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Non-offending pedophile is a term used to describe an adult who is attracted to children but has never acted on those feelings with a child.
David, a 21-year-old college student in the United States, knows he is attracted to children between the ages of 4 and 11. He’s one of many pedophiles who knows it is wrong, but believes he was born this way, and that with treatment those urges can be controlled.
But to get that help, people like David have to seek it. And in the United States, that comes with huge risk due to mandatory reporting laws that require therapists to report people they deem a risk to children to the police.
Elizabeth Letourneau, director of the Moore Center for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse, is one of few researchers in the U.S is focusing on preventative measures to help pedophiles.
“Even if you've never offended, if you are sexually interested in children and you reach out to a therapist for help, they may decide that you still represent a threat,” Letourneau said. “And that their concerns meet the threshold for a mandatory report.”
That's not the case at Berlin's "Project Dunkelfeld," one of the only places in the world that offers treatment for pedophiles.
That treatment includes educating patients on risky situations to train them how to behave. There are also treatment options that include chemical castration to decrease sexual urges.
Another objective of Project Dunkelfeld is to destigmatize pedophilia. Dr. Klaus Beier, who created the program, argues pedophilia is a sexual orientation and not a crime if the person has not acted on it.
“Nobody chooses this,” he said. “And as long as he not would act out, it would be very, very inhuman to judge such a person. And I would always vote to integrate him in society.”
Max is a non-offending pedophile from Germany who went through a year of therapy at Dunkelfeld and learned strategies to cope with his attraction to children.
“It's helped me a lot to gain more control about those feelings and to learn more about myself,” Max said. “I learned some strategies to make myself realize what I'm feeling is very different from what the girl is feeling when she's playing with me or kids sometimes even say things like, ‘I love you,’ and to realize, ‘ok that's not the same as I would feel.’”
The U.S doesn’t have a program like Dunkelfeld, so David has found a community online of non-offending pedophiles he can talk to. But he would like to live in a world where pedophilia is destigmatized to the extent that he can get help without risk.
“I wish people understood that I mean we generally don't like the fact that there are pedophiles either —like, we didn't ask for this,” he said. “It's something that a lot of people would be more comfortable ignoring. But when it's you, it's not really an option to ignore it.”
This segment originally aired on VICE News Tonight on HBO.