Paedophiles in Society—Addressing the Reality: Dr Sarah Goode

Dr Sarah D. Goode is an academic of rare courage. Her background is in paediatric occupational therapy. She moved into academia, making alcohol and drug-dependent mothers her PhD study. This focus let her into the area of hidden and highly stigmatised identities.

That, in turn, took her into a study of paedophiles. She recognised that the common narrative—that paedophiles are monsters—is incorrect. What Goode is facing is instead the real situation: that they are human beings who are doing monstrous things to children. 

Existing paedophile research, even by the most outspoken experts on paedocriminality such as Belgium's Carine Hutsebaut, was on convicted men who were in incarceration and undergoing treatment. Sarah Goode instead researched paedophiles who were in the community (where most paedophiles are). This allowed her to uncover what paedophiles are, how they view themselves, and what range of behaviours and threats are present in society. The Netflix documentary The Paedophile Next Door came from her research.

Four approaches to the paedophile problem are found in society. Goode summarises these as:

1. No big deal

2. Ooh, what fun (especially prevalent in academia)

3. Monsters over there

4. All of us

Some traditional (e.g. Muslim) societies see the issue as no big deal. Many modern secular worlds, such as academia, influenced by Alfred Kinsey, view it as titillating. Tabloid journalists and many charities dealing with the victims and survivors of abuse adopt the "monsters over there" approach. However understandable this third reaction is, it tends to silence and disempower the victims and wider society and does not help greatly in protecting children.

Although not without its own risks, it is the fourth, "all of us", approach that addresses the reality of the human condition. It is an approach that calls for the issues to be examined and understood more generally in society.

In a broad discussion, David Scott and Sarah Goode explore matters including suicide by men attracted to children, the reality of moral agency (everyone has a choice as to how they act), and the role of pornography and fantasy in developing paedophilia. David raises several issues previously highlighted by UK Column investigations and championing of children, and Sarah brings further insight to these histories.

Sarah and David also discuss the creeping loss of morality across society and the ways in which society's problems with sex are being manifested on our children. They jointly identify that this has resulted in an erosion of the protection once offered to children. The result is that we are left with one thin line—a statutory age limit—to protect children, in lieu of the wide cultural, traditional and spiritual framework that used to safeguard children and adolescents and assist them in their path to a mature, stable and healthy adult sexual relationship.

The baggage associated with the contemporary, and highly politicised, LGBQAI2S+ movement is also discussed, and the nature of the proposed sexual-orientation "conversion therapy" ban in a growing number of Western jurisdictions is highlighted. In this supposedly enlightened ban, the therapist is called a perpetrator and the client seeking help is called a victim and survivor—a bizarre reversal.

Throughout the discussion, Dr Goode's astute understanding of the problem and determination to protect children in the most effective and practical ways shines through. Her contribution should surely be built upon and supported.

Goode's key work is Paedophiles in Society: Reflecting on Sexuality, Abuse and Hope (2011).