While thinking about working with difficult populations, I initially assumed sexually abused children would be a group that would pose problems for me personally. However, further reflection revealed my issue was not working with child victims, but instead was assisting adult perpetrators. I feel very strongly that I would have difficulty providing services to an individual who is a pedophile or who has performed any sexual assault against a minor.
I have always heard negative things about working with pedophiles in my many years in the field of human services. This has always been very bothersome to me and left me wondering if it is even possible to help these individuals. Can pedophiles who seek help be “fixed”? This very notion played with my own understanding of the meaning of change, obviously contributing to my bias against this population.
When I was in my undergraduate program, I took a class on child abuse. In it, my professor spoke about sexual abuse and asked if predators could even be rehabilitated. She told us in her lectures about the small percentage of pedophiles who were actually rehabilitated with cognitive therapy. This teacher did not seem to think highly of this treatment and spoke about the phenomenon of continued aberrant behavior and abuse despite treatment. This left me with the feeling that I could not help these people and only strict penal punishments would work with them. I remember being confused as to why anyone would want to help these perpetrators when assisting the child victims seemed to be the righteous focus.
It is hard to pinpoint when my biases against this population started, but I believe it originated from my own childhood. The women in my family were very protective and constantly talked about people who hurt children. They would discuss how pedophiles deserved to die and nothing could help them. They would discuss how a child could never recover from being a victim of sexual abuse and that these children’s...