The Benefits of Peer Support
Peer support is something you rarely hear in most contexts outside a professional atmosphere. Why is that? It is primarily because with most issues, even stigmatized issues, people can talk about them and get support. Drug addiction? You can join support groups, get support with getting clean, go to a rehab center, talk with people online... all with little to no serious problems.
For minor-attracted people, though, that is not realistically an option. If we go to a mental health support group, people talk and therapists can report us to the police because they simply do not know enough about minor attraction to be properly supportive. In some cases, therapists choose not to learn and would rather refer people to someone else. There are few, if any, therapy centers that specialize in sexuality enough to know how to treat minor-attracted people in a supportive and non-judgmental way. So what professional or peer support is available to minor-attracted people? Not much.
If we tell friends, family, or neighbors, we take the risk that they might out us as a pedophile to the entire community. If we are seen by someone we know in a dedicated therapy office, we take that same risk. Our options are improving, but still very limited compared to most other struggles out there.
The benefits of peer support vary widely. For many, the biggest thing we learn is a label by which we can call ourselves. For some, anti-contact MAP is that label. Some choose no-contact or non-contact, which is an emerging term to indicate that no amount of sexual contact with a child is acceptable, including for the purposes of creating sexually harmful imagery. Others choose simply to call themselves a pedophile – someone attracted to prepubescent children – because they believe that identifying their stance is inherently stigmatizing. Regardless, having a term we identify with is one step closer to feeling heard, validated, and accepted.
Many minor-attracted people have very big issues with self-esteem and hating themselves for their attractions. So, to have support from others who go through the same thing can be positively life-changing.
There are, of course, inherent PR risks to minor-attracted people gathering for the purposes of peer support. The less educated folk think we go around sharing sexually harmful images, regardless of having removed people from our community for attempting to do so and having clear policies in our terms of service against sharing even innocent images of children. These misunderstandings are, unfortunately, commonplace among people who erroneously believe they do not know any minor-attracted people.
Regardless of these misunderstandings and the reasons for them, peer support also gives people who are open to learning an opportunity to talk to us. It gives researchers a place to post surveys and studies, and it gives sympathetic professionals a place to possibly volunteer once they pass our vetting process. It also ensures a place where minor-attracted people concerned about morality and wanting to keep children safe a comfortable place to find community. Weighed against the PR risks, there is no realistic reason why peer support should not exist for everyone who needs support.