Gary (63), a regular contributor to the online support group, Virtuous Paedophiles (Virped), is sexually attracted to 6 to 12-year-old girls. As is the case with the vast majority of people who find themselves with the attraction, Gary has been aware it since around the age of twelve. “The forums are helpful in reducing the risk of acting on my urges, even though I don't consider myself at great risk. I came to an egosyntonic acceptance of my pedophilia without ever acting on it or being distressed by it.”
Gary preparing his pick-up for a trip to collect firewood. 'I may be crazy for being so open about my paedophilia, but I have less to lose and nothing to hide. I am retired and have no children at home. I know there are vigilantes but I trust God to protect me.'
Over the course of his life, Gary has faced repeated trauma and prejudice as a result of his sexual orientation. ‘Being dismissed from Walden University based solely on my sexual orientation was certainly most traumatic. Being interrogated by the state police and banned from the only hospital in our county because of false allegations was certainly not fun. I was also abandoned by a counsellor without a referral in 1999. The counsellor freaked out when I came out to her and said, "I can't deal with that." She said she would not meet with me again.’
Stopping for gas on the way to pick up his wife, Tabitha from the airport on the 5-hour drive to Sacramento airport. 'I always like to save a buck where I can.'
Gary is married to recently retired medical professional, Tabitha. Having been married for almost ten years, Gary came out to her as being sexually attracted to young girls four years ago. “My wife, sisters, children, other relatives, and many friends accept my attraction as long as I don't act on it. Only mental health professionals have mistreated me.”
Tabitha helping Gary with the running of his own paedophile support site, ASAPinternational.org. (The Association for Sexual Abuse Prevention) 'As to how I reacted when I learned that Gary was sexually attracted to young girls, I believe it was a slow dawning rather than an in-the-face, shocking revelation. I believe him to be trustworthy and to have not done anything to be ashamed of. Not acting upon it might be like others who have secret sins or behaviours to which they have a propensity; but without the action, it becomes a non-starter.'
Gary opening up the church in preparation for an AA-styled course that he runs to help locals with problems such as addiction and depression. As a member of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, Gary centres his life on religion. Last year he finished building this church himself with the help of his family, local community and other members of the Seventh Day Adventist Church.
Gary in his home with Spunky, one of his two schnauzers
While on a trip to visit his daughter, Gary has arranged to meet Sammy- another member of Virped forum who he has known for several years but only now for the first time has had the opportunity to meet. Due to the strong stigma generally associated with paedophilia, anonymity plays an important role in making Virped a safe and approachable forum for minor-attracted-persons. As a result meetings like this outside of the forum are almost unheard of.
Sammy (33) has been aware of his attraction for 20 years. “When I was 10, the first time I ejaculated was thinking about a 5-year-old girl that I had seen that day. She was wearing a pretty white dress. I remember thinking it was kind of ... odd. When I was about 15, I fell in love with a 3-year-old girl. At that point it was impossible to deny that I was a paedophile.”
Sammy shaves in preparation for another of dozens of interviews he has gone through in recent weeks. The final rediscovery of his attraction came as a result of falling in love with the daughter of his ex-wife’s sister, both of whom had moved in with them for several years. He would smoke marijuana in order to suppress the attraction, which lead to an addiction. He was recently fired from his job after coming out as positive in a drug test he had to take after being promoted.
At the early stages of the internet before the existence of Virped and similar forums, Sammy sought comfort and reassurance in pro-contact forums: online chat groups that openly advocate and encourage sexual activity with minors. 'I found a site called the Pedophile Liberation Front. I was pretty brainwashed… they forced me to find some kind of solace somewhere where people understood. They taught me that, yes, people do fall in love with children, and that it's okay. This was very good to hear, but yeah, some other fucked up messages came along with it. I never believed in their rhetoric strongly enough to act upon it in real life, but I did feel I owed them. They saved my life, after all.'
'I believe [paedophiles] have romantic/sexual desires toward children that blend with protective desires. For example, I have had fantasies that appear to be crosses between date fantasies and paternal fantasies. Fantasies like taking a girl to the movies, holding her hand, then taking her home to tuck her in to bed and then reading her a bedtime story and kissing her goodnight.'
Jack (62) is an ex-member of Virped and a regular contributor on Gary’s group ASAP. Between the years 1967 and 1989, starting from the age of just fourteen, Jack has claimed to have sexually molested over three hundred young boys. Having spent the first fourteen years of his life in a children’s home, Jack was beaten, molested and raped by members of the home’s staff as well as the elder children there. Having been born with polio, he was victimised for being a weakling and not being able to fully fend for himself. ‘I’m not blaming the institution for what I did: they may have taught me the behaviour but I was the one who made the choices and I stand behind the fact that I take responsibility for those choices: good and bad. I’m open about my life: I’m not hiding behind my crimes.’ Jack has not reoffended since 1989.
’My crimes were very calculated, very deliberate. I’d only own as many possessions as I could fit in my car so I could move from town to town when I thought the cops were catching onto me. I switched from village, to town, to city, whatever. I’d just disappear overnight. I never signed a lease. I rented by the month deliberately- that was part of my calculations. My whole life revolved around offending. And I made sure that it did. It was no fluke. Everything was calculated.’
Though he readily takes full responsibility for his offences, Jack feels his historic sexual behaviour - and perhaps even his attraction - were learnt from his time spent at the children’s home. ’Every Sunday night for two hours they took us to the chapel and showed us a little film. I had endured so much physical, emotional, sexual abuse [there] that the two hours a weekend in the chapel watching a film was my escape. I became friends with Christopher Lee, and other famous stars back in the day when stars were stars. I grew up admiring them; wanting to be them; wanting it to be more than just a two hour escape. Every year when the Wizard of Oz was ended I went upstairs and prayed a tornado would come and take me over the rainbow out of here.’
Judge Newman was the judge at Jack’s Post Conviction Relief Petition in 2002. In 1990 during his initial sentencing, Jack had asked his prosecutor that he do not give him a reduced sentence for his crimes, however five years into serving, he had decided to seek psychiatric help. Newman recognised Jack’s real desire to turn his life around and determined he should be released twelve and a half years into his fifty-nine year sentence. ’The stigma towards getting the label [of a paedophile] is overwhelming. It’s unbelievable how even though a person may never do it again, it becomes something that’s stuck with them. I accept people for who they are now. A lot of people have done some pretty bad things but a lot of people change their lives and change their ways and overcome that. You just can’t turn your back on people who have been there and done it but have overcome it.’
Jack’s mantra ‘Not Today! Not Ever Again!’ can be found written in every part of his life- from his bathroom wall to his email sign offs to even being tattooed across his wrists. ‘I’ve taken so much from so many. I can never give back enough- never. Even if I lived another lifetime I could never give back what I have done. I’m not desperate to stay out of prison. I’m desperate not to reoffend. I do not want to hurt another child.’
Still suffering from the after effects of his childhood polio, Jack has a carer, Kenny (25), who has been living with and caring for him unpaid since 2011. ’At first empathy drew me into helping out and slowly it developed into a friendship which is partially the reason I’m still here. I had been his caregiver for over a year before I found out about his background. It’s not something I had set out to dig into. I had no idea. There was just one day he said ‘I need to ask you something.’ I said ‘okay’. He said ‘but I ask that you don’t judge me.’ He disclosed everything and I said “okay I’m not going to think anything less of you.” I’m not one that likes to judge people.’
A victim of child sexual abuse himself, Kenny claims to have been raped by his his elder cousin on multiple occasions ‘My mother was aware of it. Every time we would go [to his house] she would say “go downstairs and play with Andrew and his toys” knowing what was going to happen.’
Kenny lights a lamp on Jack’s boarded-up front porch. As well as acting as a carer in a medical sense, Kenny has come to be Jack’s primary safeguard to keep him from reoffending. The wooden planks blocking out his porch were fitted by Kenny at Jack’s suggestion to prevent him from being tempted to look out at children playing in the street in front of the house. If Jack notices a young boy out in public, he will stop dead in the middle of a sentence to let Kenny know. ‘That takes away the secret and the power that the secret has - I diffused a potential danger situation ahead of time.’
The pride and joy of Jack’s life is his dogs. ‘In all fairness I would be lost without these babies. No matter what happens they still love me. I cannot have any children around - human children.; but I have a lot of love still in me.’
Ian (31) is another more recent member of Virped. Though he too has been aware of his attraction since being a teenager, he never felt the necessity to come out or seek help about it, rather learning to accept himself from early on. He came across Virped after eventually deciding that he wanted to find and speak with others like him. 'I'm happy and satisfied with being able to talk to the wonderful people [on Virped]. It's already more than I would've expected to have in my life.'
Despite having been in a relationship with his husband for the past nine years, Ian has never come out to either him or anyone else in is life. '[Coming out to my husband] is something I've been thinking about lately, but I definitely don't want to make any snap decisions. There are so many things I need to take into consideration. Would it make the relationship better? Or would it just forever be a burden that we have to work around? Is there any reason to have to burden him with something that I'm having no trouble shouldering on my own?'
Ian helping his younger sister with her car while he is taking her out for driving lessons. With a strong love for his family and an urge to settle down and start one of his own, he and his husband are currently going through serious talks about adopting children. 'I'm worried about becoming attracted to them. As much as I love kids, that's not a living situation I would want. I'd like to believe I'm overreacting, but I also believe ignoring potential problems doesn't make them easier to deal with. I wouldn't want to put myself in a position where I have a child and then 8 years down the line realise what I've gotten myself into.'
Ian sleeps long into the day after working a 40-hour weekend. He works as a carer at a group home for special needs foster children. 'I had moved and was looking for a new job. The home was looking for personnel. I've worked with some kids with developmental delays in the past, so I’m familiar with treatment plans, behaviour modification methods, medication, daily living goals. It’s all stuff I've done before. Just never exclusively with children.'
Ian is one of three adults in charge of one of several groups of 12 kids at a specialised group home that takes in children that come from backgrounds of neglect and abuse. He was personally picked out for this role by the home’s weekend supervisor, having known him from when he was already working at a clinic. 'I have thought about my line of work before. For a long time I [asked myself] is this right, or should I be doing this because I know society says I shouldn’t. But eventually I thought that there are many others that frequently have to deal with people they are attracted to at work and it doesn’t make them less effective and it doesn’t mean they shouldn’t do their job. It just means you have to handle it in a mature fashion.'
Ian’s regular job roles include taking them out on excursions, overseeing their medication and even cooking meals for them. 'I bond with the kids in a way most people don't. I take the time to develop a healthy relationship with every child I work with. I try to give them the love and support like the family they should've had. And it shows: they don't ask any of my co-workers to tuck them in at night, or to read them stories, [nor do they] get upset when they find out [that other members of staff] have a day off.' On leaving after a short visit to the home, one child starts crying when he realises that Ian is leaving so soon after arriving. Another calls out “I love you” to him as he is walking off.
Ian browses the children’s section of the library, looking for books to buy for the kids. 'I want to see these kids succeed and have a happy, normal life. The kids know that, and they respond to it. I don't think I would be as interested in the kids or their well-being if I wasn't a paedophile. Channelling those feelings into something positive that has a difference in their lives makes having to deal with the moments of my uncomfortable attraction worth it. Paedophilia is a part of me: I couldn't change it without changing who I am. My experiences, even the bad and unpleasant ones, make me a better person, not less of one. Sure it makes things difficult, but it's only a part of who I am; not the entirety of my existence. My identity isn't based on who I'm attracted to. I like who I am, and I enjoy my life. I wouldn't trade it for anything.'