Mathilda Mallinson: We thought a lot about how to do this episode, didn’t we, Helena?
Helena Wadia: Yes, and not an easy episode, was it?
Mathilda Mallinson: No, but I really wanted to do it.
Helena Wadia: Yeah, you were very insistent, whereas I had some reservations.
Mathilda Mallinson: And so, I think, will many of our listeners, because this episode is about non-offending paedophiles, meaning people who are attracted to children that don’t act on it.
Helena Wadia: When Mathilda pitched me an episode on pedophilia, I wasn’t sure it fitted Media Storm’s mission at first, because we report on and elevate the voices of marginalised groups, and when you think marginalised, you don’t really think about pedophiles.
Mathilda Mallinson: But I thought: ‘okay, the non-offending paedophile, the person that lives with this clinical condition and doesn’t act on it, this is a person that is so unreported on, most of us don’t even know they exist. And in reality, they may be far more common than we realise.
Helena Wadia: And so we agreed if we were to do this episode, it required a different format. It didn’t feel right to do a studio discussion or our usual part two, where we’re joined in the studio by a member of the affected community to dissect the headlines about them.
Mathilda Mallinson: Whereas, the investigation was so demanding that it kind of needed more time to be aired, we’ve gone to really trying lengths to find you these voices, and they’ve gone to great lengths to speak to you. And so for most of this episode, you’ll be on the road with me.
Helena Wadia: And I’ll be listening along with you all and see you back in the studio for a quick roundup session to discuss questions and lessons from this media storm.
Mathilda Mallinson: This week’s investigation: un-offending pedophiles – clinical or criminal?
Professor Klaus Beier: 1% of the male population is pedophilicly inclined. In Germany, we have around 250,000 adult pedophilicly inclined men, and in the UK you would have around 200,000. This is a number. So you have the choice: would I like to reach out for this group? Or, would I like to let them do in this demonised, stigmatised field? And I can assure you, they will go onto the internet.
Mathilda Mallinson: I’ve been looking into the lack of health care addressing pedophilia as a clinical condition rather than a criminal act, a sexual attraction that has never acted on. Child molesting is a crime, as is any use of CSAM, which stands for ‘child sexual abuse material’. In other words, child pornography. But pedophilia is not illegal. Nor does every paedophile commit a crime. It is defined not by action, but by attraction, and it may well be an unwanted attraction.
Anonymous: From that day on, I saw myself as a paedophile. The psychological impact was disastrous. No one was allowed to love me and I was not allowed to love anybody. I should be buried under the ground as soon as possible.
Bly: I was certainly suicidal.
Emma Artless: I don’t know if sometimes I start agreeing with people and I feel like I shouldn’t exist.
RedMarmot: I struggled a lot as a teen.
Amanda: Teenagers who have attractions to children end up dying by suicide because of their fear that they are going to be seen as an imminent danger a ticking time bomb. A predator.
Mathilda Mallinson: Psychologists estimate that pedophilia, the attraction to prepubescent children, or hebephilia, the attraction to young teenagers, affect one in every 100 men. By failing to talk about the clinical condition, are we failing to prevent criminal abuse?
That is the sound of my distinctly non-German friends trying to casually communicate to you that we are in Germany, Berlin. Germany is home to a world only confidential therapy for pedophilia, which began in 2005. (Pause) Do you mind if we close the windows to reduce the background noise?
Professor Klaus Beier: Yes, we can do this but it’s better to leave it open because of COVID.
Mathilda Mallinson: Of course. Psychotherapist Professor Klaus Beier founded the program in 2005, under the name Kein Täter Werden, meaning ‘don’t become a perpetrator’. He is an expert in pedophilia and the head of sexology at Berlin’s Charité, one of Europe’s largest university hospitals, where I’m meeting him now.
Professor Klaus Beier: The sexual preference structure of every person manifests during puberty and remains stable from this point. This is true for sexual orientation towards women and sexual orientation towards men. And it’s the same with sexual interest towards children. So our prevention work is reaching out to those persons to help them to control their behaviour, not to change their preference structure, because it’s not possible.
Mathilda Mallinson: That would be like conversion therapy.
Professor Klaus Beier: Right, and it is not possible and it’s wrong.
Mathilda Mallinson: Is there any legitimate theory around what causes pedophelia?
Professor Klaus Beier: No, there is not. And unfortunately, I cannot explain to you either why a male is oriented towards females. It’s not solved. It’s a puzzle. If I could explain it, you can run a line to the Nobel Prize Committee.
Mathilda Mallinson: In the course of this investigation, I’ve spoken to five paedophiles, each traces that condition back to puberty,
Bly: I realised this at 14. And that’s a very typical common age to realise that you have this particular sexual preference, I would like there to be something that could be offered to someone of 14, who goes to a teacher, or goes to the person responsible for sex education in the school, or their head of year, or their school counselor, or their head teacher. There’s this massive constellation of professionals around young people, they are set up and rightly so that if a young person is abused, that that young person can tell someone and then that can be taken further, that’s really important that that exists. We also need there to be a similar framework for every young person discovers they’re a paedophile.
Mathilda Mallinson: Coming up is one of the most shocking revelations of our investigation. It is that young teenagers confronted with emerging pedophilia often have nowhere to turn to, but online pedophile communities. Here, they are routinely abused.
RedMarmot: I’ve been attracted to young boys since I was in primary school. I found my way onto some online chat rooms when I was about 12. This was helpful in figuring out my sexuality, but I was a naive child. And so I was quickly taken advantage of. Many adults lied and told me they were the same age as me. One guy managed to trick me for several years, which impacted me a lot when I finally found out his true identity. I was hurt and scared. He knew so much about me, had many compromising images and chat logs. I was helpless and scared of getting into trouble if I had told anyone about him. I lost trust in people after this. I know images and videos of myself are floating around the sites still to this day. I don’t mind so much anymore. I like to think that they might have prevented other children from being abused.
Mathilda Mallinson: This source who contacted me under the username, RedMarmot, and who was being voiced here by an actor, admits to using CSAM himself.
RedMarmot: I don’t think production of CSAM should be legal and I don’t pay for CSAM, so I’m not creating any demand for new content to be made. It is not entirely without guilt, but I have never physically abused the child myself. I opted to use CSAM as an outlet. I wish there were more resources available when I was younger. If I was able to talk to a counsellor or a doctor at that age without my parents, maybe I would have never gone down the route of using CSAM. I think society really underestimates how many people have this attraction. Your 14-year-old son or daughter might be into children half their age.
Mathilda Mallinson: I don’t know about you, but I was pretty taken aback to learn that pedophilia emerges at puberty with no known cause or agency. It made me question how we’ve been taught to see it as morally deficient, rather than mentally divergent. So if pedophilia cannot be cured, if you cannot change someone’s sexual orientation, what does the therapy involve?
Professor Klaus Beier: First of all, you need to know that there are a lot of disorders that cannot be cured but can be treated. For example, multiple sclerosis, or diabetes. You cannot cure this, but you can help some persons to live their life in a good way. We will help you to control your behaviour and for this purpose, we have tools. Additionally, we can use pharmaceutical options to lower sexual urges, if it’s necessary.
Mathilda Mallinson: Are these medications legal in the UK?
Professor Klaus Beier: They are legal but you will not find a physician to give it, for example, to a 25-year-old pedophilicly inclined man. The physician has to report him. So it’s very sad that in the UK, you cannot use the options available.
Mathilda Mallinson: Right, so the medications are available, they’re legal, they’re recognised as effective, but because a physician cannot say that someone is accessing child pornography in order to prescribe it, they cannot prescribe it to people who need it for pedophilia.
Professor Klaus Beier: Correct.
Anonymous: There would be days where I would walk around and if a minor crossed my eyes, all I could think of was how disgusting the side of me is.
Mathilda Mallinson: A patient on the programme told me about his experience. He apologises that for the sake of his recovery, he has asked to be voiced by an actor.
Anonymous: I tried to bury my paedophilic sexual preference, but it would always find its way like water moving through rocks, and bursting out with more pressure than it should have. There was no support, I thought anyone I would tell would start to hate me. I planned my own suicide. However, there was a small glimpse of hope.
Mathilda Mallinson: A close confidant told him about Kein Täter Werden, and he reached out
Anonymous: The moment the lady took up the phone I was greeted with kindness and felt safe. No one made any sign of being disgusted or seeing me for just my sexual preference. Seeing ourselves from the eyes of a human being and not the eyes of a predator is the modus operandi. Sometimes I don’t even want to think about my sexuality. It is frustrating at times. However, it is important not to let your guard down to learn about your risks and triggers every week. By building a kit of tools I’m confident to be able to lead a fulfilling life and not become a predator.
Mathilda Mallinson: A few things separate Kein Täter Werden from other therapies around the world. The programme’s most significant distinguishing feature is near total confidentiality,
Anonymous: They will never ask you for your name, you are assigned a number which you can always use as your alias. Honestly, after some time, I felt so safe that everyone knows my actual name. By now, the most important thing about pedophilia is not to confuse it with child abuse. This is the biggest misconception in our society. However, I cannot be angry at society because I have made the same assumption in the past and sometimes still do. Anyone who does harm to a child should be accounted for. It destroys lives and families and I understand that. I will never be angry at society the way they view paedophiles and hebephiles. But I do urge it to see beyond the sexuality and see the person behind it. I love to read books, watch movies, hang out with friends, go to a pub and even sing in the shower. There’s so much more which makes us human.
Mathilda Mallinson: While some countries, including the UK and US have therapy programs for known sex offenders, the majority of Kein Täter Werden’s patients have never been convicted. That doesn’t mean they have never offended.
Professor Klaus Beier: A lot have offended already. Most of them used child abuse images. And then we have around 20% who did nothing. So there are real potential offenders but they fear to act out.
Mathilda Mallinson: It’s interesting – that puts you in quite an ethically complicated situation, though, if you are speaking to people who have committed offenses that are not mentioned to the criminal justice system. Have you ever had incidents where you have had to consider breaching your rules of confidentiality?
Professor Klaus Beier: Very rare occasions, very rare. And then we have a risk management system – we would integrate acquaintances of the person, partners, for example, or family members, or we would separate the person from a potential victim. And if the person would not accept it, including pharmaceutical options, then we would choose to use a kind of reporting, but it has never happened in 15 years.
Mathilda Mallinson: Wow, never. So it’s really a last resort.
Professor Klaus Beier: Yes, it’s a last resort.
Mathilda Mallinson: So you might consider reporting if a child is immediately at risk, but you don’t report abuse just for the sake of reporting abuse. Have you faced any controversy, or backlash, or obstacles, trying to provide a therapy that does that?
Professor Klaus Beier: So in the years 2005/2006, of course, there were some angry discussions. But after three, four years, many people understand that it’s a kind of primary prevention. We could show this because there were the numbers. Every month, there are 15-20 persons showing up at their office. And this was very convincing for the politicians. The Federal Ministry of Justice supported us from the year 2008. And since the year 2018, it is completely funded by the insurance systems, a health care insurance system,
Mathilda Mallinson: Professor Beier may have won over his own country’s policymakers, but the rest of the world is either unconvinced or unmotivated. In the UK and US, therapy is funded for a limited number of sex offenders, but not for people who are yet to offend and want help staying on track, even for those who can afford private care, or can access free therapy for other mental health needs. Their second issue is confidentiality. Mandatory reporting rules exist in many countries, obliging people, including medics, to report known, or suspected, child abuse. That includes watching CSAM. It includes abuse that hasn’t yet occurred. And so anyone considered at risk can be reported. It is designed, vitally, to protect children. But are there cases in which it has the opposite effect?
Bly: A lot of those people might be on their way to considering something like therapy, but they would probably, like me, actually, have been put off it by the fear of mandatory reporting. You have to bear in mind, this isn’t because I had offences and you know, I wanted to conceal them, people who are wholly innocent can be ostracised in a way that’s akin to if they were criminals, and the ostracism doesn’t just extend to that person, it extends to their family, it extends to their children.
RedMarmot: I read stories of people getting reported to the authorities for telling their GP or therapists, even when they haven’t done anything wrong, it was never even worth the risk.
Emma Artless: It’s difficult because I can’t find somebody on my insurance plan who I feel I can really trust because so many people in the mental health industry can be quick to assume that you are in immediate danger.
Mathilda Mallinson: Given that you’re findings show this does work, do you think it’s irresponsible for countries to not have this kind of confidential free therapy available?
Professor Klaus Beier: I must say yes, we are facing a kind of pandemic at the moment – we have these 100-fold increase of sexual exploitation materials in 10 years. It’s incredible. I’m an expert witness in court. So I can really see the difference in the amount of images and in the contents – younger children, more aggressive actions, combinations with sadism. So you can see there what we would like to prevent, and we know how to do this. For me, it’s a pandemic, so it’s necessary to coordinate this internationally.
Mathilda Mallinson: Without access to legal therapy, many seek solace in illegal alternatives. The Dark Web is full of paedophile communities, and their priority is not prevention. 10 years ago, two men in the US decided to create a different option, unofficial, but regulated, an anonymous online forum for paedophiles, committed to never offending. Today, Virtuous Pedophiles, as the forum is called, is administrated by a user called Bly, who is British.
Bly: Prior to the existence of Virtuous Pedophiles, there weren’t very many places that people could go who were in that situation. The Dark Web communities tend to be organised around the idea of exchanging illegal materials, Virtuous Pedophiles sits outside of that. We are meant for people who share our core values that the sexual abuse of children is wrong, that the online sexual exploitation of children is wrong, but who through no fault of their own have a sexual attraction to children.
Mathilda Mallinson: Since being exposed to this community, have you found it to be a wider community than you initially knew going in?
Bly: One of the things you don’t really know growing up as a paedophile because most of us discover this when we’re about 14, you don’t really know who else is like you, but we’re talking about a lot of people Virtuous Pedophiles is a very small volunteer organisation group, really, that was set up in 2012. And since 2012, has had nearly 8000 accounts sign up to it. So yeah, so it’s a wider group of people.
Mathilda Mallinson: What are the conversations that you see coming up most of the time?
Bly: One of the big ones is that people want to know: ‘how did I get like this?’, ‘what was the aetiology?’. Some people wonder whether it was because of past abuse. Although we know, and certainly in my case, it wasn’t because I wasn’t abused as a child, people often talk about their sort of what I call ‘on-street experiences’. In other words, they might have been out that day, they’ve walked down the streets, and they’ve seen a child that they’re attracted to and they talk about, like, ‘how did they process that experience?’ and ‘did they feel worried?’,’ did they feel relaxed about it?’, you know, ‘was it a concern?’. Some people will talk about their fear of therapy, or their fear of seeking therapy, and obviously, the potential consequences. A lot of people will talk about their fears related to coming out to have family members, or the fact that they have to keep this in secrecy the whole time. Some people plead for a cure, and wish that there was a way that they could just not be a paedophile.
Mathilda Mallinson: Is there a risk within these forums of justifying or normalising pedophilia?
Bly: Normalising pedophilia is a comment that is very frequently made. I actually think they mean acknowledge when they say ‘normalise’, I think that’s what people actually mean and what they actually object to. But the problem is, if you object to acknowledging something that is true and that exists, then you’re really preventing any useful conversation from happening.
Mathilda Mallinson: So how helpful has this community been to you?
Bly: I’d say I’m still alive because of it. At the time that I first engaged with Virtuous Pedophiles, I was certainly suicidal, I had specific plans and dates and things like that, you know, and I think in some ways, I reached out at the time, because I was pretty much ready to go. I didn’t feel like I had a great deal to lose. To be in that community where you weren’t judged. That was critical. And it was a massive relief, after years of being terrified, I can simultaneously go: ‘Okay, I’m a paedophile. It’s not the end of the world. I don’t have to kill myself at this point.’
Mathilda Mallinson: Is it a lot of pressure for you, as an administrator, to make sure regulation is done right? When you don’t have, and you can’t have, professional, legal support?
Bly: We’ve taken people off the forum, because they’re not-
Background noise: police sirens interrupt Bly
Bly: That’s my taxi arriving!
Mathilda Mallinson: (Laughs.) Is that… Is that something that you have to be on edge about? Is that something that you find yourself on edge about quite a lot? Do you worry about that administrating this space?
Bly: To a certain extent I’ve let go of certain possible risks and just accepted that one day, something not very nice might happen to me. I’ve let go of certain relationships and, therefore, if consequences do ensue, simply from what I’m doing, then at least they won’t be visited on people I love.
Mathilda Mallinson: That’s a really tough decision.
Bly: It was. I mean, I left my partner because of this.
Mathilda Mallinson: Us being able to have this conversation as a society, why do you think that is important? What is the end goal there?
Bly: The end goal, I think, is that people cannot live in terror that they are different, and that they’re condemned to be bad, or seen as bad regardless of how they behave. Some people would say: if you talk of people as if they’re bad, regardless of how they behaved, then maybe their behaviour would change as a result of that, they wouldn’t care so much about how they behave. I don’t believe it’s quite like that. I don’t think any of us is compelled to behave in a way that goes against moral values. But, on the other hand, if you feel constantly ostracised, you do become alienated. I’ve become slightly more, I’ve noticed, just over the last few years – I’ve given up a job, I’ve given up a relationship, I’ve decreased my stake in society, because I’ve realised it wasn’t compatible with being a paedophile who talks about being a paedophile. And as a result, I don’t have as much money, I don’t have as much company, I don’t have as much love, you start to feel less invested. But I don’t want to feel less invested, I want to be a participant in society.
Mathilda Mallinson: Let’s take a break.
Theme music plays
Emma Artless: Hello, my name is Emma Artless, I am in my late 30s by now, and I am being interviewed about my unique experience as a female paedophile living in the world. Non-offending, by the way.
Mathilda Mallinson: The only one of her kind that she knows. ‘Emma Artless’, an alias she writes with, is an American woman and pedophile in a celibate adult relationship. To protect her identity, Emma’s voice is distorted in this recording.
Emma Artless: So the thing is, I’ve always had an attraction toward girls, but when I was a child, I didn’t really notice it when I was around 11 or 12. That’s when I started to think: ‘Well, okay, this means I’m probably gay, I’m probably a lesbian’. So I was I was freaking out about that a little just because, you know, my hometown, in my generation, it wasn’t really acceptable to be gay or bisexual. So I was already having anxiety about that. And then I started to gradually notice as I got into my teens, that I was always older than the girls that I was attracted to. And that was a pattern, I still sort of, at the time, expected it to go away. And then it never happened.
Mathilda Mallinson: Were you able to find any helpful resources online, any educational information to help you understand what was happening to you at this time?
Emma Artless: No, not at all. So much of the information that I found on pedophilia at the time supported this ticking time bomb theory that basically if you had this attraction, one day, you would act on it in some way, and that you were basically like a rapist-in-waiting. You know, that’s scary to read, when you’re young, that you’re basically doomed to become just a monstrous human being. Yeah, I also looked at books, I would go to bookstores and libraries, and I would look in the psychology section, there really wasn’t anything out there on non-offending paedophiles. And there was nothing at all definitive on women with pedophilia. When I was young, this was so isolating. I mean, I still feel like an alien all the time. Even within our own circles. There are people who doubt the existence of pedophilia in women, even on the support group that I’m in now, somebody even said at one point: ‘No, no, the only the only women here are cops’. There are scientists, there are actual sex researchers who doubt it as well. So, I mean, I would like to be studied for that reason, to be honest. It makes me incredibly nervous every time I put myself out there in this way, I fear it coming back at me, but I want a teenage girl who’s discovering that she’s having pedophilic attractions to be able to know that she isn’t an alien. Or I mean, maybe we’re both aliens, but at least there’s another one in the universe. So that’s why I’m doing this.
Mathilda Mallinson: As you say, you have never acted on your attraction, but it has shaped your life. Can you explain that?
Emma Artless: It’s hard to have high self-esteem. I think with this condition, people who I consider my friends, they will just throw out something offhanded about how all paedophiles should be maimed, or killed, or something of that nature. It’s sort of this hatred that everyone who isn’t one of us is expected to have. When I was younger, when I was a teenager, I didn’t realise how much of the stigma there was, like, oh sorry, I’m becoming very inarticulate. I don’t know. Sometimes I start agreeing with people and I feel like I shouldn’t exist. Everyone wants to be accepting of their friends’ sexual identity or their mental illness, but not when they’re overlapping, I guess.
Mathilda Mallinson: And do you think that you are at risk of offending, that any part of your nature is predatory?
Emma Artless: No, I really don’t. And I understand it’s different for everybody, some paedophiles who go in for therapy may be genuinely frightened that they are going to act on these desires, I’ve never really had that. The hardest part of pedophilia is not keeping yourself from offending, it’s so much more this sense of self loathing and isolation. I definitely have always had the fantasy of being in an in-person support group where you’re actually sitting in a group and talking about this in-person, and in the fantasy I’m not the only woman there, so that’s also nice. I think that the availability of programs like that would be very beneficial and I don’t think shoving the issue under a rug helps anybody at all. I think it’s a very simple thing to understand, but people just willfully do not.
Mathilda Mallinson: There are therapists around the world who go out of their way to provide support to paedophiles, and they do so at their own risk.
Amanda: I need to use an alias, so I was thinking Amanda, just totally different. And I don’t want to say my location, I don’t want to say the programme.
Mathilda Mallinson: I tracked down one therapist who treated pedophiles for a decade, a survivor of child sexual abuse herself. She faced such vicious death threats from public onlookers, that she was forced to shut down her practice and reinvent herself professionally.
Amanda: It actually started with a gentleman showing up in my office and saying he was attracted to children but he didn’t hurt anybody. He hadn’t hurt a child, he didn’t want to hurt a child, but he struggled with pornography addiction, was depressed, and had, at times, suicidal ideation and needed support. As a therapist, but also as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, I thought ethically, why wouldn’t I help someone who has mental health concerns? Also, if I can prevent one more child from being abused, I want to do that. So I reached out to a task force that worked with sex offenders, and I got a lot of responses that were very similar, which is ‘you can’t help this person, until he sexually offended against a child’. And I thought that was really mind blowing. So I just thought, I’m gonna do this, I’m gonna go ahead and offer therapy to this person. I started advertising because I thought: ‘Well, if there’s one person, there’s got to be more people’.
Mathilda Mallinson: And what was the response?
Amanda: The backlash started very early on. When I first advertised, the response from therapists in the community was: ‘These people are going to offend, it’s just a matter of time – they’re a ticking time bomb’, and, ‘this is sick’. The death threats came a lot later, when we got bigger, calling us ‘paedo-apologists’ and even ‘paedophiles’. You know, I’m a child sexual abuse survivor, I can’t have my own kids because of the damage done to my body because of the abuse I endured as a child.
Mathilda Mallinson: So did you not see your clients as threatening?
Amanda: They had no desire to hurt anybody. Never had, never would. That was their commitment. So many of these humans were saying: ‘We are committed to never harming a child, we don’t want to do that. We just want help with the depression, the isolation, the suicidal thoughts’. So we address that. I really believe that the therapy that is dictated today across the globe comes from a prevention side and a sex offender research side, and secondary to that is their mental health. And it may not even be secondary to that, in some cases, I don’t know that is a focus. So we took a different approach, I will say if someone is at risk for sexually offending or has, that is the appropriate treatment. I’m not talking about that population, though. And that’s what I want listeners to be really clear on.
Mathilda Mallinson: Through your therapy, did you see any positive results in your clients?
Amanda: Oh, yeah, I mean, incredible changes, some people were able to share with safe family members and friends, and so there was healing that was happening on a lot of levels.
Mathilda Mallinson: Yet, in the end, you closed your practice, and you dropped your clients.
Amanda: Yeah, I have a lot of guilt about that. Because I really care for the people that we served. The backlash was coming from everywhere at that point, and any time a program or a professional got attacked there was a domino effect where we would get attacked. I think on any one system, it becomes too much where you’re constantly feeling like you’re in danger.
Mathilda Mallinson: I’m going to ask you, just to wrap up, what would you like listeners to take away from your experience?
Amanda: Everybody deserves mental health support. We live in a global culture that focuses so much on being multiculturally aware, and sensitive, and accepting, and this is a population that is viewed as the lowest of the low. Address the mental health issues that are coming up with this. This is not going away, I may have gone away, but these human beings are not going away.
Mathilda Mallinson: When I began this investigation, the question in my mind was whether every paedophile was a perpetrator, or whether some could be prevented from becoming so, but now I have a different question: whether every paedophile is even a potential perpetrator, or whether some are just people with a disorder they did not choose, and do not want. A paedophilia of the mind alone. If so, should we be discussing healthcare? Not just to protect children, but also to protect them? Is healthcare just everybody’s right? That takes us back to the studio. Thanks for sticking around.
Theme music plays
Helena Wadia: Well, that was super eye-opening.
Mathilda Mallinson: Yeah, for me too. I’m sure there’s still gonna be a lot of questions left unanswered. Do you want to fire away?
Helena Wadia: Absolutely. I think our listeners will have follow-up questions, as do I. My first question that I’m really interested in is: what does the therapy that takes place at the centre in Germany entail? Is it CBT? Is it talk therapy?’.
Mathilda Mallinson: Yeah, it’s a behavioural therapy and it involves one-on-one sessions, but also it has in-person group therapy sessions, so people are able to talk face-to-face with people who have had the same issues. This is asking them to be very open about the difficulties they face and the temptations that they face, so that they can understand their risk factors and understand which tools they need to introduce into their routines to help them live a life in which they’re not confronted regularly with a preference that is disorderly to them.
Helena Wadia: So you mentioned ‘disorder’ there. What is the appropriate way to refer to pedophilia, because we heard in the investigation about sexual preference, but we also heard about mental health and disorder, what is it?
Mathilda Mallinson: In very literal terms, it’s a sexual preference. But, in clinical terms, it’s quite complicated. Because, yes, it is frequently a disorder. However, ‘disorder’ has quite a specific medical definition, and so there’s two instances in which someone’s pedophilia is a disorder. If someone feels uncomfortable with the preference they have, they don’t know how to accept it about themselves, it’s causing them to have thoughts that they don’t want, that they don’t feel safe with, that they may not be safe if they have these thoughts, that they may be suicidal – then it is a disorder. It’s also a disorder if you act on it, so any pedophilia that translates into action, well, that is illegal, but it is also a disorder, that’s disorderly. However, if someone has pedophilia and they’re not at risk of acting on it, and they’re comfortable with it, they’ve accepted that about themselves and they can live a normal life, then they are not disordered, medically.
Helena Wadia: Well, I think for a lot of people, regardless of what it’s called, it’s still going to be quite shocking hearing some of the things that they just heard, and you asked a question in the investigation about the forums for non-offending pedophiles, and if the use of these forums could end up normalising pedophilia, is there a risk of ‘normalising pedophilia’ as a society?
Mathilda Mallinson: To be very clear, this is not about in any way normalising child abuse, or child molestation, or any pedophilia that is acted on. This is about enabling that to be a realistic conversation about the existence, and the very potentially prevalent existence of pedophilia, so that we can treat it well, because you’re right – there is a risk of normalising in some spaces. In a lot of the communities on The Dark Web, where people, who are struggling with their own pedophilia, are driven to due to a lack of therapy, there is a conversation that tends towards normalisation and justification. There are communities where people who feel quite embittered by how society has rejected them start to have fairly antisocial conversations that breach from social conventions, social morality around the protection of children. And so, normalising child molestation is very different to normalising a conversation around paedophilia that exists as a clinical and not a criminal situation. It’s actually really important to have that conversation because otherwise people are driven into spaces in which the former is justified, and that’s the last thing that anyone wants.
Helena Wadia: You know what I couldn’t help thinking when the word ‘normalisation’ came up was that, as a society we do kind of normalise being obsessed with young girls. And what I mean by that is you can go on any major porn site in the UK and you’re very likely to find child abuse or search terms like ‘young teen’ are trending. We’re also obsessed with anti-aging and keeping our youth, especially with women. You know, men are ‘silver foxes’ but women are like ‘decrepit’ when they get older. And you know, we see older male celebrities dating younger women, much younger women, so often, and that’s kind of normalised.
Mathilda Mallinson: Body hair?
Helena Wadia: We’re expected, even at an older age, to shave off all of our body hair. And you know what, who has no hair? Children.
Mathilda Mallinson: Right, so why are we so heavy-handed to use ‘normalisation’ when we don’t recognise the way that we normalise it every day, all day, in our society.
Helena Wadia: Right, I mean, we don’t exactly do helpful things as a society to stop pedophilia.
Mathilda Mallinson: Yeah, so true.
Helena Wadia: So if we were to implement help and solutions for non-offending paedophiles in the UK, what would that look like? How would that even work?
Mathilda Mallinson: So I think there’s kind of two policy areas that need work, and where there are quick fixes. If we do look at the example of Germany, one of them is our approach to mandatory reporting and to confidentiality and these issues. So, mandatory reporting rules in the UK are not actually statutory laws – there are loopholes and there is flexibility. But there’s such a lack of education among medical professionals when it comes to this issue of pedophilia that it’s often misused. So people who may not be at risk, may never be at risk, will still be very, very vulnerable to being handed over to authorities. This is especially true when there is this kind of ‘ticking time bomb’ assumption, this mainstream idea that anyone who has pedophilia is at some point inevitably going to act on it, which may not be the case. And so until we have more education and more conversation within medical spheres, those mandatory reporting laws are likely to do more harm than good in this area. And then the other question is funding because some people can’t afford private care. I mean, there’s a lot of reasons that state funded therapy is going to be essential in this area, and that’s going to be very controversial, because I can see a lot of people saying: ‘Well, I don’t want to pay for therapy for paedophiles’. But at the end of the day, this is about protecting children, and this is about saving lives.
Helena Wadia: You know, when I was feeling a little bit worried about doing this episode, it’s interesting how now I view it in a very similar way to our other episodes. And what I mean by that is that previous episodes we’ve done have shown how we have all this evidence, but we’re still due to a lot of things, but including stigma, not acting on the evidence. In our episode about drugs, we found out that all the evidence points to decriminalising drugs to save lives, and to bring an end to needless criminalisation. And in our episode about sex work, we found even organisations like Amnesty International support the full decriminalisation of sex work, and the stigma makes it so hard for sex workers to thrive. And, again, changing the rules would benefit everybody and changing your mindset would benefit everybody, and it’s the same here.
Mathilda Mallinson: Yeah, policy is so often not driven by evidence, it’s driven by the mainstream social conversation, which is why maybe the end goal for today’s investigation, and today’s episode, is to encourage people to have this conversation. So, to listeners, if you have been surprised by things you’ve heard, and if you do think that this is an important conversation, please share the episode or please start that conversation. Because yeah, you might get raised eyebrows, as I’ve learned because I have been talking about pedophilia way too much lately, but it it will always be an interesting conversation at the end of the day, and it’s a worthwhile one too.
Theme music plays
Mathilda Mallinson: Thank you for listening. Check out our new crossover miniseries with The Guilty Feminist called This Is How You Do It, uplifting changemakers fighting for social justice. Next week, we’ll be speaking to Jamie Wareham, the founder of Queer AF about how he’s supporting queer creatives to change the media.
Helena Wadia: And we’ll be back with a new episode of Media Storm on masculinity and body image, out on August 4th.
Mathilda Mallinson: Follow Media Storm wherever you get your podcasts so that you can get access to new episodes as soon as they drop. If you like what you hear, share this episode with someone and leave us a five star rating and review. It really helps more people discover the podcast and our aim is to have as many people as possible hear these voices.
Helena Wadia: You can also follow us on social media: @mathildamall, @helenawadia, follow the show via @mediastormpod.
Mathilda Mallinson: Get in touch and let us know what you’d like us to cover, or who you’d like us to speak to.
Helena Wadia: Media Storm, an award winning podcast from the house of The Guilty Feminist, is part of the Acast Creator network. It is produced by Tom Salinsky and Deborah Francis-White. The music is by Samfire.