Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Am I Really a Co-pedophile??

Someone recently quoted the childhood rhyme that most of us learned "Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt them."  She wanted to encourage me but I reminded her that the rhyme is false--words have tremendous power to hurt and wound our soul and so does labels.

Here are some of the labels I have found for partners of pedophiles:

  • One organization has labeled a woman who finds out her partner is a pedophile and stays as a co-pedophile.
  •  S-Anon labels women in a relationship with an individual with sexual compulsions as a co-addict.  None of the other family groups in the 12-step groups label a family member as a "co-alcoholic" or "co-gambler."
  • A psychologist wrote recently in a major psych magazine that the wife always knows and should be considered a criminal. 
  • One prevention site calls the wife a predator-in--the-making.
  • Treatment professionals often believe that the partner of any addict is a co-dependent.
But none of these labels acknowledges what we know to be true about pedophiles:
  • They are excellent at grooming another to accept unacceptable behavior.
  • They are very often respected, up-standing professional men of the community.
  • They are master manipulators and deceivers.
  • Undifferentiated pedophiles are attracted both to adults and children.
  • The main person they target to deceive is their spouse because they need the spouse as a cover.
  • They are great at gas-lighting.
And none of these sources seem to truly know what the partner of a pedophile experiences:
  • Though she may suspect something is off, she often has nothing to hang her gut instinct on.
  •  When she does discover that her spouse is acting out in some fashion, she is incredibly traumatized and reacts accordingly.
  • Not all of life with a pedophile is confusing or difficult--there is good as well, which according to Patrick Carnes, creates a powerful betrayal bond.
  • She may have children of her own to consider.  If he has not been arrested and she leaves, she knows that he may obtain sole or unsupervised visits with the children and she fears for their safety.
  • Without proof that will stand up in a court of law, she knows that she will lose in any legal battle because she is going up against a system that still favors the man, even a pedophile.
I am not a co-pedophile; I am a woman who unknowingly fell in love with a pedophile.

I am not a co-addict--addicted to him.  I thought we were creating a life together; I thought I was in a loving relationship.

I am not a criminal but I may be married to one without knowing a thing about it.

I am not a predator-in-the-making but rather a mother, wife, daughter, sister and aunt, who has been kept in the dark about my spouse's criminal activity.

I am not codependent, though my behavior may look like I am; I am a trauma survivor.

If I have any inkling that my husband's interest in children may be sexual, I may have formed a powerful betrayal bond (think Stockholm Syndrome) that makes it very difficult to leave him. I am a victim of his grooming as well.

But skeptics ask "How is it that a wife may not know of her husband's predilections or criminal activity?"
  • According to Dr. Patrick Carnes "Addicts withhold a major portion of themselves--a pain deeply felt, but never expressed or witnessed.  They do not trust nor do they become intimate with others, especially their families." (Carnes, Out of the Shadows: Understanding Sexual Addiction, p. 6).
  • "But even when partners suspect something is amiss, ask questions, check computers, phone bills, credit card and bank statements--basically do everything they can short of hiring a private investigator--their mates simply lie.  This leaves them with continued suspicions, but with no concrete evidence and thus no way to prove what they only fear." (Steffens & Means, Your Sexually Addicted Spouse: How Partners Can Cope and Heal, p. 61).
What do these labels do for women still married to a pedophile?  They guarantee her silence, cause her to cower in fear and stay as deeply hidden as she possibly can.  She has been horrendously betrayed, lied to and manipulated for years.  While she is horrified at the possibility that her husband may be sexually molesting children, she also probably has children of her own to consider.  And the media coverage of high-profile cases with the vitriolic push-back against women like her who had the misfortune of marrying a predator, gives her nightmares at night.

No, I am not a co-pedophile, co-addict, criminal, predator-in-the-making or a codependent.  I am a co-victim. The vast majority of non-exclusive pedophiles (attracted to both children and adults) are married and have children.  Their partners and children are secondary and silent victims.

If we as a country really want to protect children from sexual predators, we have to stop blaming their co-victims and find a way to reach out to her in compassion and kindness and with information.
Name-calling, labeling and blame will just keep her isolated behind a wall of self-protective silence.  And since pedophiles are usually only identified after they have molested a child or been arrested on child pornography charges, it is imperative that we find a way to engage the partner in our fight to safeguard the children in our world.  She is on the front lines of the battle and may not even know hat she is in a battle.  We need to arm her with truth about pedophilia but also about the sinister web of deception and manipulation that she is probably caught up in.  Only then will we be able to begin to create a safer world for our children.  Labels just don't work.


  1. Good article. Let me add that if people call the spouse a co-pedophile, they should also call the psychologists and pastors who offer counsel "co-pedophiles."

    They know and they don't call the authorities.

    Why do pastors and therapists attempt to treat dangerous criminals rather than referring them out?

    • Ego - They like having people come to them with their problems. They like to have people ask their advice. They don't see themselves responsible for protecting the innocent spouse, the children, or the community.

    • Money - Pastors want to keep that high-earning pedophile in the church tithing. Psychologists want to get that insurance payment every week.

    • Naivete - They think they can handle a bright manipulative pedophile, but they are way out of their league. Pedophiles, as you said, are sociopaths and some of them are smart, wealthy, and clever.

  2. Thank you Anonymous,

    And I would add "Power" to the reasons why pastors and therapists make the decision to treat rather than refer. Many therapists are not competent to treat pedophilia unless they have additional training and certification. And pastors certainly do not have the training necessary. But it is a heady experience to believe that you actually can do what is nearly impossible to do--successfully treat pedophilia.

    1. I agree we were in therapy when he was "acting" out. He even had the therapist manipulated. I was at the point of saying that to her when I found everything was so much worse than a "normal" sexual addiction. I kept trying to process how she saw things but the week after she said he was afraid of me. I knew that was total crap. I had spent ten years walking on egg shells trying to keep the peace. It was amazing and seeing him do it with the therapist made me realize I don't have the skills to see through him. Even later when I found out what he was truly capable of. I knew the man he wanted to present to me. My daughter always said he knows how to play you and I was nay. Stupid stupid me.

  3. If a person is aware, or suspects, that their partner is abusing children and opts to stand by them, then without doubt that person is not only a co-paedophile but is also engaging in criminal behaviour by concealing a crime.

  4. Dear Anonymous (5.1.15),
    I agree with your statement with one important emphasis: if a person knows. The nature of pedophilia is such that the partner is often the last to know. Pedophiles are great at targeting their "victim"--both the one they will abuse and the one they will use. They are also great at grooming both. A partner is often the last to know simply because that is how the perpetrator operates. Children have been molested in a crowded room--pedophiles are that crafty and devious. It is not nearly as black and white as we would like it to be. It just isn't.