Can a child be a child molester?

Just in his head

Paul Richter is a pedophile. And is hated even though he has never touched a child. From someone who knows that his longings must remain unfulfilled for a lifetime.

“Something like you should be castrated, put against the wall and shot”, “Disgusting, inhuman child fucker.” Paul Richter's voice sounds sober when he talks about the threats. It wasn't until this morning that someone wrote that he should be locked up. Because he's a pedophile.

"Disgusting, inhuman child fucker."Anonymous comment

Richter regularly receives threats of murder and torture. Mostly in the online forums trying to get more understanding for people with pedophile tendencies. Once there were over 200 in one weekend.

Richter speaks softly. There is usually a question mark at the end of his sentences. As soon as the conversation turns to something other than pedophilia, it becomes monosyllabic. Anything that could give clues about him as a person must remain secret. Richter does not want to reveal his real name, even the instrument he plays in the orchestra could reveal too much about him. The risk of losing your job, not being able to find an apartment or being beaten up is too great.

MiKADO study

MiKADO stands for "Child Abuse: Aetiology, Dark Field, Victims". 28,000 adults and more than 2000 children and young people took part in the research project at the University of Regensburg.
Further information on the study can be found at

Men with a sexual interest in children are one of the most stigmatized groups in Germany. In a survey for the Mikado study, 27 percent of respondents wish them to die. Almost half would rather see pedophiles in preventive detention than in freedom. Even if they have never committed a crime.

The topic arouses fears, disgust and hatred. After all, it's about children. In Germany, more than 14,000 cases of child sexual abuse are reported every year. In the so-called dark field, where there are no advertisements, there are many more.

Not all pedophiles are child molesters

The scale is angry - and fuels hatred of pedophiles. “But not every perpetrator is a pedophilesays Rita Steffes-enn, head of the Center for Criminology and Police Research. “60 to 70 percent of the recorded child abusers are so-called substitute perpetrators. They are not sexually motivated, but have other reasons for the abuse, for example fear in dealing with adults and striving for power. "

At the same time, not every pedophile offends children. 56 percent of pedophiles never become perpetrators. The social ostracism still affects everyone.

With Paul Richter it was the feeling of being different and somehow wrong that made him a loner. At a time when others are experiencing their first kiss, their first time, he withdrew. You can tell that he spent his youth in front of the computer. Richter grew older, while the girls he loved stayed twelve years old.

Paul Richter became the perpetrator on the Internet

With the first internet access, came the first porn. Richter was never really interested in the adults he saw on screen. “I actually felt really disgusted with some things.” He liked something else: children, especially girls. On vacation, on the beach, in a bikini. Naked children. Even children during sexual acts. About the latter, he says: "I immediately pushed away because it was then difficult to convince yourself that it was still okay."

By looking at child pornography, Richter became the perpetrator. He was never blown. But the hatred he developed for himself eventually became big enough to draw a line. "There was a point where I realized what that does to the children and that I never want them to have to go through these things."

That was also the moment when Paul Richter admitted to being a pedophile. The moment when he realized that the feelings would keep coming back, no matter how hard he tries to suppress them. That was three years ago, at the time he was 22. There was no one to talk to. The fear of being seen no longer as a human but as a monster was too great.

"It is simply not true that every person with pedophile tendencies is a monster with whom you have absolutely nothing in common."Sara Jahnke, psychologist

“It is simply not true that every person with pedophile tendencies is a monster with whom you have absolutely nothing in common,” says Sara Jahnke. The mother and doctor of psychology is doing research at the University of Jena on the subject of the stigmatization of people with pedophile tendencies. In Jahnke's eyes, the stigma itself can become a danger: "I suspect it increases the risk of sexual offenses because it leads to emotional problems and because it makes social support more difficult to obtain."

Ever since Richter admitted that he was a pedophile, he felt his longing for the unthinkable as more and more tormenting. “At some point I was torn apart just to meet a child on the street.” Richter decided to go into therapy.

Five questions for a pedophile: Paul Richter answers them.

For a month he fought with himself, practicing again and again in front of the bathroom mirror what to say and how. Then he called the “Dark Field Prevention Project”. It is part of the “Kein Täter werden” network, which offers therapies for people with pedophile tendencies across Germany, anonymously and subject to confidentiality. Here, those affected should learn to lead a contented life without touching a child or consuming child pornography.

Paul Richter had the feeling that “pedophile” was written on his forehead.

In the train on the way to the first one-on-one interview, Richter had the feeling that “pedophile” was written on his forehead. For fear of being recognized, he pulled a hoodie down over his face. “I thought everyone could see where I wanted to go and what I was doing.” What Richter has been doing has been financed by the health insurance company since the beginning of the year, flat-rate and anonymously, without having to fill out an application to the doctor.

It was during therapy that Richter spoke face to face with someone about their feelings for the first time. That was a year and a half ago. A year and a half during which he got on the train every other week and drove to the university clinic to talk for an hour about the feelings that he is never allowed to live out. While others usually switch to group therapy after just a few sessions, Richter was left alone with the therapist. He, who by then had been isolated from his environment for years, would have been lost in a group. So Richter first got homework: approaching people, writing to fellow students, going out for a drink together. "I was afraid of being rejected by everyone and had to first realize that that wasn't the case." He's still not where he wants to be. But recently he had his first group therapy session.

His feelings for children have remained

Richter's feelings towards children have not changed since then. There is no cure for pedophilia. But Richter has learned to deal with it: “I can now cope with the sexual part, I masturbate and allow the fantasies. But it is unthinkable for me to ever abuse a child. ”The unfulfillable longing for closeness, for love,“ for something that could be called a relationship ”are still there and will always be there.

For a long time, Richter found the idea of ​​peer relationships absurd. If you ask him about it today, the answer is awkward: "It's so topical that I might want to try at some point if the opportunity arises."

Last summer Richter didn't want to hide anymore. Packed with information material, he came to his mother and told her everything. “At first she was shocked,” says Richter. "I looked at him closely and then cried for a long time," says his mother. She had the same fears and prejudices as everyone else: "All pedophiles are criminals, all pedophiles abuse children." But Paul Richter is her son. "And he doesn't deserve the gauntlet that he would have to walk through if it were to become public."

The authors tell of their research.

Lead illustration: Kim Ihlow