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Yle talk show on Michael Jackson paedophilia doc sparks hotline calls in Finland

Many callers who revealed they'd been victims of child sexual abuse said they were talking about it for the first time.

Kohudokumentin ohjaaja Dan Reed: "Jos poikien tarinoita olisi voinut horjuttaa, halusimme löytää sen ensimmäisenä"
Yle News

Sexual health and youth support organisations in Finland said they registered a spike in calls from concerned members of the public following the screening of the controversial documentary Leaving Neverland, which claims the late "king of pop" Michael Jackson abused young boys.

Many of those who called support hotlines who said they'd been victims of sexual abuse as kids also said they were talking about it for the first time.

Sex therapist Roni Grinberg works at the Sexpo Foundation, which educates and assists people with questions about sexuality. He said that the organisation's telephone hotline was quite busy after an Yle talk show about the difficult subject of child sex abuse was released online on Tuesday.

The Docventures programme was a special edition of the show released as a companion piece to the documentary Leaving Neverland, which is also being streamed on Yle Areena. The film chronicles Jackson's alleged long-time relationship with two boys and their families as well as the now-adult men's claims that he sexually abused them when they were children.

Grinberg, who was answering calls to the hotline on Tuesday, said it was a very interesting night, adding that some of the calls came from people worried about their own sexual histories and proclivities.

Grinberg noted that it was good that callers reached out for help, and that the talk show's move to address such a difficult matter may have prompted them to reach out.

First time talking about the subject

Some individuals who called Sexpo's help line said it was the first time they'd ever spoken out loud about having been sexually exploited during their childhoods.

Grinberg noted that talking about the subject raises strong emotions, but the ability to talk about them in a safe setting can also offer relief.

Other support organisations reported that the Docventures special prompted calls to them, as well. These included Suomen Delfins, a group that supports people who were victims of sexual abuse or exploitation as children, as well as their relatives.

The organisation's manager, Liisa Kaukio-Rasilainen, said dozens of people reached out for assistance on their online chat.

"About half of those who contacted us said they were talking about the matter for the first time. We also expect more people to contact us in the future as people gain more courage," Kaukio-Rasilainen said.

NGO Mannerheim League for Child Welfare hosted an online chat and hotline service, as well. Tatjana Palomäki, head of the organisation's hotline, said she was glad that the topic of child sex abuse had been brought into the national conversation.

"Children and young people have been talking about [the effects of paedophilia] for at least a decade now. Talking openly about it helps to lower the threshold for people to seek help and improves parents' ability to identify changes in their children's well-being," Palomäki said.

Some fear they'll become predators

It was mostly fathers who called Sexpo on Tuesday, with many saying they had been victims of sexual violence themselves and were concerned about the possibility that they could also become paedophiles, according to Grinberg.

"This type of worry is usually unwarranted, but it would be a good idea for people who have these kinds of questions to talk to a professional. Personal histories that go unaddressed can create unnecessary stress and ill feelings. They are easily reflected in daily family lives and family relations," Grinberg said.

Admitting to having sexual thoughts about underage children is not illegal in Finland, but acting on such desires in the real world is.

Despite this, people are usually still reluctant to talk about these kinds of thoughts because the issue carries deep moral ramifications and emotions.

The Sexpo Foundation and the NGO Foundation for Supporting Ex-offenders have launched a campaign which aims to prevent the sexual abuse of children.

Women rarely seek help due to shame

Sexual attraction to children is something that those affected usually notice early on in life, according to Grinberg. He said it is particularly important for young people to talk about these kinds of feelings and to seek help - not only for their own sakes, but also as a way to prevent potential future offences.

"The young people who called were worried that they could become paedophiles because they had been victims themselves. Many of them said they felt shame and guilt about what happened to them. The human mind often causes victims to start blaming themselves," Grinberg said.

The therapist said that many women also called in to express concerns about being at risk of being or becoming paedophiles.

"In these types of matters women may be even more stigmatised than men," Grinberg said, noting that he was impressed by how honest and open callers were about their feelings.

He said everyone needs to be listened to without prejudice, given that they aren't admitting to having done something illegal.

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