"This American Life" decided to take on a REALLY hard topic: pedophilia. As a parent of two young kids, just hearing the word triggers a rage in me that I didn't even know I had. This is a hard episode to listen to, but it's really important that you do. Listen to it at work when you are bored at lunch, in your car, wherever. Just please hit "Play."
The definition of pedophilia is "a psychiatric disorder in which an adult or older adolescent experiences a primary or exclusive sexual attraction to prepubescent children, generally age 11 years or younger."
Note how I emphasized "attraction." To be a pedophile, you don't have to act on your urges. Just thinking them is enough. Which makes sense. The thing is, though, this attraction can start manifesting in kids as young as 12 or 13. And they have no way to talk about these urges or how to prevent them from taking control of their lives without being considered a threat. Talk to a shrink? You risk being reported to the authorities. The scientific community is so afraid of the stigma attached to even researching pedophilia that it's barely been studied it at all. Which seems like kind of a bad idea if we want to prevent the victimization of more young children.
So a 19-year-old kid, an admitted pedophile who has never acted on his impulses, started an online support group. His mom is helping him find solutions. He needs you to hear this, for the sake of your own kids.
"This American Life" was expecting lots of hate mail for this episode. So far, they've received none. It's a really good look at a really hard issue. So please listen. Also, directly from Ira, "Though there's nothing graphic in this story at all, victims of child sexual abuse should consider this a trigger warning."
"This American Life" is the best podcast on the Interwebs. If I were you, I'd Like them on Facebook.
Reporter Luke Malone spent a year and a half speaking and meeting with members of the support group. You can ask him any questions you might have via Twitter, @bylukemalone, and use hashtag #TarredTAL.
More importantly, if you could tweet and share this so we can prove that audio stories about important and complicated issues can reach a wide audience, I'd owe you one. It's a really painful issue, but it needs to be addressed.
Most importantly, if you have children, the reality is that not all pedophiles are like this guy. So here's a really good article about how to talk to them about it.
UPDATE 8/18/2014: The reporter, Luke Malone, has just published a far more in depth piece, which includes others like Adam.
TRIGGER WARNING: The piece includes an EXTREMELY GRAPHIC description of a horrific act of abuse on a toddler in the first 4 paragraphs. Additionally, there's more detail in the 4th paragraph of the 3rd section (next to the illustration of a boys head and a house inside it.) I cried reading it and then felt extremely violently angry. But I kept reading. It's hard. But important. Click here to go to the piece.
Please consider this a warning, and I encourage you to keep reading everything after it, so we can do more to make sure things like that never happen again. Matter, the publication that the work appears in, has written a lengthy explanation about why they decided to run it.