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COLUMN

Savage Love

I'm a gay man in my late 20s who has been trying to deal with an attraction to young boys since I hit puberty

I’m a gay man in my late 20s who hasbeen trying to deal with an attraction to young boys since I hit puberty. I know that what I feel is wrong and wish to Christ that I could have a normally wired brain. I have never abused a child; I do not look at child pornography. But I need to speak to a therapist because I can’t get through this on my own. Bottom line is I’m afraid. Seriously afraid. I don’t know what my legal rights are, and I don’t know how to go about getting more information without incriminating myself. I’m sure there are more people than just me who need to talk about this. My problem is that I’m not financially stable enough to afford to see someone for more than a few sessions. I just can’t keep saying I’m fine, and I can’t let healthy relationships fall apart because I’m unable to talk to anyone about my problem.

Can’t Wish It Away

I shared your letter with Dr. James Cantor, a psychologist, associate professor at the University of Toronto and editor in chief of Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment. The first thing he said was that you deserved praise for making it this far without having committed an offense.

But accessing the support you need to get through the next six or seven decades of life without sexually abusing a child isn’t going to be easy, Cantor says, particularly if you live in the United States.

“Other countries have created programs to help people like CWIA,” Cantor says. “Germany has Prevention Project Dunkelfeld, which includes a hospital-based clinic and anonymous hotlines that people who are attracted to children can call when they need to talk to someone, vent or debrief. In Canada, we have the Circles of Support and Accountability – groups of volunteers who provide assistance and social support and who, in turn, receive support and supervision from professionals.”

Sadly, in the United States, we’ve taken steps that make it harder for pedophiles to get the support they need to avoid offending.

“One of the recent regulations in the United States is mandatory reporting,” Cantor says. “These regulations vary by region, but in general, if a client has children or provides care to children and admits to experiencing sexual attraction to children – any children – the therapist is required to report the client to the authorities, regardless of whether any abuse was actually occurring.”

The goal is to protect children, of course, and that is a goal I fully support as a parent and a human being. But broad mandatory-reporting policies have an unintended consequence: People like CWIA – people who need help to avoid acting on their attraction to children – are cut off from mental health professionals who can give them the tools, insight and support they need. Mandatory reporting policies, designed to protect children, may be making children less safe.

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