As an infantile incest sexual abuse survivor with a cacophony of lasting trauma-conditions to navigate in the long-term, I got to a point of understanding that left me bereft for all survivors lost in the wilderness. We want to take the reader on a journey of growth, one that will hopefully disarm the “disgust-reflex” that is getting in the way of child sexual abuse reduction (and the informed care of those who have had the misfortune of victimization).
To truly meet survivors, and their spectrum of Self experience, requires a therapist to understand the depth and breadth of trauma and its conditions. The array of comorbid conditions, philias, dysmorphia, neuro-psycho-bio-disorders, and personality and behavioral adjustments to trauma are wide and varied in their presentation and interweave upon each individual.
When the unimaginable happens and a child experiences abuse (either sexual, physical, neglect, emotional, psychological), especially if this occurs in psychological infancy by primary caregivers, it causes systemic neurological and physiological changes. If these occurrences aren’t met with understanding and unconditional kindness, the child can configure symptoms of abuse as conditions of worth and judge any conditions of Self this trauma might create. The victim can be left with a malformed perspective of Self, rape-culture and victim-blaming, and an abject fear of who they are becoming, to navigate.
It is interesting to note that “retrospective studies have shown a high association between child abuse and subsequent psychiatric morbidity” therefore suggesting that early abuse of a child can strongly impact their mental health later in life.
If victims survive their childhood (suicidal tendencies and self-harm being regularly occurring symptoms of trauma) they are met with (offensively incorrect) societal judgement, and projection of the abused-becoming-abuser rhetoric. Concurrently being failed in the first instance, as the victim in need of support and unconditional kindness, but also vilified as survivor in how their body came to terms with trauma (what’s actually a complex feat of engineering!).
Discoveries about trauma conditions
There is increasing research and clinical anecdotal evidence of many conditions and trauma-symptoms following victimisation. Autopaedophilia is a somatic condition whereby the adult body, in intimacy, will relive physical, neurological or cognitive re-experiencing of their childhood trauma, or arousal from being child-like (“stuck” in the body that originally felt arousal by abuse). This can evoke panic and fear in the client of what this means in them, leading to intrusive thinking around what might happen, because of this arousal pattern.
Without therapy, regularly avoided because of shame and stigma, Pedophilic obsessive-compulsive disorder (POCD), can develop. The intrusive thinking that has become an obsessive need to find the answer of the fear—“Am I a pedophile, and am I going to offend?”—can lead to investigating and searching behaviors that are counter-productive to understanding and healing the somatic-memory, now evidencing during consensual intimacy and innocent arousal. These two conditions are often comorbid; in a never-ending shame-cycle of trigger and fear.
Imagine being so scared of what your abuse has done to you, what stigma makes you question in your Self as a person, what somatic-scars mean to who you are, that you endlessly search to self-identify and then end your life (because symptoms could be misconstrued as risk to children, and that thought is traumatically painful to the victim). This profound conflict in the victim and fear of being a perpetrator; all through lack of education and transparency. Disgust has a lot to answer for.
The June issue of Therapy Today contained an article named “KINK in the counselling room” which gave a great toe-dip into the idea of these arousal pathways and their right to be invited into therapy. However, the article did not go further into explaining the beginnings of their existence in each person. Kink occurs in both traumatized and untraumatized individuals and can be both with or without self-conflict or disorder. Conflict of the kink because the trauma perceives it as a judgement on the Self; rather than the kink being in need of communication as a consensual play between contracting adults.
Those who have suffered pain and orgasm in childhood (especially if prolonged sadomasochistic arousal-torture has occurred), may only be able to achieve orgasm through pain and Autopaedophilia or BDSM of varying presentation. Just stop for a second and imagine living with that secret wound that is triggered through touch or trying to come to terms with it in isolated internal conflict.
These symptoms can occur suddenly as a response to triggering life experiences: having children, potty training, child reaching survivor’s trauma-age, child becoming sexually active, news articles, sexual relationships, media and film. The obtrusive and compulsive worry that one is becoming a pedophile can drive actions and intrusive thoughts that confuse the survivor and can undo the psyche of the Self because of projected fear. Again: POCD isn’t attraction to children, but you can see how an isolated and scared young person with access to Internet answers may end up in the wrong part of town with symptomatic episodes. And who failed them first?
We need specific research, so we don’t have to rely on anecdotal evidence of such important topics. After all these are our future generations who will inherit the society they live in, and the dark fields beyond.
What was beyond the dark fields?
Beyond these two confusing and fretful conditions is the further complication of those with minor attraction. This is an emotive and difficult topic, so take a deep breath, and open your mind to the way we need to meet the world we live in.
If one has the severe misfortune of being born with an attraction to minors or has experienced a cultivation of feared minor attraction through their experience of childhood trauma, the ability to meet and address this entirely innocent set of circumstances is almost zero. Let alone the fact that the knowledge and education of living successfully without offence, is attainable and, in fact, regular for those able to access relevant help and support.
These children reach puberty and realise their conflict of Self, but also their place within society. This dawning projection creates a high risk of suicide because they realise the hate they garner, and then isolate further into stigmatic thoughts that overwhelm. This is further perpetuated in those exclusively attracted to children, because of their requirement of lifetime celibacy.
Having a wall in front of who one is, containing so many questions, and the tidal wave of fear that comes with the realisation of society’s standing upon who one “will” become, is overwhelming. An existential crisis at puberty!
As stated in the Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, “many report experiencing those attractions as unchosen in a fashion that seems very much like an orientation. That such attractions are often unwanted does not alter their resemblance to an orientation”. And, therefore, is an entirely innocent condition of Self that births a mega-war of internal and external conflict during puberty.
They are left with one option: to bury it deep down, because talking about dangerous thoughts, dark imagery, intrusive flashbacks, orgasms from re-lived trauma (because you cannot rewire your brain-damaged infantile neuroscience of arousal) is tantamount to being Evil (according to current social norms). A monster waiting to emerge.
Can you imagine being in puberty and realising these fears of Self without a single soul to talk with, petrified of forever being judged as monstrous? Monstrous in innocence, let alone those with culpable behaviour with their peers or online, trying to deal with their own abuse.
This fear cripples these young survivors and innocent people living with a prenatal condition (shown in many studies linked at the end). It is most likely related to biological events in the first trimester of gestation (maternal stress, nutrition deficiency, or toxin exposure). And, therefore, is an entirely innocent condition of Self that births a mega-war of internal and external conflict.
Transparency of the issues and conditions
There are so many comorbid conditions that increase the complexity of an individual living with these trauma-conditions or/and minor attraction, aside from the social stigma and shame-cycles.
Examples would be autism, learning disabilities, psychological conditions, mental health statuses, environmental conditions, historic experiences, amygdala responses, in addition to minor attraction (and trauma). I would expect a qualified and supported adult to struggle with constructs like these, let alone isolated teens with an accumulation of these conditions, triggers and their symptoms, culminating in heightened disorder.
three quarters of JSOs (juvenile sex offenders) met the criteria for at least one psychiatric disorder, and more than half suffered from at least 1 other condition. Child molesters demonstrated high levels of autism symptomology and internalising disorders. While 40% of JSOs had committed several sexual offences, none re-offended within 2 to 4 years after the study. This study shows that juvenile sex offenders should be given appropriate psychiatric care.
If you further compound this with socio-conditions like adverse childhood experiencing, isolation, and transference of the social fear-collective; it would steam-roll any logical thought systems they have managed to glean from upbringings. The echo-chamber disgust creates can diminish all ability to grow beyond it.
These types of complex post-traumatic stress episodes, disordered-thinking, and neuroscience-somatic programming are kept internal because of the fear, stigma and judgement. Survivors should be transparently educated, as a spectrum of “usual” symptom/condition, what could be “expected” after adverse childhood experiences. Removing the burden of judgement on wounds.
Being able to work these through, as expected thought and feeling disorders, is paramount.
These vulnerable teenagers need safety, not projection of submerged actions and prerequisite to predatory perpetration. Even more so that it is done in an environment of unconditional kindness, without pre-judgements attached or mandatory reporting (as risk to children), so they can unpack and navigate these thoughts and feelings and how they affect each survivor. The number of teenagers on the sex offenders registry is increasing dramatically because of this failure by adults.
If one can study the topic through research articles, meta-studies, topical books, then visit the websites and their affiliated help programs for survivors, minor attracted persons, and those supporting them (take their learning courses, even); we can lift the veil of disgust that prevents recovery of these lost souls. All links available below, to get you started on this personal and professional development.
The further these complex disorders get pushed down; the more likely they are to be evident in behavior lash-out on Self or other (suicide or attempts, self-harm, risk-taking, addiction, isolation, masking, an array of bad behaviors from shoplifting to abuse of a child or peer).
Studies and research and support
Current studies show child abuse is predominantly perpetrated by children, teenagers and young adults. Are we not culpable for cultivating this submerged dealing of childhood adverse experiences and the innocent symptoms one might be left navigating?
According to a study by factuk, “…it is clear that most of the self-reported abuse was perpetrated by siblings, or other children or intimate partners below the age of 18.” Are we receiving this generation into the online world we created for them? Consider the vast majority of new CSEM (child sex exploitation material) is teens sexting then becoming beyond that consensual exchange of intimacy into the plugged-in-world. Teenagers on the sex registry for being teens in the world we created for them.
It is important even when presented with a survivor self-identified as feeling attracted to minors, that we hold onto their innocence as a person forever. Even with these feelings—because feelings aren’t actions. Being “born, not made” with an attraction to children, requires professional guidance delivered with non-judgmental support. These clients are in fact extremely vulnerable.
The growing movement online for representation of non-offending minor attracted persons (NOMAPs) with support groups, community safety and belonging, is forming a beacon for people affected this way. It shows how one can have a condition but not be predetermined to act on anything. This community of people hold the belief strongly that children can’t consent and that the power-dynamic of child-adult makes their subject of attraction forever protected. But working through the emotions of living with this condition has brought comfort and belonging. Imagine it was your teenager coming to you with such abhorrent fears of Self, that they feel their only option is suicide?
Ignorance can be corrected through education. One study classified offending in this way:
There are a variety of reasons why people commit sexual offenses against children, and an enduring sexual preference for them is but one of them. In fact, only about half of sex offenders against children are considered to be paedophiles, while the rest are referred to as situational offenders who offend for a variety of, often circumstantial, reasons.
Therefore, this shows that people not attracted to children can be perpetrators (it’s incidental and could have easily been any other very bad behavior reflecting internal conflict or monetary gain).
Furthermore, different research evidence suggests 50-70% of minor attracted persons don’t ever offend, either online or physically. We can see that our prejudice is getting in the way of development in reducing victims of CSA/CSEM. People suffering from porn-addiction, vulnerability in isolation, comorbid conditions, teenager’s transition into adulthood, survivor’s self-identification of core-wounds, morbid curiosity, mental health issues, suicidality and adverse life events can lead a person without minor attraction to view CSEM or offend against a child. Therefore, we need to create safety in discussing these issues before offense occurs.
What can professionals do?
Making room to talk about all fears without prejudice allows all people to seek support in their times of crisis. Gift that safe space with invitation, so that we challenge and get beyond our disgust reflex and stigmatized thinking regularly.
Society needs to give the same permissions for men to be emotional and have a safe space to work through these feelings that can be witnessed, communicated and respected equally in their own form. This would create an environment where men wouldn’t lash out at all, but especially not by abusing children, nor committing suicide because they can’t hold in their emotions any longer.
When we don’t meet each person in the difficulty of their conditions such as: autism, depression, anxiety, psychological disorders, dysphoria conditions, syndromes and historical experiences causing PTSD—we fail to meet them at all.
Survivors’ guilt and shame, over the misunderstanding of trauma-conditions, annihilates their potential to actualize fully. Because we can’t open a conversation on a subject that burdens men and women in their intimacy and sense of Self; we are accountable for colluding their right to emancipation from the original rape-culture. Infant abuse victims are not culpable for their neuro-somatic trauma conditions and shouldn’t be further shamed for very “usual” responses in the body-brain defense mechanism.
The emotional behaviour of lost people and survivors is society’s inability to have witnessed them in the first place. We must take a neuro-bio-social look at this entire topic and humanity within it.
Minor attracted men cannot be prescribed testosterone inhibitors because of the questions and stigma this would involve. Plastic dolls are being given human rights, when research could prove their effectiveness in lowering urge and perpetration. Shotacon and lolicon hentai animations are being treated as if they are CSEM, when research of usage could directly save actual harm to children.
Those brave enough to seek help are met with mandatory reporting and entitled disgust or fear, when this reporting is only applicable if the client feels a risk to Self and has access to children. This is readily misused instead of stating professional limitations and signposting forward to those qualified to meet this client… our ethical duty!
One particular study reports, “Sexual child abuse is one of the most destructive events for child development. One possible approach to avert it is the preventive treatment of individuals with a sexual interest in children.” Preventive treatment is so important in reducing offending rates or increasing the ability of each person to navigate how they are born and what they have been through.
5% of sex crimes are perpetrated by people with prior sex crime convictions. Thus, after-the-fact interventions such as incarceration fail to address 95% of the problem. Spending enormous resources on punishment and almost none on prevention is a choice. Children are harmed by this choice.
If we want those afflicted to live better with pre-natal or trauma-based life-long conditions, then we must start creating an environment in which that can happen. Any person’s ability to be disgusted by this attraction gives us no entitlement to project expected behaviour upon the sufferer, nor block development in sufferers living with the condition well. Surely this is the desired outcome?
What do we need to understand?
Too much for one small article (read as much of the attached literature as possible, to take a further look into development and learning), but for now, start with the basics:
Autopaedophilia and POCD are not minor attraction, minor attraction is not sex offending, and children are not responsible for the world they live in, how they were born, and what victimisation they suffered. So, let’s get technical to diffuse the fear and disgust reflex:
Understanding the basics of chronophilias can help reduce the charge of fear most people have towards the term pedophilia. Chronophilia is an age-based/body-type attraction which may be gerontophilia (60+ ageing), mesophilia (35-60 middle-aged), teleiophilia (19-35 adult), ephebophilia (15-19 teenager/young adult), hebephilia 11-15 (pubescent preteen/teenager), pedophilia (5-11 prepubescent child), or nepiophilia (0-5 infant).
Chronophilia and trauma philia aren’t the problem; it is the relationship the person has with it, being in distress caused by internal conflict or external stigma, hate-crimes and discrimination of support. If we can reduce the conflict and distress of living with the condition of chronophilia, it would then go from disorder to condition in wellbeing, saving lives at every turn. It’s also important to know, even when offense has been perpetrated the vast majority of sex offenders never offend again in any way, let alone sexually.
In the next generations emerging, this undisclosed phenomenon will be at overwhelming proportions because of internet access. We are already seeing teenagers on the sex offender’s registry, children creating their own sexual imagery, seeking minor attracted adults for attention and searching for CSEM as victim compulsion or morbid curiosity of Self… And then we sit in judgement of the echo chamber we created by ignoring the symptomatic spectrum of childhood abuse CPTSD. Let alone the right for a person to be born innocently into a condition they do not want but still be entitled to receive unbiased support. If we are too disgusted to look, how can we make these children in their world safe? We are just observers of this new generation and if we project abject hatred then we have created a self-fulfilling prophecy that we are culpable for.
If we could all allow the full experience to enter the room, we could help these survivors/NOMAPs to navigate their historic and present Self with greater ease. We could rewrite the script these children receive of themselves from society and their perpetrators/predators, then elevate the entire topic into safety of being witnessed unconditionally (like every other experience or condition would be).
I would like you to consider what prejudices you hold over survivors, even more so the minor attracted. Whether you invite the whole experience of trauma and its lasting experience within the body? Whether you can do further training so that you don’t turn away the group who need us the most, by not meeting the entirety of their trauma? Better yet, train further to meet minor attraction full-stop and become part of the solution instead of the clean-up.
Or, at least, not add to the hate society projects upon the victims of these conditions, thus reducing this ignorant stigma they live with daily. It is also important to note that professionals are now being held accountable by their governing bodies, to uphold beneficence on our social media accounts (“pedo-hating”, suicide baiting, “pedo-sympathizer” attacking is not acceptable). Become part of CSA prevention!
If you or someone you know is a survivor of child sexual abuse, you can find resources and support here.