Counseling the Pedophile
by Bruce McCutcheon
About Bruce McCutcheon (1948 – 2015)
Bruce began his professional career in counseling in 1970. He worked in residential treatment centers for emotionally troubled teenage boys until 1987. He became a Christian in 1986 and began working in Christian ministries in 1989. He earned a Masters Degree from Liberty University. He was director of Quest Ministries, an Exodus affiliate from 1997 to 2005. He served as the Exodus regional representative in the southeast from 1996 to 2005. He has served in leadership roles in Living Waters Programs in Atlanta since 1995. He has been called upon as an expert witness in numerous cases concerning the issue of pedophilia. Bruce went to be with our Lord Jesus in February 2005
* Bruce gifted this booklet to Resurrection Life Ministries International in 2012.
Common Personality Characteristics
Treatment Issues for the Pedophile
Gender Role Confusion
Desire for Innocence
Responding to the Crime of Pedophilia
Our Responsibility as Counselors
Seeing Through God’s Eyes
For Further Reading
Seeking Further Help
In the following pages, I am going to discuss with you one of the little understood issues of our time. None of us can claim to have all of the answers concerning pedophilia, but our purpose here is to help you to know more about it at the end of this booklet than you do now.
Pedophilia was a problem in my life for many years and when I began seeking help for it, there were almost no answers anywhere. I will use some of my own experiences as well as those of men I have counseled as we discuss this important issue.
Besides being little understood, pedophilia or child molestation is also one of the more emotionally charged issues of our time. The problem has always been with us, but the past quarter-century has seen it become a much more high-profile disorder as a new openness within our society has revealed the pervasiveness of the problem.
This process began as women found it possible to discuss incidents in their childhood of sexual abuse, and has since spread to male victims. While this has been of great benefit in bringing the problem to the attention of society, it has become increasingly obvious that we have thus far been inadequate in finding ways to deal with first the victims of sexual abuse, and then the perpetrators.
Certainly, psychologists and professional counselors have struggled in coming to terms with how to treat pedophilia. My experience, and especially within the secular community, has been one of much frustration. Many professionals within the treatment community have decided the only viable approach is one of containment, to try to keep the perpetrator under control the underlying rationale is that change is not possible, in much the same way that change was seen as impossible for alcoholics sixty years ago. What we know now is that change is possible, for alcoholism, for pedophilia, and for any such disorders, if we put God in charge of the therapy.
First, I’d like to discuss some specifics of pedophilia, and then talk about family systems of the pedophile, treatments for the problem, and end with our responsibilities as counselors.
It is important for you, the counselor, to have a good working knowledge of this subject, both because you will see a variety of cases as people in your community discover that you work with this issue and come to you for help, but also because working in this field will occasionally find you in the legal system, testifying in cases along with other experts.
If you haven’t already discovered it, being an expert in a court environment merely means you know more about your subject than the judge or the attorneys. While testifying in a court case concerning this issue may feel threatening at first, my experiences with the court system have generally been positive, at least in terms of being able to present a point of view which the courts do not otherwise ever hear.
There are a number of different types of pedophilia. First, there is heterosexual pedophilia, in which the victim of the assault is of the opposite sex to the perpetrator. There are no completely reliable figures on this condition, but one estimate is that 95 percent of offenses against girls are perpetrated by men, while 20 percent of molested boys are involved with older women.
We tend to think of women as having a very low incidence of sexual offenses, but this is probably because heterosexual offenses against males, and especially adolescent males, have until now gone largely unreported. This is most likely due to a combination of factors, including the fact that the male victim of heterosexual pedophilia often sees the experience as being pleasurable and a conquest rather than one of his being taken advantage of or overpowered.
There tends to be a real ambivalence about this offense in our society, but I have talked to several men who were used sexually during their adolescence by older women who, in retrospect, realize that the experience was damaging to them.
Among females molested by men, we know that the experience is always very negative, with the degree of damage being affected by such issues as the degree of force used, the victim’s age when the offense occurred, the relationship of the victim to her molester, and the extent and frequency of the abuse.
At least 50 percent of the women we see who report a history of lesbianism were molested as children. The result is a turning away from men, who are seen as a threat, and a turning to other women for relationships and eventually sexual gratification. Heterosexual promiscuousness and frigidity are other results of such abuse.
At the opposite end of the spectrum is homosexual pedophilia. As indicated above, at least 80 percent of offenses against boys are homosexual, as compared to 5 percent for girls. With boys, the typical scenario is a coach, youth leader, scout leader, or teacher taking advantage of his position of trust to molest one of his charges.
Another differentiation we need to consider is between fixated and regressed offenders.
- Fixated offendersare suffering from an arrest of psychological maturation. We will discuss some of the factors leading to this arrest in the emotional development of the pedophile later, but in general, formative issues are unresolved, affecting all subsequent phases of development of the perpetrator. Children become the preferred objects of sexual interest of these individuals. Although they may engage in sexual activity with peers, peer relationships are generally initiated by the other party and are the result of some form of societal pressure or constitute an additional means of gaining access to children.
I have been surprised over the years at the number of my clients who married a divorced or widowed woman exclusively with the aim of getting into more intimate contact with one or more of her children. In a couple of cases, these men were coaches who met their future wives after an initial contact with the woman’s son.
In general, fixated offenders are sexually attracted to children based on their identification with children and their desire to remain childlike. Pedophiles tend to adapt their behaviors and interests to the level of the child.
The fixated offender is characterized as immature and possesses poor psychosocial skills. There often appears to be a transference in operation, in which the offender attempts to be for the child what he needed someone to be for him during his developmental years.
- Regressed offendersmanifest a temporary appearance of premature behavior after more mature forms of behavior have been attained. Such men or women do not display a predisposition to be sexually active with children, and have a more conventional peer orientation and socio-sexual development than the fixated pedophile. When these adult relationships become conflicted or the offender experiences other types of stress, he or she becomes motivated to interact emotionally inappropriately, and ultimately sexually, with a child.
Studies reveal that, in general, regressed offenders select opposite-sex victims as their targets and these victims are frequently related to the offender. This type of dynamic is not unusual in a situation where a husband and wife are experiencing difficulties in their marriage and the husband might look for emotional comfort and support from a daughter. Often, this does not begin with a sexual attraction, but rather it occurs as the inappropriate relationship develops and victim’s boundaries are violated.
Again, there would appear to be an element of transference, this time as the offender inappropriately looks to his victim to be for him someone to meet his needs, rather than looking to other adults.
One of the men I have worked with was a noncommissioned officer in the army. His relationship with his wife had deteriorated, and in the society in which he lived, reaching out to other men for emotional support was not well-received. He thus began having intimate conversations with his step-daughter, who had not had a healthy relationship with her real father and was somewhat estranged from her mother. Thus, there were two emotionally needy individuals who bonded inappropriately.
This client was also drinking heavily during that time, and he related that it became easy for him to cross the line into inappropriate sexual behavior with his step-daughter.
It is not unusual to find in the literature concerning this issue examples of women who have turned to a son for inappropriate comfort when their husbands have abandoned the family or, for example, when their husbands were called into the service. In some cases, this has led to a sexual relationship.
Finally, there is the need to make a distinction in terms of the age of the victim. The typical fixated male pedophile has sexual fantasies involving prepubescent children with smooth, hairless skin and small genital. Usually, the first signs of the development of secondary sex characteristics, such as pubic hair, causes the -pedophile to lose interest.
There is another type of sexual and/or emotional fixation involving youth, ephebophilia. The ephebophile’s victims are no longer children, but not yet adults. There is a focus on youthfulness with a sense of innocence and vulnerability. Often, as with the pedophile, the victim will demonstrate a sense of neediness which attracts the offender (creating the element of transference mentioned earlier). This type of fixation appeared to find a degree of acceptance for a brief time in ancient Greece.
We need to distinguish between ephebophilia and homosexuality. There are times when homosexual men may be attracted to a particularly masculine-appearing teenaged boy, because their search typically is for a sense of masculinity in other males which they do not experience within themselves. That is why the fear among many people that a homosexual may be a potential child molester is almost always unfounded. Children do not display the sense of masculinity which adult gays are seeking.
The ephebophile, conversely, does not experience an attraction to a masculine appearing teenager. Instead, a true display of masculinity is a ‘turnoff’ to such an offender. Rather, potential victims of the ephebophile range from 12 to 17, often exhibiting an androgenous affect.
It is worth noting that the typical offender does not reach beyond his own state of emotional development in choosing a victim. This takes into account the arrested development of offenders.
An example would be a man who was himself the victim of sexual molestation at age nine. It would not be unusual for him to seek victims up to that age, but to feel threatened by boys much older than that. To simplify this discussion, we will use the terms pedophilia and pedophile to include. all forms of this disorder.
Pedophilia is an “equal opportunity” disorder, with no particular class or economic focus. The individual may be a doctor, a janitor, or a teacher.
According to a profile developed through administering the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory to a number of pedophiles, the typical pedophile demonstrates high levels of narcissism and self-centeredness, along with little understanding or empathy for how children may feel or be affected by inappropriate sexual behavior.
Common Personality Characteristics
The list of common personality characteristics of the pedophile includes the following:
* has a low frustration tolerance
* often is in denial
* sexually preoccupied
* seeks a one-up or one-down stance in relationships
* has a limited range of emotional expression
(does not form equal relationships in terms of age, intelligence, social standing, etc.)
* shows poor judgment
* does not anticipate consequences of behavior
* has underdeveloped insight ability
* misreads the feelings of others and misinterprets motives feels inadequate
* has poor interpersonal relationships
* is sexually anxious
* centers life around his deviancy.
There is an additional characteristic of pedophilia which is significant, an alienation from the adult world. This may be due to an angry mother and distant father, or a weak mother and angry father. The adult world is seen as threatening and to he avoided.
In 90 percent of the cases of pedophilia or ephebophilia, the victimizers were themselves victims of sexual molestation and learned to equate sex with love. Thus, their own victimizers showed a love-starved child some attention, which in the absence of love from the parents became a substitute. Because of a subsequent alienation from adults, it became the only type of sexual behavior they can conceptualize.
This sexual behavior alleviates their emotional neediness and pain, albeit only very temporarily. Because of the presence of so much emotional pain, the disorder is generally very compulsive and usually develops into an addiction.
Typically, pedophiles are multi-addicted, often to such things as drugs or alcohol as well as pornography in addition to the sexual fantasies and activities with children. Within the disorder known as “fixated pedophilia,” there are two common scenarios.
- Some pedophiles are very sexually oriented.
There tend to be numerous victims and the contacts may well be anonymous. Once sexual gratification is achieved, the predator loses interest in his victim and typically breaks off the contact, at least until the next time he is seeking a sexual “fix.” When the pedophile is only sexually focused, he is much more likely to choose a victim who is experienced in selling sexual favors.
- There appears to be a different pattern with the pedophile or ephebophile who is more emotionally focused.The initiating factor in any attraction is typically physical (sexual), but it is only after a strong emotional attachment develops that sexual interaction ensues.
In this type of situation there are usually fewer victims, since a period of time is required for the relationship to develop to the point of sexual involvement. The seduction is sometimes elaborate and time-consuming. The process of seducing the victim is referred to as “grooming.”
As mentioned previously, the abuser is often attempting to be for his victim what he needed someone (and specifically, a mother) to be for him.
The emotional interaction is a perverted pattern of nurturing and attentiveness, again typically what a child would receive from a mother, not a father.
There are times in therapy when such victimizers can recall a boy in their childhood with whom they developed a fantasy relationship. Future victims may resemble this boy.
In their fantasy, this was a boy who really cared for them, who placed value in them at a time when they felt little value in themselves due to the faulty parental relationships they had experienced. Thus, they derived comfort from this fantasy relationship at a time when they were unable to fulfill their needs in reality.
As adults, they act these fantasies out on their victims. Often, they seek a victim who appears to be youthful, innocent, vulnerable, and needy. They seem to bond to that sense of neediness which appears to be present in their victims, a sense of neediness that they experienced in their own youth.
The youthfulness, innocence, and vulnerability are attractive in these victims because those are qualities pedophiles never experience within themselves and they seek to possess those things now. Thus, they never felt youthful, but old and burdened. They felt shame and guilt instead of innocence. And they were never able to be vulnerable, since they always had to be protective of themselves because of the abuse they experienced.
We see a parallel to this phenomenon in the homosexual, who seeks the masculinity in other men which he does not feel he possesses within himself. Through illicit involvement with a child, the offender attempts to fulfill his psychological needs for recognition, acceptance, validation, affiliation, mastery, and control It is not sexual gratification or release per se that is the source of satisfaction the offender finds in his sexual contact with his victim; it is his interpretation of the sexual activity as evidence of the child’s acceptance and caring about him.
Again, the offender is attempting to solve unresolved issues of his development and fulfill unmet needs in his life. There are often powerful underlying feelings of anger and rage in the pedophile, though this may not be immediately obvious.
Typically, where present, it is modeled after the behavior the pedophile experienced from his parents. In the face of this parental anger, there was a sense of powerlessness and vulnerability.
This is part of the reason that the pedophile has few meaningful adult relationships, in addition to a pervasive sense of shame and the need to avoid intimacy in order to prevent detection of iIlegal activities. Although for many pedophiles there is a perverted type of nurturing directed toward their victims, there are also cases of sadistic behaviors.
While these offenders are obviously more overtly angry individuals, it is important to realize that anger, overt or covert, is almost always present and is a driving force in the pedophile’s behavioral makeup. While it may not be acted out openly on the child, certainly there is always an undertone of ruthlessness in the exploitation of the pedophile’s victims.
Treatment Issues for the Pedophile
As is evident from reading the previous material, there are a number of issues involved in working with a person seeking to overcome pedophilia. Because of limited space, I am going to focus primarily on the issues of male offenders. However, much of the discussion is this section, with the exception of depo-provera, is applicable to both men and women.
Often, a person coming to you for help is going to be facing not only the problem of pedophilia, but also such issues as dealing with family and friends and the legal system. In the last section of this booklet, legal issues are discussed. I would like here to discuss only specific issues dealing with counseling for the issues of pedophilic, realizing that there are other matters which are also integral for an overall treatment plan.
Very frequently, the men who come to us for help have been charged with some form of child abuse. Thus, they did not initiate counseling until they were put in a position of being forced to. The difficult question we are faced with is that of whether there is true repentance. Is the individual sorry for what he did, or merely sorry that he got caught?
Sometimes, it is useful to examine whether the client has, in the words of Alcoholics Anonymous, “hit bottom.” Has the pain caused by his ongoing, compulsive illicit behavior become greater than the pain it was designed to alleviate? (While there is not space enough here to go into the mechanics of addictive sexual behavior such as pedophilia, I would refer you to work done by Patrick Carnes describing this phenomenon. His books are included in the bibliography of this booklet. While issues specific to pedophilia are not discussed in his material, it is very helpful in understanding and treating the compulsive nature of sexual addictions, of which pedophilia is one. Treating the behavior, and the reasons for its being compulsive, is a vital part of any treatment plan.)
Repentance–an important issue in treatment–is a process with pedophilia, as with many sins. For me, that process began as I acknowledged the sin of having broken the law. My life had been so self-focused that I had no awareness of how I had harmed my victims.
As I began understanding more of the impact that sexual molestation has on children (in my case, teenagers), I was able, in a very intellectual way, to repent of the way in which I had sinned against those young men.
However, it was only after I came to a realization of how I had been damaged early in life that God was able to show me the depth of my sin against my victims. (Previous to that, I had cut off the feelings I had about my own pain, so I was unable to be empathic concerning the pain of others.)
It was at that time, during a “quiet time” of prayer and Bible study one morning, that I was able to weep for my victims and to repent of my actions against them, my betrayal of them, in a meaningful way. Again, this is a process, and we have to discover where the individual involved is in this process.
First, we must find out where he is in his walk with the Lord. If he is not yet a Christian, then coming into a personal relationship with Christ is the first step.
Then the offender can be led to the realization that there is the need to repent. He will need prayer for a softened heart. It is only as repentance takes place that the real healing process can begin. One sure sign of a lack of repentance is repeated blame-shifting onto others.
Some time ago, I was asked to work with a man who had been arrested for molesting his teenaged son’s friend. Initially, he was very contrite and humble in talking about what had happened. Gradually, however, and with the help and support of his wife, he began developing a fairly elaborate defense for what he had done.
As time went on, he stopped discussing what he had done, that he had initiated the whole crisis, and began focusing only on how the police had mishandled the situation, how unreasonable the district attorney was being, how much pain was involved for his family and himself because of the attitude the victim’s father was showing, and how he had not really harmed the boy anyway. Finally I had to give up and accept the reality that God would have to work on this man’s heart if any change was going to take place.
Some pedophiles are able to create elaborate defense mechanisms which enable them to engage in their behavior against children. When I first heard the rationalizations that “I really loved those kids,” “I didn’t harm them; I was teaching them about sex,” and ”They wanted it as much as I did,” I thought that these men were merely making excuses for themselves.
However, as I got to know more about these men, I came to realize that they actually believed what they were saying. Breaking through those defenses can be a slow process, and it is largely the work of the Holy Spirit.
What we can do as counselors is to help the client come into contact with his own pain, as I had to do. Then it is possible for them to develop an empathy for the pain they have caused their victims.
Getting in touch with this pain involves dealing with family background issues. Dealing with family issues entails the need to begin the process of forgiving those individuals who unwittingly contributed to the process leading to the condition of pedophilia.
This begins with the obvious actions of parents and others, but at ever greater depths, the resultant pain of those actions must be examined, acknowledged, and forgiven. This process serves to release the pedophile, himself a victim, from the source of that pain, and God honors such obedience. This is that same pain we were talking about earlier in discussing “hitting bottom.”
This is often a fairly long term process, and it is sometimes necessary to return to discussions concerning the client’s family of origin as God reveals new issues that need to be addressed.
One popular secular treatment involves the use of the drug depo-provera, considered by many to be a chemical castration. It works by lowering testosterone levels, thus very significantly lowering the sex drive.
This is a controversial therapy, but one which committed users of the drug report as being helpful to them. In lowering the sex drive, sexual thoughts are no longer dominant in the offender’s mind, allowing him to focus on the issues that led to his current difficulties. Thus, it can be particularly helpful to the counselor attempting to get to the root issues that led to the pedophilia.
It is important to realize that this drug is only a temporary answer in terms of addressing the issue of acting out sexually. Once the drug use is discontinued, the normal sex drive returns.
Additionally, it is not 100 percent effective. I have known a few men on this medication who continued to experience at least some sex drive. It is also still fairly expensive. However, if you are concerned that a particular client may be at risk of acting out, it would be advisable to refer him to psychiatrist to be considered for this treatment.
One of the decisions I made for my own life when I became a Christian was that I was going to avoid contact with people I was attracted to, male teenagers. My employment at the time, as is fairly typical of pedophiles involved working with teenagers. As quickly as possible, I made plans leave that job.
In the meantime, I never saw a teenager alone in my office or any where else on the campus where I worked. As soon as a successor could be found (I was the director of the program), I was ready to find employment that did not involve children. I reasoned that there were Iots of people who could help teens, and there was too much risk that I would harm them.
When I began working with other folks with this issue in their lives I began calling this strategy “radical avoidance.” The scriptures bear out the need for such a course of action in Mark 9:42-47.
In making the decision of removing oneself from contact with potential victims, a number of issues will need to be considered. One of these may be employment. In my own life, I had to make a career change. I made the decision to work only with adults. This may call for sacrifices, but the client’s willingness to make such a change, whatever the cost, will be a good indication of where he is in his recovery process.
If the abuse occurred within the home, there will probably need to be a fairly long-term separation. Some states require a divorce in such situations, to avoid the possibility of the offending spouse re-entering the home. In those states, the alternative is removal of the child from the home permanently.
If the offender is a parent, even if he has not abused his own children and is not at risk to do so, it is important to avoid situations where his children bring their friends home unless both parents are present. I would recommend avoiding such things as sleep-overs altogether.
Entry into the adult world is another important issue to address. Because childhood sexual abuse or emotional abuse has led to an arrest in the offender’s development, he is usually uncomfortable around other adults. Even the regressed pedophile, who typically dwells in the world of adult generally has few if any open and transparent relationships with other adults which is why he chose intimacy with a child in the first place.
The fixated pedophile dwells in the world of children, usually thinking and often acting like a child. This movement into the adult world is therefore very threatening.
The process will typically begin with a counselor, the first adult who the pedophile shares his feelings with. Even as this is happening, however, it is important to encourage the client to begin reaching out to other adults.
One of the strategies I have used is to have the client join a support group, usually made up of people who are overcoming homosexuality, since in the ministry I am associated with that is the type of client we generally work with. The two conditions have enough in common to make them compatible in a group. Also helpful would be to find a group such as Sexaholics Anonymous or one dealing exclusively with pedophilia, although those would not necessarily be Christ bases.
Sharing with adults who have similar problems is a step along the way. Very soon, however, it will be time to become more transparent with people who do not share this problem. The client will need to discuss his background with his pastor.
One of the things I tell my clients is that pastors cannot effectively minister to their congregations if they don’t know the issues that their church members are dealing with. Church men’s groups are probably the best sources of support, as well as singles groups if one is available that is age appropriate. Celebrate Recoveryhas proven to be a very helpful group for men who have led very isolated lives.
Of course, it will not be possible to be completely open with everyone in a men’s group as one would be in a support group, but as relationships are formed, often one or two men will be found with whom this issue can be shared. Not everyone needs to know about the client’s issue, but a few people do.
A common pattern used in developing relationship is to think of them as having varying levels of intimacy. The first level would be acquaintances,of whom there will probably be a good many. These are people one would speak to at work or at church, who one might know only in passing. Next are those people who are casual friends,such as a co-worker one would have lunch with occasionally, or a neighbor with whom one would discuss the weather.
Then there are those folks who, for want of a better term, I will call general friends. There are fewer of these due to time constraints. They might be men from one’s fellowship group at church. Information about themselves and their families would be shared, but the level of intimacy is not great. You talk to them about the latest baseball game while playing a round of golf.
The fourth level is that ofclose friend~.They know a lot about you, You ask them to pray for you in difficult times, and go to them for advice.
Finally, there are intimate friends. These people need to be age-compatible, same-sex individuals with whom the client shares all of his life. This sharing needs to be reciprocated.
One of the key points in intimate friendships is the development of accountability. There needs to be someone in the client’s life (as in the life of any Christian), other than a spouse or counselor, who the client meets with regularly to discuss such issues as his relationship with God, His relationships at home, how he uses money, how he is doing sexually, and other ongoing issues in his life.
Again, this is mutual accountability, so there needs to be a willingness to both receive and give guidance and insight. More and more churches are recognizing the need for this type of accountability and are encouraging its development through men’s groups.
We find out who we are as we relate to God and to other people. Most child molesters have little awareness of their true identities because most of their adult lives have been taken up with the process of eliminating emotional pain as they have engaged in ever more aberrant sexual behavior. It is important to help the client “find” himself as he interacts with these new people in his life.
Many such individuals don’t know what they like in a friend, what they really want to do with their lives, certainly what they sense God telling them about their lives and who they are in Him. We need to help the client begin focusing on such issues as he processes his new found relationships.
This processing includes addressing with the client his fears of relationships, especially the fear of rejection. He also needs to be reminded that everyone is not going to want to be an intimate friend, just as he will not choose intimacy with everyone he gets to know.
I have made this discussion of relationships somewhat lengthy, but I believe it is the most critical part of a client’s recovery process next to his relationship with God. Without getting his needs met by adults, there likely be a drifting back into relationships with children.
At the core of their beings, most pedophiles report a sense of profound loneliness, or more accurately, of emptiness. Somehow, either functionally with God and friends, or dysfunctionally with sex, illicit relationships, drugs, alcohol, gambling, etc., this emptiness will be filled.
As we will discuss in the next section, most child molesters were themselves molested as children, creating a sense of gender role confusion. Relating to other Christian men in a healthy manner enables the client to come into a realization of his own manhood.
In addition, because this molestation to the pedophile (as well as other abuse experienced in the home) usually creates a sense of distrust of the adult world, this trust can be regained through the process of developing adult relationships.
Gender Role Confusion
The issues of gender role confusion and trust need to be addressed by the counselor. Earlier, I mentioned the issue of shame. As the client accepts that he is forgiven for his sins, and that he is acceptable to other Christians, much of this shame is alleviated.
Shame is often the mechanism that keeps aberrant behavior in place, because the child molester believes he would be rejected if his behavior became known, but in staying under cover he stays isolated. This, in turn, heightens that sense of emptiness which leads to more of the sexual sin which is designed to end that pain. It becomes a vicious cycle.
Guilt can be healthy, because to some degree it is other focused. In short, to feel guilty is to say “I have sinned against God,” or “I have sinned against my wife,” or “I have sinned against my sexual victim.” This can be dealt with through claiming the forgiveness God has already provided through the death of His son Jesus on the cross.
Shame, on the other hand, is very self-focused. It becomes not a matter of what the pedophile has done, but of who he is. For me, the messages were “I am a child molester,” “I am a criminal,” I am an alcoholic” (I drank a great deal during that time). I allowed my sin to define who I was.
Once I became a Christian, I was freed from this shame, because I could be freed of my sin. The old habit of defining myself by my sin persisted at times, but I had to continue to declare my freedom from this – through Christ, and to allow Him to define for me who I was. We must convey this message to our clients often, especially early in the counseling process.
Desire for Innocence
We discussed earlier the desire the pedophile has for the sense of innocence, youthfulness, and vulnerability observed in the children who become targets of the pedophile. The desire for the innocence observed in a child (whether that innocence is real or just wistful thinking on the part of the pedophile) also lessens as one begins to feel like an innocent child in God’s eyes. By accepting God’s forgiveness through Jesus Christ, the offender regains that sense of innocence he had lost long ago.
In the same way, the loss of youth as the pedophile felt old and burdened beyond his years, and the need to protect himself rather than being vulnerable to others, can be regained as the offender realizes that God will love and protect him and meet his every need as a beloved child. We need to help the pedophile incorporate this into his being through the work of the Holy Spirit.
As we mentioned earlier, just as the homosexual seeks out the sense of masculinity in other men he does not experience in himself, so does the pedophile seek this innocence, youthfulness, and vulnerability in children. Helping him find these qualities in himself as a child of God greatly lessens the drive to go looking for these things from children who then become victims.
Unfortunately, the constraints of space prevent me from dealing with every issue that you, as a counselor, will need to face with your client. I encourage you to trust your instincts as you work with him. There are many good resources, some of which I have listed at the end of this pamphlet.
Responding to the Crime of Pedophilia
In counseling individuals who have been involved in pedophilia, it is important that we do not lose sight of the fact that there have been innocent victims. Sometimes we get so focused on a client’s pain that we forget the pain he has caused others.
I believe that in every case of sexual sin, whether pedophilia, homosexuality, adultery, or any other sexual act outside of God’s plan for us, there is always clearly victimization and abuse. This is because always there is the preying upon of the neediness of others.
This is most clear with pedophilia, where the victims are almost universally needy children. The consequences to the victim (and to others) of the pedophilia are often dramatic and severe. In approximately 90 percent of all cases of child abuse, the perpetrator is either a family member or a family friend. Thus, of necessity, there is a breach of trust.
Obviously, then, the first consequence to the victim may be a difficulty in being able to trust relationships in the future. The victim may develop a distrust of his /her parents, because they did not prevent the abuse from occurring. When the pedophilia is homosexual, the victim’s gender identity is often brought into question.
For example, in the case of a boy molested by a man, the boy who might otherwise have had a normal development in his sexual identity may begin to question whether or not he is homosexual. In the case of heterosexual pedophilia, the consequences may be equally severe, possibly more so for a girl molested by a man.
As I mentioned previously, it is common in counseling to find that a lesbian coming for help has been traumatized as a child by sexually abusive contact with a man, causing a fear and rejection of all men and the belief that there is safety only in a relationship with another woman. Additionally, the victim as a child often becomes the molester as an adult. Thus, the cycle of abuse is perpetuated from generation to generation.
Our Responsibility as Counselors
What, then, is our responsibility as counselors, and what is the responsibility of the pedophile to the victims? I believe that the first part of our answer is well stated in James 5:16,
“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”
We are called to hear the confessions of the pedophile and to pray diligently for that person. We need to listen with compassion and do everything we possibly can to convey to that person that God still loves him and we love him.
However, the implications of that exhortation to confess and that promise of healing should bring at once both comfort and conviction to the pedophile. It is wonderful to know that both forgiveness and healing are available. But would we deny those same blessings to innocent victims who may, out of a misguided sense of shame as well as an understandable sense of fear, never be able to bring the horror of their abuse into the light?
As Christians, we are told in Matthew 5:14
“You are the light of the world.”
For the victimizer, it is clear that even as he confesses his faith, this is a lie as long as he leaves his victims to suffer in the darkness with their pain. This is particularly disconcerting in the case of pedophilia because in seeking to fulfill the obligation of rectifying the sins of the past, secular authorities may be brought into the picture.
This may inevitably mean incarceration for the abuser. Certainly, this is a significant issue. This whole concept reminds me of a verse in John 6:60 when, in a totally different context, some of Christ’s disciples said,
“This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”
I believe this is simply a matter of obedience for both the counselor and the abuser, because we have no other choice as followers of Christ. In Matthew 22:39 we are commanded by Christ to
“Love your neighbor as yourself.”
We cannot be loving someone who we leave in the darkness, and especially someone who has been plunged into the darkness in such a terrible way.
Alice Huskey, in her book Stolen Childhood(InterVarsity Press), has stated this concept particularly well. She writes,
no matter how it takes place, is the only way the healing process can start. Disclosure allows the emotional defenses to drop. It is only then that the victim, abuser, and others can perceive the emotional dimensions of abuse. For some at the point of disclosure it is as if the lid of a garbage pail has been lifted. To others, it is like bursting from a cocoon. It is here that we start to identify with the pain and emotional dynamics of abuse.”
When we are faced with a situation of abuse, what should we do? Aware of the legal consequences to the pedophile who is reported to the authorities, Alice Huskey recommends that certain steps be carried out by anyone who becomes aware that sexual abuse may have occurred. These can be summarized as follows:
- Do not accuse the suspected abuser, who may be in denial. Be cautious but act purposefully.
- Listen to the accused,be sensitive and unhurried.
Do not make assumptions or place pressure on the accused.
Let the proper authorities do the interrogating.
- Be alert to remarks or clueswhich may lead to suspicion of other victims of abuse.
(There are nearly always other victims, certainly in cases of fixated pedophilia.)
- Provide safety for the abuseras well as the victim, to protect the abuser from public reaction and the victim from further abuse. (This, of course, is situational, depending on whether the abuser is a relative in the home with access to the victim, etc.) For the counselor, this may mean working with the authorities as well as the family.
- Encourage the suspected abuser to turn himself into the appropriate legal authorities.He needs to know that as a counselor, you are obliged to report the abuse if he refuses to do so. It is important to realize that while state laws vary, every state requires the reporting of child abuse of a still minor child, usually to such agencies as the Department of Family and Children’s Services. Failure to do so may result in the loss of a counselor’s license as well as other possible legal action.
- Prepare the accused for investigation.Encourage him to be cooperative and truthful. Help him to understand the legal process he is about to go through, and be available for the interview and legal proceedings to provide support if the accused requests this.
- The legal system can be very confusingfor anyone unfamiliar with it, especially when the individual is under the additional stress of being placed under arrest with all of the issues attendant to that. If you are unfamiliar with how the system works, it would be helpful to talk to policemen, attorneys, and others employed in it to familiarize yourself with how the proceedings are carried out.
- Help the accused to focus on his responsibilityin the abuse. Denial, blaming, and minimizing are often common defenses.
- Pray that the abuser will change,but know that this will not always happen. Plans may need to be made to keep the abused and abuser apart indefinitely. Although such matters are generally court mandated, the counselor will sometimes serve as a consultant for both the family and authorities.
- The accused will need support people.It is important not to just let him sit behind bars or be shunned.
- Be alert to opportunities to assist the abuserin receiving help through continuing therapy.
- Be available. Consider how the church might become involved. One of my clients, who I’Il call Larry, had been the music director at a church which rejected him after he was arrested for molesting two boys in the church youth group. A pastor from another church in the area sought to make contact with him, but in his shame Larry resisted talking to him. The pastor persisted in his attempts, and eventually Larry agreed to meet with him. The pastor proved to be very supportive, and while Larry served an 18-month prison term on a work release program, he was able to attend services at the pastor’s church.
When it was time for Larry to be released, I was asked to come speak at the church to help devise a plan for how he could become a full time active member while dealing with the understandable concerns of the church parents. Becoming a part of the church proved to be a very difficult process for Larry, because he had lived with a sense of shame for most of his live,and thus had a great fear of rejection.
He often read rejection in things which would happen at church, though that was never the intention with any of the members of the church. However, the members were very supportive, and the men of the church especially went out of their way to make sure he felt a part of their group. I worked with Larry for a number of months and was pleased to see him, in no small part because of the church, became a healthy and productive member of society.
- Be patient. The healing process is lengthy, and pedophiles are often resistant to change.
I believe it is always necessary to notify the authorities of sexual abuse for the welfare of everyone involved. The concerned Christian called to minister to the pedophile must work within the system as it is. Society will not, and should not accept a situation in which offenders are shielded from taking responsibility for their actions.
At the same time, I believe it is important to work to change the system to make it a supportive and healing process as much as possible, not just mechanical and harsh. The pedophile needs to be treated with love and compassion, but he needs to face the consequences of his actions. As
Christians, we must lead the pedophile to a place of repentance, not remorse.
As Dan Allender has stated in his book, The Wounded Heart(NavPress), remorse brings death, because it leaves the sinner where he is. Repentance brings forth new life, because it allows the offender to move beyond his sin.
The healing process for me began with the realization that “I am a criminal.” At the time that I faced the reality of my criminal behavior, I was not a Christian, and I determined to commit suicide. Through a remarkable set of circumstances, (orchestrated by God, as I later realized) I came to know Jesus as my savior and was able to receive His forgiveness.
As I mentioned in an earlier section, over a period of years I came to understand the very real and profound harm I had done to my victims. I had developed a very hard heart in the years that I had exploited others, and it took time to develop a new heart, one which could experience empathy for others. But before that could happen, the only way that God could reach me was to bring me face-to-face with myself as society saw me.
We cannot lead pedophiles to repentance and new life if we protect them from being responsible for the consequences of their actions. We need to love them as Christ loves them, being supportive but not shying away from the “hard teachings.”
Offenders often have strongholds of self-protection due to fear, pride, and a natural sense of self-preservation. We all, in the words of Lloyd John Ogilvie,
“Have learned to manipulate life around an acceptable pattern which we can control.”
The pedophile must lose that control in order that the Lord has room to work and ultimately bless all who are involved in the healing process.
On a personal note, I spent 16 months in jail, after having confessed my crimes to the authorities. I clearly felt God directing me to do that. Although that time was sometimes difficult, God brought great good out of it.
I had always been determined to do things my way, and although that attitude had changed a good deal in the year that I had been a Christian, God still had more to show me. He revealed to me that in a situation where I had lost everything I had, including financial resources, my job, most of my friends, my reputation, and my freedom, and where I was very vulnerable to being mistreated by others in the jail (although that never happened to me), through all of that He was sufficient. He was enough.
Every man with whom I have worked in jail or prison, if he is a Christian, has told me that he was blessed by his incarceration and that he wouldn’t trade that time for anything (well, almost anything.) Only the men who are not Christians, or are not sold out to God, become bitter.
So, we need to encourage the people we are working with to give their lives and wills over to God. Encourage them to trust Him and to give the situation they are in over to Him. There will still be some bleak, tough times, but this will see them through. I couldn’t say that if I hadn’t been there.
Be supportive but don’t accept self-pity. In The Wounded Heart, Dan Allender also discusses the long-term responsibility of the pedophile to his victims. He believes the pedophile must provide financial resources for the victim to receive counseling. He also recommends that the pedophile seek to make amends to his victims, if the victims are at a point in their lives where they are emotionally prepared to face their abuser. He recommends that the counselor of the pedophile make the approach to the victim, his family, or counselor to ascertain this. If the victim is not ready for this step, it can do more harm than good.
Seeing Through God’s Eyes
I would like to close by making one more observation. It is that we must ask God to allow us to see the child molester, the pedophile, through His eyes. It is only thus that we can minister to such a person as God would have us to do so.
We must be able to look at the 35-year-old predator, and see the five year-old victim he likely was. What he has become because of the sin committed against him, and his sinful response to that sin, must not blind us to who God created him to be, and who God desires to transform him into.
Recently, I was talking to a colleague about a man she was working with who had been arrested for pedophilia. When he first made the appointment to see her, she told me that she had no intention of working with him, but merely planned to refer him on to another counselor. Her reason for this was that her daughter had been a victim of a pedophile some years previously, and she knew she would feel too much hostility towards this man to really be able to help him.
However, after meeting with him, she decided to continue to work with him, and over a period of time came to see him as a brother in the Lord who she could really appreciate for the qualities God had created in him, rather than as the monster she had first pictured him to be. She was able to look beyond the label which had been put on him, and see him as a suffering human being who needed God’s healing touch fully as much as anyone else who she worked with.
To effectively minister to the pedophile, we must all reach this point. This sin has particularly significant consequences to its victims, but sin is sin, and we must strive not to just see the sin, but the person behind the sin.
Sixty years ago, the church rejected and ostracized the alcoholic, holding him in contempt and increasing his sense of shame. Today, the alcoholic, even one in the throes of his addiction, is the object of some compassion and understanding.
In the past ten to fifteen years, the former homosexual or lesbian has received acceptance and compassion in at least a part of the church. I believe this will continue to increase in the Christian church. Not so the child molester, himself a victim of molestation 90 percent of the time.
We need to take the repentant child molester into our hearts and into our churches. We need to do this with wisdom, but we need to do it. However, we need to go another step.
Several years ago, I was at a gay pride parade where a number of peopIe including myself from a local ministry had gone to pray for the participants. I watched the revelry, the cavorting, the unrepentant embracing of the sin demonstrated at that parade, and God helped me to see those people as the hurting individuals they are, and I was able to love them and to weep for them.
I believe I know God’s heart in this, and I believe it is that we need to see even the unrepentant molester with God’s eyes, to love him even in his sin. We need to look at him with compassion. The child molester needs to be stopped, to be controlled, but he also needs our love and prayers.
For Further Reading
Sexual Offending and Restorationby Mark Yantzi (Herald Press, 1998) a veteran Christian counselor offers a wealth of insights on counseling sexual offender.
Darkness Now Lightby Robert J. Van Domelen – A former sex offender shares his testimony of deliverance, and gives counseling principles. Excellent resource!
The Wounded Heartby Dan Allender (NavPress, 1990). An insightful look at the deeper issues arising from sexual abuse.
Pain and Pretendingby Rich Buhler (Thomas Nelson, 1988). A helpful book on dealing with past sexual abuse; includes some male anecdote.
Out of the Shadowsby Patrick Carnes (CompCare, 1983). The “classic” book on the dynamics of sexual addiction (secular).
Counseling the Pedophile by Bruce McCutcheon
(#CM-06). McCutcheon. All rights reserved. Copyright@ 1998 B
Seeking Further Help
Celebrate Recovery www.celebraterecovery.com
Desert Stream Ministries www.desertstream.org
Sexaholics Anonymous www.sa.org