Treatment of Paedophilia

Often I write sensitive content. In this case I am discussing sexual abuse against children. Even if you feel brave, or have moved beyond a previous trauma, I would ask you not to read this post. The old idea of reliving past experiences to move past them has proven to be inneffective, and this post may contribute to bringing up issues you have moved beyond. Additionally, this post and upcoming posts I would ask you not to share widely elsewhere for the same reason.

Challenging peoples perception through conversations and with my work on paedophilia, I aimed for a time to create something that spoke directly to paedophiles. The document in its final form reads that way, but it isn’t the truth ultimately. It is written this way to give empathy to the paedophiles who cannot directly be approached.

I saw the value in creating a probe by engaging with numerous people with evidence outside of just conversation. This probe is a device that acts as a prompt, a conversation starter, or a conversation continuer. Unlike a questionnaire it aims to get at the information you couldn’t have come to on your own with presumptions. A probe allows people to tell stories that are unexpected. This document then raises new questions where conversations on paedophilia would previously end.

But no it not for communicating to or for paedophiles. They need anonymity to survive in this country, and coming forward isn’t an option. This isn’t like coming out as homosexual, it’s entirely illegal, and the treatment for those who do come forward is shocking. Consider the simple example of approaching a psychologist for attraction to children. The place confidentiality ends is where the psychologist thinks there is a risk to the person themselves or the community. If you are at risk of killing somebody, assaulting somebody, or yourself, the confidentiality ends. The psychologist, rightly, needs to cover themselves to. If they were to have been aware of the paedophilic urges of a person who acted, it’s their job on the line as well.

By not being able to come forward and be treated, people self help, and it doesn’t work, meaning paedophiles are more likely to offend. By self help I’m not referring to picking up Tony Robbins or Tim Ferriss books. One example involves masturbating to heterosexual pornography with people of a legal age or older appearance. It is true of some young homosexual men as well, masturbating to “un-gay” or “straighten” themselves. It seems daft to be frank. But psychologists tried a similar approach for many years historically. Somewhat A Clockwork Orange style people would be subjected to appropriate stimulation and forced to masturbate. They would then be retested later to see if they were still attracted to inappropriate stimulus later, intrusively measuring the girth of the penis when placed with certain stimulus.

The more extreme version is something I have heard works for smoking. Instead of trying to quit progressively, you smoke a pack or more in as short a time as possible until you’re sick in an effort to make you never want another cigarette again. You can imagine the equivalent with paedophilia and the pornographic stimulus that would be involved. Needless to say there is no evidence to suggest this will work.

What does work is difficult to attain as there is very little study done on paedophiles who haven’t offended. Making it harder still are the beneficiaries of treatment options. Seretonin for a simple example has been used as a predictor of depression and mood for many recent years. This is obviously to the benefit of the drug companies as they can treat for a biochemical predictor. Studies and emphasis have moved to genetics and environmental causes. But this works at the same time to market genetic research and psychologists.

The most effective treatment may be Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, CBT, which focuses on environmental predictors, acceptance of faults, and managing life daily. After gestalt therapies and older long term therapies, there was evidence to suggest that reliving previous experiences stopped being of benefit, if not making things worse in many cases.

CBT works for many reasons and is one of the most viable options with more evidence showing that multi-modal delivery is effective. That means you can be online on a program, or reading a book and managing your own therapy with a diary. But there is also the cost benefit that may sway evidence. Institutions want less face to face time if possible to lower costs, and why treat one patient when you can create a system to treat many? Multi-modal CBT in my opinion, not being a psychologist but a designer, is the best shot a paedophile would currently have, but it is a poor solution in the scheme of things.

As long as we’re still hunting for witches when it comes to paedophilia, it remains the most viable option in the interim. In the next post I will suggest what may come afterwards.

Non-offending paedophiles.

Often I write sensitive content. In this case I am discussing sexual abuse against children. Even if you feel brave, or have moved beyond a previous trauma, I would ask you not to read this post. The old idea of reliving past experiences to move past them has proven to be inneffective, and this post may contribute to bringing up issues you have moved beyond. Additionally, this post and upcoming post I would ask you not to share widely elsewhere for the same reason.

This semester I bit off more than I could chew. I began with the notion of discussing the untold and taboo stories of Sydney. Prompted by the Royal Commission into the sexual abuse cases in Australia, and knowing my family members were in the Salvation Army at the time of the offences, I started to look into what was being communicated.

The perpetrators of the crimes were my first target. I, like most people, find their actions horrendous. But there are so many people involved from those who allowed the offences to happen, to those who went as far as to cover it up.

There is another side to the story though which equally appalled me though. The way sex offenders are treated is disgusting. In prison society accepts a type of vigilante justice, from prisoners against sex offenders, and to the prison guards allowing it to happen. It is taken further by the newspapers who discus this treatment as if it is acceptable, and ultimately to those who read.

This, I believe, cannot be the end result. Prison is surely about rehabilitation. Sex offenders though are treated in ways though that I can only liken to torture practices.

Knowing stories of those who have been hurt by these crimes directly, or the families, or the police and services who deal with these crimes, it is difficult to yet imagine a way forward to gain empathy for those who have committed the crimes.

So the starting point is then to understand paedophilia like as a disease. The feelings associated with paedophilia are difficult, near impossible to communicate, and because of the stigma so heavily ingrained in the issue, nightmarish to treat. There are few precedents for treatment for those who have offended. In part because the people do not seek help and come forward.

The problem of looking at paedophilia only as a crime hinders treatment options. This then puts children only at more risk. The challenge is, without the government, media, and society all on board nothing will happen.

Tackling the issue, laws about censorship became trivial and didn’t matter, we are quite free technically to express our opinions. Instead it is the stigma around the issue means people will not discus it.

This isn’t true for the whole world. Virtuous pedophiles, young pedophiles, and dont offend (dot) org, are communities that work in this sphere to treat non-offenders. In fact the Germans have gone as far as having televised campains. But it openness is certainly available of Australia, and to simply adapt the approach would be misguided.

Right now our offering in Australia is simply this. We teach children stranger danger and how to behave as they grow up, but never address the underlying causes and issues of paedophilia.
So I tried to imagine if we could do something to change paedophilia not by protecting children, but by treating paedophiles and talking about the crime before it happens rather than after. Not only empowering the unempowered, but additionally challenging assumptions to reconnect people, as they are people not monsters, with their fundamental human rights. Something I will begin to explain to you over the next couple of weeks ...

Efficacy Zero

What is currently being done with paedophilia (we add an A in British English for all the American English worried I've done a whole work with a massive typo in it) is around the criminal aspect in Australia primarily. There is little room for conversation, and therefore psychology and progress are limited. So I did a project on and for the non-offenders; those attracted to children who haven't committed crime. This is estimated to be around 1% of the population.

Most design looks at either a simple solution to an understandable solution, or a resolution to make a change progressing towards more change with no final outcome. This work is closer to the idea of a resolution, but it is indirect in this. I highlight that we cannot speak about the issue making progress years away. The issue needs society to understand, the media to change, and the government to change its emphasis from crime to psychology if anything is going to progress. To uncensor this document over time.

After years of mistreatment of people with other mental illness in living memory a lot of progress has been made. It was as late as the 1970s that homosexuality was considered a mental illness. And internationally progress is being made with paedophilia transitioning from crime to health. But like gay rights, feminism, euthanasia and race rights, Australia is behind.

Organisation in Australia remain focused on offenders, while overseas there are private online communities, going as far as having televised campaigns in Germany. The stigma around the issue here and elsewhere only puts children at greater risk however.

Would you rather keep silence on this issue, or speak about it, and see paedophiles treated, before things go wrong?