Pedophiles don’t have signs on their backs or neon arrows pointing over their heads. It’s easier to believe that the “dirty old man in the park”, rather than the clean-cut bus driver down the street, is a pedophile.
Pedophiles aren’t confined to our Catholic churches. They are in Protestant churches, synagogues, and mosques. Some of them are teachers, counselors, scout leaders, truck drivers, factory workers, and youth ministers. In fact, they are wherever children can be found, irrespective of age, race, education, occupation, class, social standing, or income.
Celibacy isn’t the reason priests prey on children. Sexual attraction to children, and sexual gratification from children, are the reasons.
Though there is no hard and fast profile of a pedophile, here are some general characteristics:
Pedo means “child” in Greek. Phile is a derivative of Greek, Latin, and French, meaning “love.”
The Exclusive type of pedophile is attracted to children only. The Non-Exclusive is attracted to both children and adults.
A pedophile will not stop on his own, and will not turn himself in, because he does not take responsibility for his behavior and denies that he’s doing anything harmful. He will abuse until he’s caught.
A child does not always recognizes when he or she is being abused, manipulated, or groomed by a pedophile. Unless the pedophile is a sexual sadist, he does not have to threaten a child into silence. The trust, gifts, secrecy, and “relationship” are enough. In some cases, the abuser will coerce the child into silence by saying that if anyone finds out, he would go to jail, or the child would, and maybe the child’s parents. In other cases, threats to harm the child, pets, and family are used.
Pedophiles can be “treated” but never cured, because their sexual preference has always been, and always will be, children. Their urges will always be present. Therefore, treatment focuses on changing, curbing, or re-directing the acting-out behaviors of pedophiles.
Knowing the profile of a pedophile, does this mean that the little league coach who has a great rapport with kids and treats them to pizza at his house is suspect? Or that the teacher who throws pool parties is? Of course not. The majority of people who like and work with children are not pedophiles. It does mean that we should be observant of all the adults in our children’s lives, whether they wear a white collar, a blue collar, or a clerical collar.
If a child tells us he or she has been sexually abused by someone, be it family, friend, or trusted adult, we are obligated by law to report it to a child abuse hotline, police, or local children’s services agency.