Paedophile is a loaded word. It conjures violent imagery of sex offenders and the monsters that prey on societies’ most vulnerable. They are something we know is out there, but have no real grasp as to its extent.
An educated guess puts the percentage of paedophiles in the general population between 0.5% and 1%. This may seem like an alarming number, but what is perhaps more horrifying is the fact that not all paedophiles are predatory monsters, there are those who have an uncontrollable attraction to children but would never exploit or hurt a child.
There are people who are unfortunate enough to be born with a predisposed attraction to minors because something in their brain is fundamentally different from the rest of the population. However, they don’t make the news because, unlike those who do act on their impulses and become monsters, they do nothing about this feeling. They aren’t criminals, just normal people with the darkest of secrets.
I became curious about these paedophiles, the ones who have this affliction but never act upon it. After discovering the online forum Virtuous Pedophiles*, which is a support group for non-offending men and women who identify as paedophiles, I found a member who was willing to talk to me.
On a sunny afternoon I drew the blinds in my study and booted up Skype. For the next hour I spoke to Roy Dimitri (not his real name), who is a 20 year old Australian paedophile. He was shy, avoided talking about the real issue and just spoke about video games and movies. I thought he might have been the kind of guy I’d have hung out with at school.
After the small talk died down, there was a long silence. I knew what came next would most likely change my image of him, but it had to be talked about.
Roy, can you tell me about your attraction to children?
It started when I was very young. I don’t remember an exact age, but yeah, I’m attracted to young boys, primarily between the ages of six and 12.
Did you know that what you felt was different, and considered wrong?
When I was a kid I didn’t see it as something weird. I grew up in a traditional family, very conservative. I was never allowed to have a girlfriend and everything for me was a taboo, so this was just another thing. I used to think having a relationship with an adult was weird, and that just never went away.
Up until a few years ago when I was arrested for child pornography, I thought I was normal.
How old were you then, and can you tell me what happened?
I was 17. I decided to upload the pictures I had downloaded from Facebook to a certain website. It was of a child actor in the Philippines. I’d browsed on Facebook and saw some photos where he was swimming; it wasn’t entirely nudity, just shirtless photos. I uploaded the photos and posted comments on them. I said that the boy sleeps with me every night and I gave him oral pleasure.
Why did you upload the picture and say those things?
It gave me pleasure, especially when other commenters would say how hot it was. I think the site was some sort of a sting. Whenever you post something, your IP address will show. This is how the police caught me. When they came into my house I was really scared, I didn’t know what to do.
At first, I told them that I don’t know these boys in the photos, but when they seized my computer, I thought there was really no point to keep lying, so I told them everything. The worst part was having to tell my mum about it.
How did she react?
She was obviously really shocked. She couldn’t believe what was happening, that I would be in trouble for something like this. At first, she couldn’t accept that this was going on, as a mother, she tried to protect me from something like this and now she’s found out that I’m one of these guys that is actually attracted to children. It turned her life upside down.
In 2014, after everything was done with the court, I got 2 years’ probation and was referred to a psychologist. I see her every month; she is a specialist for people like me.
My mum has come to see my psychologist and now I think she understands some of the concepts of my attractions.
What does your psychologist say about your condition?
My psychologist says what I have is something built into my DNA, like people who are transgender. It is something that I can’t change. To me, being a paedophile is not really wrong, but molesting a child is, you can always control your urges and they (other paedophiles) choose not to.
I’m not proud of being a paedophile, I wish I was born not being attracted to children. I feel so bad for having these feeling towards them. I wish there was no such thing as paedophilia.
As my psychologist would say, people like me, we are actually normal, but I didn’t feel normal before. I saw myself as a monster for just being attracted to young boys.
How do you feel about the way society views paedophiles?
I really hope that people in society can accept people like me without seeing us as monsters. I think the way the media portrays paedophiles is partly responsible for this. I don’t blame society, they just need to understand that not all paedophiles are child molesters.
Just a few years ago, I started seeing articles on the Internet talking about people like me, people who have these attractions but don’t want to hurt kids. I feel like there is more hope as people start getting into the issue. I know now how wrong it was when I was looking at child pornography; I was supporting an industry where kids get hurt. Having that experience of being caught at a young age was a wakeup call.
It’s hard to talk to someone like Roy* and come out of the conversation still labelling him a monster, he seemed so real and so conflicted by his actions and thoughts. Although plenty of what he said, including some things that were too disturbing to publish, made me feel a mixture of anger and disgust, he seems just like a guy who is struggling to deal with life and not unlike anyone other individual who has felt isolated in their early 20’s.
*Words by Charlie Braithwaite. Follow him on Twitter.
Transgression thought long and hard before running this piece. We, nor the author, are trying to elicit sympathy for paedophiles. Rather, we hope by delving (albeit briefly) into the psychology of someone who, without help, could arguably go on to commit the most heinous of crimes, we as a society, may stand a better chance of stopping this sort of offence before it even occurs.