There is a difference between a paedophile and a child sex offender, says Dr Marlene “Dr Eve” Wasserman. Picture: Kathleen O’Rourke
Johannesburg - Every now and then police report busting international paedophile rings. The details are gory, adults - usually men - sharing pictures and videos of young children being abused.

In one of the cases early this year, one of the worst paedophiles was sentenced to 32 life sentences and a further 170 years for, among other things, sexually abusing his girlfriend’s two-year-old daughter. Other than raping her, he used a toy dinosaur, thermometer and a sex toy to penetrate the child.

The man, who claimed in court that he needed help, was busted by US authorities who tracked him down after he shared pictures and videos of child pornography on the internet.

Recently, Simon Mofokeng resigned as Emfuleni mayor after he shared semi-naked pictures of a 14-year-old girl on a WhatsApp group.

Mofokeng is accused of grooming the child. After the news broke, a 28-year-old woman came forward, claiming that Mofokeng also groomed her. According to a report by the Saturday Star, the woman now has an 11-year-old child with Mofokeng.

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Despite numerous reports on paedophiles and sexual grooming of children, clinical sexologist Dr Marlene “Dr Eve” Wasserman says there’s still confusion on what the difference between a paedophile and a child sex offender is.

Wasserman said: “One needs to make a clinical assessment to be able to tell the difference between a paedophile and someone who is sexually violent. Child abusers or violators are much more prolific than paedophiles.”

Wasserman said the majority of child abusers who went through the justice system were not paedophiles.

She said paedophilia was a sexual orientation and those with paedophilic disorders have a mental disorder in which they can’t control their urges to have sexual relations with minors. The disorder usually manifests during adolescence and the children they are attracted to have to be at least five years younger.

“Paedophiles are a specific group of people who have a sexual attraction to children that is only about sexual orientation in terms of their love and lust,” Wasserman said.

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“Paedophilic disorder occurs in people who recognise they have an attraction to children and can’t control acting out on it. It is not about them being violent.”

She said child molesters were those who opportunistically preyed on children and they were unlikely to be paedophiles.

Wasserman said the stigma around paedophilia is what stops those who have the disorder from coming forward so they can be taught ways to manage their condition.

“People are scared of coming forward because they never receive good treatment. We want people to come forward. If you know from a young age that you are attracted to children, you must come forward. We want to make the world a safer place without the stigma,” she said.

Wasserman stressed: “Coming forward is about managing their behaviour before they act out. Sometimes it can be rehabilitation and (we) teach them skills to live in a world where they cannot sexually act out.”

She said arresting paedophiles didn’t assist in removing the stigma from the condition and it did not help them to live normal lives. Therapy, Wasserman said, helped such people to go through life without acting out sexually.

She admitted there were a lot of misconceptions about how to help paedophiles. In other parts of the world, paedophiles were encouraged to have child sex dolls in an effort to stop them from acting out on children. In some parts of the US, child sex offenders and paedophiles were sometimes moved to communities where they lived alone without any children around. Wasserman strongly disagrees with both methods. “The doll method is nonsense. There is no evidence that a doll is going to ‘help’.

“Making them live alone is also terrible. It’s just terrible. It’s stigmatising them,” Wasserman said.

She said other misconceptions were that paedophiles were abused as children.

“Paedophiles are not abused but sexual abusers have been abused. Jails all over the world are filled with men who are there because of childhood trauma either sexual or emotional abuse, neglected or bullied. It’s a terrible circle,” Wasserman said, stressing that paedophiles were born that way.

Wasserman’s advice to people who think they might be paedophiles is: “Go to therapy, get support. Don’t let the stigma get to you. You need professional management. It will help you not act out and distract you from being criminalised.”

The Star