Protecting Children From Sexual Abuse: A Better Approach
“Do you like children more than you ought to? There is help. http://www.do-not-become-a-culprit.de” *
I was quite stunned when I saw this TV ad for a help-line for paedophiles. I don’t know wether they actually aired it yet, as I only saw it on their homepage. In any case I hope this gets massive exposure, for this is a laudable thing. Paedophilia is a tough topic, all the more so because most people are so disgusted by the thought of it that they completely close off to rational arguments.
Not that long ago I had a heated online-discussion with a number of people, but mainly with a woman who personally knew a family whose children had been raped by their own father. She was of the opinion that we shouldn’t waste taxpayers money on feeding childrapists but simply put them to death, quickly. She went on to say things that the perpetrators “aren’t people”, that they’re “monsters”, that they have no right to live and so on. Another option she and those who agreed with her proposed was castration.
I disagreed, arguing that prevention would be a more effective course for protecting children, and that protection, after all, was the main goal here. Putting people to death, apart from being fundamentaly unethical, does not solve the problem. It only leaves you with a new generation of people with the same sexual disorder already growing up, and at some point losing their self-restraint and committing the same horrible acts all over again on new, unsuspecting victims.
Paedophiles are people, too. Growing up and at some point realizing that you are part of the one group that is most despised in all societies, that even in prisons are met with a special hatred, must be tough. At the moment of that realization we need to provide the knowledge and confidence that even if you feel yourself drawn to children, you don’t need to end up as a childmolester. That there is help, and that you can overcome this if you seek it.
Punishment is simply useless – it is fighting a symptom while ignoring the root of the problem, and it also means putting the selfish and barbaric desire for vengeance before the well-being of future victims.
Mental disorders can be treated, some can be healed. Even if there is no definite cure available yet, in principle paedophilia can be cured. But the cure won’t be found by putting people on the death-row. We need to encourage research and find ways to reach paedophiles that haven’t committed any crime yet, in order to get them to agree to therapy or medication.
What needs to happen is the removal of social stigma and the encouragement of open discourse. I think a TV ad like this is a great start.
* Translator’s note: “mehr als ihnen lieb ist” is hard to translate. It means “more than you ought to”, but is perhaps more accurately translated with “more than you feel comfortable with” While the second is a more literal translation, I feel that “more than you ought to” better captures the connotation of the phrase.