‘True pedophiles are completely abandoned,’ expert says

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James Hockenbury 

GUILDERLAND — James Hockenbury — who police say worked in child care for 30 years — was arrested by Guilderland Police on April 19 and charged with a first-degree criminal sexual act, a felony.

He signed a detailed statement that day, taken by Detective Andrew Tarpinian of the Albany Police Department. Hockenbury, 48, writes that more than a dozen years ago, he discovered  he had a “sexual interest for children” but asserts that he never acted on these desires until April 16 when he was caring for a 3-year-old boy from Albany whom he had babysat for in the past.

In his statement, Hockenbury tells of taking the boy to the playground at Westmere Elementary School in Guilderland. He writes that, as a diabetic, he has to “pee frequently,” and he had needed to relieve himself on school grounds. The boy, he says, walked over to him. Hockenbury writes that he encouraged the boy to touch and lick his penis, and says that the child then briefly complied.

The Enterprise was unable to reach Hockenbury by phone or at his home.

Hockenbury’s attorney, Steve Coffey, has said that the statement should never have been released to the press. Detective  Tarpinian said by phone that he could not comment on this particular case, but that, as a rule, all police statements are not only written, but also videotaped.

“What we need,” James M. Cantor, Ph.D. told The Enterprise, “is therapy for these people, and therapy before it’s too late, before there is a victim.”

Cantor, a clinical psychologist and research scientist recognized as an expert in pedophilia, said that local laws in many jurisdictions of New York State do nothing to help prevent incidents like the one for which Hockenbury was charged.

Cantor — a native of Long Island who has lived for many years in Canada — says that regulations on mandated reporting have the unintended effect of making it impossible for pedophiles to see a therapist or talk to anyone at all about their desires, for fear of being reported to the authorities. So, he says, our society’s response to pedophiles focuses on punishment after the fact, rather than prevention. Cantor was speaking in general terms, rather than specifically about this case.

In the statement, Hockenbury says that he recognized his own sexual interest in children while employed at U-KIDS, a campus day-care at the University at Albany, where he worked from 2004 to 2014, hired initially as a teacher’s assistant.

Hockenbury says that over the course of his 10 years at U-KIDS, he went to the men’s room at work to masturbate “to alleviate sexual tension or desire” about five times. He also notes that the rules at UKIDS “were strict enough that I could not change the children there or deal with any bathroom issues.”

Hockenbury also says he met the woman who would become his wife at U-KIDS, and that in 2013 he and his wife began a babysitting business out of their home at Park Guilderland apartments in Guilderland Center.

In reflecting on the narrative, Hockenbury writes, “I feel like shit for what I did, I hate myself for it and wish it never happened. I wish I got help when I was younger to deal with my problems that I had then. I wish I could take back what I did, but I can’t. I want to get help for this problem I have; I am sexually attracted to children and I need help.” He adds, “I also want to address what happened to me in middle school.”

He ends the police statement with, “I told the detective that I have never acted out on any of my sexual desire having to do with kids with any of the clients of my babysitting business or any other children. [...] is the only child I have ever abused. I can read and write and swear that all I have said in this statement is the truth.”

Cantor, the psychologist, believes that local laws, “written to express the anger of the mob,” make it not just difficult, but impossible, for someone fighting these impulses to get help.  

At present, Cantor said, therapists, counselors, and other mental-health professionals in New York State are among those who are bound by mandated reporting laws, which stand in direct contradiction to doctor-patient confidentiality and often override it. If a patient comes in and says that he desires young children — and if the therapist believes that any children may be in immediate danger of harm — he or she is required to report what he said to the authorities.

The unintended result, Cantor says, is that the pedophile is left without any way to safely ask for help.  

“True pedophiles — those who have an actual sexual desire for children — are completely abandoned. There’s no one they can tell: not a therapist, not a family member.”

It’s important to make a distinction, Cantor believes, between pedophilia and child molestation. Child molestation is a behavior, he says, while pedophilia is an inborn and innate orientation, in which children are the object of sexual desire. Not everyone who commits an act of child sexual abuse is a pedophile. In cases of incest, especially, Cantor says, a molester may prefer adult partners, but commit an act against a young person as a kind of surrogate. Conversely, a pedophile can go a lifetime without ever committing an act against a child.

Cantor argues against viewing the pedophile as a monster. “We are responsible for our behavior, but not for our desires,” he says. Just as the rest of us can accept that we cannot have sex with every attractive stranger whom we may briefly desire, pedophiles too can accept that the objects of their desire are necessarily out of reach, he says.

Many pedophiles live entirely celibate lives, Cantor says, and never act out against any children. Many of them spend a lifetime resisting and refusing to give in to their own impulses — a fate “that they did not choose, and that most of us cannot imagine” — and so, he says, could even be called “more virtuous than most of us.”

“It’s hard to paint all pedophiles with the same brush,” Cantor says. “There’s a whole range of mindsets.” Many, he says, recognize their problem and just need “an occasional check-in” with a mental health professional; there are others who need more guidance and treatment in order to see their own situation more clearly and realistically; and finally there are — just as in other parts of the population — sociopaths who don’t care who they hurt. Not all pedophiles fall into this last category, he says.

If a pedophile who works in a day-care center had opportunity to safely talk with a therapist, Cantor says, the therapist might well convince him to look for another job. “A counselor could help him think through it,” he said, “and look for an alternative where he wouldn’t be kidding himself.”

The goal of treatment, he said, would be to help the pedophile create a stable environment in which to work and live, while accommodating his unchangeable mindset in as healthy and safe a way as possible, so that no one gets hurt.

Cantor suggested that some pedophiles may need nothing more than a counselor to talk to. Others may need, he said, various kinds of medications that can help reduce their sexual drive. Certain antidepressants have this side effect, he said, which can be unwelcome for people suffering from depression, but perfect for some pedophiles. Others may need so-called “chemical castration,” drugs that interfere with testosterone production or reabsorption into the body; but these drugs taken long-term can have side effects including reduction of bone density, and so are used only as a matter of last resort.

Hockenbury’s case — which has been moved from Guilderland Town Court to Albany County Court — is being reviewed by the Special Victims Unit of the Albany County District Attorney’s office, said spokeswoman Cecilia Walsh of the District Attorney’s Office, and the case is open and pending. Hockenbury has no court dates pending at this time, she said.

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