Is there a cure for pedophilia

"Don't become a perpetrator": Anonymous therapies for pedophiles

The realization of a pedophile is often perceived as a personal catastrophe, experts report. Therapies are promising for those affected.

They tell of their desires. When you noticed how strong it gets at times. And how they deal with it. Similar to Alcoholics Anonymous groups. But this is not about vodka or wine. It's about children.

Sven, 45, reports the urge to "get closer to a schoolgirl". Paul, 60: "When I was 24, I realized that I was sexually attracted to children." Christian, 43, describes "substitute gratifications" with "slim young prostitutes who correspond to the child pattern".

Anonymity is important in therapy groups

The prevention network "Do not become a perpetrator" has published these sentences. Names and ages have been changed. "Without anonymity and confidentiality, hardly anyone would come to our therapy groups," says Elisabeth Quendler. The 42-year-old psychological psychotherapist and sex therapist at the Ulm University Hospital has professional dealings with pedophiles.

Help for pedophiles: Elisabeth Quendler coordinates the only location of the prevention network “Don't become a perpetrator” in Ulm in the south-west. (Source: Thomas Burmeister / dpa)

She works with men - rarely women - that is, people who have a "sexual preference for prepubescent bodies of children". A preference for children like the now ten-year-old boy from Staufen near Freiburg, who was abused by his own mother and her partner for over two years and left to other perpetrators for money for rape. In that case, the final verdicts will soon be pronounced.

Sexuality cannot simply be switched off

And again, many are asking the question of how to prevent children from being sexually abused. A question that thousands of pedophiles ask themselves in Germany alone. "They can't just switch off their sexuality just as easily as other people, but they definitely don't want to become criminals," says Quendler, a therapist from Ulm. "With us you can address this anonymously and you can also talk about your fantasies. It helps many to control sexual impulses."

In Ulm, the therapist coordinates the only location of the prevention network "Don't become a perpetrator" in the southwest. There are a total of twelve locations, including in Regensburg, Berlin, Hamburg and Hanover. Quendler tends to belittle the term "sexual inclination". "It's about something biologically fixed, something unchangeable that already develops during puberty."

Experts unanimously report that the realization that one is predisposed to pedophiles is often perceived as a personal catastrophe. Unlike heterosexuals, gays or lesbians, pedophiles have to constantly suppress their desires if they want to protect children from themselves.

Many experienced shame and self-contempt over and over again. "Some report suicidal intentions, some have actually tried. What we do not find out is how many suicides there actually are because of this sexual preference."

Therapy costs are borne by health insurance companies

"Do you love children more than you would like?" The network asks this question and is open to anyone who answers "yes". Free of charge, the often lengthy group and individual therapies are financed by the statutory health insurance companies. People who are still pending sexual offenses or who have not yet served their sentence are excluded.

The participation of family members or friends is expressly welcomed. "Married couples and sometimes mothers also come to us who want to help their sons to live with this preference without attacking children," says Quendler.

"Don't become a perpetrator" was created in 2005 at the Berlin Charité. The spectrum of therapy ranges from advice on avoiding child pornography as completely as possible and avoiding "risky" places and situations - children's areas in outdoor pools, for example, or being alone with children with relatives and friends - to the possibility of medical support.

Therapies effective in many cases

Overall, according to a study by the Charité group published in April 2018, the therapeutic approach is quite successful. Only one out of 56 participants who were surveyed six years after their participation stated that they had committed sexual abuse, as the lead sexologist Klaus M. Beier explained.

So far, 9,500 people have asked the network for help. About 925 therapies began, some of which are still ongoing. They successfully completed 360. On the other hand, studies show that around 250,000 men between the ages of 18 and 75 feel sexually attracted to children.

Only very few become perpetrators, but the number of cases of abuse is still alarmingly high: the police crime statistics record 11,547 for 2017 - about as many as in previous years since 2010. However, the investigators assume a high number of unreported cases, which is far from being all deeds are displayed.

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