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Candice: Welcome to the prevention podcast, I’m your host, Candice Christiansen. Our goal, at the prevention podcast, is to talk about dicey, controversial issues related to preventing sexual abuse. Why? Because it needs to be said. Topics include the biology of pedophilia, risk, need and responsivity principles related to non-contact and contact sex offenders, researchers in the field of sex offender treatment, and more.
Join us bi-weekly, and let’s talk about it.
Candice: Welcome to the prevention podcast, I’m your host, Candice Christiansen. As many of you know that listen to our podcast, we have been interviewing all kinds of people. I think we’re globally known at the moment for our discussion of MAPs (minor attracted people) and it’s quite controversial, although we have also interviewed researchers, we’ve interviewed other prevention projects and other organizations who advocate for primary prevention of child sexual abuse.
Today, I am absolutely honored and excited, we have Janavi who is a therapist for the primary prevention program in India. So, I want to welcome you, Janavi, to our podcast.
Janavi: Thank you, Candice, so much for having me here today.
Candice: We absolutely love this because there is this global effort of primary prevention of child sexual abuse, so I am so happy that we can interview you, Janavi, and my thought is, we really want the world to know about your program, especially individuals in India. Let’s go ahead and get started. Tell us about your program, your primary prevention program.
Janavi: Thank you so much, Candice. Before I go into our work, though, I would like to spend some time to shed light on the culture and context in India. I think it plays a huge role, even for people in India to reach out to us for help.
So, as you might be aware, child sexual abuse within India is a really grim reality. From official statistics, we have one in two children and they’re going through some form of abuse before they turn 18. That means that India probably has the world’s largest number of sexually abused children just on sheer quantity.
In spite of that, a public conversation about CSE (child sexual exploitation) only started 15 years ago. It’s not something that’s discussed openly in any forum. It started 15 years ago through a TV program. An important factor of this is that sexuality overall is viewed as a big taboo in this society. Any conversation about sex and sexuality cannot happen in open spaces, to the effect that within many states within the country, providing sex education in school to children is banned.
So, within this context, even for people who experience something different, it’s so difficult to come out and talk about it. The few organizations that do work on child sexual abuse of course focus completely on prevention, through awareness amongst children, but only focusing on personal safety education, or rehabilitation after victimization.
So that’s where there’s this big gap within the prevention approach where the other end of the spectrum, actually working with people who might be at risk to commit offenses, that does not happen at all. That’s where the genesis of the Don’t Offend network, as we call ourselves, is born. We thought there was a need to look at primary prevention from the angle of people who might be at-risk to act out against children. We don’t want to wait for victimization to occur at all. We want to put the onus of responsibility on adults, to prevent their behavior from happening.
Candice: If I could just say something, Janavi, I’m so happy that you’re out there as well. That’s something that we have been advocating for here in the United States, and while we have support by other therapists, sex offender therapists, researchers, it’s so fascinating to us here in the US how many people don’t understand that it makes more sense to provide preventative treatment to those individuals who are at-risk before they cause harm to a child than wait until after, so I love that you guys are out there, I just love it.
Janavi: Thank you so much, and it’s great to know. I think we are the only program in India, really, who have taken this approach and of course, I’m sure you do as well, have a lot of trolling happening, tell us that this does not work, Indian culture does not allow this, and you’re promoting and protecting people with pedophilia. That’s not really the case. People with pedophilia are not all offenders, it’s a sexual preference. We don’t want to push them into the dark, we don’t want to push them inside a tunnel so that their stress levels are so high that they cannot then reach out for help or end up offending as a result of that.
Candice: Yes, we are absolutely on the same page, absolutely on the same page with you on that.
Janavi: So, let me tell you a little about the program itself. The Don’t Offend India network was started in 2016, and they are a group of experts from India and Germany who come together to provide psychotherapeutic treatment to individuals with pedophilia and hebephilia in India.
To start with, our work is based on the expertise of the Prevention Project Dunkelfield in Germany, which is the Don’t Offend program, the original Don’t Offend program that was started in Berlin, but now across 11 centers. It hinges, in India, it hinges on self-identified and self-motivated people with attraction to children, both with pedophilia or hebephilia, and encouraging them to reach out to us for help through two means: We have an online website, which is troubled-desire.com/en/.
They can come in, do a self-assessment there, and if they have never offended, then they are given our contact details for therapists in Mumbai and Pune, which are two cities within India. We also have a toll-free number where people can reach out to us with any questions, or if they want to know more about our program, mental health professionals or individuals with pedophilia, they can call us. We’re operational between the hours of 10AM-4PM five days a week. We accept calls from all over India.
We are actually very, very new. Like I said, we just started in 2016 and the groundwork we are doing is a lot of work around creating awareness within India. We are largely focused in the cities of Pune and Bombay where our team currently is. We do awareness through workshops with mental health professionals, medical professionals, civil society organizations, parents, schools, making spaces to explain to them the difference between pedo/hebephilia and child sexual abuse.
The challenge for us is to be available to have sensible, open discussions within the community to help them see this differently. Because sexuality is such a big problem, child sexual abuse of course is something that is viewed as extremely grim, it is very difficult for people to see that they’re not trying to help monsters as they view them, right, it’s just individuals and people who need help and cannot be shunned just because they have a certain sexual preference.
Candice: I’m really curious, I want to ask you this, because we have come under a lot of fire recently with some fake news about our project, and again, with trolls so on and so forth, claiming that we’re making up the term hebephile and even ephebophile, and so will you educate, because I know what the term is, but for those listeners, I want people to know that Janavi and I are not making that term up, so for those listeners, Janavi, would you mind educating our global community on the difference between a pedophile and a hebephile?
Janavi: So, sexual preference for children is viewed in terms of body type. When somebody is attracted to or has a preference for a child who has a prepubescent body, then we say that that person has pedophilia. Similarly, somebody who is attracted to just pubescent, just after puberty when they’re not completely an adult, that person is called someone who has hebephilia. Just for the listeners, please know that we do not stress on ages of children as much as body size, simply because people at different ages can be at different body types. A 12-year-old can still sometimes have the body scheme of an 8-year-old, for instance, which is then a pre-pubescent body scheme.
Candice: Will you say that one more time Janavi, because I think that’s a really big distinction that I have not heard of, so I really want people to hear that again.
Janavi: When we look at sexual preference for children, we talk about body types and not about the ages of children, because sometimes a 12-year-old can still sometimes have the body type of an 8-year-old. If someone is attracted to a body type of someone before puberty, without no growth of pubic hair for instance, or hair in the chest region, flat women, those people will have a sexual attraction for people with prepubescent bodies, which is pedophilia, or sometimes people can have a sexual attraction or preference for children whose bodies have just hit puberty. So, slight breast growth in women, some pubic hair, and that would be hebephilia. Please note that the focus is on the body type, and not the ages of children.
Candice: Thank you for explaining that again, I think that’s really important for our global community to hear. By us talking about that, for those of you who are wondering, we’re not promoting attraction to children by any means, we’re giving these descriptions and examples so our global community can understand the difference between pedophilia and hebephilia for treatment purposes, so thank you.
Janavi: No problem at all. Coming back to a little bit about what we are doing, awareness of course is one, and it’s really important even for the listeners that pedo/hebephilia is only one of the risk factors for CSE. It is not the only thing, it is not that everyone with pedo/hebephilia are actually going to commit offenses against children. What we are doing is providing a safe space in which people can actually come out and talk about it and the distress that comes from having a sexual preference like that can be resolved in a more safer environment.
Candice: What do you say to those individuals, and we call them trolls, who would say that, “Pedophiles are sick, they are destined to offend,” these are things we get all the time, “They should be murdered, there’s no way they can change, it’s good that they’re in distress…” what would you say to a person who says that?
Janavi: I think in a space like that is where your empathy and expertise and knowledge all comes in, to say that just because someone has a preference does not make them a monster. People are not guilty of their desires, but they are responsible for their behavior. That’s what we are trying to teach people, to be more responsible for their behavior so they do not commit offenses based on their impulses.
Candice: Well, that’s excellent and I love how you just said that, that people are not guilty for their desires. I get, again, that we’ll have people listening to this who will argue and say, yes they are, I think the educated global community of treatment providers who know how to treat this population and researchers, as researchers we can all say that what we’re doing is a really good thing.
I bet in India like you said, it’s very controversial because sexuality and sex is taboo, so here you are, the only organization, you’ve got Troubled Desire, which is a fantastic website, I want people to hear, it’s troubled-desire.com/en/, if you have an attraction you can go on and take an online anonymous survey, there’s lots of support on there, please check it out. That’s one of the websites.
So, lots and lots of help out there. How many people, and I don’t know if you’ve tracked this quite yet, since 2016, how many people have you served so far?
Janavi: So we actually, the troubled desire website was officially launched only last year (2017) in October, before that we were only doing some groundwork to understand where India is, and how ready it is to let us work in this space. Also, considering the legal system because we do have some trouble in terms of the sexual offense law not agreeing with some of the work we do. So, since we launched, online on Troubled Desire we have 143 people who have reached out for help.
Candice: That’s great.
Janavi: Although, only 27 of them have completed the assessment tool, so until you complete the whole assessment tool on the website, we don’t give them further information to reach out to us, since we are only focused on non-offending pedophiles.
Candice: That’s great to know too, since The Prevention Project that we have here in the U.S, we’re with you on that. We do not support the pro-contact pedophiles who believe that it’s okay to have sex with a child at all. We do an assessment to make sure that this person is non-offending, that they don’t want to harm a child, but are in distress and want to make sure they’re safe. So I appreciate that too. Because I think, again, that some folks in the global community have this misunderstanding that when we say non-offending pedophile, that doesn’t even exist. But it does exist, there are people who don’t want to harm anybody, that do want space to talk about it, versus the pro-contact pedophiles who are saying that it’s the laws that are screwed up, and that they should be able to have sex with kids, and kids want that. Which we disagree with.
Janavi: Yeah, absolutely. We do not support offending behavior in any way, and in fact, based on the law in India, we also mandatorily report anyone who comes to us and says that they have offended against a child.
Candice: That’s good to know as well, we’re a clinical team here as well, and we in the U.S. have the same mandatory reporting laws. Now, for those of you who are non-offending pedophiles listening to Janavi in India, or even in the surrounding areas, or if you’re in the U.S., I want you to hear my say this: an attraction does not automatically equal molesting a child, and so please know if you need help, you can still reach out to us. If there is an identifiable victim and you admit to having contacted a child and sexually abused that child, of course we do need to report that, we’re mandatory reporters. However, if you reach out in distress because you have an attraction to a child, we are going to help you. Anything you want to add to that Janavi?
Janavi: No, absolutely. We are not guilty of desires, you are responsible for behaviors. So, please do reach out if you have attractions that you’re not sure of sometimes, as well.
Candice: Yes. So with these individuals, 143 people who have reached out to you, the 27 who have done the assessments, do you know if they are all in India, or surrounding areas? Do you have that demographic?
Janavi: So, actually, those 27 are in India. Because Troubled Desire is a global tool, we are tracking it only based on the countries they are coming from. Otherwise, it’s completely anonymous and confidential, we do not get any other identifying information, except for the parts of the world they are arriving from. These 143 people who have sought help online are from India.
Candice: Wonderful. I just want to stress that again, we have so many individuals who listen to us from all over the world, all 7 continents, numerous countries, you can go to https://troubled-desire.com/en/ and take an anonymous assessment if you feel like you need support. And my guess, Janavi, is that if they’re not in India so they can’t come to you for help, you can refer them to the places, to the “Stop It Now” organizations which are in several countries, the Prevention Project Dunkelfeld if they’re in Germany, our program in the United States, B4U-ACT has resources in Maryland. Is that correct that you can refer?
Candice: Okay, I want people to hear that, because I think sometimes what happens is people think, “what’s the point in going on Troubled Desire and taking this assessment if I’m not in India?” Right?
Janavi: Right. Also, to add, the website besides the self-assessment tool also has self-management tools for those who might not have available resources in the areas they live in. So we also have some programs which you do offline with people, also available online.
Candice: That’s wonderful. And I’m looking at it right now, so for those of you listening, it’s below the home page, and it has a session overview, and there’s several sections for online self-management. I cannot stress that enough, and I’ll post this on twitter where we have a big following of individuals who pass our information along. I’m going to share this because I think you’re right, the cost sometimes gets in the way for a lot of people with pedophilia, hebephilia, even ephebophilia who want support. I think because we have limited projects globally, that can get in the way. So, what a wonderful resource you have here online.
Janavi: Thank you so much.
Candice: What else would you like to share in terms of your prevention programs, your education on sexuality and sexual abuse prevention… what else would you like our global community to know?
Janavi: So, just a couple more things with what you said also. You’re right, cost can sometimes be a limiting factor, and the service that we provide in India is completely free of cost. So, people can just reach out to us and we will provide them services at no cost as all.
Also, one of the other limitations and challenges in India is the number of languages that people speak. Unless you are an English speaking, urban, literate population, it might be limiting for people to reach out to us. That’s something I’d like to stress, and tell people that we do have services in Hindi and Marathi, which are two of the local languages in the state here, and the website, https://troubled-desire.com/en/ is going to soon be released in a Marathi version so more people can access it.
Candice: Wonderful, I am so excited to hear that because like you said, there are so many barriers, not just the fear of coming forward and acknowledging an attraction to a child, and that is a huge fear, but then also the cost, like you said, and the language barrier. For those listening, please know that this is not just for English speaking individuals who live in India. There’s definitely support out there for the different languages. Please, if you need help, come forward and get that support.
And I want to add, Janavi, because I am a survivor of child sexual abuse, I make that very known in our community, especially when the trolls come at me and claim that I’m supporting child rape, which is completely absurd. But I can only imagine an individual who has an attraction to a child, who is terrified because they don’t want to hurt anybody, and therefore they need someone to talk to about that. Getting those tools in India, because there is so much taboo around the topic of sex and sexuality, what are you doing in India to say, hey, we are are here and we are available to offer you support?
Janavi: So, right now, our focus has largely been through an awareness campaign, also because we were worried as well about the trolling that might happen if we put the word out there without an explanation of what hebephilia and pedophilia actually mean. We’ve been spreading awareness through our circles, among mental health professionals, medical professionals, sexologists, psychologists, all of those groups, to tell them about their existence within India, especially within the cities we are in. Now, we have also created a video advertisement, which we are going to put out there for promoting through marketing campaigns that will reach out and tell them that the attraction is all right, but if you have this, please do reach out, seek help, and help is available. It’s not released yet, but it’s going to be out in the next month or so.
Candice: Wonderful, and I can’t stress enough how important the prevention efforts that all of us are doing are, because I want our global community to hear this. We believe, and I know this is the case for you, and the other prevention projects out there, that you can absolutely prevent a child from being harmed if you intervene beforehand…
Candice: …instead of waiting until there’s a victim, and waiting until a crime has been committed and a child has been hurt. This is such a wonderful resource, not just in India, but for the global community. I am so excited that we were able to connect. I hope that those listening in India, and the entire world, know especially about https://troubled-desire.com/en/. Please go to that website, there’s so many great resources for you, and there’s also support if you need therapy and you’re in India, with people that speak different languages. So, please don’t let these things be a barrier, and if you’re unsure, please reach out and get some support.
Janavi: And you can call us on our toll-free number in India; it’s [Note from TNF: It is best to visit their website. There were some inconsistencies in the original audio, and I do not want to give wrong information.]
Canidce: Thank you. I just love that you guys are a resource. So, Janavi, is there anything else that you feel like the global community deserves to know about your prevention program, and your Don’t Offend India online network of resources?
Janavi: Just everything that I’ve said, and that we are looking to expand and collaborate within India as well, so if more of you Indians who are listening to this, mental health professionals maybe, do reach out to us, on our website, our email, or our social media pages. We’d love to connect with you. We are trying to build a community within India who can provide these services.
Candice: Well, thank you so much, Janavi, for taking the time to be on our podcast today. We will definitely promote the work you are doing, I know there are people out there, we have a following in India, so I know that there are people out there listening today that need you as a resource, both in India, and in our global community. So I just want to thank you again, it’s been an honor to interview you for our podcast.
Janavi: Thank you so much, Candice, for having us, and letting us talk about our work, and our program, and we do hope that together we can make a difference in at least a few people’s lives.
All right listeners, thank you so much. Today was such a wonderful conversation with Janavi from Don’t Offend, the Indian network. We are slowly coming to the end of our Season One, so stay tuned, we’ve got some really great interviews coming up along with this one that you’ll be listening to, and let’s continue to have this global conversation. Until next time, listeners, thank you.
Thank you for listening to this week’s podcast. Please visit http://theglobalpreventionproject.org/ to learn more about our project and programs. Please remember to subscribe to our podcast at https://thepreventionpodcast.com or iTunes. See you next time!
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