Finding a Supportive Community for Adults Who are Attracted
Challenges, Benefits, and Forms of Support
When deciding whether to form support groups, men and women who are attracted to minors should consider both the challenges they will face and the potential benefits that may result. One of the biggest challenges is the lack of access to other minor-attracted adults due to geographical distance or lack of Internet access. Most minor-attracted adults are also reluctant to reveal real-life information, and the risks involved may increase as support groups become more visible. Another difficulty involves the uncertainties and disagreements over terminology; for example, many people assume that "pedophile" is a synonym for "child molester".
However, if these challenges can be overcome, many benefits can result. Significant understanding of issues of faith, Christian love, and sexuality can result from discussion within a community of people with diverse backgrounds and experiences. Such groups can end isolation for adults who are attracted to minors, and provide them with an opportunity for guidance and accountability. Furthermore, support groups can provide assistance to churches who are uncertain how to deal with minor-attracted adults.
Support for the minor-attracted adult can come in different forms. Some minor-attracted adults may need one individual they can confide in; for example, a pastor or spiritual adviser. Others may find most helpful what we will call a "support circle": a group made up primarily of people who are not attracted to minors. Another possibility is a "peer support group"; that is, a group consisting primarily of adults who are attracted to minors.
Special Benefits of Support Circles
Support circles provide unique benefits both to the minor-attracted adult and to the others who participate. Benefits to the minor-attracted adult include the reduction of secrecy and the opportunity to gain insight from those with different sexual feelings. Minor-attracted adults can also receive help with integrating different aspects of their lives; keeping them separate and worrying about what information is known by whom can be emotionally unhealthy.
Benefits to the others in the support circle include the release from stereotypes of minor-attracted adults, the reassurance through conversation that the person they are supporting is taking steps to lead a responsible life, and a fuller understanding of their own sexuality. In addition, they will receive support from other members of the group in dealing with this difficult issue; friends and family members of minor-attracted adults frequently need others to talk to.
Guidelines for Forming Support Circles
Those who have received this type of support recommend that minor-attracted adults keep several points in mind when considering forming support circles.
Some minor-attracted adults can receive effective support from people in their church by forming visibly healthy friendships with children and participating in adult groups dedicated to sharing personal faith experiences. This positive demonstration may communicate more effectively what a minor-attracted adult is than forming an intentional support circle around one's identity as a "pedophile".
If the minor-attracted adult wishes to form a support circle, he can take the initiative in choosing the members of the group and contributing items for discussion at the meetings.
In choosing members, he should consider people he has known long enough to develop a trusting relationship, and who have demonstrated openness. Identifying oneself as a minor-attracted adult demands much personal courage. The ideal context for such self-revelation is in an already established relationship of love and trust.
The minor-attracted adult should keep in mind that not all choices will work out; some people may assume the worst from the label. Strength of character and a healthy self-concept are necessary.
Trust and confidence need to be earned by the minor-attracted adult and by the others in the group. Any effort must include both support and accountability within the same framework. Accountability results from trusting relationships and is a matter of helping the minor-attracted adult honor his own commitment to responsible behavior, rather than involving suspicious scrutiny by other members of the group.
If the group wishes the minor-attracted adult to see a therapist or counselor, the minor-attracted adult should have some say in choosing that person.
The others in the group need the opportunity to meet separately from the minor-attracted adult to adequately express emotions.
It is helpful to promote interaction between the support circle and the peer support group if there is one.
Although forming a support circle seems risky, those who attempt to do so can draw on the strengths of a faith community. The common values found within the church help to strengthen trust. Much can be learned from Christian organizations of other stigmatized groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, ex-gay organizations, and pro-gay organizations. Furthermore, the church teaches love for all and has a history of dealing with difficult issues.
This statement was compiled at the second annual gathering of the Christian Consultation on Adult Attraction to Minors, which met near Washington, D.C., on June 8-11, 2000. Some of the participants in the meeting were attracted to minors, while others were not.
© 2002 Christian Consultation on Adult Attraction to Minors