Britain’s Channel 4 is set this evening to air a documentary titled The Paedophile Next Door, which gives a platform to Eddie, 39, a self-confessed paedophile, to argue for more understanding and treatment for those who have paedophilic urges.
The film, by documentary maker Steve Humphries, examines why child sex abuse still takes place despite the resources dedicated to protecting children. Paedophiles “are not monsters with horns and tails, but ordinary blokes,” senior lecturer Dr Sarah Goode tells him. She believes that child abuse could be curtailed by encouraging paedophiles to come out and seek treatment before they offend.
It’s a theory supported by Eddie, who says that he has never acted on the sexual attraction he feels for girls as young as four. “It is not the only thing I am but it plays a large part in the make-up of who I am as a person,” he said.
“I would much prefer not to have these feelings and these attractions but I have them, and that’s difficult. A lot of people automatically assume that because I think or feel that way, then I am potentially going to abuse a child … I certainly don’t want to do that kind of thing.
“People will probably say ‘Why isn’t this guy locked up. We should kill this guy.’ People are just waiting for you to offend before they help you. If you don’t have that help, if you don’t have the option to come forward and say ‘Look I’ve got a problem, I need help’, then what are you changing? You’re changing nothing.”
Humphries also meets Ian, a victim of child abuse at Caldicott Prep School in the 1960s and 70s while a contemporary of Nick Clegg. Although he was unable to talk about his abuse for over 40 years, he has come to the conclusion that paedophilia should be more openly discussed in order to combat it. “If we don’t talk about it, less children will be protected…It may be uncomfortable to talk about but for somebody who has survived that, it is less comfortable than the act being perpetrated,” he says.
Channel 4 said: “Paedophiles are the most vilified of all criminals – invoking universal hatred and disgust. Humphries hears from experts who explain that, as a result, the fear, self-loathing and stress paedophiles will associate with their desires makes them actually more likely to offend. Humphries explores pioneering schemes and initiatives designed to help paedophiles before they might hurt children.
“These ground-breaking schemes aim to educate families and encourage men to seek help – some of them provide residential support and treatment confidentially. Supporters of these initiatives believe they will keep children safe and are far more effective – rather than engaging with them only after they become offenders.”
The approach has drawn the support of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), who say that sexual abuse often goes unreported by children too frightened to speak out. The society has contributed to the program.
Jon Brown, NSPCC lead for tackling sexual abuse, said: “Not all paedophiles act on their urges and there are people who know they are sexually attracted to children but haven’t committed a crime. This means pursuing a criminal path is not possible and we have to look at other options.
“Therapy and support for victims of abuse must take priority but this shouldn’t mean there is no help for those who want to change. We have to fund both and it will actually save money in the long run.
“If we refuse to work with paedophiles to the point where we won’t even engage with the ones who want to change and have not committed a crime, they will be less likely to come forward and seek treatment and children will be at higher risk. If we flinch from treating sex offenders then we are failing children.”
But the National Association for People Abused in Childhood have strongly criticised the documentary, saying that people who have been abused would be ‘offended’ by the airtime offered to paedophiles.
Peter Saunders, NAPAC’s chief executive, said: “This documentary shines the light in the wrong areas. Instead of feeling sorry for poor misunderstood paedophiles, we should be looking at the awful experiences of those who have been abused.”