There is no such thing as a “typical sex offender”.

It can be hard to understand how seemingly ordinary people can have sexual thoughts or behaviors towards children. There is also no usual “pathway” to becoming someone who sexually abuses children. People who sexually abuse children can be male or female, young or old, attractive or not, successful or struggling to get by. The most common similarity they share is having experienced abuse (physical, sexual, or emotional) earlier in life.

A small number of people who sexually abuse children are pedophiles.

Pedophilia is a mental health diagnosis for someone who has a persistent and exclusive sexual attraction to children. About 10% of those who offend are pedophiles. The majority of adults who sexually offend do so within the family or extended family/friend context, and may have adult sexual relationships as well.

Some reasons why it happens

Some people are sexual with children because they act impulsively or take advantage of an opportunity:

Most people who sexually abuse kids want to stop.

Many times people who sexually abuse children know it is wrong and are deeply unhappy about what they are doing. On the Stop It Now! Helpline,  many adults describe wanting to stop but don’t know how. They feel out of control. They want help but fear the consequences. They are tired of all the secrets and lies.

Adapted with permission from Stop It Now! Minnesota,

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Helpful Organizations
Organization: Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers


A national professional membership association of specialists in the field of sexual abuser treatment. For a referral contact them by phone or email. No identifying information required

Organization: Safer Society Foundation


A national non.profit specializing in sexual abuse prevention and treatment. Referrals to treatment providers can be requested by phone (802.247.3132) or online. No identifying information required


Helpful Articles
Title:All Books Available from Safer Society Foundation Press
Abstract:Free catalog of publications specializing in sexual abuse prevention and treatment, including recovery for victims, those who have abused and family members
The Safer Society Foundation Press
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