Therapists In An Ethical Catch-22

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Therapists In An Ethical Catch-22

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‘Virtuous Pedophiles’ Put Therapists In An Ethical Catch-22
The law often mandates reporting—but some therapists refuse, worrying it does more harm than good

“Dan,” a 34-year-old from the Pacific Northwest, is sexually attracted to young girls—but he’s determined not to act on it. Despite his attraction, he says he’s never abused a child and would love to see a therapist to keep it that way. “I think I need help,” he says.

Yet, he feels he can’t seek it out, because Dan is afraid of being reported to the police.

“I have seen stuff that is by definition illegal,” he said in an email, avoiding the term “child porn.” “I’m afraid that making that mere admission will expose me to the law.” Dan, who is primarily attracted to middle school-age girls, also worries that any mention of his 12-year-old niece—whom he says, “I love and would never hurt, she is my best friend”—might trigger reporting.

His story highlights a troubling catch-22 for the mental health community—how can therapists help people who are attracted to minors while complying with laws that sometimes obligate them to report those clients to authorities? Many worry that these requirements discourage people like Dan from seeking out help that could reduce their likelihood of offending.