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The Jeffrey Epstein Case and Why Language Matters

BEAVERTON, Ore., Aug. 22, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- The following statement is being issued by The Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers:

The country has understandably been shocked and appalled by the heinous actions, both confirmed and alleged, involving the sexual abuse and trafficking of children perpetrated by Jeffrey Epstein. High-profile cases such as Mr. Epstein's highlight the unfortunate prevalence of child sexual abuse. The sad truth is that one in four girls and one in six boys in the United States will be victims of sexual abuse before age 18.

A key to preventing sexual abuse is ensuring the public has accurate information about who is at risk of sexually abusing others and the factors that can lead to abuse. However, the media does a disservice to prevention efforts by using terms such as "pedophile" and "child rapist" interchangeably, as seen in the many articles about Mr. Epstein.

Pedophilia is an attraction to children who have not yet reached puberty. A person with pedophilic interests may or may not act on those desires. In contrast, a child molester is a person who has chosen to sexually abuse a child. In the latter case, even though the abuse is sexual in nature, the motivations may not be sexual. Other motivations include a desire for power and control, general antisocial thinking/beliefs, and intimacy deficits and loneliness. Hence, not everyone who sexually abuses a child has pedophilic interests and not everyone with pedophilic interests will sexually abuse a child. Attraction is not action and action is not attraction.

Whatever Mr. Epstein's motives may have been, those around him either did not recognize what they were seeing, supported and benefited from his behavior, were indifferent to it, or were afraid to report his actions. It is also likely that people minimized his behavior because, with his status and prestige, Mr. Epstein couldn't be "that guy."

Unfortunately, anyone can be "that guy." But another misuse of language -- using terms such as "predator," "monster," "pedophile," and "pervert" – paints individuals who sexually abuse others as outsiders. However, those who commit sexual harm are actually much more frequently individuals we know, love, trust, and admire than they are strangers.

And there is help for these individuals. The Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers offers names of therapists who can help individuals receive the assistance they need to avoid sexually offending. If you want help for yourself, a family member, or a friend, visit and click on "Referrals" to find a provider near you. 

Media contact:
Ann Snyder 

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SOURCE The Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers