You’re 16. You’re a Pedophile. You Don’t Want to Hurt Anyone. What Do You Do Now?

Adam was at his desk in the second-story bedroom of his family’s suburban home when he came across it. He had recently switched file-sharing programs to one that offered more content and faster browsing, and his downloading habit had increased in kind. There was now a constant stream of files whose names included acronyms such as PTHC, or pre-teen hardcore.

The boy in this video was fair-haired and looked to be about one and a half, his small, naked body tied up to restrict movement. A man’s torso entered the frame and the child began to scream. As he watched the scene unfold, Adam was transfixed, and then quickly revolted; he reached over and stopped the video. It wasn’t like anything he’d witnessed in the two years he’d been viewing child pornography. Until now everything he’d seen seemed to suggest that the kids liked it, but this toddler was clearly in pain.

He moved over to his bed, a twin with a sturdy, wooden frame, and lay down on the crumpled blue and white cloud-print sheet. Band posters clung to the surrounding walls. Directly across from the foot of the bed was a bookshelf housing an impressive collection of horror novels. Atop the shelf sat several chess and baseball trophies whose silver sheen had been dulled by dust, and he stared up at them as he tried to process what he had just seen. He felt, he told me later, a combination of anger, sadness, and confusion.

Seeing that toddler trussed up and in pain confirmed something he’d long suspected but now had to acknowledge. The man in the video was one of those guys they sometimes talked about on the news. Though Adam didn’t want to hurt anyone, he knew that, on some level, he was just like him. He was 16 years old, he was a pedophile, and he had to do something about it.

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