Help for Adults Concerned About Their Own Thoughts or Behaviors

Now is the time to seek help.

If you know someone who is having sexual thoughts about children or who feels sexually aroused by a child’s presence, this is the time to seek help. It is important to that they  take steps now to keep themselves from being sexual in the presence of a child. 
With specialized treatment, a person who accepts accountability for their thoughts and behaviors can learn to make changes to keep themselves and children safe.

Misconceptions common to adults who have thoughts and fantasies about children

  • “What’s in my head can’t hurt anyone.”
  • “It’s not like I’m actually touching; I’m just thinking about it.”
  • “Just because I’m thinking about it doesn’t mean I’d ever do it.” [From Stop It Now! MN]
  • “I’m pretty sure they don’t realize what I’m thinking or doing.”
  • “The child doesn’t seem to mind.”

Why sexual fantasies about children are harmful

Fantasies can desensitize a person to acts that are harmful.

Thoughts like these make it harder to believe the real risk that lies behind fantasizing about children in sexual ways. Sexually offending a child is seldom a completely impulsive act, it follows a series of deliberate events. For most people who have offended, thinking about a sexual act with a child was the first step in a progression that led them to abusing.

Fantasies can precede abuse

Many adults who sexually abused a child have told us that they initially had sexual fantasies about children. They said if only they could have “fast forwarded” their life and seen the damage they would do to themselves and others, that they would not have acted on their fantasies.

Adults can be affected by having harmful thoughts even when they don't act on them

Even when individuals don't act on the harmful thoughts they have about children, having these thoughts can bring about intense emotional difficulties that can affect how they function in their lives.  It's common for such individuals to feel anguish, shame and guilt, and to think of themselves and others in negative ways.

Help to stop the thoughts

Many people want to stop having harmful thoughts about children but don’t know how. By getting therapy, they will get the opportunity to talk about the meaning and importance of their fantasies. For some people, opening up to someone about what is going through their minds, is a way to decrease the hold that harmful thoughts and fantasies and hold.

Other concerning behaviors

An adult who is at risk of abusing a child may minimize certain behaviors as “harmless”. Some may think that non-touching behaviors that are merely “suggestive” won’t harm a child. But pretending to accidentally touch a child, telling dirty jokes in front of children, referring to children in sexual ways while they’re present, can damage a child emotionally and, just like fantasies, can bring an adult who is attracted to children closer to sexually abusing them.

Adapted with permission from Stop It Now! Minnesota,