I am not speaking as a fan of Jerry Sandusky and have no idea who he is beyond many news headlines. I do not even recall what sport he coaches or where he coaches it at. What Mr. Sandusky did is obviously, clearly wrong and harmful and it has altered forever the lives of the …
" /> Jason Holborn | Cybercarnet/Weblog - Sympathy for The Devil (aka Jerry Sandusky), or, An Ounce of Protection is Worth a Pound of Punishment

Sympathy for The Devil (aka Jerry Sandusky), or, An Ounce of Protection is Worth a Pound of Punishment

I am not speaking as a fan of Jerry Sandusky and have no idea who he is beyond many news headlines. I do not even recall what sport he coaches or where he coaches it at.

What Mr. Sandusky did is obviously, clearly wrong and harmful and it has altered forever the lives of the boys he interfered with. Pedophilia is wrong, rape is wrong, assault is wrong.

Still, I personally have pity for child molesters and pedophiles. It is often said that many pedophiles have been abused themselves — I cannot speak to the veracity of that idea, yet I feel that a sexual attraction to children must be a terrible burden to carry, and I propose that shaming these offenders drives them underground which in turn puts children at greater and greater risk. Pedophilia should be treated as a very serious psychological disorder needing drastic intervention and assistance.

I propose this not so much as a plea for clemency for pedophiles, but rather as a protective device for potential victims, ie. children.

I can only assume it is a frightening realization to discover that one is a pedophile (it would be interesting to read a pedophile’s self-reported account of the awakening of their sexual interest in children). Once, as a child (ie. I can not quote the source article) I read a very brief account of a pedophile, a man, who sought psychological help upon realizing he felt a keen attraction to children. The counselor left the room for a moment under guise of a story, and called the police. This story has always affected me; this person had (apparently) never assaulted or abused or molested a child, and sought preventative help, and instead found himself known to the police. I think he should be applauded for his recognition of the inappropriateness of his feelings and his bravery in exposing himself for help; had that encounter turned out differently, he may have one day authored a book reaching out to other pedophiles, or been the subject of a book, or a guest on popular television shows, about his battle to do good and not evil, and in doing so, he may have helped prevent a great deal of children from exposure to a horrible cycle of abuse.

Again, I don’t suggest leniency for or acceptance of pedophilia, but rather better protection for children. Sandusky will go to jail on over 40 counts of sexual offenses: for every pedophile, there are multiple victims. Do the math; the victims far outnumber the abusers. Now that Sandusky will be imprisoned, can any of his victims go back in time to stop their abuse? It is regrettably much too late.

Criminalizing pedophilia drives it underground, where it finds a (relatively) safe harbor (until capture and imprisonment) to abuse. A pedophile does not invent or bring about their own pedophilia, they are unfortunately, for whatever unfair reasons, handed it. Shaming pedophilia makes it unsafe to seek help or guidance, and I propose that if we remove the shame and instead thank and bless those pedophiles who fear they are developing a child-focused attraction and seek society’s help to prevent offenses, more children will go unmolested. We see clearly today simply glancing at news headlines that trying and jailing sex offenders doesn’t stop offenses, which, judging by statistics, happen every single hour. As I type, and as you read, children are being sexually abused, their life trajectories forever changed — in a sad way we do not wish for them.

What good, what satisfaction, is it to know a pedophile is jailed when you also know that it’s too late to help the victims? The potential victims should be our focus; prevention is worth far more than punishment. Almost all (amateur) reading I’ve done on psychology, and much of great fiction, from classic to contemporary literature, mentions the strength and inescapable pull of the sex drive. People with dreams and plans end up with unexpected pregnancies — the sex drive cannot be beaten. “Celibate” priests, fearing the wrath of an eternal punishment, often cannot hold themselves back. Even homosexuals (even bisexuals!) in Nazi Germany, under threat of gas showers and ovens, couldn’t restrain themselves forever. Are pedophiles fundamentally different that they somehow can hold back? I believe that many could, in an open environment which accepts them as afflicted and in need of support and help. I know that in an underground environment (the same as lovers with future ambitions in secluded meadows, post-Weimar homosexuals in alleyways, and furtive priests unseen by their church), restraint is not to be expected.

All that said, a pedophile living in a society that offers drastic, emergency counseling and assistance who abuses children ought certainly to be punished! For neglecting society’s sympathy and rejecting its offered assistance, a pedophile must be tried and if found guilty, jailed.

Prison should not be a first resort response to this tragic societal epidemic. I believe that the current system does absolutely nothing to protect children or to prevent abuse and victimization and that we owe it to children to try a different approach.

I grant that it is a radical idea regarding an emotional issue. I too am emotional regarding the issue, though less so with anger towards the perpetrators than with sympathy for the victims and hope that in the future, potential victims might be protected from unwanted and disturbing experiences.