Adam Powell, today’s guest blogger, was a co-founder of the Forum for Understanding Minor Attraction (FUMA), which engaged with mental health support services in the UK with a view to improving what was on offer to those of us with “an emotional and erotic attraction to children or adolescents below the age of consent”. FUMA pursued this objective from its founding in 2012 to the abandonment of this aim in 2017, largely over frustrations that former maths teacher Adam writes about here. He has since emigrated to the Netherlands. 

 

… POLITICALLY, WE ARE FAILING TO SAVE OURSELVES

I was acquainted with the UK branch of Stop it Now! (SIN) on and off from 2007 to 2015.

SIN began in the US and was founded by Frances Henry, who has said her father sexually assaulted her for four years, from age 12-16. She took it upon herself to visit men in prisons serving sentences for actual or perceived child sexual abuse. She went in to ask them one question: would they respond to therapy if it were offered? The overwhelming majority said they would. This is what she wanted to hear. It is also what I would expect them to say, having serious personal problems and wanting to get something off their chest; but I do not think that is what Henry had in mind.

SIN has spread its influence across the world to other countries including the UK and the Netherlands. The UK branch denies that minor attracted people exist. According to them, nobody is a paedophile. It is a “media stereotype”. They find the very idea that any adult person could be sexually attracted to a child preposterous in spite of many people telling them that this is the case. They believe a child has nothing to offer an adult. They have said on their website that they agree with Freud’s assertion that a child is a sexual being like anyone else, which would appear to contradict their salient message. It causes them consternation that an adult would have a social interest in children; when this is the case they tend to be judgmental and imagine there is something seriously wrong with that individual even if involves nothing sexual. They tend to see their own beliefs as axiomatic; somehow their own thinking is just “common sense”. It needs no explanation; anyone taking a contrary view must be either stupid or rebellious.

I think we need to look carefully at the context within which the UK branch operates, or did until at least 2015. There are significant differences between the UK and NL branches. SIN UK is a charity that works closely with the Lucy Faithfull Foundation (LFF) which has similar goals. They are being run by much the same people but for accounting purposes have to be treated separately. SIN struggles to raise money from members of the general public because MAPs do not attract much sympathy. Their staff have experienced a lot of flak too. They survive on government grants. Although strictly speaking a charity, SIN UK is a quasi non-governmental organisation. The government is outsourcing its duty of care for minor attracted persons to a charity, when I think the National Health Service should show greater responsibility. Neither SIN or LFF can say anything other than what the government wants to hear, so it is inevitably an abusive organisation reflecting the abusive attitudes of the government and of the wider public. If the staff at SIN were to move to the Netherlands and experience a different ethos they might learn a more compassionate response.

Baroness Lucy Faithfull was a Conservative member of the House of Lords, in which capacity she campaigned for MAPs to receive treatment aimed at a “cure”. This was absurd. Baroness Faithfull should have known that various attempts to “cure” gays had little success and caused enormous psychological damage to those involved. By repeating a broadly similar behaviourist approach but without electric shocks (which were outlawed in the UK in the 1980s) Baroness Faithfull should have been able to foresee that any attempts to “help” people who said that they were minor attracted was likely to have similarly disastrous results.

I think that the Baroness was just as naive as Frances Henry in believing that whatever your problem is, the answer somehow lies in counselling. This is the context within which SIN and child protection “professionals” work. They seem to believe that their moral judgement is enough for them to provide therapeutic services for others. I appreciate that moral judgement is necessary for us to make sense of our lives and to prevent us from harming ourselves and others but moral judgement is always made on the basis of inadequate knowledge.

Here lies the problem with SIN and their fellow travellers. They seldom allow themselves the luxury of accepting that they are frequently wrong, misled and shallow. Things that they see as axiomatic such as “adults are more powerful than children” are not always true. Sometimes a child is more powerful than an adult, within their own orbit. SIN UK is part of a wider movement that wants to see the complex questions about nature and the universe reduced to a few simple axioms, because they imagine this will make the world a happier place. They cannot have what they want so they tend to direct their anger at their clients.

They also have to work closely with the police, probation, child protection agencies, survivors’ groups, the media and mental health professionals, so they have to sing the tune these people want to hear even when it is contradictory. I think people have a better understanding now of the limitations of psychology (which were shown by John De Cecco in an interview with  Joseph Geraci in Paidika (Vol. 1 No.3, Winter 1988), in which he explained that psychology has sold its soul to money. The psychological opinions one gets depend on how much you are willing to pay for them, making the psychological community look very corrupt. One also hears stories about intimidation in British universities of academics who do not say what the government or wider public want to hear. I wonder if an honest psychologist is employable in this country?

I wonder how well SIN understand this? Very controversially they recruited Ray Wyre, who promoted himself as “the national expert on paedophilia”. At the time, Wyre had a background as a probation officer but with no directly relevant qualifications and no peer-reviewed publications to his name. He became the adviser to LFF and SIN. He was not without controversy. As a probation officer he had booked his meetings with sex offenders in groups. He did not ask either higher authority or the offenders themselves for permission to do this. He used this as a stepping stone to introduce sex offenders’ programmes imported from North America devised by Bill Marshall. These programmes are highly abusive mainly because they attempt to re-programme the mind to suit the state, as in the novel A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess (later film version directed by Stanley Kubrick). Inspired by Marshall, Wyre wrote a residential programme lasting nine months which was delivered by LFF/SIN. More seriously, Wyre was pre-occupied by MAPs who committed murder and was seeking to develop an hypothesis linking minor attraction and murder.

Initially, in 1992, they tried to open the Gracewell Clinic in Birmingham. Locally, this caused outrage because as a “progressive step” Wyre wanted to open the clinic next door to a children’s hospital. Even Lucy Faithfull had her doubts. Thankfully, the ghastly idea was shelved but in 1996 the Wolvercote Clinic opened in Epsom, Surrey. This clinic survived for six years and was confronted by local people waving placards saying what they would like to do to the clients and others like them. SIN/LFF were very dismissive of local concerns. They are also similarly dismissive whenever MAPs complain about the hatred and stigma they experience on a daily basis even though they have often witnessed this and know that people have been murdered because it was perceived that they were minor attracted. Their excuse is that whenever a “newspaper” screams extreme hatred about an “evil monster” it is not aimed at say, Adam Powell, but the reality of the media is that they promote hatred against all MAPs. There is an absurdity within British culture. On the one hand British people hold the media in very low regard indeed but then quote media prejudices as being absolute truth.

SIN believe that sex offending is a “learned behaviour” that can be “unlearned”. Such a statement is absurd because all behaviour is learned and no behaviour can be unlearned. For example, to be able to play the piano one first needs to learn how to play the piano and once learned the skill is not forgotten but may benefit from occasional practice. SIN make a practice of making sweeping statements that on examination make no sense such as “minor attraction cannot possibly exist because reciprocity in a relationship is important to me and a child can give nothing back”

When asked to explain their thinking, they attribute sex offending to exposure to violence. So a rapist, for example, probably will have greater exposure to violence than the general public. They then, very dishonestly categorise all sex offenders with the rapist and create an impression that all sex offenders are motivated by violence, which is clearly not the truth, whereas if they looked at sub-categories individually they would get different results.

It is like making the general observation that poverty is the most frequent cause of financial dishonesty and then claiming that a banker who commits fraud is motivated by poverty.  They like asserting that sex offending is not a mental illness and indeed it is not, but minor attraction is listed in DSM-5 as being a mental disorder (albeit not automatically so). This undermines SIN in two ways. First it shows that mental health professionals accept that minor attraction exists (even if the UK government refuses to accept this) and secondly SIN is seriously under-qualified to deal with these matters. When shown this, they become dismissive, seeing the work of psychiatrists more talented than themselves as a work of “American indulgence”.

Their tactic is to manipulate their clients into the belief that the client’s parents and others of significance are to blame for the client’s sex offending. Their reason for this is to preserve their own belief that if a person feels motivated towards adult-child sexual behaviour (even if it is only holding hands) there must be something very badly wrong with that person. Clearly “counselling” does not cause minor attraction to go away and the “therapist” systematically torments the client for admitting that they have these feelings. Their goal is to instil guilt so that the client develops a social phobia to the extent that they cannot travel on buses or trains or go to shops where children are present. According to SIN, this phobia is “empowerment”. According to them, anyone who experiences sexual feelings towards children does so by choice, because the client is not obliged to be wherever the child is. They also become personally abusive at this point, asserting that people choose to be minor attracted because they are low status among their “peer group” (although they cannot define what a peer group is) and then choose to be friendly with children (which then becomes sexualised) because this is “safer for them than seeking to develop relationships with adults”. SIN think that they have an educative role in “teaching” people to have “rewarding relationships” with adults. They seem to imagine that relationships are about “social skills” rather than falling in love, and they seem to think they can teach “social skills” even though they themselves are frequently rude.

SIN UK also view singles as people who are not fully fledged adults. They think that single MAPs should have adult partners; they fail to think through issues such as how the adult partner feels about minor attraction or whether the relationship gives access to children within the partner’s family.  For them, the most important thing in life is about “fitting in” suggesting they would persecute gays if this was necessary to “fit in”.

As they do not believe minor attraction exists, they cannot accept either that people can have paedophilic feelings but not act on them. They completely misunderstand homosexuality too. I remember a member of staff complaining to me that she could not understand what I was talking about when mentioning the combination of gay and celibate. In their imagination, anyone who is gay is homosexually active; so a child cannot be gay because they are “too young for that”. Due to their lack of separation between sexual attraction and sexual activity, they cannot accept that it is possible for a minor attracted person to live a responsible life as an MAP. They think MAPs must erase these emotions. SIN UK admitted that they have had complaints from clients alleging aggravation of existing mental health disorders (but still think there is a higher point of principle at stake). They also have difficulty understanding why a man sexually attracted to boys would describe himself as gay and minor attracted. For them being gay is adult-to-adult only. They don’t bother reading DSM, for example, which explains that homosexuality is sexual attraction between persons of the same sex and that age does not come into it.

Their rejection of minor attraction is partly because of perceived power difference; but power difference exists in all relationships, so objecting to power difference in relationships is opposition to all relationships. SIN become dismissive when this is explained to them and their response is to defend their own marriages as having equality of power. Even if this were true, it might not remain so. What if one partner happened to be in a car crash, was unable to work again and was left  dependant on their spouse for care? Such questions to SIN are dismissed as “unhelpful”. They do not seem to understand that power differences are not a problem when people sincerely love each other.

I have spoken a lot about SIN UK but I think that SIN NL is a good deal better than this. They do for example, accept that some people through no choice or fault of their own or anybody else’s are minor attracted and need to live responsible lives as MAPs and navigate a lot of stigma and ignorance. I remember a staff member of SIN UK becoming angry when I pointed this out and they become personally insulting.

Much of what they say is prefixed with “society says”. They get quite agitated when one points out that until a few years ago society hated gays for being gay and that one should not jump onto a bandwagon just because it has majority support. Their answer is that they don’t equate the two things, but then neither do I. They simply refuse to accept that if they repeat discredited behaviourist techniques that have failed with gays they will fail again, causing untold misery.

For all the controversy, SIN NL appears to be a much more humane organisation than its British equivalent. They work closely with Dr Frans Gieles and with JORis, a Dutch MAP group; JON is its counterpart in a different part of the country. They have shared ideas and materials. I do believe, however, that the only reason MAPs are treated with even a modicum of respect in the Netherlands is thanks to the pioneering work of Edward Brongersma and Frits Bernard. Until recently, MAPs had more political power in the NL than in the UK. Here lies the issue, in my opinion. Minor attraction is a political problem in need of a political solution and unfortunately, I do not think that things will get any better for MAPs without organising politically.