Bioethics Blogs

Should we do more to help paedophiles?

By Rebecca Roache

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Luke Malone has published an extremely moving, disturbing, and distressing article in Medium, entitled ‘You’re 16. You’re a pedophile. You don’t want to hurt anyone. What do you do now?’ (warning: Malone’s article contains a graphic description of child abuse). The article focuses on ‘Adam’, a young man who, aged 16, was horrified to discover that he was sexually attracted to children. Disturbed by his sexual desires, and desperate to avoid acting on them, he suffered depression and initially used child pornography as an outlet for his feelings. (He subsequently stopped doing this.) Adam describes how he eventually went to see a therapist, who was unsympathetic, inexperienced in this area, and ultimately of little help. It turns out that, despite the fact that paedophilia is recognised as a mental disorder, there are major obstacles to helping people who, like Adam, are desperate to avoid harming children. Malone summarises some of the main problems:

There is currently no mechanism for treating someone who has pedophilic urges and hasn’t acted on them. A major roadblock is the existence of mandatory reporting laws, which dictate that people in certain professions must report suspicion of child abuse and neglect to Child Protective Services. … Mandated reporting revolutionized the way child abuse is handled in the U.S. and has brought many incidents to light, but it can be problematic for young men like Adam who haven’t abused children. The civil and criminal liabilities facing those who fail to report someone who goes on to molest a kid, combined with the fact that it need only be based on suspicion and not probable cause, means a report could be triggered when well-intentioned individuals reach out for help.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.