Pedophilia, Politics, and Prevention: Listening to online peer support forums for pedophiles

Research output: Book/anthology/dissertation/reportPh.D. thesis

Abstract

The stigmatization of people who are sexually attracted to children is a prominent concern for
child sexual abuse prevention. Despite popular belief, many who are sexually attracted to
children successfully manage to live without committing abuse, yet punitive attitudes in society can lead to detrimental psychological effects which have been associated with an increased risk of offending. More so, stigmatic attitudes in society also deter people who are sexually attracted to children to seek help due to fear of exposure, guilt and shame, and mistrust in mental-health professionals.
This dissertation explores online peer support forums as a potential technology to prevent
abuse for their potential to provide accessible, anonymous, and trustworthy places of support to obtain strategies to live lives without offending and combat stigmatic risk factors. After first
introducing and discussing the current state of literature concerning pedophilia, peer support,
and prevention of child sexual abuse, this dissertation provides empirical and ethnographic
insights into how online peer support forums and the stigmatization of pedophiles in society
enmesh with the prevention of child sexual abuse through four different articles.

In Article 1, literature commenting on both risk-escalating and -reducing potentials for online
peer support forums is reviewed. It is shown that no preventive effect of online peer support can be synthesized due to the anonymity of the forums, but different circumstances for technological and social affordances to either encourage or deter offending are identified for future research to explore further.
In Article 2, a case-based and comparative study of two different peer support forums’
practices of using legal video material of children in a sexualized context is explored. Analytical attention to observing peer support as “critical learning” rather than risk-enhancing or -reducing mechanisms is suggested to visualize unforeseen preventive factors, even in harmful practices.
In Article 3, one online peer support forum is explored to visualize how its’ users discuss the
preventive potential of peer support themselves. An analytical and theoretical framework to
include the perspectives of people who are sexually attracted to children in matters of
stigmatization and prevention is suggested.
In Article 4, Danish people who are sexually attracted to children are interviewed to explore
the barriers they experience to seeking help within a Danish landscape of prevention. Secondary preventive efforts’ ability to create positive expectations and goals for help-seeking is argued as key to promoting help-seeking.

Taken together, the empirical insights into peer support forums and help-seeking for people
who are sexually attracted to children reveal new perspectives and inherent political tensions in child sexual abuse prevention research and practice. Theoretical concepts to navigate these are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherÅrhus Universitet
Number of pages243
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2023

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