, Irving M. Binik, Lori A. Brotto, Peggy T. Cohen-Kettenis, Jack Drescher, Cynthia Graham, Heino F. L. Meyer-Bahlburg, Friedemann Pfäfflin, Robert Taylor Segraves
Date: Tue, 03 May 2011 23:50:21

To Dr. Ray Blanchard, members of Paraphilias Subworkgroup, and APA DSM Task Force officials

Dear Gentlemen:

On August 17, B4U-ACT will hold a symposium on “Pedophilia, Minor-Attracted Persons, and the DSM: Issues and Controversies.” All of you have received the call for proposals for this event, which is also available at www.b4uact.org/callforproposals.htm. The purpose of this e-mail is to reach out to you with a special invitation to participate.

The symposium will be a collaborative exchange of ideas among researchers, scholars, clinicians, and minor-attracted people from a variety of disciplines and with a variety of views. We wish to have all views reflected as accurately and fairly as possible. As such, it would be beneficial to have Dr. Blanchard, other members of the Paraphilias Subworkgroup, and/or other representatives of the DSM Task Force present the perspective under review by the APA on these issues. We would like to have at least two DSM-5 representatives speaking at the symposium in order to ensure that your views are well and accurately represented and that the discussion is fair and meaningful. If none or only one of you is available on the date of the symposium, we’d be interested in your recommendation of others who could speak on your behalf.

There is an important reason for the APA to participate in this symposium. Seven of the recipients of this e-mail took part in a conference call with representatives of B4U-ACT in June 2010. Promises were made of specific follow-up by the APA after that call, however none of that follow-up took place despite numerous attempts by B4U-ACT to obtain it. We are reaching back out to you now in an attempt to restart the conversation. We know how busy you are and understand how various pressures on your time may have interrupted your follow-through last summer. However, we also trust that you are committed to “the best interests of patients and those actually or potentially making use of mental health services” [APA Bylaws] and to enabling care to be provided “with compassion and respect for human dignity and rights” [AMA Ethics]. Therefore, we trust that you want to take all reasonable steps to ensure not only that the DSM is founded in sound science, but also that it does not engender stigma or diminish availability of care, and takes valid patient input into account. These objectives are the key focus areas of the symposium.

If none of you is able to participate in the symposium, and if there is no one else to nominate to represent you, then we urge you to delegate one of you to speak with us about an alternative course of action to resume the conversation started with the conference call last summer.

While this is a matter of professionalism for you, for us it is a matter both of professionalism and of life and limb. Legions of minor-attracted people are suffering daily and reporting inability to find compassionate and respectful mental health services. Most are left to cope by themselves, and some fail. Too many, including many teenagers who find themselves attracted to younger children, take their own lives, or try to. We trust that such outcomes are as unsatisfactory to the APA as they are to us. Please work with us to find solutions that properly diagnose disorder and support its appropriate treatment. Please come and speak at our symposium or get back to us about other ways to get our conversation back on track.

Thank you.

Sincerely,
Howard Kline
Science Director
B4U-ACT, Inc.
www.b4uact.org

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B4U-ACT Responds to Harvard Mental Health Publication

B4U-ACT joined with seven mental health professionals to object to an article recently published in the Harvard Mental Health Letter. The open letter sent in response follows:


April 25, 2011
The Editor
Harvard Mental Health Letter
Harvard University
Cambridge, MA

Dear Editor:

We wish to respond to the article “Pessimism About Pedophilia” published in your July 2010 issue.

A broader examination of the facts demonstrates that pessimism as a professional response to pedophilia and hebephilia is unjustified and leads to serious undesirable consequences.

People who are attracted to children or adolescents can and do contribute positively to their communities and to society. The non-profit organization B4U-ACT, based in Maryland, consists of such people working together with mental health professionals to promote dialog, the dissemination of accurate information, and the accessibility of compassionate mental health services. The people who are attracted to minors that we know deal with their sexuality in responsible ways and live within the law. They care about the well-being of children and adolescents as much as other people; many are parents themselves.

Most available information about minor-attracted people is inaccurate and incomplete. Most minor-attracted people do not come to the attention of the criminal justice or mental health systems, or when they do, their positive characteristics and contributions are not acknowledged. As a result, descriptions are based solely on non-representative forensic samples and inaccurate assumptions about their feelings and motives. Non-forensic research presents a more hopeful picture, finding that they may be similar to the general population in personality and psychological functioning (Okami & Goldberg, 1992; Wilson & Cox, 1983). In addition, there is strong evidence that their feelings of attraction may be similar to those of people attracted to adults: they may involve feelings of affection, tenderness, and romantic attraction (Blanchard, 2009; Li, 1990b; Sandfort, 1987; Wilson & Cox, 1983).

Treatment can be very effective. Some minor-attracted people connected to B4U-ACT have experienced therapy that helped them to find ways of coping with their sexuality and society’s response to it, and to develop fulfilling relationships while living within the law. Such treatment is only effective when the therapist has an accurate understanding of pedophilia or hebephilia, shows empathy and compassion for the patient, and works cooperatively with the patient to develop treatment goals and approaches.

Pessimism, inaccurate and negative characterizations, and a reliance on law-enforcement rather than therapeutic approaches by the mental health profession seriously discourage minor-attracted people from seeking services. Such responses strongly suggest to potential clients that mental health professionals will not understand them, will respond to them with suspicion or hostility, will ignore their mental health needs, or will report their feelings to authorities. In a recent survey of minor-attracted people conducted by B4U-ACT, one respondent said, “I have no way of knowing if they’ll call the cops just for telling them my attraction. I wouldn’t want to see a psychologist unless I can be truly open and honest. So that’s out.” Another said, “I can never reveal the fact that I am a pedophile. At least now, they do not know that they hate me, and that is the best that I can ever hope for.” Altogether, 54% of 166 respondents cited fears that therapists would report their feelings to authorities or others, 63% feared negative judgmental reactions, and 48% feared they would be treated unethically by therapists. Minor-attracted people learn that they must remain in hiding. This does not protect children.

In short, negative stereotypes and reliance on law-enforcement approaches by mental health professionals intensify stigma, causing serious negative consequences. The very same issue of the Harvard Mental Health Letter also contained an article on this topic: “The Evolving Understanding of Stigma.” The article noted that “the constant background noise of stereotyped or inaccurate information contributes to the persistent stigma about mental illness…stigma is important because it contributes to delays in seeking treatment for mental health disorders and problems in accessing care.” In B4U-ACT’s survey, 40% of respondents said at some point they had wanted services to deal with issues related to their sexuality, but never received them due to fear or stigma. In addition, 27% said they wanted services for other reasons but did not seek them because they could not be honest with a therapist about their sexuality. Sixteen percent also said they had received such services, but these services were inadequate for the same reason.

Adolescents and young adults just realizing they are attracted to minors are especially vulnerable to stigma. Feelings of hopelessness can lead them to depression, substance abuse, and suicidal thoughts. Some of the volunteers at B4U-ACT have experienced this in their youth. Others have been contacted by youth who abused alcohol, engaged in self-harming behavior, or were suicidal due to the stigma of their attraction to children. In the B4U-ACT survey, 44% of respondents had thought seriously about suicide due to their sexuality; the most common age for such thoughts was 16.

Inaccurate stereotypes lead to dehumanization. As the stigma article notes, “people who are stigmatized experience social death when others in society hold attitudes and behave in ways to turn the stigmatized person into an ‘other,’ or a non-person…This leads to dehumanizing treatment, such as making psychiatric patients in China wear outfits like those of prisoners, [or] prohibiting them from participating in family gatherings…If stigma is primarily psychological, then eradicating it may involve psychotherapy to help patients boost self-esteem. If it is more of a social construct, the way to fight it is through awareness campaigns to change public opinion and policies. And if stigma is a moral issue, then it may be necessary to advocate for basic human rights.”

We urge mental health professionals to reject pessimistic responses and to join in a hopeful effort both to protect children and to promote the well-being of people who are attracted to minors. Such an effort would involve reducing stigma, conducting non-forensic research on pedophilia and hebephilia, making accurate information available to professionals, the public, and minor-attracted people, and providing visible therapeutic services to minor-attracted people.

Sincerely,

Russell Dick, LCSW-C, Board Chair, B4U-ACT, Inc.
Richard Kramer, Director of Operations, B4U-ACT, Inc.
Tom Scott, MSW, LCSW-C, Executive Director of Clinical Services, National Center on Institutions and Alternatives
Kevin J. McCamant, Ph.D., Private Practitioner, Clinical and Forensic Psychology, Sex Offender Treatment Provider
Wayne Bowers, President of the Board, Sex Abuse Treatment Alliance
Eric Anderson, Sociologist and Professor, University of Winchester, U.K.
Lee Beckstead, PhD, Private practitioner
Marjorie Diehl, ACSW
Amy Craig-Van Grack, LCSW-C

References

Blanchard, R. (2009), Paraphilia scales from Kurt Freund’s Erotic Preferences Examination Scheme

Li, C.K. (1990b), Some case studies of adult sexual experiences with children Journal of Homosexuality, 20 (1-2), 129-144.

Okami, P. & Goldberg, A. (1992), Personality correlates of pedophilia: Are they reliable indicators?. Journal of Sex Research, 29, 297-328.

Sandfort, T. (1987), Boys on their contacts with men: A study of sexually expressed friendships. New York: Global Academic Publishers.

Wilson, G. & Cox, D. (1983), The Child-Lovers: A Study of Paedophiles in Society. London: Peter Owen Publishers.

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