Co-founded in 2003 by Michael Melsheimer (a minor-attracted volunteer for the online support network, LifeLine, until shortly before his death in 2010) and social worker Russell Dick, B4U-ACT thrived as a state-funded, Maryland-based 501(c)(3) organization for seven years. While B4U-ACT currently maintains its non-profit status, Behavioral Health System Baltimore (formerly, Baltimore Mental Health Systems) withdrew its annual funding in 2010 – shortly after Michael Melsheimer’s passing – due to economic cutbacks. As of July 2013, B4U-ACT subsists exclusively on supporter donations.
The YOU in Before You Act stands for psychologists, psychiatrists, therapists, social workers, doctors, researchers, media, politicians, and everyone else just as much as it stands for Minor-Attracted Persons (MAPs). It essentially means, "Doctors: BEFORE YOU ACT and report pedophiles, please determine if you have what it takes to help these people."
B4U-ACT, Inc. is a unique collaboration between mental health professionals and individuals who self-identify as sexually attracted to minors. The goal of B4U-ACT is to make effective, compassionate mental health services available to this population, while challenging negative cultural assumptions which frequently serve as barriers to treatment, thus increasing the likelihood of minor-attracted people leading productive, meaningful lives.
During its seven-year stint as a state-funded organization, B4U-ACT facilitated six annual workshops, inviting mental health professionals and minor-attracted people to convene on neutral territory to discuss the biases, apprehensions, and other obstacles to achieving mutual understanding between the two groups. Nearly thirty minor-attracted people and sixty mental health practitioners participated over the course of seven years to address issues ranging from the difficulties of living in secret with attractions to minors, the shortcomings of forensics-based treatment programs, the public stigma surrounding minor-attraction, as well as the collegial stigma faced by clinicians who openly express sympathy for minor-attracted people. The vast majority of mental health professionals in attendance responded with an enlightened sense of compassion toward their minor-attracted counterparts, while many of the latter voiced how simultaneously liberating and terrifying it was to speak so frankly about their sexuality in mixed company, considering the lengths they routinely go to understate these aspects of their identities in everyday life.
Symposium (June 2010)
In June 2010, B4U-ACT organized a symposium to debate issues surrounding proposed revisions to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) entry on “Pedophilia,” recruiting researchers from Harvard University, Johns Hopkins University, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, UT Southwestern Medical School, University of Illinois, University of Louisville, and London School of Economics and Political Science. The symposium marked B4U-ACT’s crowning effort in an ongoing crusade (which included attending the 163rd Annual American Psychiatric Association Convention in New Orleans, in addition to the daily circulation of fifteen appeals written by minor-attracted people amongst members of the DSM-5 Subworkgroup on the Paraphilias for three straight months) to hold the American Psychiatric Association to its own standards of development for diagnostic criteria, specifically "Pedophilia" (i.e., drawing from a wide variety of studies and fields of science, as well as consulting stakeholders for input).
B4U-ACT’s present initiatives include serving as a research gateway to the non-forensic minor-attracted populace, a valuable resource to clinicians otherwise restricted to research subjects currently under the jurisdiction of the criminal justice system, many of whom boast aggressive offense histories (as opposed to the untold numbers of private citizens who responsibly manage such attractions) or face pressures to self-censor in order to conform to “deviancy control” protocol/sidestep indefinite civil detainment. B4U-ACT seeks to develop trustworthy relationships between law-abiding minor-attracted people (as well as those who’ve already served sentences) and researchers seeking to broaden study samples to include such persons, thereby securing results that more accurately reflect the general minor-attracted population.
Testimonials/Q & A sessions
Minor-attracted representatives from B4U-ACT have conducted both web-based and in-person testimonials/Q & A sessions with Graduate classes in Clinical Psychology/Undergraduate classes in Human Sexuality at Northwestern University, Undergraduate classes in Human Sexuality at Howard University, Graduate classes in Human Sexuality at Widener University, and in conjunction with the National Association of Social Workers’ Maryland Chapter Conference. B4U-ACT considers face-to-face dialog a crucial component to dismantling Marvel Comics-grade representations of the “Insatiable Sex Monster” in the public psyche by enabling students, clinicians, and other inquiring parties to weigh such perceptions against the nuances and complexities of actual people, and so remains committed to availing itself to universities, social justice groups, and behavioral science institutions for this purpose.
B4U-ACT also provides moderated, online peer support for minor-attracted people and families/friends of minor-attracted people. Discussion topics may include living with the stigma of being attracted to minors or of being associated with people harboring such attractions, developing healthy, safe relationships, working with mental health professionals, living within the law, and other issues which may or may not be related to sexuality. B4U-ACT is dedicated to responding to the psychological needs of minor-attracted people by cultivating a social climate in which such individuals can live without fear, shame, or isolation.
B4U-ACT news update (spring 2014)
Greetings, Friends of B4U-ACT,
This news update comes nearly a year following the publication of the DSM-5 (The 6th edition of the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, published by the American Psychiatric Association), which initially saw several hopeful revisions to the diagnostic entry on pedophilia, among them:
- Noting that sexual attractions to children tend to emerge at or around the onset of puberty in much the same fashion as homosexual or heterosexual attractions (DSM-5, 2013, p. 699).
- Acknowledging that the sexual attraction to children, in and of itself, does not constitute a disorder (DSM-5, 2013, p. 698).
- Removing an inaccurate, stigmatizing list of motives and behaviors once considered standard-issued to the minor-attracted populace.
After spending two years during the DSM-5 revision process imploring the DSM-5 Subcommittee on the Paraphilias to expand the scientific literature review on pedophilia to include non-criminological studies, to meet face-to-face with freestanding stakeholders willing to speak honestly about being sexually attracted to children, and to consider that firsthand perspective when updating diagnostic criteria, we were delighted the Subcommittee gleaned and, more importantly, published the above insights.
Unfortunately, the revised diagnostic entry sent many a conservative pundit reeling, so much so that the APA, instead of correcting critics' fundamental errors and using the backlash as an opportunity to educate the public about how progress in the research led them to the above conclusions, issued a punitive social control message while sacrificing any mention of therapeutic goals for minor-attracted people (MAPs). We were, to say the least, disheartened that an institution supposedly dedicated to the pursuit of scientific truth would sooner capitulate to political pressure than defend its clinical assertions, and are currently developing a campaign to hold the APA to a higher standard of public education.
On a brighter note, B4U-ACT's efforts to connect law-abiding MAPs with researchers interested in conducting non-forensic studies are yielding fruit:
- The results of a Northwestern University survey for which B4U-ACT helped recruit participants are currently being compiled for submission to scientific journals.
- Congratulations to Simon Fraser University graduate/past B4U-ACT workshop attendee Carin Freimond on the successful completion of her Master's thesis, "Navigating the Stigma of Pedophilia" (https://theses.lib.sfu.ca/thesis/etd8167), which features the testimony of MAPs recruited with B4U-ACT's help.
- A Towson University graduate student is presently collecting the results of an Internet survey/thesis project developed in collaboration with B4U-ACT.
- A Harvard University graduate/Human Rights attorney recently completed a six-week cross-country trek interviewing MAPs -- including a member of B4U-ACT's volunteer staff -- for a documentary film focusing on their day-to-day lives. The finished product will be pitched to major cable networks.
- On May 1, 2014, IDEAS w/ Paul Kennedy, a radio documentary program broadcast nationwide by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, premiered "Born This Way?," an hour-long query into the nature of pedophilia, featuring interviews with James Cantor of Toronto's Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Paul Federoff of Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre's Sexual Behaviors Clinic, "Jesse White," a patient of Dr. Federoff's, and Paul Christiano, B4U-ACT's Administrative Assistant. To access the archived broadcast, visit http://www.cbc.ca/ideas/episodes/2014/05/01/born-that-way/.
On October 5, 2013, Co-Founder and Board Chair Russell Dick, LCSW, served as a panelist for a workshop sponsored by the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference of the United Methodist Church, part of an all-day symposium focusing on social and political issues. Sharing the panel with a YWCA counselor as well as a member of B4U-ACT's own "Family & Friends of MAPs" online support group, Russell discussed society's punitive mindset, emphasizing how the negative effects of stigma frequently prevent MAPs from seeking mental health services in advance of crisis situations, drawing particular attention to the dearth of guidance and support for adolescents -- possibly within their own communities and congregations -- grappling in secret with emergent sexual attractions to younger children. 80-100% of attendees evaluated the panelists as "Excellent" or "Good" in addressing their objectives.
Continuing in our efforts to provide face-to-face opportunities for MAPs and mental health professionals (MHPs) to better understand each other, B4U-ACT provided a workshop at the National Association of Social Workers, Maryland Chapter’s Fall Clinical Conference on September 28, 2012. Two MAPs and two MHPs jointly presented a workshop entitled “Beyond Fear & Distrust: Dialogue About & With Mental Health Professionals and Minor-Attracted Persons” to 29 participants. Post-workshop evaluations indicated that on 5 different criteria, 86-93% of participants rated the session as “Excellent” or “Good.” Comments included: “Very beneficial workshop. Due to high level of discussion around topic, might want to make this an all-day workshop and/or keynote speech discussion.” “Excellent, thoughtful, heartfelt presentation.” “Glad NASW took the risk to present this! VERY worthwhile!”
In 2009, at the behest of university professors intent on placing the next generation of psychologists and social workers in direct contact with hard-to-access client populations, B4U-ACT began dispatching representatives to speak with graduate and undergraduate classes in Clinical Psychology, Social Work, and Human Sexuality. For the past five years, B4U-ACT reps have participated in student Q&A sessions at Widener University in Pennsylvania, Howard University in Washington D.C., and Northwestern University in Chicago. Time and again, students have responded with overwhelmingly positive feedback, thankful for the opportunity to weigh the nuances and complexities of actual people against textbook caricatures.
B4U-ACT considers in-person dialog an indispensable component to dismantling Marvel Comics-grade representations of the “Insatiable Sex Monster” in the public psyche. Since 2008, we've coordinated six annual workshops inviting MAPs and MHPs to convene on neutral territory to discuss the biases, apprehensions, and other obstacles to achieving mutual understanding between the two groups. Sadly, economic cutbacks in 2010 that resulted in the loss of B4U-ACT's state funding have prevented us from carrying those dialogs forward; however, the funds necessary to reinstate this crucial initiative are comparatively modest to what one might expect -- nothing a band of compassionate, progressive thinkers couldn't spare!
Please consider lending a voice to a community all too often spoken for by popular opinion and redefining the treatment paradigm by helping provide clinicians and therapists a face-to-face alternative to the unknown quantity. Visit www.b4uact.org and donate via the PayPal widget or by mail at:
P.O. Box 1754
Westminster, MD 21158
For more information on past workshops, please visit http://www.b4uact.org/workshops.htm
Paul Christiano, Administrative Assistant 
- B4U-ACT Homepage
- B4U-ACT Workshops
- B4U-ACT Symposium
- Research Ethos
- B4U-ACT MAP Support Group
- B4U-ACT Friends/Family of MAPs Support Group
- Behavioral Health System Baltimore
- "B4U-ACT Spring 2015 Workshop Presentation"
- "A Fly In Shrink Soup: B4U-ACT Attends the 163rd Annual APA Convention"
- Letter to the Editor (Archives of Sexual Behavior): “APA Guidelines Ignored in Development of Diagnostic Criteria for Pedohebephilia”
- Slate.com Article: "How Can We Stop Pedophiles? Stop Treating Them Like Monsters."