The Woodsman and Pedophilic Disorder

The film, the Woodsman, centers around the character Walter Rossenworth, a 45-year-old white man returning to society after serving twelve years in prison for convicted child molestation. Returning from prison, he registers as a sex offender, secures a job at a lumber yard, and ironically moves across the street from an elementary school. Walter is suffering from pedophilia disorder and is mandated by law to meet with a therapist regularly. Walter is quiet, keeps to himself, and doesn’t have much contact with friends or family.

His most common social interactions are with his therapist, brother in law and new-found girlfriend, Vickie. On occasions, he receives visits from his parole officer, Sergeant Lucas, but they are often toxic and full of pessimism. Sgt. Lucas makes it clear that the odds are stacked against Walter, as most sex offenders relapse and return to prison.

Distressed by his disorder, Walter frequently confides in his therapist his desire to be normal. Up against temptation, a pessimistic parole officer, a limited support system, and a society that has banished him, Walter struggles to find moral redemption.

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Pedophilia disorder is a type of Paraphilic disorder that is described as a person who has deviant sexual preferences that violate our moral, legal and socio-cultural values. Pedophiles experience intense and reoccurring urges, fantasies, and behaviors of being with children younger than 13. Those with the disorder experience significant distress and put others at risk. Pedophilia involves nonconsenting persons, specifically children and can lead to serious legal consequences. The movie doesn’t hide that Walter is suffering from Pedophilia disorder.

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The very reason he was in prison was because he molested two young girls who were between the ages of 9 and 14. Even returning from Prison, Walter continues to have urges of being with young children. It causes him distress since he doesn’t want to relapse and return to prison. To manage his self-control, he keeps a journal in which he uses to write down his thoughts and observations. There are many scenes throughout the film that depict the symptoms of pedophilic disorder accurately. First, Walter displays a form of gratification through his urges of being with children. Every day, Walter finds himself looking outside his window to watch the children play. He also received gratification from stalking young girls. First, Walter followed a young girl to a Jewelry store at the mall, but quickly realizes his act when the cashier calls out to assist him. After, he followed a young girl, named Robin, to the park and engaged in conversation.

When he conversed with Robin, his demeanor changed from a quiet and apathetic guy to a happy and sociable man. Lastly, on the second encounter with Robin, he asked her to sit on his lap. When he asked her, he looked excited at the opportunity, showing the sexual gratification he expects to receive from this behavior. Another accurate representation is that his disorder was possibly developed when he was a child. Walter confided in his therapist that when he was 6 years old, he would lay in bed with his sister and smell her hair. This was a pleasurable event for Walter, that when he was with his girlfriend Vickie, he fantasized about that moment and pinned her arms together while smelling her hair. Walter was replicating the pleasurable experience, suggesting that this may have been the beginning of his disorder.

Though there were many scenes that depicted Walter’s symptoms, there were also scenes that showed clear signs of possible recovery. Therapy seemed to be extremely effective for Walter, especially the use of a diary as suggested by his therapist. Throughout the film, writing appeared to relieve a lot of his stress. Another sign of possible recovery was him engaging with Vickie and attempting to have a normal relationship with a woman. At first, he seemed a bit asexual toward her, but overtime his feelings for Vickie grew and showed he was trying. Another sign for possible recovery is that Walter felt remorse for his actions. When Sgt. Lucas made the comment “freaks like you”, Walter broke down and ripped up his journal, indicating that he was not proud of what he had done. Another instance was when Robin confided in Walter that her father molests her, he told her to go home, marking a turning point for him.

He realized at that moment the trauma he caused his victims. While walking home, he came across another child molester who just recently molested a young boy. In outrage and self-hatred, Walter attacked him and severely injured the man. Days after, Walter decides to move in with his girlfriend Vickie, so he can be away from the elementary school. This indicates that Walter wants to remove himself from the temptations. Finally, Walter meets with his sister, who shamed him out her life, showing that he is taking the steps necessary to heal broken relationships. He understands that recovery takes time, and that society may never accept him, but he is willing to work through it. I would recommend this film to a friend because pedophilic disorder is a well-known disorder and extremely shamed by society.

It involves not only the perpetrator, but victims as well, and has long-term psychological consequences. This movie also offers a different viewpoint of the disorder, as the audience is placed in the shoes of the perpetrator and not the victim. The film educates society by showing the clear DSM-5 signs and symptoms. It also provides relapse indicators to look out for if there is a perpetrator lurking around your neighborhood. Another reason I would recommend this movie to a friend is because I believe there are important ethical question it brings up. One, how do we accept people with this disorder back into our society? Do we shame them? Marginalize them? Isolate them? Accept them? And second, how far can they go before relapsing? I think this movie did a great job depicting the reality of the disorder: sex offenders live among us, and it is important that we understand the disorder in its entirety.

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The Woodsman and Pedophilic Disorder. (2022, May 21). Retrieved from

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