Non-offending pedophiles: guilty until proven innocent?

Dr. James Cantor, who is an honorary member of Virtuous Pedophiles, recently posted an article from the Toronto Metro (flip forward to page 15) in the forums about a documentary film called Daniel’s World that is playing on the indie film circuit this month. The article is largely level-headed and supportive of virpeds, but it includes a sidebar quoting Glori Meldrum, founder of the sexual abuse survivors advocacy group Little Warriors, on her impressions of the film. Now, I have nothing against Meldrum or her organization, but I do have to respond to what she says here:

It’s not like people monitor their every action — you can’t prove they’re not doing anything to kids.

Perhaps not, but here in the U.S. at least we have long operated on the position that one is innocent until proven guilty, an ethical credo that has largely extended to the rest of the modern Western world. It wouldn’t bother me nearly as much if Meldrum’s position was rare, but unfortunately, it isn’t. The thing is, when considering nearly any other group of people, those who make such statements will agree that people should be regarded as innocent until proven guilty; it is only when it comes to self-confessed pedophiles that this belief flies out the window.

Even if there is zero evidence that we have ever abused a child, the going assumption for many people is that we are guilty until proven innocent, and given that a lot of those people also feel we are doomed to offend, they will likely remain skeptical of our character until we die and can be assured no accusations will surface (and even then there may always be doubts, since some victims never report their abuse). This is simply another example of the fallacy of special pleading that is applied to us. Even if some non-offending pedophiles ultimately do go on to abuse a child and are caught, it cannot be assumed that all of us have behaved—or will behave—in the same way.

It’s true that you ultimately can’t prove that we have never done anything to kids, but that can be said of anyone, even Meldrum. Who’s to say she hasn’t used her organization as a front to cover her own abuse of children? Obviously I don’t believe this, and I doubt anyone else does either, but that’s the thing: often the real hardcore abusers turn out to be those we least suspect, people in positions of authority who work regularly with kids. And being the founder of an anti-child abuse organization, what a perfect cover it would be for her! I mean, who would ever suspect someone like that, right?

Pedophiles have an attraction to children. Most people have an attraction to adults, but no one automatically suspects them of being rapists or potential rapists simply because of their attractions. Why does being attracted to children automatically make us lifetime suspects for sexually abusing children? This is not a reasonable position; it is inherently paranoid, bigoted and reactionary.

Many people who are largely supportive of non-offending pedophiles still often think we should never work with, volunteer with or even have children of our own. One person in Twitter, in relation to the issue of non-offending pedophiles working with kids, said, “You wouldn’t let a thief work at a bank, would you?” The problem with his point is that thieves are, by definition, people who have already broken the law. Of course a bank owner would be foolish to hire someone who has already stolen; that person has proven he cannot be trusted. Likewise, it would be foolish (to say the least) for a daycare owner to hire someone who has been convicted of molesting a child. But what of those who have never done anything? Indeed, many pedophiles are already working with children and no one is the wiser, because they are not going to self-identify in this environment. They would immediately be fired if they did, and probably all the kids in their class would be interrogated by the police just to be sure.

Look, I understand the need to protect children from abuse, I do. I’m right there with you on that. But the fact is, almost anyone can sexually abuse a child. There is no absolute typology of sexual abuser; there are only broad categories. And, as has been stated repeatedly, most sexual abusers aren’t even pedophiles anyway. Having a sexual attraction to some particular group does not make the people who have that attraction more likely to sexually assault those in their desired group. It’s true that kids are especially vulnerable to victimization, but that says nothing about the character of those who are attracted to them. For myself and the pedophiles I know, it is not their vulnerability that makes them attractive; it is their physical form. (Children’s vulnerability is a common motivator for situational offenders though.)

Anyway, Meldrum seems to be implicitly suggesting that all self-identified pedophiles, whether they’ve offended or not, should be constantly monitored. This Orwellian proposition is nothing new. A member of the panel discussing my article on Dr. Drew On Call suggested that Virped operating without constant government oversight is dangerous, our mission to help pedophiles lead safe and happy lives without offending be damned. Do you think nearly as many people would seek us out and join our organization if the authorities were a constant presence at our forum? And as I stated in my second Salon article, there’s nothing stopping government agents from joining our forum secretly and spying on us if they want to. In fact, I’m not entirely convinced they aren’t already doing exactly that.

Meldrum goes on:

This film is like, ‘He’s got to live with all this stuff.’ The other piece is people like me and the kids we treat — you should see what we’re living with.

My friend Daywalker over at Virped had the perfect reply to this, though be aware that there is some profanity in it—Daywalker, like me, can be a colorful guy at times 🙂 :

Well, for starters, everyone cares about what CSA survivors are living with and it comes up all the time. No one is asking anyone to NOT care about what CSA survivors go through. When people use that sorta/kinda argument, it’s as if they’re suggesting that to have any compassion, empathy, or concern for MAPs at all, is tantamount to not giving a blue fuck about CSA victims/survivors. As if the two concepts are completely and absolutely mutually exclusive.

He is exactly right. Among much of the populace there is a black-and-white mentality with respect to pedophilia and sexual abuse, and it manifests in several ways. Meldrum’s viewpoint here is a prime example. There is an assumption that to be sympathetic towards pedophiles in any capacity is to be inherently insensitive to abuse survivors, which is obviously absurd when you give it even a modicum of thought. Worst of all, there seems to be a widespread belief that pedophiles themselves are innately selfish and uncaring people, a myth largely carried over from the media’s (particularly entertainment media’s) often simplistic handling of these issues.

Can you imagine if someone said to you, “Oh, you’re attracted to adults, so you cannot possibly understand or care about what adult rape victims go through.” Ridiculous, right? But this kind of bizarre logic is applied to us all the time. In reality, there are few things that upset me more than learning about the abuse of those I adore most in this world; it is incredibly hurtful to have people dismiss that simply because of my attractions.

But Meldrum’s point is really aimed at non-pedophiles.  She is implying that to feel any sympathy for pedophiles, including those of us who do not offend, is to be inherently apathetic towards abuse survivors, a false dilemma. But even if that were not what she was implying, her point would still be a red herring argument, a distraction from the fact that pedophiles often do go through a great deal of suffering in their own right and deserve some compassion for their struggle too.

One thought on “Non-offending pedophiles: guilty until proven innocent?

  1. I see what you are saying, but I don’t think survivors are going to change their thinking. Why? The anxiety surrounding the abuse is what causes such thinking. I hope people like Glori Meldrum can get therapy. But even then, the pain never goes away for many.

    Now, I do not agree that pedophiles should be branded guilty until proven innocent. That is not what the criminal justice system is built on in the United States, and I believe I know a retired Federal judge who would agree with that.

    But I don’t think you or I can change their minds. It is up to therapists. My therapist works with survivors of child sexual abuse. She told me exactly what they felt at the time of the abuse. What the Kavanagh sisters are doing for you is heartening to me. But they likely realize their father wasn’t a pedophile. I wouldn’t count on survivors as a group sticking up for pedophiles.


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