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Ask Michael: Hurtful assumptions about homosexuality and pedophilia
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Ask Michael: Hurtful assumptions about homosexuality and pedophilia

by Michael Raitt - SGN Contributing Writer

At the end of September, I read an article posted on the website of the Seattle weekly newspaper The Stranger where it reported that the Vatican's representative to the UN, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, had stated that child molestation in the Catholic Church was due to the problem of "homosexuals preying on adolescent boys, not one of pedophilia, [and it is called] ephebophilia [which is] a homosexual attraction to adolescent males." The report went on to say that the Archbishop reported that "80 to 90 percent" of the molestations within the church were caused by homosexuals and not pedophiles.

Upon reading this, it occurred to me that this is an important therapeutic issue in our culture and within the GLBTQ community. It is important because of the impact these statements have on individuals and families who have, or know, LGBTQ children or parents. The Archbishop's statements perpetuate the myth that, by nature, homosexuals sexually prey upon young children (particularly boys). Stating as fact that "80 to 90 percent" of molestations were perpetrated by homosexuals - not pedophiles - suggests strongly that a high number of homosexuals molest children. You know far too many weak-minded people will believe this and use this to deny all kinds of rights to GLBTQ men and women.

Of the utmost importance is the safety of children. There is no question about this. The issue of pedophiles anywhere is of concern because of the very real harm they cause.

Another kind of harm is caused to a group of people when misinformation and distortions are continually used to vilify them.

First and foremost, I'd like to know what criteria the Vatican used to come up with such statistics. Is it sound research or opinion?

I can only speak to the general population. I cannot speak to what goes on in the Catholic Church. I can say this, however: If there is any phenomena that occurs in a statistically significant way in higher/lower numbers in the Catholic Church than it does in the general population, it is worth looking at, and the public should have access to all records. Researchers should be able to set up studies.

What are the facts? The vast majority of pedophiles are "straight." Even many men who have sexual contact with boys are straight. This is because child molestation is not simply an act of sex with a young child. It is about power, control, obsession, secrecy, threats, and violence. It is about forcing someone who has little or no power to do things they cannot possibly consent to doing or understand the implications of. Straight pedophiles prey upon both young boys and young girls. Pedophiles are not attracted to adults sexually or emotionally. My hypothesis is that many victims of sexually abuse by clergy (not just Catholic clergy) felt controlled, that they had no power, and secrecy and threats were lauded over them - all definitions of being molested by a pedophile.

Yes, of course there are pedophiles that are Gay. Yet reliable research continues to support that the occurrence of Gay pedophiles in the Gay community is not any larger than straight pedophiles in the straight community. For example - and these numbers are not concrete - if it is estimated that 1% of straight men are pedophiles, you will not find a higher percentage of Gay men as pedophiles.

This is important for two major reasons. First, the vast majority of us GLBTQ men and women are not pedophiles, nor do we engage in, "ephebophilia," which is a sexual attraction to mid-to-late adolescent partners. We are emotionally and sexually attracted to our peers - other adults!

Many uncles and aunts have been denied the privilege of knowing their nieces or nephews because family members inaccurately believe that these men and women might molest their child. In years past, peoples' lives have been destroyed because they've lost their careers when this kind of misinformation fueled hysteria and reactivity.

Even more reprehensible is that certain religious and political groups have used these distortions to keep parental rights away from very qualified GLBTQ men and women. The general population hates pedophiles and would like to do physical harm to them. Distortions lead unstable people towards hurting and/or killing others. These are the reactions of others inflamed by their fears and misperceptions of LGBTQ friends and family.

There are reactions that are instilled within GLBTQ men and women which propel them to respond in certain ways and which result in negative consequences. The horrible distortion of the truth has resulted in good GLBTQ men and women avoiding parenthood because of the reactions of others. Even though GLBTQ men and women know themselves and know they are not pedophiles, they remove themselves from their families because of fear of baseless accusations. They know they would never molest a child, but many report receiving uncomfortable suspicion and stares from parents. Too many men and women have left their religious/spiritual lives because of the conflict created by what they are told about who they are versus who they really know themselves to be. This generates distrust, self-esteem issues in GLBTQ men and women, familial and community isolation, and depression.

Of course, the safety of children is first and foremost by all measures. Gay or straight, if you are a pedophile, you need to be in jail. Currently, there are no treatments for you. The horrible consequences of your selfish, violent acts takes years of hard work for victims to overcome.

Leaders and lay-folk have to understand that their words and distortions cause others harm. When you lead the general population to infer that the majority of GLBTQ men and women are pedophiles, you are causing untold harm to us. You are destroying relationships, and worse, you are escalating the level of threat of physical violence towards a group of loving men and women.

Let's get the facts correct and work toward keeping children safe by providing them with loving, nurturing immediate and extended families and community. For those families where it is important, let's give children and families the foundation of a good, healthy religious/spiritual experience - not one where individuals secretly feel shame and disgust because they are told they are something they are not by someone they are supposed to trust and who is supposed to speak the "truth."

Michael Raitt, MA LMHC, is a therapist and a contributing writer to the SGN. He writes a bimonthly column in the SGN. If you would like to comment on this column, ask a question you'd like him to write about, or suggest another topic of interest, please contact him at askingmichael@comcast.net .

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