International News Mar 5, 2021 7:22 PM EST

Reporters instructed to stop using the term 'pedophile' in reporting about child sex abusers

"We should avoid it, unless we know he had a clinical diagnosis of paedophilia and instead use serial sexual offender / predator, or a sexual abuser of children and young people."

Reporters instructed to stop using the term 'pedophile' in reporting about child sex abusers
Libby Emmons Brooklyn, NY
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In an effort to protect the feelings of pedophiles, journalists in Tasmania have been instructed to "avoid" calling those who abuse children pedophiles, as this is believed to marginalize those who have the condition of pedophilia.

This determination was made after a reporter had a conversation with the Sexual Assault Support Service (SASS) in the region over the weekend, during which these concerns were raised, according to The Australian.

The conversation was allegedly regarding a man who was a pedophile, and killed himself while facing charges on multiple counts of child sex abuse and the creation of media showing child sex abuse. James Geoffrey Griffin was a former nurse, and took his life in 2019.

In an email sent to ABC journalists, staff were instructed against using the term pedophile even when they are describing a person who preys on children and has sexually assaulted children in a serial manner. Apparently, calling those people pedophiles makes people who are also pedophiles feel that they are being discriminated against.

The email from a senior producer stated that "Sexual Assault Support Service on the weekend... mentioned their concerns about describing Griffin as a 'paedophile,'" and went on to say "We should avoid it, unless we know he had a clinical diagnosis of paedophilia and instead use serial sexual offender / predator, or a sexual abuser of children and young people."

Only those pedophiles who have been diagnosed by a medical professional as pedophiles are to be referred to in that manner. Anyone else is to be termed more generically.

The email, which has raised the ire of some staff at ABC, went on to say that "SASS says another consideration is from their point of view, there are a lot of paedophiles / people with paedophilia who do not act on those impulses, ­especially if they reach out for and receive professional psychological help … describing (perhaps technically inaccurately) Griffin as a paedophile could ­discourage those people from seeking help, making it more ­likely that they go on to abuse children."

In short, in order that pedophiles seek help for their condition, pedophiles are not to be named according to the condition they have. ABC said that this was not a mandatory change, but meant to be an informative explanation per the conversation with SASS.

An ABC spokesperson said that "There's been no change to the ABC's usage of the term pedophile in reporting. It's still used. The intent of the note was to inform staff about information from the Sexual Assault Support Service, as it's always useful to understand the views of the ­services dealing closely with survivors. It shouldn't have conveyed any ­official change in language use."

Steve Fisher, a spokesperson for Beyond Abuse, said that this was a confusing new directive, and undoubtedly unnecessary.

"If you start changing language that has been used in the media for years there is a risk that society may be confused," Fisher said.

"The media in Tasmania have done an amazing job of exposing sex offenders and helping survivors tell their stories, so to change the language they have to use is fraught with problems.

"In our experience," Fisher said, "the public believe if it's pedophilia, call it pedophilia. If it's rape, call it rape. Not 'sexual assault,' which can mean anything from touching to raping somebody."

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