Today, Matter published a story by reporter Luke Malone about a group of young men struggling with the realization that they are pedophiles and seek help to prevent themselves from becoming future offenders and from using child pornography. It’s a difficult story to read (warning: the story contains graphic details of child abuse), and raises questions about why there aren’t treatments for pedophiles who have not offended and want help.

Malone talked to Choire Sicha at the Awl about how he reported this story, and why he thought it was important to tell:

Luke: I agree that this story isn’t for everyone. And that’s fine. No one is under any obligation to learn more about how pedophilia develops and is managed by this group of well-meaning guys, and I’m referring solely to the people in the piece here. Though if it’s an area that you feel strongly about one way or the other—which, to be fair, is most of us—then I’d recommend it. The story of the young, non-offending pedophile is one that hasn’t been told before and if you want to talk seriously about preventing child sexual abuse then bringing them into the conversation is vital. They’re not boogiemonsters, they are kids who want to have sex with younger kids. It’s a sad reality, but they are going to grow up to be men who are attracted to little kids. It seems insane to me that they are brave enough to put up their hands and ask for help but we, as a society, essentially tell them, “Nope, no therapy for you! Go away and rape a child and then you will enter the criminal justice system and then we can deal with it.” By then the damage is done. We need to start intervening before abuse occurs, for everyone’s sake. Despite the child porn and the ugly truths that this story details, there is a lot of optimism coming through. These are young guys who want help, and there are therapists and researchers who want to help, they just need policy and funding that allows it. In fact, a radio version of this story appeared on This American Life a few months back and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. Not only did all these teenage pedophiles contact me asking where they could get help, there were a lot of abuse survivors who reached out and said that while it was hard for them to listen to they were grateful that the topic was being addressed in a way that signaled real change. A much more logical interventionist approach to reducing the incidence of child sex abuse.

1. “You’re 16. You’re a Pedophile. You Don’t Want to Hurt Anyone. What Do You Do Now?” (Luke Malone, Matter)

Malone’s story today for Medium.

2. “Behind the Story: The Pedophiles Who Didn’t Want to Hurt Children.” (The Awl)

Choire Sicha’s conversation with Malone about how and why he reported this story.

3. “Help Wanted.” (This American Life)

Malone’s radio version of his story for This American Life, which aired in April.

Illustration: Simon Prades for Matter