Pedophilia has nothing to do with actions and everything to do with desires. A pedophile has not molested a child. Child molesters have molested a child as it has everything to do with actions and, often times, very little to do with physical desires.
Because of our complications and confusions of these two terms, particularly in news reporting, we’re cutting down on our compassion and empathy for a group of people with disturbing desires that can be helped. Because of the stigma associated with the word ‘pedophile’, very few seek the help that they should, and without a support network that helps them deal with their unhealthy desires, they may be more likely to actually offend.
Child molestation, much like rape and sexual assault of any kind, has less to do with sexual desire and more to do with power. With feelings of dominance. With opportunity.
Most child molesters know the victim – they’re family, friends. They’re people often around the child with the means and opportunity to assault the child. Very few child molestations are perpetrated by the shadowy man watching them at the park – the person everyone assumes to be a dangerous pedophile.
There should be more support for non-offending pedophiles. Talking about castrating everyone that has these desires – chemically or otherwise – does nothing to encourage these men to come forward for help. While there might be some extreme cases where killing the male sex drive might be considered, it’s not the only option.
Having community support, such as an understanding therapist that can guide them away from their desires and urges and council them in empathy and compassion, will do far more good than ostracizing and threatening them.
People want to protect children. It frightens people to think of another person hurting their child in such a profound way, and it disgusts people that some do have fantasies about children. That’s not an easy pill to swallow for anyone.
However, we shouldn’t make judgements based on moral panic. We must be realistic about non-offending pedophiles and what will truly help them to never cross into the child molester territory. At the same time, we must be more honest about what people are – pedophile and child molester are not exchangeable words and should no longer be treated as such.
The way we currently deal with both groups of individuals does nothing more than raise the chance that they’ll offend or reoffend. Segregating them to the outskirts of society, stealing away their pastimes, taking away their families, forcing them to struggle for a job or housing, embittering them towards society is not the solution.
Society has strong views about the protection of children, and it’s only natural to want to do so. But we must think past this and approach it logically and rationally. Rehabilitation and therapy is proven to reduce recidivism rates, and giving people a safe place to talk about their feelings – in a non-encouraging manner – is important. Think of it like anorexia support groups – you want a support group that’s honest and welcoming and supportive, yet you don’t want a support group that encourages the illness such as pro-ana groups. One helps the individual, the other hurts them – and society.