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Paedophiles – The New Witches?

EDIT: This article was written nine years ago – just a few years into my recovery. It explores the dynamics of abuse as I understood it at the time of writing – and, importantly, foretold of the dangers of the “Witch Hunt” narrative.

Were I to rewrite this now I would certainly re-phrase some things. I am not updating the original as to do so would be to re-write history. Too much of this is happening in the current debate. The general message, however, I feel holds true: Child abuse is learned behaviour. Gladly most survivors do not go on to abuse as I make abundantly clear – yet unless we understand the dynamics of this social ill we will never protect future generations from it.

Matthew – “The Irreverent Buddhist”, 11th November 2015


Paedophilia – as defined at Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia means the sexual dysfunction of “being sexually attracted primarily or exclusively to pre-pubescent children”. Persons with this attraction are called paedophiles. How can it be that some persons are sexually attracted to children? Anyone who has enjoyed the priveledge of spending time with young infants and children knows their vulnerabilty, openness and charm, and can only be horrified that this happens at all. We must move beyond horror to understanding. We must do this because to do otherwise is a continuation of the denial of these acts, their prevelance and the harm they cause.

A paedophile is acting under forces within their mind that are so strong as to override the natural nurturing instincs and allow them to hurt infants and children. These forces, these drives are the result of a deeply scarred and divided psyche. The paedophile was themselves almost certainly sexualised at an early age in a violent and painful manner and most probably this has caused them to suffer dissociation in response. This is not to say that all victims or dissociated persons will become abusers – indeed the opposite is true: most will not.

The dissociated parts of the whole form a web of deceit that hides the abuse and its concomitant shame, rage and horror from the conscious mind. Especially if the abuse is repeated, there will be a part of the self which is aware of and may even grow to enjoy the physical contact and acts of sex. This part of the person is removed from conscious contact with the rest of the mind. This contains the abuse within a closed world to allow normal functioning at times when the victim is not being abused. This type of splitting typically occurs with children sexualised before age 3 – 6 when the personality is being formed. Those abused later when the personality has had more chance of forming enjoy a greater chance or remaining intact and will follow a different pathology.

When the victim of these acts grows up one of three things will happen. For most they will live lives dictated by uncertaintly and fear on a level they are only dimly aware of. They may or may not form working relationships and hold down jobs. They may or may not become drug users, criminals or prostitues. They may or may not commit suicide. They will not abuse children, though if they are women, they may chose to have relationships with men who do.

The next largest group will become aware at some point that “something is wrong”. They will work on themselves to find peace, achieve understanding or remember what this distant hum of pain is hiding. They will struggle and fight the denial they have so successfully welded into themselves and that of society. They may remember the abuse and they may or may not recover to varying extents. They will not abuse children.

The third group will never become aware there is something wrong. They are so strongly dissociated they just can’t see the walls or feel them, let alone peer over or break them down. Without knowing it they are full of rage, hatred, and other posionous emotions. There is still a part of them that is a sexualised child and that part may find children sexy. That part may in certain circumstances wrench control from the rest of the person, or may be in total conrol, and act out the horrors inflicted on it. That part of the person does not know it is wrong, or does not hear the screams of other parts of the person which do. They represent a danger to children.

Some abusers might not fit this pattern. Some may come from non dissociative, non abusive pasts. But if such information is gathered from perpetrators there is no way of knowing its accuracy. They may not know, may still be in denial, not only of the hurt they have caused, but of the harm done to them. Broken people break people. Like the victims of abuse, the abusers are not to be blamed if we want to solve the problem. The patterns have to be broken yet at the moment we are acting out a usual human herd tendancy that will produce no good results. This tendancy is to cast out that which we find distasteful.

By stigmatising and publicly hanging out to dry the occassional abuser through the criminal system, by waging “stranger danger” campaigns and the like we are ignoring the truth of the matter. Most children who are sexually abused will be abused by otherwise “loving” members of their own family. People who are themselves victims. By turning pedophillia into the new witchcraft and casting out our demons we ignore the truth and endanger children of future generations.

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