When Potential Pedophiles 'Turn Themselves In' To Tame Their Criminal Impulses

Over the past six years, Germany has opened three treatment centers for men with pedophilic tendencies. Patients enter the therapy-based program voluntarily, as a way to explore their impulses and control their behavior – before it’s too late.

A bulletin board with sexual predator notifications in Florida.
A bulletin board with sexual predator notifications in Florida.
Anja Perkuhn

REGENSBURG - The house is white. On the grounds of the BKR, a district clinic in the Bavarian city of Regensburg, there are many of these small, mostly white, nondescript buildings. Nothing points to the fact that this particular house is where, once a week, men with pedophilic tendencies meet for therapy sessions. And it's meant to be that way – one of the ground rules of the first and so far only out-patient center in Bavaria is absolute anonymity.

The Regensburg center opened in September 2010; it is the third facility of its type to open in Germany, after the day centers in Berlin (2005) and Kiel (2009). It serves southern Germany and, says Michael Osterheider, head of the project and of forensic psychiatry at Regensburg University, the positive reaction it has attracted so far also points to the fact that there was a need for such a facility.

Since it opened, 98 men have called in on the "Kein Täter werden" (Don't Become a Perpetrator) hotline that the center is linked to. Presently, 44 men are in therapy: 16 of them in individual therapy, the rest divided into two groups. A third group is due to start soon.

Therapy is "multi-modal" – a combination of behavioral and sex therapy. Medication to dull sexual drive is also an option. Candidates for the free counseling are determined after several rounds of interviews and tests – not every man who believes he might be a pedophile actually is. Nor is group therapy appropriate in all cases; it is not an option for patients suffering from psychosis or severe depression, for example.

Anyone who has actually committed pedophile acts is not part of the center's target group and will not be accepted for therapy. "The primary goal is to inculcate behavioral guidelines so that potential pedophiles do not act out," says Osterheider. However, not all men with pedophile tendencies automatically act out, just as not all men who act out are necessarily pedophiles. Over half of those who are convicted of sexual crimes against children, says Osterheider, are not strictly speaking pedophiles. Their victims are surrogates.

All ages, all walks of life

Making the public aware of such distinctions is another of the center's objectives, and this is also in the interests of the patients. They have all come forth voluntarily because they want to learn to live with their tendencies and to be responsible. For many, their biggest fear is that they could be labeled sex monsters.

Those registered at the BKR therapy center come from virtually all social classes – manual laborer, student, teacher, Catholic priest, engineer. Their ages range from 19 to 75. During the one- to two-year duration of their therapy they will learn that the tendency is not their fault, and also that they cannot change it.

It is unclear what causes some people to feel sexually attracted to children. Research is being carried out at Berlin's Charité university hospital – their "Prevention Project Dunkelfeld" is also to some extent the umbrella under which the three day centers function. A point of departure for researchers is that biological, psychological and social causes all play a role. In Germany, according to very basic estimates, about 300,000 men are affected and very few women. Because the first signs of pedophile tendencies usually appear at puberty, the operative assumption is that hormones play a major role.

Osterheider stresses, however, that the Regensburg project is not primarily a research project: it is about "victim prevention." The effectiveness of the center, for which three psychologists work and which is financed to the tune of 600,000 euros by the Free State of Bavaria, will be reviewed after three years.

Read the original story in German

Photo - Richard Elzey

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The Food Truck, A Sign That The White And Wealthy Are Moving In

In San Diego, California, a researcher tracked how in the city's low-income neighborhoods that have traditionally lacked dining options, when interesting eateries arrive the gentrification of white, affluent and college-educated people has begun.

Balboa Park Spring Fling Food Truck festival

San Diego Food Trucks via Facebook
Pascale Joassart-Marcelli

SAN DIEGO — Everybody, it seems, welcomes the arrival of new restaurants, cafés, food trucks and farmers markets.

What could be the downside of fresh veggies, homemade empanadas and a pop-up restaurant specializing in banh mis?

But when they appear in unexpected places – think inner-city areas populated by immigrants – they're often the first salvo in a broader effort to rebrand and remake the community. As a result, these neighborhoods can quickly become unaffordable and unrecognizable to longtime residents.

An appetite for gentrification

I live in San Diego, where I teach courses on urban and food geographies and conduct research on the relationship between food and ethnicity in urban contexts.

In recent years, I started to notice a pattern playing out in the city's low-income neighborhoods that have traditionally lacked food options. More ethnic restaurants, street vendors, community gardens and farmers markets were cropping up. These, in turn, spurred growing numbers of white, affluent and college-educated people to venture into areas they had long avoided.

This observation inspired me to write a book, titled The $16 Taco, about how food – including what's seen as "ethnic," "authentic" or "alternative" – often serves as a spearhead for gentrification.

Take City Heights, a large multi-ethnic San Diego neighborhood where successive waves of refugees from places as far away as Vietnam and Somalia have resettled. In 2016, a dusty vacant lot on the busiest boulevard was converted into an outdoor international marketplace called Fair@44. There, food vendors gather in semi-permanent stalls to sell pupusas, lechon (roasted pig), single-sourced cold-brewed coffee, cupcakes and tamarind raspado (crushed ice) to neighborhood residents, along with tourists and visitors from other parts of the city.

Informal street vendors are casualties.

A public-private partnership called the City Heights Community Development Corporation, together with several nonprofits, launched the initiative to increase "access to healthy and culturally appropriate food" and serve as "a business incubator for local micro-entrepreneurs," including immigrants and refugees who live in the neighborhood.

On paper, this all sounds great.

But just a few blocks outside the gates, informal street vendors – who have long sold goods such as fruit, tamales and ice cream to residents who can't easily access supermarkets – now face heightened harassment. They've become causalities in a citywide crackdown on sidewalk vending spurred by complaints from business owners and residents in more affluent areas.

This isn't just happening in San Diego. The same tensions have been playing out in rapidly gentrifying areas like Los Angeles' Boyle Heights neighborhood, Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood, New York's Queens borough and East Austin, Texas.

In all of these places, because "ethnic," "authentic" and "exotic" foods are seen as cultural assets, they've become magnets for development.

Food vendor at outdoor international marketplace called Fair@44.

Fairat44 via Instagram

A call for food justice

Cities and neighborhoods have long sought to attract educated and affluent residents – people whom sociologist Richard Florida dubbed "the creative class." The thinking goes that these newcomers will spend their dollars and presumably contribute to economic growth and job creation.

Food, it seems, has become the perfect lure.

It's uncontroversial and has broad appeal. It taps into the American Dream and appeals to the multicultural values of many educated, wealthy foodies. Small food businesses, with their relatively low cost of entry, have been a cornerstone of ethnic entrepreneurship in American cities. And initiatives like farmers markets and street fairs don't require much in the way of public investment; instead, they rely on entrepreneurs and community-based organizations to do the heavy lifting.

In City Heights, the Community Development Corporation hosted its first annual City Heights Street Food Festival in 2019 to "get people together around table and food stalls to celebrate another year of community building." Other recent events have included African Restaurant Week, Dia de Los Muertos, New Year Lunar Festival, Soul Food Fest and Brazilian Carnival, all of which rely on food and drink to attract visitors and support local businesses.

Meanwhile, initiatives such as the New Roots Community Farm and the City Heights Farmers' Market have been launched by nonprofits with philanthropic support in the name of "food justice," with the goal of reducing racial disparities in access to healthy food and empowering residents – projects that are particularly appealing to highly educated people who value diversity and democracy.

Upending an existing foodscape

In media coverage of changing foodscapes in low-income neighborhoods like City Heights, you'll rarely find any complaints.

San Diego Magazine's neighborhood guide for City Heights, for example, emphasizes its "claim to authentic international eats, along with live music venues, craft beer, coffee, and outdoor fun." It recommends several ethnic restaurants and warns readers not to be fooled by appearances.

Longtime residents find themselves forced to compete against the "urban food machine"

But that doesn't mean objections don't exist.

Many longtime residents and small-business owners – mostly people of color and immigrants – have, for decades, lived, worked and struggled to feed their families in these neighborhoods. To do so, they've run convenience stores, opened ethnic restaurants, sold food in parks and alleys and created spaces to grow their own food.

All represent strategies to meet community needs in a place mostly ignored by mainstream retailers.

So what happens when new competitors come to town?

Food vendor at outdoor international marketplace called Fair@44.

Fairat44 via Instagram

Starting at a disadvantage

As I document in my book, these ethnic food businesses, because of a lack of financial and technical support, often struggle to compete with new enterprises that feature fresh façades, celebrity chefs, flashy marketing, bogus claims of authenticity and disproportionate media attention. Furthermore, following the arrival of more-affluent residents, existing ones find it increasingly difficult to stay.

My analysis of real estate ads for properties listed in City Heights and other gentrifying San Diego neighborhoods found that access to restaurants, cafés, farmers markets and outdoor dining is a common selling point. The listings I studied from 2019 often enticed potential buyers with lines like "shop at the local farmers' market," "join food truck festivals" and "participate in community food drives!"

San Diego Magazine's home buyer guide for the same year identified City Heights as an "up-and-coming neighborhood," attributing its appeal to its diverse population and eclectic "culinary landscape," including several restaurants and Fair@44.

When I see that City Heights' home prices rose 58% over the past three years, I'm not surprised.

Going up against the urban food machine

Longtime residents find themselves forced to compete against what I call the "urban food machine," a play on sociologist Harvey Molotch's "urban growth machine" – a term he coined more than 50 years ago to explain how cities were being shaped by a loose coalition of powerful elites who sought to profit off urban growth.

I argue that investors and developers use food as a tool for achieving the same ends.

When their work is done, what's left is a rather insipid and tasteless neighborhood, where foodscapes become more of a marketable mishmash of cultures than an ethnic enclave that's evolved organically to meet the needs of residents. The distinctions of time and place start to blur: An "ethnic food district" in San Diego looks no different than one in Chicago or Austin.

Meanwhile, the routines and rhythms of everyday life have changed so much that longtime residents no longer feel like they belong. Their stories and culture reduced to a selling point, they're forced to either recede to the shadows or leave altogether.

It's hard to see how that's a form of inclusion or empowerment.The Conversation


Pascale Joassart-Marcelli is a Professor of Geography and Director, Urban Studies and Food Studies Programs at San Diego State University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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