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.
Characteristics of a Pedophile
There is no hard and fast profile of a pedophile.
Here are some general characteristics:
- Popular with both children and adults.
- Appears to be trustworthy and respectable. Has good standing in the community.
- Prefers the company of children. Feels more comfortable with children than adults. Is mainly attracted to prepubescent boys and girls. Can be heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual.
- “Grooms” children with quality time, video games, parties, candy, toys, gifts, money.
- Singles out children who seem troubled and in need of attention or affection.
- Often dates or marries women with children that are the age of his preferred victims.
- Rarely forces or coerces a child into sexual contact. Usually through trust and friendship. Physical contact is gradual, from touching, to picking up, to holding on lap, to kissing, etc.
- Derives gratification in a number of ways. For some, looking is enough. For others, taking pictures or watching children undress is enough. Still others require more contact.
- Finds different ways and places to be alone with children.
- Are primarily (but not always) male, masculine, better-educated, more religious than average, in their thirties, and choose jobs allowing them greater access to children.
- Are usually family men, have no criminal record, and deny that they abuse children, even after caught, convicted, incarcerated, and court-ordered into a sex offender program. The marriage is often troubled by sexual dysfunction, and serves as a smokescreen for the pedophile’s true preferences and practices.
- Are often, but not always, themselves victims of some form of childhood sexual abuse.
- Even if the pedophile has no children, his home is usually child-friendly, with toys, books, video games, computers, bikes, swing sets, skateboards, rec room, pool, snacks – things to attract children to his home and keep them coming back. Usually the items reflect the preferred age of his victims.
- A female pedophile usually abuses a child when partnered with an adult male pedophile, and is often herself a victim of chronic sexual abuse.
- A pedophile can act independently, or be involved in an organized ring, including the Internet, NAMBLA (North American Man/Boy Love Association), and other pro-pedophilia groups. Some pedophiles recognize that their behavior is criminal, immoral, and unacceptable by society, and operate in secrecy. Some are quite open and militant about their practices and advocate the normalization of pedophilia under the guise of freedom of speech and press, and uses innocuous language like “intergenerational intimacy.”
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.
Abuse Patterns & Treatment
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 recognize 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.