- Posted June 23, 2014 by
Saint Paul, Minnesota
This iReport is part of an assignment:
First Person: Your essays
Sex Offenses Are Preventable
I am a sex offender. Two years ago, I was convicted of felony criminal sexual conduct for having sexual contact with a young man. Him and his family were closer to me than my own. The judge sentenced me to a stay of imposition, which means once I complete treatment and probation, my felony becomes a misdemeanor. The family declined, from what I understand, to issue an impact statement. I have been in treatment for just shy of a year and a half.
Those simple facts alone probably bring up a lot of feeling for you- and you don’t know the full story. I do. I wish I could say what I did was just some horrible accident and a misunderstanding. More than anything, I wish I could change the decisions I made, but that isn't possible. What I can do here is tell my story, so that people understand what my situation could have been. I am not blaming anyone but myself for my choices. But in a different environment, I am not sure I would have made those same choices, and I hope that we can change that so that those in a similar situation can get help before they hurt someone.
Before my offense, I approached an adult who I thought knew what he was doing and told him about the kind of sexual attractions I had- that I was mainly attracted to other males, mostly people under the age of 18. He had me see a counselor, who refused to help me and referred me to someone else. The end result was that I was told to undergo an evaluation by calling a number, which told me that the evaluation was for sex offenders and would probably lead to jail time, cost $1500, and wasn't covered by insurance. Needless to say, because I had not done anything at that point, I felt hurt, betrayed, and shocked. I gave up the idea that there was any hope for the problem, which I now understand to be pedophilia, which is an attraction to prepubescent children which causes significant distress to the pedophile.
What I want to communicate very strongly, to anyone who cares to know, is that my actions were completely preventable. Had I known that help was available, that others also had attraction to children and could offer assistance in managing them, I would likely never have offended. I felt that I had to go it alone, because the help available would lead to jail. Why should I be jailed simply for having pedophilia? I didn’t choose it. Obviously I would not have been jailed, some help was available (complicated by mandated reporting laws and lack of information), and I was given wrong information. But I didn't know that and didn't have any way of verifying that information.
Knowing my actions were preventable means that a lot of sexual abuse of children is likely preventable, with the right education and interventions. The only problem is, there is next to no information available for what kind of help is available for pedophiles- only those who have offended sexually. In other words, there is no knowledge of help until someone either abuses a child or consumes- and gets caught with- child pornography. I knew when I was in high school that I was attracted to children. I know others who knew they were attracted to children in middle school. So what would happen if we included information in sex ed about getting help for unwanted attractions? What if we started spreading the message that unwanted attractions can be managed in a safe way?
I can answer that. There would not be nearly as much sex abuse because we would be preventing it before it happened in the first place. Most of the resources available to address sex abuse- for the perpetrator or for the child- are only available after an offense has occurred. That is a huge enabler of sex abuse: Reacting to it after the fact rather than aiming to prevent it in the first place. There is little reliable research that might help shed light on what pedophiles even go through, perhaps because those who fund research are afraid of the stigma. I think a little bit of stigma is more than enough to deal with if it means preventing the abuse of children, and enabling people to get help before they hurt children.
This concept of seeking help available before someone acts out- directly or with pornography- is not new. Many have sought that out. This American Life did an article (www.thisamericanlife.org) about a young man with a similar idea in mind, search for part two of episode 522: Tarred and Feathered. It is compelling, and well worth listening to.
As for me, coming to terms with the fact that I caused a family closer to me than my own the amount of pain, betrayal, and heartache has not been easy. I have a good idea what I put the young man through, because I was also abused and now realize what was likely going on for him at the time. I am not proud of what I did, and I wouldn’t wish what I’ve gone through on anyone. But I am proud that I've learned significant information in my treatment program, University of Minnesota’s Center for Sexual Health (unfortunately, their program for sex offenders is ending due to other 'treatment' options available in my area), knowledge which can prevent others from knowing the pain I caused them. All I can do is consistently make this statement: Sexual abuse is preventable, and we can do something about it before more children get hurt by getting help to those whose attractions cause them distress.