PSVG booklet about pedophilia
This booklet deals with pedophilia. Many people will perhaps find it difficult to read this booklet without becoming upset. Pedophilia is an emotionally charged subject. That has to do primarily with the "sexual" aspect of pedophilia. Often when people hear the word, they identify pedophilia with the sexual abuse of children by adults. Adults who sexually abuse children cause damage to children.
In this booklet we will explain that far from all sexual contacts or sexual relations between a child and an adult imply sexual abuse. Many sexual contacts between adults and children do not have to result in any damage, and there are also sexual contacts which are pleasant and valued by the child. We wish to emphasize that in this booklet. In doing so, we do not intend to say that sexual contacts with an adult always turn out positively for a child. Unfortunately damaging things do occur, and we do not deny that. If you have difficulty with certain parts of this booklet, don't dismiss it out of hand. First try to calmly think exactly what it is you have difficulty with. Further along we have listed ideas and opinions which are very common. If you are not able to discover where your difficulty lies, look at this list. This booklet is intended for everyone who wants to know more about pedophilia, but especially for those who actually deal with it. That includes primarily pedophiles themselves and the children with whom they are involved. Then there are the parents of the children, and the families of pedophiles. Because of present day penal laws, policemen, judges and public prosecutors are also confronted with this phenomenon. Social workers, too, are involved. Quite properly, this booklet is also intended for children, but children who read this booklet will very quickly see that it is especially written for grown-ups. This is because 'pedophilia' isn't just a grown-up's word, but, in many cases, is a grown-up's problem. With this booklet we intend to provide an image of pedophilia - perhaps a better one. We will set the facts out clearly, to remove misunderstandings and prejudice.
- 1 What is pedophilia?
- 2 Who are they?
- 3 What are pedophiles
- 4 What do pedophiles do with children?
- 5 With whom do they do it?
- 6 How do the contacts begin?
- 7 What do children think about their pedophile experiences?
- 8 Misconceptions
- 9 The causes of harm
- 10 Pedophilia is punishable
- 11 Bad experiences
- 12 Advice
- 13 Advice to children
- 14 Advice to parents
- 15 Advice to people with a pedophile orientation
- 16 Questions
- 17 After word
What is pedophilia?
People have all sorts of affectionate and sexual feelings - homophile feelings, pedophile feelings, heterophile feelings.
Some people have more of one sort than another sort. If we think about it this way we can put a label on people; someone who is mostly attracted to members of the same sex we call a homophile, someone who is attracted to members of the opposite sex we call a heterophile. A person who is drawn mostly in the direction of children is termed a 'pedophile.'
The word literally means 'someone who loves children.' This literal meaning really gives a precise description of what pedophile feelings are all about. Seen from this perspective, we all have these feelings, consciously or unconsciously. Sexuality sometimes plays a role in these feelings. You yourself can recognize that, for instance, when you find the physical contact enjoyable when you romp with children.
Who are they?
People whose primary attraction is to children are found everywhere. They are male and female, women of 25 and men of 50, fat people and thin people, big and small, friendly and unfriendly. As with heterophiles and homophiles, there is no way you can tell from their outward appearance.
Pedophile persons can feel an attraction to children of a different sex, to children of the same sex, or both.
What are pedophiles
Pedophiles are people who feel themselves primarily attracted to children, including in a sexual sense. That attraction to children is experienced as such an important value, that they consider it as a very essential part of who they are. If they weren't allowed to have these feelings they wouldn't be the people they are.
What do pedophiles do with children?
The short answer is that pedophile persons do exactly the same things with children as other adults do, except that sometimes sexual relations occur in addition. Pedophile persons want to express their feelings for children, in physical ways as well. Thus, especially in the case of young children, sexual activity seldom includes any kind of sexual penetration. Children are not yet physically big enough for this. An adult male who introduces his penis into the vagina of a girl or the anus of a boy will usually cause the child pain. For this reason alone pedophiles normally don't try.
What then do they do? They talk to each other, laugh together, play together and so on. Children and pedophiles also make love to one another. They hug and cuddle each other, they let each other see their sex organs. Pedophiles also masturbate their little friends or masturbate while their little friends watch, or they engage in mutual masturbation with them.
With whom do they do it?
Pedophiles are drawn to children between the ages of about eight and fifteen. When children approach puberty they sometimes lose their attractiveness for the pedophile. This may be difficult for the youngster to accept. Sometimes, however, a strong friendship remains. Just as in the case of other adults, pedophiles can have contacts with children they have known for only a short time and with children they have known much longer. Usually the partners in a pedophile relationship have known one another some length of time before they have sexual contact. They often live close to one another in the same neighborhood. The adult partner is sometimes a friend of the child's parents, or even a member of the family.
How do the contacts begin?
Sexual contacts between children and pedophiles take place in short, one-off contacts and in longer lasting relationships. The sexual contact in longer-lasting relationships often develops gradually. A time comes when the relationship suddenly becomes more intimate; then it can become sexual. Thus it doesn't make sense to talk about who takes the initiative. As the relationship gradually develops there comes a moment when both partners simply feel that sex is a fitting part of it. Thus it is generally not the case that one of the two is "pushing for it," but that the sexual contact arises after "signals" have gone back and forth.
As we have said, a long-lasting relationship is not always necessary for this. One-off and shorter relations will often include a sexual contact. But in these cases it is also true that it takes place after signals have gone back and forth.
It can happen that sex is forced on a child. The adult can misuse his power. He or she can compel the child or trick him into giving in. This is not, however, specific to pedophile sexuality. Compulsion and force sometimes occur in homophile and heterophile contacts, too. But children are less able to defend themselves from this than are adults. Children are more easily abused. Sexuality is not the only field in which this is true. Relationships with children always require respect and restraint.
What do children think about their pedophile experiences?
Pedophile relations are not just a matter of sexuality. A bond of friendship can also arise, which often continues on after the end of the sexual aspect of the relationship. The adult can be someone who is very meaningful in the child's life, as a person the child can confide in, who is a source of support, a mentor - but before all else, as a friend.
The feelings which a child experiences in such a relationship are feelings of loving and being in love. The meaning that the sexual aspect has for the child cannot be compared with the meaning that it has for the adult. Sometimes children take the passive role in sex; they find it pleasant to accept the attentions. They enjoy the affection and find the caressing nice. It gives them a sense of pleasure. But children can also take an active role. Then they enjoy caressing the adult and actively making love to them.
Children apparently don't think of sex as something separate from the relationship itself. Through the attitudes of others and through w hat they have been taught, they have often learned that sexuality should be seen as something "separate." Therefore they often stoutly refuse to talk about the relationship with others.
When discussing above how children feel about these relations, we expressed ourselves cautiously, saying they "apparently feel this or that."
This note of caution must be observed because we do not really know very much about children's sexuality. We can only guess about it, and in doing so we often make the mistake of looking at it from the perspective of our own feelings. We 'project,' as it were, our own opinions, feelings and experiences onto children. Perhaps this is because adults want to forget their own childhood when it comes to sexuality. This is because adults, through the sexual experiences in their childhood, have learned that these are "not allowed." The feelings which they themselves once had as children, when they played 'doctor' or 'mommy and daddy,' have long been deeply buried.
If you really want to know something about children's sexuality you have to take an unprejudiced look at children themselves - and perhaps also take an unprejudiced look at yourself. Adults can often become quite upset if they discover within themselves a sexually colored impulse to caress a child, while washing it, for example.
Children always have to deal with parents. Parents forbid, punish, get mad. Very early on, children learn that they must not do 'dirty' things. Even when parents don't actually say anything, children feel from their attitude that some play they enjoy is not permitted. Therefore they do these things at times and in places where they will not easily be discovered. If children touch their genitals, their parents forbid it or suggest some other activity. Children quickly come to believe that such things are bad.
Parents are very important figures in a child's life. Parents have power. Grown-ups - parents, grandparents, teachers, policemen, doctors and so on - all those grown-ups determine what a child can and cannot do. A child's world has very narrow boundaries. Adult drivers make the street where children play a dangerous place, the houses where they live were built by adult architects and their lessons are taught by adult teachers. The boundaries of their world are narrower than we often think.
Grown-ups also determine the limits for children's sexuality. They decide what is good and what is bad, what is dirty and what is nice. You could also say that the opinions of adults set the limits for children's sexuality. This, of course, applies to pedophile contacts as well.
Thus far in this booklet we have tried to explain what pedophiles do, what pedophilia is and what happens in pedophile relationships and contacts. There are a great many misconceptions and prejudices about pedophilia, and these to a large extent determine how society reacts. We will now take a closer look at a number of these misconceptions and prejudices.
Misconception: Pedophiles go around trying to seduce children
Many people think that pedophiles go around trying to seduce children with candy, ice cream and gifts to get the children to go with them to some deserted spot. This occasionally happens, but it is far from usual.
Misconception: All pedophiles are homosexuals
Some people think that all pedophiles are homosexuals. This is not true. Some pedophiles are attracted to members of their own sex, other pedophiles to members of the opposite sex.
Misconception: All homosexuals are pedophile
This, too, is untrue. People with a pedophile orientation can be bound among both heterosexuals and homosexuals.
Misconception: Pedophiles are dirty old men
Not true. Pedophiles occur in all age groups, young and old. And they are not just men; women can just as easily be sexually oriented toward child as men can. People always think of men because society considers it far more normal for a woman to caress and display her love for a child than for a man to do the same thing. You might say that pedophile women usually don't attract attention.
Misconception: Pedophiles are sexually frustrated
Once again, not true. Sexually frustrated people can be found in all categories - homophiles, heterophiles, pedophiles. What is true is that pedophiles can become sexually frustrated through not being able to have pedophile contacts.
They are not pedophile because they are frustrated, but they often become frustrated because they cannot express themselves as pedophiles.
Misconception: Children who have pedophile experiences become homosexuals as a result
Whether one is homophile or heterophile seems to have nothing to do with pedophile experiences. Research has shown that the proportion of heterophiles and homophiles among people who, as children, had had pedophile contacts is just the same as among people who had no such childhood contacts.
Misconception: Pedophiles are child rapists
Rape is first and foremost a crime of violence. It is a violent crime committed in the area of sexuality. Rape occurs, unfortunately, amongst heterosexually oriented people, but it is not considered a typical expression of heterosexuality.
It is the same for pedosexuality: as a rule rape is not part of it. If it does occur - and fortunately this happens very seldom - it is a crime which has nothing to do with pedophilia as such.
Misconception: Pedophiles are child murderers
You cannot really call this a misconception; it is more of a slander. Very, very seldom does a pedophile commit murder. When it does happen, it is often out of fear that his or her pedophile contact will be discovered. Many crimes are committed out of fear of being caught and punished. Someone who steals can become a murderer for this reason, as can a pedophile.
To repeat: this happens very, very seldom, and when it does it is caused by fear of discovery (and thus punishment), and thus cannot properly be said to have anything to do with pedophilia.
Misconception: Pedophiles are mentally disturbed
Amongst pedophiles you find every sort of person. Some seem 'different,' some normal. But it is hard to say precisely what 'different' and 'normal' really are. Being different does not necessarily mean being mentally disturbed. Hurting your fellow human is certainly a disturbed way of behaving. Looked at in this way, you can justly say that 'normal' drivers who operate their cars so irresponsibly that they make other people victims of traffic accidents are disturbed. To be different and to think differently are not the same as to be disturbed.
The causes of harm
We have just been talking about what causes harm. Many people think that pedophile contacts are harmful. Is that so?
Research has been done on this question, both in this country and abroad. No study which we have seen indicates that pedophile contacts are harmful in themselves, where no coercion or force have been involved. But, in our culture, we usually cannot consider just the actual contacts themselves. If they lead to other things, there might well be a lot of harm.
First is the harm which can be done by the parents of a child who has contact with a pedophile man or woman. When they discover this, the parents often react in panic. They become furious or outraged. Such a reaction, caused by not knowing what pedophilia really is, is harmful to the child. What the child has experienced as normal, as love and friendship, suddenly is turned into something dirty, something evil.
Then there is harm caused by contact with police and the courts, which often follows the discovery of a pedophile relationship. An investigation in the setting of a police station gives any child the feeling that something terrible has happened. It also has terrible consequences for the child to feel that he has betrayed a best friend with his testimony and thus helped put this person in prison. The feeling of guilt for having done so may haunt the child for the rest of his or her life.
The reactions of society can cause great harm to the child. But society can also hurt itself. In the final analysis, it must be said that we in society damage ourselves by our reaction to pedophilia. It is a reaction which is born of prejudice and misunderstanding. It is a reaction which arises because adults are unable to deal with their own sexuality, especially where it involves pedophile feelings.
Thus sexuality becomes something guilty, something that is shoved into a dark corner, something dirty, something 'not done.' You create guilt feelings within yourself this way, feelings which have nothing to do with real guilt. Because of false guilt it is often difficult to recognize the things you have done for which you really are guilty, and to admit that guilt. That is harmful.
Much of the damage we described here comes from ignorance, from prejudice and misconceptions. If you persist in these prejudices and do not clear up these misunderstandings, then you hurt others, too. That is especially the case for newspapers with their inflammatory headlines, papers which sensationalize these things. It is also the case for people who, without reflection, allow themselves to be carried away by their own feelings and think that in doing so they are protecting children.
We must also mention the harm caused to people of a pedophile nature. Through all of these prejudices and misconceptions, they are condemned to a half existence of not being themselves and cannot come to terms with themselves over their own feelings. If they do try to live according to their nature, they live in fear of discovery and punishment. This sometimes leads to tragedies - and these in turn reinforce the prejudices. It is a vicious circle. You can truly call this harm.
Pedophilia is punishable
Sexual contact with children younger than 16 years of age is punishable [in The Netherlands]. In our Penal Code these contacts are often described as 'engaging in indecent behavior,' 'to have carnal relations,' and so forth.
More and more people in recent years want to see these laws revised. It is especially the 'age of consent' that they are calling into question.
The present laws are meant to protect children. The least of their effects is to protect children, and in reality they do more harm than good.
But children must be protected, mustn't they? Of course. The best protection for children is to enable them to protect themselves. Bringing up a child with the knowledge and self-confidence so that he or she can do that is the best protection that you as a parent can give.
Not every sexual approach is pleasant for a child. At one end of the spectrum is the aunt who wants to hug and kiss a niece or nephew, but doesn't take into account whether the child wants it. Farther along the spectrum, a child can be confronted with someone who exhibits their genitals in front of the child, someone who wants to play with the child's genitals, or someone who asks the child to masturbate them.
Although it may not always be the case, generally in these situations the older person is acting simply to satisfy their own sexual needs. He or she is not interested in a mutual contact and does not take the child's needs or wants into account.
It's rare that such serious things occur, but it can happen that an adult tempts a child with promises or rewards in order to have sexual contact with them. Sometimes adults force children into sexual acts, and sometimes even use violence to do so.
Children can be very upset by bad experiences like these. They don't always easily get over them again. It is beyond dispute that damage has been done in a case like this.
But once again: in by far the vast majority of sexual contacts between adults and children, there is no question of violence or compulsion.
The "seduction" of children is also relatively rare. But it is best to pay very close attention to whether a child is really acting out of his or her free will. Children have less power than adults and it is often easier to mislead them than it is to deceive adults.
It is very important that children feel secure enough to tell their parents about such bad experiences. That means that if your child comes to you with such a report, you must try to remain calm. That will not be easy. But it is very important for children who have had a bad experience, that their parents not panic. That only upsets the child more. Only if parents are unable to cope with the situation should social workers or psychiatrists be called in.
One should only consider calling in the police in very serious cases. Having a child undergo police interviews can sometimes cause more damage than the initial experience.
It is difficult or impossible to prevent bad experiences from happening. What can be done is to decrease the chance that a child will have such an experience as much as possible. Particularly with young children, parents should know where they are and what they are doing. Parents can also prepare children for such situations by talking with them about them. It is important that children be taught that in situations like these, they should never do anything which they don't want to do.
Such problematic experiences will have fewer consequences when a child has learned at home to deal openly with sexuality, and already knows what an adult's body looks like. Good sex education now can prevent a lot of misery later!
Sexual contacts between adults and children do occur. When it is discovered that a child is having (or has had) such a contact, society responds, the parents respond, and sometimes the police must respond, too. It would be best if this could happen in a sober, considerate way, without prejudice. That is, however, asking a lot. Prejudices run deep among us; we are brought up with them and they are not easily overturned.
People have to deal with their emotions, and even when they know what is true it is often difficult to act contrary to how they feel. One can, however, try. We want to offer some advice which might help.
Advice to children
We can really say it all in one short sentence: never do anything you don't want to do. If you're not going to like something, you usually know that in advance. In such a case, don't do it. This has nothing to do with disobedience. You are disobedient when you do something you want to do but which you know you shouldn't do, or when you don't do something which you know it would be good for you to do.
If children are honest with their parents, that is, if they say what they like and what they don't like, what they want to do and don't want to do, parents will know where they stand. That holds true for telling what you have done, where you are going and where you have been. If your parents know all these things they will have nothing to worry about.
Advice to parents
Many people find pedophilia very difficult to accept. However, you should at least attempt to understand why you feel this way.
Friendship between a pedophile and a child is no reason for panic or fear. Nor is there any reason for this, even if sexual contact is apart of the relationship. Trust your child. If your son or daughter finds the relationship good, don't destroy it. Children know very well what they themselves like. -
Destroying such a relationship is simply not understood by a child.
It is best to be sure that children have a real home, a place where they feel safe, a place where they receive warmth and love. If these are present, it is unlikely that a child will seek a pedophile relationship through their lack at home, or will engage in such a contact in order to gain that warmth and love, and then accept the sexual relations as part of the bargain.
Frank, clear sexual information and education is very important for children. Ignorance breeds curiosity and secrecy. Children who can talk frankly with their parents find it much easier to tell them very honestly what they do and what they allow to happen.
Parents need not get upset by expressions of childhood sexuality, such as 'playing doctor.' Children are in no way hurt by sexual games in which they take part without compulsion. On the contrary, children can enjoy them intensely.
As we have repeatedly said, damage is almost always caused by improper reactions on the part of those around the child. Spare the child these traumas.
Do not go immediately to the police. If your child has a pedophile relationship, first try to make contact with the pedophile. Let the man or woman know that there is no question of any threat of punishment, police involvement and so forth, but talk with your child's friend. By doing so, you yourself will cause no violence. Calmly explain that you are troubled by what has happened. If really bad things have occurred - for example, physical violence or gross coercion - then you can always later go to the police.
Try to talk calmly about what actually happened. Keep to the facts and don't let yourself get worked up over what may never have occurred. For the rest, it is best, where problems arise, to talk with someone whose judgment you trust, and not to let your anger and fear lead you to take steps that you may later regret.
Advice to people with a pedophile orientation
Pedophilia is very difficult for many people to comprehend. People who cannot recognize these feelings in themselves, or who repress them, understand nothing about it.
It is very difficult for many pedophiles to accept their own nature and admit they are what they are. Fear of punishment, social condemnation, a lack of understanding on the part of others and difficulty in accepting the fact they are pedophile tempt such people into pretending that they are something else. The resulting behavior, although quite understandable, reinforces the common prejudices. Try to talk with others about your nature.
You can do that very easily at meetings of pedophile workgroups. You can also talk with other people whom you trust.
Try to talk openly and honestly with the parents of your young friend. If possible, acknowledge your pedophilia. Share your feelings with them, what your plans are, what you want. Usually that is impossible, but sometimes people find the courage, and that can break the vicious circle.
Don't panic if you are discovered, not even if the police come. Stay calm. There are many possibilities of legal help. You have a right to it. If you have contact with the police, immediately ask for legal assistance. You must always keep in mind that [in The Netherlands] you are not obliged to answer any questions.
As has already been pointed out, self-acceptance is very important; indeed, it is crucial. Only with self-acceptance will a pedophile be able to trust his own judgment and decide how he wants to live his life.
If, while you were reading this booklet, you got mad and thought:
You only say good things about all this filth!
Why do you call an act which is an expression of love filthy? Do you find your own sexuality filthy too?
It could be your child!
Have you ever thought that this applies also to pedophiles? Have you ever thought what it would be like if your brother or sister, father or mother, husband or wife were picked up for a 'morals crime'? All the forces of society cursing and condemning someone you love? Have you considered that you might hurt someone you love by thinking this way?
Am l supposed to accept all of this? Just let someone come after my child!
Aren't you talking a bit too much as if you were the owner of your child? Don't you see your child too little as an independent being who can have his own feelings and desires?
Very well, but I demand that my children are safe.
Of course you want to make things as safe as possible for your children. But are you sure that your child is unsafe in a pedophile relationship? Are you just as concerned about traffic safety for him? Or safety from atomic weapons? Or the effect of violence on television programs?
Remember that complete safety is never obtainable. This is true for traffic safety, for threats from militarism, and is also true for sexuality. But we should never exaggerate the dangers. Therefore it is not right to talk about danger and threats where there doesn't have to be a question of harm.
The best protection you can provide for your child through good information and giving him or her a sense of self-confidence.
You can gloss over everything that way!
Is that really true?
Pedophilia is an emotionally charged subject. Many people can only barely accept it or cannot accept it at all. This is connected with the way we view of childhood and our uneasiness about sexuality.
In our society children are viewed as a frail, innocent beings, who must be led into adulthood by their parents. If we could regard children as people with their own feelings, who have minds of their own and are not anyone else's possessions, then perhaps pedophilia would seem less of a threat.
Sexuality is difficult to talk about in our society. It is still associated with feelings of guilt, with anxiety, and is often thought to be 'dirty.' So long as we have difficulty with our own sexuality, we will not be able to approach pedophilia in an open and unprejudiced manner.
What we can do is try to discover what disturbs us about pedophilia and what causes us to feel that way, and so come to a new understanding of this phenomenon.
In that enormous task this booklet is just a drop in the bucket. Law reform and, especially, the elimination of unjustified fear about pedophilia would be useful steps in the right direction.
Source: 'PSVG Booklet about Pedophilia'; 1981; Original Dutch version: February 1979