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Section 4
Correlates of Sexual Offending Against Children

Question 4 | Test | Table of Contents

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In the last section, we discussed core beliefs that many pedophiles have internalized.  These core beliefs included:  unworthiness; unlovable; unrealized needs; and sexualization. 

In this section, we will examine pedophilic clients who live with a co-addicts, or family member or loved one affected indirectly by behavior. We will examine several characteristics of co-addicts and the how they affect the client’s behavior.  These characteristics include:  distortion of reality; feelings of inadequacy and grandiosity; and enabling.

♦ Technique:  Co-Addict Quiz
The co-addict does not quite understand or completely misinterprets his or her role in the client’s behavior.  Because of this, much of the co-addict’s own actions are subconscious.  Many times, the co-addict may inadvertently encourage the behavior or he or she may have had nothing to do with the causes.  When I begin to suspect a client’s family member or loved one of co-addiction, I ask them to take a Co-Addict Quiz. 

This quiz consists of lists of core beliefs and behaviors in regards to the client.  I ask the family member or loved one to look through this list and check off any behavior or belief that he or she may be experiencing.  This list includes, but is not limited to, the following:
            -- Concealing behavior of the addict?
            -- Denial of the obvious?
            -- Secret pacts with other family members?

I also find this quiz helpful in tracing out a pattern of co-addiction in the family member’s or loved one’s life.  Think of your pedophilic client.  Is he or she being acted on by a co-addict?

3 Characteristics of the Co-Addict

♦ #1 Distortion of Reality
The first characteristic of a co-addict is distortion of reality.  The co-addict with this characteristic reasons his or her way out of a situation by creating unrealistic justifications for their loved one’s behavior.  At its basic level, this characteristic acts as a defense mechanism for the co-addict because the reality of the situation is such that it could be almost permanently damaging to the co-addict, emotionally and mentally. 

Forty-two year old Ruth was the wife of Andy, an internet pedophile.  Prior to discovery, Andy spent hours on the computer surfing the net.  Ruth, attempting to delude herself into believing that her husband’s behavior was anything but harmful, justified his behavior by reasoning that he was probably doing work or playing games.  It had occurred to her that Andy’s job as a construction site worker did not require any off-the-job computation and also that he hated games of all kinds. 

Ruth stated, "Sometimes, spam would pop up.  Pornographic spam, of little children.  I told myself that our computer had been bugged, so I wiped the hard drive.  Even after that, the sites kept popping up.  I think I let myself think that it was possible he was visiting porno sites, but not that kind of porno.  It wasn’t until I looked at his site history that I learned the truth."  Think of your Ruth.  Had he or she not distorted reality, could that have stopped the client’s behavior earlier on?  What kind of justifications did your Ruth give for his or her loved one’s unusual actions?

♦ #2 Feelings of Inadequacy and Grandiosity
The second characteristic of a co-addict is feelings of inadequacy and grandiosity.  Once the pedophilic client’s problem is discovered, the co-addict begins to experience guilt and shame that he or she could not prevent the behavior from occurring.  Many co-addicts internalize the belief that if he or she had been a better friend, wife, parent, sister, etc. the client might not have been pushed to such ends.  They feel that they have failed the client somehow and that their own behavior and failure was the primary cause of the client’s acting-out. 

Jerry age 39 lived with his mother Leigh.  As a child, Jerry had been molested by his father Frank from the ages of seven to thirteen.  Leigh had divorced Frank when Jerry was only two, and the two lived on opposite sides of the state.  Because Jerry never told her about the abuse, Leigh had no way of knowing.  Jerry, in the common cycle of sexual abuse, began to seek out young pre-teen boys on the internet, posing as a mature 18 year old girl willing to "school" boys in the ways of sex

When Leigh discovered this and consequently later found out about Frank’s abuse of Jerry, she felt that she was somehow to blame.  Leigh stated, "I knew Frank was an awful father, yet I kept letting  him go over to his house.  I should have listened to my instinct and gotten complete custody without visitation rights.  I didn’t.  It’s my fault, isn’t it?  Oh my god, I’m an awful mother!"  Leigh had translated her feelings of inadequacy as a mother into feelings of complete responsibility for the actions of her son and her ex-husband.  Think of your Leigh.  How does he or she incorporate feelings of inadequacy and grandiosity?

♦ #3 Enabling
In addition to distortion of reality and feelings of inadequacy and grandiosity, the third characteristic of a co-addict is enabling.  In the case of a pedophilic client, enabling I have found is rare due to the extreme social disgust surrounding the disorder.  However, some co-addicts will sink into denial and try and preserve the semblance of a healthy family life by trying to cover up the client’s acts.  These co-addicts have the unique experience of internalizing distortion of reality and feelings and inadequacy and grandiosity resulting in a desperation to control the situation.  

These controlling and enabling behaviors rest in the assumption that the co-addict has power over the addict.  Jennifer, age 32, discovered that her husband Scott had been contacting young high school girls on the internet, luring them into meeting him in person, and then raping them.  Jennifer had been brought up under an alcoholic father whose drunken beatings of her mother were kept "within the family."  From this, Jennifer had learned not to let the outside world into the problems of the family. 

When she discovered Scott’s secret, she paid off the girls to keep quiet and even began to help Scott arrange meetings with the girls, giving him advice.  By taking an active part in his addiction, Jennifer felt that she was controlling the situation and that eventually, Scott would become tired of these encounters and quit altogether. 

In this section, we discussed several characteristics of co-addicts and the how they affect the client’s behavior.  These characteristics included:  distortion of reality; feelings of inadequacy and grandiosity; and enabling.

In the next section, we will break down the personality types of pedophiles in order to better educate the parents of victims and the victims themselves.  These personality types include:  the powerless personality; the antisocial personality; the sexually impotent personality; and the impulsive personality.

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Bailey, J. M., Bernhard, P. A., & Hsu, K. J. (2016). An Internet study of men sexually attracted to children: Correlates of sexual offending against children. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 125(7), 989–1000.

Guassi Moreira, J. F., Sahi, R., Ninova, E., Parkinson, C., & Silvers, J. A. (2020). Performance and belief-based emotion regulation capacity and tendency: Mapping links with cognitive flexibility and perceived stress. Emotion. Advance online publication. 

Ischebeck, J., Kuhle, L. F., Rosenbach, C., & Stelzmann, D. (2021). Journalism and pedophilia: Background on the media coverage of a stigmatized minority. Stigma and Health. Advance online publication.

Jahnke, S. (2018). The stigma of pedophilia: Clinical and forensic implications. European Psychologist, 23(2), 144–153.

McPhail, I. V., Hermann, C. A., & Nunes, K. L. (2013). Emotional congruence with children and sexual offending against children: A meta-analytic review. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 81(4), 737–749.

Wolak, J., Finkelhor, D., Mitchell, K. J., & Ybarra, M. L. (2008). Online "predators" and their victims: Myths, realities, and implications for prevention and treatment. American Psychologist, 63(2), 111–128. 

What are four characteristics of co-addicts? To select and enter your answer go to Test

Section 5
Table of Contents