Are resources for sex offenders appropriate for adults who haven't abused?


Dear Stop It Now!,

From what I have looked at so far I can see some help for sexual abusers, but not for sexual thoughts about children. Are there any books or programs that could help a young man with unhealthy sexual thoughts? I’m looking for something with some support and safety planning, but also some reassurance that they can change, that they are not an abuser, and help with how to change. Does this make sense?

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Dear Safe Adult,

We’re very glad you contacted Stop It Now! for resources for adults who have sexual thoughts about children, but who haven’t abused. Please know that there are people who can help and support adults in their goals of preventing a child from being harmed, and continuing to live their own safe and abuse-free lives.

I can’t tell from your email whether you’re reaching out for yourself or for a friend, but you are not alone in these concerns – whether they’re about yourself or a loved one. We do also have resources for Adults At-Risk To Abuse who have been able to stay safe in their behaviors but still need support.

Ask Questions
It can be true that some resources for adults who have offended may not be appropriate for someone who hasn’t acted on their thoughts. However, I encourage you or your loved one to communicate with local resources to find out whether they may meet you or your friend’s needs, even if they do seem intended for offenders. You may find that these resources serve both adults who have offended and those who are trying to keep from offending.

Other Treatment Options
Professionals who provide individual counseling may be able to tailor their services to you or your friend’s specific concerns. Additionally, we have heard from some adults who have not acted on these thoughts that being in groups with those who have offended has been additionally helpful for them in committing to staying safe. Some resources may serve both populations even though their titles are geared to offenders – like the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers – so it may be worthwhile to reach out to those resources even if this adult hasn’t harmed anyone. 

Similar Needs
Combining adults who have offended and adults at risk who have not may seem counterintuitive. But adults who have offended and those who have not, may need similar reassurance – that they can address their thoughts and feelings and control their behavior. While you or your friend may need support and guidance to avoid acting on these thoughts, adults who have offended may need to learn the same skills to avoid re-offending in the future. If you or your friend doesn’t feel comfortable in groups or programs that include adults who have offended however, it’s important to mention this to any professionals you reach out to.

I’m so glad that you or your friend have been able to avoid harming anyone, and are reaching out for help to avoid acting on these thoughts. I understand how frightening or uncomfortable it can be to do so when so many resources do focus on adults who have offended. It may feel as though this is the only point at which you or they can find help. But there are people out there who can help you or your friend continue to stay safe without a child being harmed.    

Additional Support
It sounds like you may have already seen our Online Help Center information for those Worried About Your Own Thoughts And Behaviors. But I’d especially like you to take a look at our Safety Planning for an Adult Worried about Their Own Sexual Thoughts or Feelings Towards Children. While not a substitution for professional support, you can begin a safety plan with your friend (or yourself with the support of a friend or loved one) while you search for the support you need.

It might also be helpful for you to look at Edward’s, Wayne’s, and Jim’s Stories of Hope. Although some of these stories involve adults who offended in addition to having sexual thoughts, it may help to see how help and support helped these adults, even at different levels of risk, move forward to safe and healthy living.

Whatever resources you decide to use, I hope that you or your loved one are able to find the support that is best able to help them stay on the path of safety.

Take care,
Stop It Now!


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Last edited on: April 30th, 2020