Obstacles to Help-Seeking for Sexual Offenders: Implications for Prevention of Sexual Abuse

J Child Sex Abus. 2017 Feb-Mar;26(2):99-120. doi: 10.1080/10538712.2016.1276116.


Persons with potentially harmful sexual interests such as attraction to minors are unlikely to seek or receive treatment before a sexual offense has been committed. The current study explored barriers to help-seeking in a sample of 372 individuals in treatment for sexual offending. Results revealed that the shame and secrecy resulting from stigma associated with pedophilic interests often prevented our respondents from seeking professional counseling, and only about 20% tried to talk to anyone about their sexual interests prior to their arrest. Barriers to seeking and receiving psychological services included concerns about confidentiality, fears of social and legal consequences, personal shame or confusion about the problem, affordability, and challenges finding competent therapists who were adequately equipped to help them. Understanding and ultimately reducing obstacles to help-seeking can improve the quality of life for people with harmful sexual interests and potentially prevent sexual abuse of children or other vulnerable individuals.

Keywords: child sexual abuse; minor-attracted persons; pedophilia; sexual offender; treatment.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child Abuse, Sexual / prevention & control*
  • Criminals / psychology*
  • Help-Seeking Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Law Enforcement
  • Pedophilia / psychology
  • Pedophilia / therapy*
  • Risk Factors
  • Social Stigma*