Temptation can turn fantasy into grim reality
When police officers knocked on Rockwall County prosecutor Louis “Bill” Conradt Jr.’s door, the consequences of his behavior apparently came crashing into his reality.
Even though Conradt had assisted in the prosecution and conviction of multiple sex offenders, he was about to get arrested for his alleged indecent online conversations with a “13-year-old” boy. Law enforcement officers theorize that Conradt, unable to face the legal consequences of his behavior, nor the damage to his reputation and career, took his own life on Nov. 5, before officers could get inside the house. He was the first to be publicly identified in a sting operation that led to charges against 21 men.
The Murphy Police Department, the NBC show Dateline and an advocacy group called Perverted Justice partnered to set up the bait house in Murphy, Texas, and an online profile to trap suspected pedophiles.
“Many people don’t understand that having a “‘fantasy’ conversation with a minor, downloading sexual images of minors or sending sexual images to a minor are all illegal activities,” said John Barry, a licensed sex offender treatment provider and professional counselor. “People go to prison for this. This is something that Bill Conradt must have known all too well.”
According to Barry, sexual addicts have an unhealthy, compulsive relationship to sex, and may use their sexual fantasies and activities to medicate feelings and/or cope with stress.
The Internet poses a particular temptation for sexually compulsive people, he said, because they can be whoever they want to be. They can say things they wouldn’t in reality, and lie about their age, appearance and relationship status. Even if someone never intends to do the things they write about on the Internet, the state of Texas will still prosecute.
“That defense is questionable at best,” said Barry, “but it is also irrelevant since solicitation of a minor is in itself a crime physical contact is not required for the law to be broken.”
Patrick Carnes wrote the first book about sexual addiction, “Out of the Shadows.” According to Candy Marcum, a licensed marriage and family and chemical dependency counselor, she said Carnes called the Internet the crack-cocaine of sexual addiction: “It’s a very dangerous fantasy to let yourself get into, when there are other things to do in the present,” she said.
“Barely legal” Web sites feature 18-year-old women who are presented in a more youthful way. Even though they are legal, they can present problems for struggling addicts, Barry said.
“These sites might fill a need for some, but they serve to “‘fuel the fire’ for others, making them want to see more extreme material or take their fantasies to another level,” said Barry.
Sexually compulsive people engage in other behaviors, such as public lewdness and sex with strangers, which can cause harm as well. Marcum said that many of the closeted men she sees stop those behaviors when they come out, although she does still worry about hyper-sexualization in the LGBT community.
“Our community tends to sexualize ourselves and thinks it’s okay,” she said. “It just adds to the myth that gay people are oversexed and are sexual predators. We deserve better than that.”
Barry agrees that it is up to the LGBT community to educate society and live healthfully, so that LGBT people will stop being categorized with sex offenders and pedophiles.
He also noted that the media tends to treat sex addiction as a joke, citing two instances on television in the last week during which potential sex addicts were ridiculed. According to Barry, people who engage in sexually compulsive behaviors usually hide it from their friends and coworkers, because of the social stigma against sex addiction.
“Secrecy fuels shame, and enables the behavior to continue,” he said.
However, these behaviors have enormous consequences, so people struggling with sexual compulsion should seek help, Marcum said.
“I ask people to add up how much compulsive behaviors have cost them in dollars and cents,” she said. “Think of jobs lost, legal fees, prostitutes and divorce.”
Sex addicts must deal with legal, health, safety, financial, career, home, family, relationship and emotional consequences, said Barry. Some people are shunned by family members, expose themselves to STDs and invite violence into their home with a stranger.
“Most addicts struggle with a core of low self-esteem,” he said. “Engaging in their addiction numbs this pain, but then ultimately adds to it.”
When people go deeper into the addiction, they become more isolated, according to Marcum. Engaging with the world is a good way to overcome the addiction, she said, because other people serve to distract your attention from the addiction.
As a friend or partner, Marcum said it is absolutely essential to intervene and express concern for the person. “Say, “‘Your behavior scares me for you,’” she said. “A true friend confronts someone they care about.”
For more information on Sex Addicts Anonymous, call 214-739-3889.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, December 1, 2006.