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Why am I like this?  What we know about why people experience pedophilia

One of the most common questions we get here at Talking for Change is “why am I like this?” For many people, pedophilia is confusing. Pedophilia is having sexual thoughts, urges, fantasies, arousal, and/or behaviour involving children that do not go away. Usually, it is towards children under the age of 10 or 11 (when attractions involve children experiencing puberty, around the ages 12 to 14, this is referred to as hebephilia). It is common for people to think that “pedophile” means someone who has had sexual contact with a child. However, it’s important to keep in mind that not every person who has pedophilia has acted, or will ever act, on their sexual interests.

The answer to the big “why” question is still being studied, but science tells us that a sexual interest in children likely starts in the womb or very early in life. And there is also evidence that pedophilia is similar to a sexual orientation. Some people might think that individuals with pedophilia are interested in children because they were sexually abused as a child. While there are people who were abused as children that have later sexually harmed a child, there is no clear link between childhood sexual abuse and someone’s sexual interests. What this science is telling us is that having pedophilic attractions is out of someone’s control and is also unlikely to change.

Because of this, preventing sexual abuse is more likely to be effective when we focus on behaviour (i.e., helping people to not act on their sexual interests) rather than trying to change their interests. This is where Talking for Change comes in. We see that there is a difference between sexual interest and sexual behaviour. We are learning more and more that many people with pedophilia do not want to offend and want help to learn how to keep children safe.

Many people with pedophilia find therapy helpful to help with their sexual interests and the distress that they experience. A lot of people with pedophilia are hard on themselves, see their sexual attractions as proof that they did something wrong or that they are damaged. They receive many messages from society that they are dangerous or evil. The unfortunate thing is that because of these beliefs, individuals with pedophilia have trouble getting the help they need to live healthy lives and to help keep children safe. Our program aims to make it easier for people to access support and help!