Map to Hope – Learn

MAPs = Minor Attracted Persons

Minor attraction is not the same as child abuse

Studies have found a consistent trend: the majority of sexual abuse of children is carried out by people who are not sexually attracted to children

This might come as a surprise, as we often hear messages that equate minor attraction with sexual offending. Every day, the term ‘pedophile’ is incorrectly attributed to anyone who engages sexually with a child. However, the majority of people who do so do not meet the definition of pedophilia or minor attraction, and instead abuse children for other reasons:

  • To feel powerful and in control
  • In moments of unusual stress
  • Impulsively when presented with the opportunity
  • Not understanding the harm it causes (e.g. a minor abusing another minor)
  • Or due to other factors  

DEFEND is fundamentally against any form of child abuse. These bullet points are in no way condoning or excusing sexual abuse, but they do provide insight into why someone who is not attracted to children might sexually harm them, based on the data we have available. 

It is important to note that there are many people who are minor attracted and live their lives without ever harming a child, and who remain committed to protecting this vulnerable population. Many even become advocates for preventing child sexual abuse. 

With this in mind, here are a few commonly misunderstood terms and what they mean:

MAP (Minor Attracted Person)– someone who is attracted to minors of a particular age range. Depending on the individual, this may include prepubescent and/or pubescent minors, and some MAPs are attracted to adults as well. The term ‘MAP’ is more encompassing and carries less stigma than ‘Pedophile’

Pedophile– generally a more scientific term, referring to someone who is attracted to prepubescent children specifically. Some people may use this label to describe themselves, but it is best for those who are not minor attracted to use the term “MAPs” when talking about those who are. Not the same as child predator or child sexual abuser 

Pedophilic Disorder– a DSM-V diagnosis defined by attraction to prepubescent children, in combination with subjective distress or sexual behavior with a child. Not all MAPs would qualify for this diagnosis, as many lead fulfilled, non-offending lives. Being attracted to minors in and of itself is not pathologized

Child Predator, Molester, Offender or Abuser– someone who engages in any form of sexual abuse toward a minor, whether they are sexually attracted to minors or not

Pedophilia/minor attraction is not a choice. Harmful behavior is a choice

Here is why it’s important not to equate pedophilia or minor attraction with child sexual abuse:

  • It removes the focus from those who abuse children and are not minor attracted 
  • It is harmful and stigmatizing for MAPs who do not offend
  • Stigma discourages MAPs from seeking help if they need it
  • People are more likely to offend when they feel isolated or like they have nothing to lose, meaning dehumanizing language may actually contribute to child sexual abuse

It is difficult to know the exact number of people who experience minor attraction, but when aggregating various studies, the average comes out to about 5% of the adult population worldwide (which does not account for MAPs who are themselves minors). This is also likely an undercount, as many people choose not to disclose their attraction for fear of being unjustly reported, misunderstood, rejected, or physically harmed. Attraction to minors generally begins in adolescence and remains constant over time, i.e. it cannot be “cured”, as some people may suggest. 

As an organization, we believe it is essential to support MAPs who choose to live a non-offending life, to protect children through abuse prevention, and to honor the experiences of child sexual abuse survivors and their families

Most of the 150+ volunteers working with DEFEND from more than 20 countries have experienced online harm in some fashion, including this writer. My child at age 11 was groomed on Instagram and was eventually sexually assaulted. It has been a difficult journey for all of us, but we know firsthand the importance of preventing child sexual abuse before it takes place. 

In the United States in 2021, there was $5.4B spent on housing people incarcerated for harming children, and only $1.5M spent on prevention research. Sexual harm against children can and should be prevented

The takeaways

  • Attraction is not the same as action
  • Most offenders are not sexually attracted to minors
  • Many MAPs do not and will not offend
  • Child abuse prevention is possible 


In addition to the above sources, some information comes from an interview with Dr James Cantor on 3/23/23

Educate. Advocate. Protect.