Several pedophilia researchers seek to change public opinion about the sexual disorder and right what they believe to be misconceptions.
“There are child molesters and pedophiles. If you think of Venn diagrams, there’s a lot of overlap,” Anna Salter, a psychologist and sex offender expert said. “There are the people who are sexually attracted to children … (and then) there are some people who molest kids who are not pedophiles.”
Some scientists are emphasizing the difference between those with a theorized innate attraction to children and those who abuse children.
“The evidence suggests it is inborn. It’s neurological,” James Cantor, a clinical psychologist, and sex researcher said adding that a pedophile may not ever harm a child in order to be considered a pedophile.
There are also growing efforts to alleviate the stigma of pedophilia by many researching the disorder, including some who argue it would allow pedophiles greater access to help.
“Where do you want the person? Therapy is where he should be going, and all we’ve done is make it very, very difficult for a pedophile to get that,” Cantor said. “Which to me is insane. It makes the problem worse.”
The topic raises complex moral questions among pedophilia experts, with many emphasizing the devastation caused by pedophiles who act on their impulses to molest children.
“We need to say, ‘Offending is devastating. It damages the lives of victims. It has damaged your life. You can learn to control yourself. You have the capacity to do better,” Salter said.
Salter also said that while “pedophiles may not have control over the fact that they are attracted to kids, but they are responsible for whether they do or don’t act on it.”
USA Today posted the story featuring Salter and Cantor’s comments in a Twitter thread early Tuesday, but the outlet later deleted the Twitter thread as they said it “did not include all information” on the debate.
“The initial thread lacked the context that was within the story and we made the decision the pull down the entire thread,” the outlet added.
The thread and its deletion drew criticism from prominent social media users who saw the story as trying to frame pedophilia in an acceptable light.
“Ah, yes. Here we go with the liberal media celebrating and trying to normalize pedophilia,” Curtis Houck, managing editor of NewsBusters, tweeted Tuesday.
“To me (and probably anyone who has been watching) this is nothing more than the first step of trying to normalize this kind of behavior,” tweeted Donald Trump Jr.