The More Extreme Punishments

I have gathered my thoughts since the last story in this experience and I think I have some more ideas which explain how I think about this issue.


Before I go into them I want to repeat that my audience in this post, like the last, is not the victims of child abuse, although I certainly don’t mind if they want to read.  But I don’t expect those people to have the level of careful, reasoned thought that is the luxury of the rest of us – they are dealing with so much more on this issue already.  Again I salute all of who are dealing with the aftermath of child abuse, and in some cases still dealing with that on a day to day basis.


I’ll also add that, like before, when I use “paedophilia” I’m referring to the state of mind/preference/disorder/sickness (I’m aware these all have different implications) of being sexually attracted to prepubescent children, which can lead those people to the acts of child sexual abuse.  I’m not assuming that in *all* cases paedophilic fantasies *must* lead to child sexual abuse.  Also I’m assuming that it is possible for a paedophile to live his life and not commit child sexual abuse.  This distinction between a person’s tendencies and the acts they may commit is not often seen in the more hysterical responses to the issue, which I think is important.


First I wanted to list the three main extreme punishments that I have seen being called for in online discussion and in newspapers for paedophiles.

  1. Death/execution.  This is sometimes extended by the writer to death in a particular horrific way – eg to be particularly slow, or preceded by some sort of torture.  Sometimes the writer says they would like to do the killing and/or torturing themselves personally.
  2. Permanent imprisonment.  Usually it’s mentioned that there be no possibility of release before the paedophile dies.  Sometimes the writer wants the paedophile to be kept in a particularly harsh environment.  Some writers are concerned about the cost of the prison facilities to the public so they want the paedophile to work for free to make sure this option doesn’t cost the taxpayer any money.
  3. Castration – ie a permanent medical procedure which would render the paedophile incapable of any act of sexual pleasure of any sort.


I am assuming that most of the writers would only apply these punishments to people who have been proved to be child sexual abusers, but from their use of language sometimes this is unclear.  Sometimes I think a particular writer might want one of these to be done to any paedophile, whether or not they’ve actually harmed a child.


I am not absolutely against the last 2 of these solutions in any form.  I am against the first one, mainly because I am fundamentally opposed to the death penalty; I just don’t think it’s a right the state should have – but I won’t go into that here.  As for the last 2, I guess at this I’m willing to keep them open in certain extreme cases, but definitely only for repeat child sexual abusers with little to no chance of rehabilitation.  Other options would have to be seen as just too much risk to children.


But I don’t think these options will be the most helpful weapons we have in protecting our children from harm.  One thing, I think we need to ask ourselves is:  what needs to be done to adequately punish someone, and  what needs to be done to protect children?  I think that even where the person has committed a crime, protection of children should be the number 1 concern.


I’d like to invite you to imagine a couple of situations.


Firstly, imagine you are an alcoholic.  You know that if you drink as much as you want to drink, you will do things that you will regret and are bad for your physical and mental harm.  This is how you have always been since you had your first drink.  You also know there’s a good chance you’ll commit a crime – particularly an assault (perhaps on your wife or girlfriend) or a drink driving incident (which could involve maiming an innocent person for life, or killing them).  None of these things have happened yet, but you know in yourself that you are an alcoholic and as long as you don’t control your behaviour, they might.  The chance gets higher when you get stressed in other areas of your life. So you find out about all the free support services run by churches, hospitals and other organisations, and you seek out support and encouragement to stop drinking.  It’s not easy, but you control your behaviour.


Now instead, imagine you are a paedophile.  Ever since you first had sexual feelings, you have been attracted to young children.  Even though you may get sexual satisfaction from interaction with adults, the drive to be with children is strong in you and you know you are a paedophile.  But you have not acted on your impulses, and you have not committed child sexual abuse.  Yet you know that if you get stressed and don’t resist your urges, you may commit child sexual abuse and potentially cause emotional harm to that child for the rest of their life.  Now, ask yourself:  if you knew that the most likely results of you coming forward as a paedophile were death, permanent imprisonment or castration, would you come forward and admit your problem?  Secondly, if you did come forward to get help so you don’t harm children – where would you go?  What organisations and information are there around to help you?


I’m not saying that the crimes that can lead from alcoholism and paedophilia are as bad as one another.  Although that’s possible, that’s not the point.  I’m also not saying that one is as likely or as prevalent as the other.  My suspicion is that there is a lot more alcoholism than paedophilia, and a lot more alcohol related crime than child sexual abuse – but again, I don’t know.


My point is that as long as we purport to be taking the issue of preventing child sexual abuse seriously, we should be making it as easy as possible for potential abusers to live their life without abusing anyone.  We do it for alcoholics, and yet we know this is not condoning excessive drinking – quite the opposite, the existence of AA is testament to people who recognise the harms of excessive drinking.


We should, in fact, be supporting and encouraging paedophiles to reach out and seek help.  And those who call for the more extreme punishment against all paedophiles, no matter what, should be aware that, rather than helping to protect children, they might in fact be discouraging potential abusers from admitting their  problem and seeking help, which may in turn actually *endanger* children.


If you’ve read this far and are feeling angry about what I’ve written, I’d suggest you read my other story & comments – it would help to explain my point of view and how I’ve answered some criticisms and other points.

GoldenArrow GoldenArrow
31-35, M
14 Responses Mar 13, 2009

AP ... You commented that the children should be protected by the adults that are responsible for the children. Most assaults on children are committed by someone they know and often a member of the family. The adults responsible for the children are the ones molesting the children. The picture that we have of kids being molested by a stranger at the park are not really the rule. The adults responsible for the children are the ones doing the molesting.

MarkYoung,<br />
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This is a very delicate moment. While I have been on record numerous times ob<x>jecting to the hysteria around paedophilia, I have been careful not to say that paedophilia is, in itself, "ok" or "fine" or a sexual preference in the same way, say, homosexuality is.<br />
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I don't want to judge anyone for their thoughts or who they are. But if you declare yourself to find children sexually arousing on a regular basis, you do create a problem for your society. Children are vulnerable, as you say. They are trusting and have fewer common sense defences that adults. They are treasures to their parents and carers of course, but they are also a treasure to our whole society, and one worth protecting from predators.<br />
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If you announce that you view them as a sexual ob<x>ject in the same way that most men view adult females (no that's not the only way I see females, but it is one of the ways) then you are in effect announcing yourself as a risk. Yes, you can follow that up with "but I promise I won't act on it" but that sounds pretty weak and it doesn't really remove the potential threat. And because the harm is so potentially great, I think we can justify some reduction in human civil liberties in reducing that risk. <br />
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So I thank you for speaking up, but I have to distance myself you in some ways so that I'm not confused with being some sort of paedophile advocate. <br />
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Perhaps what I'm trying to say is that while a thought in itself is not harmful, the identification with those thoughts into an identity - ie "I am someone who, unlike you, has frequent paedophile thoughts and I always will" identifies yourself as a potential threat. So I think encumbant with that is some sense of responsibility. So I ask you - how do you assess your threat risk to children? How do you go about offering people a sense of safety, to offset the sense of fear and panic that your identification with paedophilia is going to create? <br />
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I also suspect that paedophilia is more complext than a simple genetic predisposition. Some fleeting paedophile thoughts may well be natural and harmless. But I strongly suspect that repeated watching of paedophile ****, and dwelling on such thoughts may cement the interest in your own mind. I believe your thoughts are not completely beyond our control. Are you taking some responsibility for your thoughts?<br />
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Paedophilia has existed for a long time in many societies. It is a reality, and I don't think ignoring helps. At the same time the fear and anger people feel has a justifiable source. Child sexual abuse is very damanging, its a real problem that causes huge emotional harm that can last a lifetime. I think if you identify as a paedophile you are inextricably linking yourself to child sexual abuse, even if you fervently intend not to be a part of it.<br />
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Much of this may offend you MarkYoung, and if it does I do welcome you to take issue with points you disagree with. I truly believe in the power of open and honest discussion on tough topics.. This is a difficult moment for me. I don't want to discourage debate, but I feel somewhat conficted over this. I hope you understand that.

Konrad,<BR>I think you have a good knowledge on this area so I certainly welcome you to this debate. I think you can really shed light on this topic so I welcome your contributions.<BR>That said, I'm not sure if you are clear about what I am saying. I'm not defending paedophiles merely for the point of it, I'm trying to argue that our main point of reference should be protection of children, rather than punishment. Both are necessary and sometimes a solution like long term imprisonment will be effective for both.<BR>I already know that the recidivism rate for child sexual offenders is high. I don't know how high. If you do know, I'd love those facts.<BR>But is it not possible that the reason the rate is so high is because of firstly our general attitude which discourages paedophiles from seeking help, and secondly the lack of support for those that do? I'm not saying every paedophile is able to "recover" like an alcoholic. What I'm talking about is harm *minimalism* not *elimination*. What I"m asking is "how can we do our best to lower the number of child sexual offences". And I'm proposing that a hysterical reaction which include vigliante punishment is not helpful. What I found before I started writing about this was that *heaps* of the internet discussion on this topic involved propistions of extreme punishment, and ex<x>pressions of wishes to be involved in vigilante punishment.<br><br />
I'm certainly not proposing that those involved in the **** rings such as in Romania shouldn't be punished, and punished harshly. In fact, if one isn't affected by the "sickness" or "addiction" of paedophilia, and yet you still promote it, encourage it and profit from it, I suggest that you are even *more* culpable than the paedophile who merely views this and fantasises with it. So yes, that is part of the answer, I agree. I don't think it contradicts anything that I have been writing about it.<br><br />
So basically I'm interested to know: what do you propose is the *best* way for our societies, locally and globally, to counter this problem? What are we doing well, and what should we be doing better?

I've read your argument and think you give pedophiles (or potential ones) way too much credit. I'm not being biased, it's a well known fact that there is an extremely high rate of repeat offenders. You can research it if you like. <br />
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It's rare that a ********* slips up once and says, "That was the last time" like you might find in a recovering alcoholic. If your argument is "Well, they can feel guilty and try to get help". I think being a man you would understand the crushing force behind your sex drive. It takes tremendous self control- now a lot more because we have resources like the internet. (I'm using men as an example because I believe that women account for about 3% of recorded pedophiles.)<br />
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********** is like alcoholism in the sense that it's addicting, which further raises my skepticism that we should dismiss the stigma attached to it. You will find people who are sorry and never intended to hurt anyone, but they support websites that habitually hurt children. It's a VERY profitable business.<br />
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My father was once asked by his boss to oversee the child **** ring in Romanian orphanages 4 years ago. In Isai the workers were pawning children to distant relatives and never heard from them again. A lot of the underground child **** ring is found in places like Russia and Romania, they are hot-spots. Americans, whenever they suscribe to websites that are listed as "website" on their bills support child ****, even though they claim to never hurt anyone. The EU has only begun to become involved.<br />
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I think your clear-headed and trying to be fair, but I don't find you fully in touch with the facts. PM me if you want sources.

Frosti,<br><br><br />
I've never deleted anyone's post - at least not intentionally - although I have been tempted. I'm not saying I never will, but I have pretty liberal attitudes about censorship generally, something would have to be quite harmful from my point of view to warrant deleting. <br><br><br />
Have a look at some of the posts in the first story - some accuse me of being sick, a paedophile etc. If I was going to delete posts, I'd probably start with those I reckon.<br><br><br />
If you can state your point of view without attacking anyone, then I want to hear what it is - speak and be heard!<br><br><br />
Cheers,<br><br><br />

Interesting that the last story I wrote in this experience garnered so much interest and comment... but this one not at all. I wonder if it's a peculiarity about EP and the way things are publicised, or perhaps most people feel the topic just been overdone lately, which I can understand. Still, its curious just how drastic the change is.<br />
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maybe that's because you delete people's posts.

Thanks Dedre, I appreciate your recognition of my good intentions.<br />
RobertHedrock - yes, I think you've hit on a very interesting point. The distinction that I've drawn between thought and action can be applied to a number of different crimes. and when we, for example, divide men into "rapists" and "non-rapists", it is naiive to think these groups have *nothing* in common with each other in the way they think - ie a person who has never raped and never will rape may, nonetheless, fantisise about it to some degree. However I recognise that a certain obession with it can be unhealthy and lead to a greater likelihood of the act itself.<br />
The same distinction can even be extended to non-crimes - eg adultery.<br />
The ability for human beings to resist their darkest urges needs to be recognised - and encouraged -, otherwise we would living in a pretty horrible world!

Wow, again I am impressed, goldenarrow.<br />
Though I have no notion of the movie mentioned, I still applaud you to try to get at some "meat" in the whole pedo pyschology/rehabilitation/prevention area.

Yes it's troubling that the terms "paedophilia" and "child abuse" are considered interchangeable, as if thought and action were the same thing.<br />
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If that were true wouldn't every man be a rapist?

Yes I saw Little Children, I did think the paedophile character was drawn really well. Why wouldn't you feel pity for him? Yet they also showed you his ugly, cruel side - remember the scene in the car?... it was a good, complex characterisation I agree.<br><br />
Mmmm fear is natural in this topic, but hysteria is unhelpful to improving things I think.

Yes, I agree, protecting children from child abuse generally and child sexual abuse in particular is a complex issue and it needs to be addressed from many different angles. <br />
You have mentioned one. Support services for paedophiles would be another. THere are many more, and this only supports my contention that the simple "burn them at the stake" answer is reductive and ultimately unhelpful.

Oh, I see what you mean. It was the word "dismember" that threw me... like I was asking people to describe how they would dismember anyone! Creepy.<br />
My list of 3 punishments is really just a summary of what I've observed other people writing over and over again... I just wanted to show why I think constantly calling out for these is not, in my view, helpful to the children who need our protection.

Have you read the story AP? That's not what I'm doing at all! I'm making a call for more support services and a better attitude to prevent child abuse... how did you get that from what I wrote?

Interesting that the last story I wrote in this experience garnered so much interest and comment... but this one not at all. I wonder if it's a peculiarity about EP and the way things are publicised, or perhaps most people feel the topic just been overdone lately, which I can understand. Still, its curious just how drastic the change is.