Supporting Individuals with Attraction to Children: Professional Guidance and Resources

Disclosure of an attraction to children can often catch even the most experienced professionals off guard, however it’s important to stay calm and treat the individual as you would for any other difficult disclosure. Check out some tips below for how to navigate the situation professionally and with compassion.

How to Respond to Disclosures

For a lot of individuals, their therapist, case worker, or other health professional is likely to be the first person they have ever talked to about their attraction, and therefore the way you manage this situation is key to them reaching out for further help. Engaging with the individual who made this disclosure, without judgment for their attraction, as well as validating their concerns, allows that person to feel reassured. Because of this reassurance, they may be more likely to be receptive to further intervention or specialized treatment, if appropriate.

Suggested responses in a professional context to validate the disclosure and move the conversation forward could be something like: “Thank-you for feeling comfortable enough to share this, I know that it must be difficult to talk about” or “I can imagine this is difficult to talk about. What led you to decide to share this with me today?”

As part of the disclosure and ongoing discussion, you may also need to consider if there are any children in the person’s life who could be at risk for abuse or exploitation. This may not always be the case, as 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.

Reporting Guidelines

If someone has reported to you that they have an attraction to children and/or they have watched sexual abuse material (CSAM; often called child pornography), this does not fall within the duty to report or warn mandate for disclosure to law enforcement, or a child protection agency in Canada.

On the other hand, if an individual discloses having sexually abused an identifiable child and/or they are at risk of sexually abusing an identifiable child or group of children (including through the creation of child sexual abuse material), this may be grounds for breaching confidentiality. It is important to check your provincial legislation regarding duty to report , or consider consulting with your professional college, obtaining legal advice, or speak with fellow colleagues.

Supporting Individuals in Need

At Talking for Change, our service supports individuals with an attraction to children before any harm is caused to a child and before there are criminal charges or convictions. The earlier you are able to provide help or specialized treatment recommendations for individuals engaging in risky behaviours or who are feeling distressed about their attractions, the earlier intervention can happen to prevent child sexual abuse.

Talking for Change is not only here to support individuals who experience these unwanted sexual thoughts, we also support professionals and bystanders in navigating this subject. Taking time to educate yourself on this topic is important to support the individual with their attraction, so that they can feel more at ease to reach out for further support.

As experienced professionals working in this field, we understand it can be difficult to hear these disclosures. Our anonymous helpline and chatline is here to support professionals who want information about available resources through our program and throughout Canada. Alternatively, you can complete our online contact form and we will get back to you promptly with professional guidance.

If you are experiencing these struggles yourself, reach out to us on our anonymous chatline or helpline to talk to a professional, completely judgment free and with no obligation.