The Blue Angel’s approach to prevention
An unprecedented, informal methodology; dialogue groups where victims and pedophiles meet
Despite the launch in june 2014 of a “world alliance against child pornography online” between the USA and Europe, preventing the sexual abuse of children all over the world is still wishful thinking. Dealing with recidivism from sex offenders is an issue regularly brought to the attention of the public and debated upon over and over by the politicians and the medias, while the idea of preventative measures tackling the problem at the source, impeding or dissuading pedophiles (especially those who never broke the law) from ever acting out, is left untouched.
Between ages 6 and 14, I was myself the victim of a pedosexual, and since then I have wanted to understand this phenomenon to protect the children and bring them the support I had wished for at their age. I devoted myself to field work for thirty years before founding in France the “Ange Bleu” association in 1998, and I observed during my interventions and investigations that pedophilia as a subject is very difficult to broach, complex, ambiguous and controversial.
There are multiple definitions of pedophilia and they often mix together very different notions, causing much confusion and errors even in official statements.
Who does the term “pedophile” refers to?
To have a better understanding of the subject, it’s necessary to better define the term “pedophile”. First off, a pedophile isn’t necessarily a pedosexual and a pedosexual isn’t necessarily a pedophile: the term “pedosexual” refers to an adult who has sexual relationships with pre-pubescent children. He can be violent, non violent (seduction/manipulation) or “in good faith”, meaning sincerely unaware of posing any threat to the physical and/or mental integrity of the child.
The term “pedophile”, on the other hand, refers to a person (generally a man) who feels a mostly stable and defined sexual attraction for pre-pubescent children. We also sometimes refer to “hephebophiles”, who feel similarly attracted to young pubescent teenagers (around 13 to 18 years old).
We must therefore distinguish between pedophile offenders (pedosexuals) and “abstinent” pedophiles who feel this attraction and these fantasies but make the choice of never acting out on them. Furthermore, it’s important to avoid confusion with incest: incestuous pedosexuals aren’t necessarily pedophiles.
For some pedophiles, their deviant sexual orientation is an integral part of their personality and it doesn’t cause any feelings of shame or guilt. To others, on the other hand, it’s a torment, shameful and distressing. However, among medical professionals there are only a precious few who are able to tell the difference between a pedophile offender and an abstinent pedophile, prescribing to all of them the same treatments and therapies, uneffective at best.
What are those treatments? Often the same for everybody regardless of their profiles: antidepressants or chemical castration, and therein lies the problem.
It isn’t a rare occasion indeed when we treat the same way a serial rapist and a user of child pornography who never acted out in real life. So the sadist, the bashful neurotic, the pedophile psychopath, the pedophile naïvely in love, they are all put on the same level. Seen in this light, pedophiles are often subjected to insufficient and inappropriate treatments. Indeed, how could they take seriously or even give any credit to ill-advised professionals following juridical and/or therapeutical views that are often completely off the mark from the real situations of many pedophiles?
Pedophiles undergoing treatment told me many times how much they despise the complacency of these views that are so far from their actual personalities and desires, and that it’s often just to obey their sentence that they go “visit” a therapist. The situation then becomes grotesque: the therapist is engrossed in preventing recidivism to the point of forgetting the individuality and suffering of pedophile patients, who are not necessarily refractary to therapy.
So pedophiles most often find themselves facing a wall of anguish and shame, and many among them, misunderstood and ill-treated, commit suicide or start considering it as their only option. It’s surely easier to shut our eyes before this disturbing reality. But abandoning these abstinent pedophiles means turning our back on potential offenders.
Preventing recidivism doesn’t prevent the first acting out of a pedophile…
My association was born from the awareness of a blatant lack of listening, counseling and psychological support structures for pedophiles. How can we even start talking about prevention if we don’t take an interest in the people who are liable to act out on children, in their psychology, opinion and suffering?
In France and many other countries, the only form of prevention enacted is that of recidivism. Being limited to this approach is dangerous and an aberration. What does preventing recidivism imply? Waiting for some pedophiles to actually commit a sexual offense, for some of those to be reported to the police and for some of the offenders to be sentenced and forced to undergo a treatment. Apparently everybody concerned with taking charge of the pedophile offender is taking every appropriate measure: the legislators get a clean conscience by hardening the sanctions for recidivists, the justice system by imposing therapeutic follow-ups whenever judged necessary, finally the therapist by providing the treatment supposed to prevent further offenses. The pedophile is seen as inserted in the system and gets a clean conscience too by regularly sending the judge his certifications of attendance to therapy sessions. Society is reassured, at least for a while.
But as soon as any sex offender reoffends, we surmise he was a lost cause anyway and that the only solution is hardening repressive measures even more, some even demanding life sentences, for users of child pornography as well as serial child rapists. It’s very rare to hear anyone question the pertinence of the initial approach.
As for me, that’s what I do. I say that the kind of treatment imposed to some categories of sex offenders through legal action is an aberration and a grave mistake. Not only because the answer comes too late, but also because it’s often ineffective.
A proposition of a unique preventative method
I propose another form of prevention: profile study and personalized evaluation of control while in presence of children. Organisation of dialogue groups where victims and pedophiles with all kinds of different profiles (always chosen following compatibility criterias on a group by group basis) can meet in a convivial, respectful atmosphere and an absence of judgement. I experienced these groups for years on the field, seeing the reparation brought to the victims and the preventative effect on the pedophiles. I pioneered this informal methodology in Europe developping it as the core of my work, and it became a worldwide reference due to its effectiveness.
According to my extensive database, one does not become a pedophile all of a sudden at a mature age. It seems that the deviant pedophile orientation is built over the years most often since the start of puberty. I also have enough testimonies to say that a pedophile generally doesn’t act out before months and often years of living his sexual attraction for children solely in his fantasies. And I also know that many pedophiles fight against their desires to try and never have pedosexual relationships. While repressive measures are necessary, even paramount, they are not by themselves sufficient and I dare to say that in some cases they are even counterproductive. Alternative measures would be more useful and effective in many cases and they wouldn’t cost much if anything to the tax-payers.
What to do so that prevention can be more than a mere word, and stop exiting only in reassuring speeches that couldn’t be further from reality?
Canada is often considered as one of the pioneer countries in the matter of prevention of sexual abuse on children, but on a closer look it would seem that yet again their innovations concerns the prevention of recidivism and not of the first acting out, aiming at pedophiles always conceptualized as “aggressors” even if they never actually acted out. In recent years, the incarceration in Montreal of a pedophile arrested for downloading and exchanging child pornography shows in Canada the same problems in matters of prevention seen everywhere else.
Incorrect information about pedophilia sometimes causes psychosis or even hysteria in the public. As far as I’m concerned the only way to get even the first glimmer of a solution in matters of prevention is through opening a line of dialogue: breaking the silence victims and pedophiles themselves are locked into. Talking to them is already a form of prevention.
I consider that an isolated pedophile is a dangerous one, to others and himself, therefore the dialogue groups allows abstinent or ex-offender pedophiles and adults who were victims of sex abuse as children to meet, tell about their personal history and feelings, and help each other out. Indeed, the dialogue with victims allows for a true awareness of the potential damage an acting out or reoffense can inflict. A revolutionnary method with excellent results, providing a powerful moral barrier for thousands of pedophiles.
After a news report diffused in 2005 on Radio Canada that among other things presented the work of my association in France, I received many calls for help from pedophiles as well as professionals who wanted to know if my concept was going to be “exported” to Canada, given its pertinence and the absence of an equivalent there. I’m not saying that traditional therapy is useless, but that ideally it should be voluntary as much as possible, just as it is for pedophiles joining the dialogue groups of the Blue Angel: without any coercion or control from institutions or the justice system. I don’t try to provide therapy nor to substitute myself to doctors. But what is to me a key element is almost never taken into account in the medical world: the need for the pedophile to be heard and respected as a person. That is to me the essential condition necessary to eventually consider a therapy.
I also deal with a part of this problem that is still very neglected, meaning the aid to provide to the closest and dearest of pedophiles: how to accept that reality? I try to bring answers to parents with a pedophile son and overwhelmed by the catastrophic influence of most medias, or simply by the accusing eyes of neighbors. Pedophilia is a social and cultural taboo and sparks strong and often destructive reactions. But the monstruosity of the act must not make us forget that behind this deviancy there are human beings, who we have to take charge of.
The innovative action of the Blue Angel were once rejected because of its unique and unusual nature. Today thanks to some good medias and to my results, it gained the interest of institutions as well as of criminologists and profilers who want to have a better understanding of this deviancy.
Despite the promesses and the sponsoring of many representatives of state, the Blue Angel still to this day does not benefit from any subventions and the sheer scope of my action as well as of the expressed needs is beyond my current means.
I can only observe that despite my regular warnings and propositions for collaboration, no initiative, discussion or policy aiming at a better form of prevention of sexual abuse on children has been considered. In the face of the potential danger represented by a great number of fragile pedophiles whose needs are clearly stated, there has been no proposition to develop a national action similar to mine. Whereas preventing here means protecting our children, which should be a state prerogative!