Supporting Family Members After Disclosure of Sexual Attraction to Children

Receiving the news that your partner, child, parent, sibling or another significant person in your life has a sexual attraction to children, is using child sexual abuse material (CSAM; often called child pornography), or is experiencing unwanted thoughts towards children, can be overwhelming, shocking and upsetting. Whether this disclosure is received directly from the loved one or indirectly from another source, it is important to know that everything you feel is valid and it may take a significant amount of time to process this information on a personal level. Check out these tips below for navigating the situation and getting the help your family member needs.

Understanding Your Feelings

When someone close to you tells you they are struggling with this, it may feel like your world has been turned upside down. You may also find it difficult to reach out to other family members, friends or professionals due to feelings of shame, guilt or embarrassment, and fear that you will get your loved one into trouble or put onto a sex offender registry if you speak out. As such, you may feel isolated and unable to speak with others about your thoughts and feelings.

These feelings and concerns may have also been experienced by your loved one prior to speaking to you as they were trying to process their attraction to children themselves. Processing a feeling like this can be difficult when we live in a society that stigmatizes people with a sexual attraction to children, even if they have not acted on their attraction or committed any crimes. It is important to allow yourself time to process what has happened, talk to your loved one to understand how they are feeling about their sexual attraction, acknowledge their viewpoint, and encourage them to get professional support if they need it.

Educating Yourself

Take some time to educate yourself about this subject by reading more about why sexual attraction to children exists, research surrounding the subject, and what to do when someone tells you they have an attraction to children. We all have a responsibility to protect children and hearing this disclosure from someone you know may leave you to wonder if children are safe around them.

Not everyone who harms a child sexually will have a sexual preference for children and not everyone with a sexual preference for children will cross boundaries with a child. You will likely need to consider if the person who made this disclosure to you is okay to be unsupervised around children in their life or yours. There are many factors that contribute to understanding if someone is safe to be around children. If you believe that a child has been abused or is at risk of being abused or exploited, you can contact your local child protection organization for help. You may also be able to make a report anonymously.

Support Options for Families

Our anonymous helpline and chatline at Talking for Change is not only for those with an attraction to children, but also to provide support to individuals who are concerned about someone they know.  Our experienced team is here to talk with you without judgment, support you with any questions you may have, and to provide you with other support services if necessary.