What’s the Difference Between a Pedophile and a Child Molester?

While we use the label of “pedophile” in the title of our booklet, “Pedophiles Don’t Discriminate: How to Protect Your Child from Sexual Abuse,” we realize that it’s a term that doesn’t apply to all child molesters.  Like KleenexTM and Wite-OutTM, “pedophile” has become sort of a generic term.

The truth is, not all pedophiles are child molesters and not all child molesters are pedophiles. Pedophilia is actually a diagnosable disorder where the individual has either a primary or exclusive attraction to prepubescent children. A child molester is someone who touches a child sexually.  A pedophile becomes a child molester only when they act on that attraction – but they are pedophiles regardless of whether they act on it or not.

So, the main distinction is that someone does not become a child molester until they have victimized a child, but an individual can be diagnosed as a pedophile even if they have not victimized a child.

Pedophilia is recognized as a mental disorder, which is not illegal, but acting on it is a crime. At this time, there is no recognized cure for pedophilia, although there are therapy treatments that can help pedophiles learn to change their behavior and exercise self-control.




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