By now, we have all heard that the former spokesperson for Subway, Jared Fogle—the nice, Jewish boy from Indiana who allegedly lost a bunch of weight by eating mainly Subway sandwiches—has been investigated and charged for the possession and distribution of child pornography, as well as illicit sexual conduct with minors and has agreed to plead guilty. This is a really big deal. Not only because engaging in child pornography is a serious crime and indicative of an even more serious illness but also, with the news of Josh Duggar’s past and present indiscretions, it’s beginning to feel like we are surrounded by pedophiles. Not to mention the fact that, like Duggar, Jared is a household name known by both parents and children alike. America no likey.
I imagine that no one knows shame the way a pedophile does. As a parent or family member of a young child, this statement is sure to incite anger as I am confident that there is no darker evil to you than those who prey on children. Trust me, I am with you. But if what we know about pedophilia (or what the DSM-V calls pedophilic disorder) is true—that it’s a medical condition that can be treated but probably not cured and the people who have it don’t have much (if any) control in self-managing it—then that is a damn ugly and lonely place to be. While the fact that pedophiles are human beings with a medical disorder doesn’t really matter to the parents who hate them, maybe being reminded of it could help lessen the rage that eats at all of us. I am not saying we should show compassion for pedophiles but I am saying that I try and have compassion for those who are afflicted.
Read All the Way Through Before Web Bashing Me
While it may seem vile to attach a word like compassion to a word like pedophilia, let me explain. As someone who believes they were born with an incurable disease, alcoholism (along with the development of several other un-ladylike compulsions over the years), it would be a lie for me to say that I don’t understand what it is like to do things I don’t want to do. Or even more accurately, very much wanted to do regardless of my acute awareness of the negative consequences. Some may argue that my lack of control around drinking, shopping, sex and sugar are somewhat “acceptable” because I never really caused anyone (but myself) irreparable damage. I never stole anyone’s childhood. I was never a catalyst to a child’s potential (yet almost definite) lifelong struggles with initiate relationships, alcohol, drugs, emotional instability and a host of other unpredictable outcomes likely to arise from being molested and/or exploited as a minor. But I will argue that on countless nights between 1993 and 2003, I could have seriously injured, disfigured or even killed any number of innocent people on the road when I got behind the wheel after drinking. So how is this any better?
It isn’t—at least I don’t think so. The difference is, I didn’t harm anyone and I stopped. The other difference is, I could drink and drive 100 nights and never actually hurt a soul whereas anyone who is inappropriate with a child even once has harmed that child. It’s not a game of roulette, it’s 100% guaranteed every time.
For anyone who is gearing up to web bash me for being a pedophile sympathizer—hold your typing fingers for just a second. While I may internally feel badly for the people who struggle with pedophilic disorder, I do not believe there is any way around shunning them from society (which is part of why I feel so bad for them). If there were people who had a medical condition where they felt an undeniable compulsion to pull out guns and open fire in shopping malls, I would hate them and fight for them to be locked up for life, but it doesn’t mean I can’t wish they weren’t born (or developed) that way. Having a compulsion like this is an awful thing and I would feel very sad for them. This is how I feel about child molesters.
Still Hate Me?
Okay, I didn’t want to have to do this, but if you still want to publicly shame me and tell me I am not thinking about the victims, trust me, I am. As someone who was molested by a family member at a shockingly young age, I am happy to report that after 13 years of drinking and drugging, 20 years of destructive behavior in a plethora of different areas and no long-term intimate relationships to speak of, I have treated myself to 23 years of psychotherapy, 12 years of 12-step recovery and a year of EMDR trauma work and I am seeing some great results. What I am trying to say is, I am no stranger to the incalculable damage that abuse leaves behind. Victims of pedophiles, child molesters and other sexual assailants have to face their fate of doing the work to heal and perpetrators have to do the same—neither of us asked for this but it’s just how it is.
Jared’s Rocky Road
While the former fat kid might have enjoyed chocolate ice cream with marshmallows and nuts as a child, the now 38-year old former founder of the Jared Foundation faces a much different rocky road: to recovery. According to some experts quoted in USA Today, like Carol Juergensen Sheets, a certified sexual addictions therapist, Fogle could be suffering from a number of different co-occurring issues, including pedophilic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and sex addiction.
In addition to pleading guilty to the charges, Fogle has agreed to undergo an examination for his sexual condition(s) and may decide to begin treatment, which is available at both the inpatient and outpatient level.
“He likely will go to a treatment center for at least 30 to 45 days,” Sheets said. “Then he’ll spend the rest of his life addressing this [issue].”
As far as residential rehabs, there are a number of programs that address sex addiction and can give addicts a jumpstart on behavior modification and tools to manage their addiction. As far as pedophilic disorder and OCD, both of these issues would probably be addressed concurrently from a mental health standpoint. There are also a number of outpatient facilities that tackle sex addiction, as well as 12-step programs focusing on varying issues in the sexual arena. Ongoing work with a therapist after, or in lieu of, residential treatment is another route to go.
“You cannot be cured of this,” Sheets adds. “It is like any other addiction. You can learn how to manage it … but you have to work on this every day of your life when you have this compulsion.”
What Is to Be learned?
When something tragic, like the unsavory sexual proclivities of a public figure, comes into collective consciousness, the best thing that can come of it (other than someone hopefully getting the help they need) is to be able to learn something. Horrific news like that of Jared Fogle’s arrest, needs to be taken as an opportunity to remember that these awful things in life unfortunately do exist. People as unassuming as Josh Duggar, a Baptist car salesman-turned reality TV personality and Jared, the seemingly non-threatening face of the $5 foot long, are suffering behind closed doors with internal demons that we may never understand. So as child sexual abuse activist and author, Laura Landgraf, notes, if a child comes to you regarding an adult in their life that is hurting them, do not take it lightly.
“It’s important to stay calm and steady and tell them it’s not their fault and tell them you love them,” Landgraf says. “Most of all, don’t question them. Believe them. False disclosures are really rare.”
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