Can I get help for my thoughts without going to jail?


Dear Stop It Now!,

I have thoughts and they're getting more frequent. I'm scared of trying to find help. Are they going to put me in jail or do I have to register as a sex offender or something? I don't want to go to jail for seeking help.

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Dear Concerned Adult,

I understand how scary it must have been for you to reach out, but I’m so glad you have. There are other people who contact us with similar concerns, and the first thing you should know is that there is hope and there is help.

Reaching Out When You Have Thoughts About Children
Adults who are attracted to children often worry about the thoughts they’re having and realize they want help, but don’t know where to turn – they be may scared of the consequences just like you. They may wonder, “Can I Get Arrested for Just Having Thoughts?” No, but your thoughts are a warning sign that you need help. 

Specialized Help is Necessary
With professional treatment from someone who is trained to work with Adults At-Risk, you can learn strategies to live a healthy and safe life. Finding a specialized counselor is important: they will have the knowledge to give you treatment that you can benefit from. A specialist can give you tools that can help you take control of your life, and manage the feelings or thoughts that are bothering you. 

There are so many people who have struggled with these thoughts just like you, but with the help of specialized treatment, they never go on to harm a child and they are able to lead fulfilling, healthy and safe lives. To find a treatment provider in your area please check out our resource list above. You may also want to reach out to CURE/SORT, an organization dedicated to educating those at-risk, as well as people who have offended, about the benefits of treatment. The most important thing is to recognize that you deserve help and that you will be much more successful at living a safe life when you do have help and support. 

Speaking Up
Our article on How to Ask for Help When You are Troubled by Your Thoughts about Children may also be of interest to you. Understandably, reaching out is a difficult thing, and our article highlights how you can ask for help for something that may be very personal and scary for you. This article is also helpful if you do have a trusted friend or relative in your life you would like to have the support of, but don’t know how to speak with them about this subject. Sometimes we don't need to detail what is troubling us, we just need to ask for help as we go through difficult times. Being isolated though is never a good thing and could increase the risk of you doing something you'll regret forever - and of a child coming to harm.

Safety Planning
I was wondering if there was any child currently at risk? Even if there isn’t, it’s still important to implement a Safety Plan for Someone Worried About Their Thoughts or Feelings Towards Children. A safety plan helps keep both you and children safe. There are things you can do every day to reduce temptation while increasing positive events in your own life. Some people reach out to someone they trust in their life as a support; is there someone you could turn to? As noted earlier, you don't even need to talk specifically about what is going on but instead just ask for help as you deal with a personal issue and that you don't want to be alone. Other good strategies involve not engaging in activities with or around young children, increasing the number of social interactions you have with your own peers, and increasing the number of recreational activities that you engage in.

Hope Through Others' Stories
I think you might enjoy reading through some of our Stories of Hope, like Edward's Story or Jim's Story. Wayne's Story of Recovery is equally as powerful. Wayne sexually abused children – a place that people often think is beyond help or hope – but through treatment he has made a powerful commitment to never harming a child again, and he is currently living an abuse-free life.

I hope you take this opportunity to seek treatment, and get the help you deserve. Reaching out shows that there is hope – there are many other people like you who struggle in silence. Reaching out once to this Helpline was great, I’m so glad you did. I urge you to reach out a second time, and to look for the specialized help of a professional – you don’t need to go through this alone. I wish the best for you in your journey towards recovery.

Take care,
Stop It Now!

Note: Stop It Now!'s webinar, Dear Stop It Now! Helpline... I'm attracted to children. Part 2: What Kind of Help Should I look for? was presented after this email was received and our reply was sent, but it is another helpful resource for adults seeking help for themselves.


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Last edited on: December 28th, 2018