Very Bad Thoughts

A pedophile who labors to keep his desire to rape little boys a figment of his imagination admits he's a walking time bomb

He carries his ACLU membership card proudly in his wallet, and a stash of emergency ammonia capsules in the glove compartment of his car. The capsules are part of his aversion therapy, he explains. He'll pop one and smell the acrid fumes should he find himself unexpectedly aroused by a child. "That's where therapy is at for people like me these days," he says.

He doesn't go to the mall or to the movies anymore. He avoids parks. He has mapped out the schools in the areas he frequents and says he doesn't drive down those streets if he can help it. "If I stumble upon a school I wasn't aware of, it just hits me. I panic. I could drive by and target 10 or 15 kids in an instant." He knows where to find children if he wants them. "It would be so easy," he says, "so easy for me to do something. People don't watch their kids." Certainly not as closely as Derek does.

He takes another sip of his coffee and leans forward with measured satisfaction at his own heightened sense of awareness. "You know, three kids have walked by while we've been talking, and you haven't even noticed." He seems proud of himself, smug even. He wears his pedophilia – and his success at resisting it – like a perverse merit badge.

Psychiatrists concur that although pedophilia can be controlled through therapy, it can never be cured. Derek has long since resigned himself to his disorder because he has no choice. But he wishes there were more social structures in place to encourage and aid pedophiles as they seek treatment, before they harm children. He admits he's a walking time bomb. "It's just a matter of time, really, before I get tired of fighting this. People need to realize that there are many, many of us out there, and we're not going away." Pedophilia, he says, is treated more like the Scarlet Letter of modern society than a pressing public health problem.

"We do nothing to prevent child abuse. You have to treat the cause, not just the end result. All these laws are only good if someone gets hurt, and then it's too late."

Derek would like to see pedophilia protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act, mainly so he could file an insurance claim for his $120-a-week therapy sessions without fear of losing his job. He's been writing letters to Senator John McCain, the ACLU and the National Association of the Mentally Ill trying to drum up support since last fall.

(McCain, he says, has never responded. The ACLU and NAMI both informed him that the language of the ADA is specific in its exclusion of sexual deviancies – it also excludes transvestitism, voyeurism, bestiality and sadomasochism – and wished him well.)

Despite rejections, Derek would like to see help for the families of pedophiles; he'd like to see hot lines where those contemplating abusing a child can call for support without fear of arrest. But getting someone to listen to a man who dreams of raping children is nearly impossible.

Pedophilia, he points out, is a disorder he did not choose. The sexual abuse of a child is a crime he chooses not to commit. Child molesters and pedophiles are not necessarily one and the same. He is not a criminal, he says, and wishes he weren't treated like one preemptively.

"Homosexuality was treated like an illness until the '80s," he points out. "I would hope that [pedophilia] can be accepted the way homosexuality is now accepted."

Derek is a pedophile, and he's also a victim. He lives not only with the fear of what he might do to others, but must still contend with the anxiety that besieged him as a 10-year-old boy. Even today, at 37, he's afraid his molester will find him and make good on his promise to kill him if he ever speaks out. Even this story will have him looking over his shoulder.

Derek says his life turned dark on a blustery mid-October day in fifth grade. He had missed the bus home. He had a Cub Scout meeting later that afternoon and was debating whether he had time to walk the mile or so back to his house and retrieve his forgotten neckerchief when his teacher walked out of the building and asked Derek if he would like a ride home.

Derek climbed into the teacher's car. He remembers that conversation was minimal, and then the teacher asked him if he would like to go see the house he was having built. Derek said no, preoccupied with scouts and the neckerchief, but the teacher took him there anyway.

The teacher was a sullen man Derek would have otherwise remembered mostly for his volatile temper, straight black hair and the tacky plaid pants he fancied. When they pulled up to the building site, the teacher coaxed Derek out of the car, promising him it would be fun. They approached the shell of a house together and entered through the makeshift doorway.

"Once we got inside, his whole demeanor changed. He made me take off my shirt, tied my hands behind my back with some clothesline and tied me to a post. He pulled down my pants, pushed me to my knees, grabbed my hair and said open up."

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