Thursday, July 16, 2015


The truth about childhood is stored up in our body, and although we can repress it, we can never alter it. Our intellect can be deceived, our feelings manipulated, our perceptions confused, and our body tricked with medication. But someday the body will present its bill.  ~  Alice Miller

It was a relief to hear President Obama's response to a question about revoking Cosby's Medal of Freedom during a press conference yesterday. First, he said that there was no mechanism in place to do so (to which one facebook friend suggested, Why not drug him and take it while he's unconscious?) and then Obama said, clearly, If you give someone a drug in order to have sex with them and then have sex with them, that is rape. And there is no tolerance for rape in this country.

But, in fact, there is an extraordinary amount of tolerance for rape, incest, pedophilia, child sexual abuse, sex slavery, prostitution, same-sex sexual abuse, date rape, and workplace sex abuse. I know a few of  these things from personal experience, but also from twenty years' experience in parish ministry, counseling and listening to countless stories of people who shall remain unnamed.

I also know of the degree to which these things are tolerated, ignored, and even excused and exonerated by our society by listening, watching, and observing the world around me. It doesn't take a great deal of insight or acumen to see how many people defended Cosby, or Jerry Sandusky, or Clarence Thomas, or any number of public figures who have been accused and ultimately found responsible for sex crimes. When one pauses and thinks about these things, it is certain that virtually every person knows or has met someone who has been sexually abused as a child. This may have happened at the hands of a stranger, but almost all cases it happened with someone the child knows and trusts. In fact 93-97% of child sexual abuse is at the hands of a family member or family friend.

While parents are being warned against strangers and are assiduously keeping their children "safe" on the internet or on the way home from school, it may be dear Uncle Charles or that great friend who offers to babysit that is the real threat. I once had a parent tell me that while her 6 year old was having piano lessons in one room, and older child was sexually abusing the 3 year old in another room in the same house. Needless to say, even one violation of this type can affect a person for life, and takes a great deal of work to recover from.

We've been hearing more about campus sex assault lately, and there's been some real ground covered in having resources available and in making sure justice is served when a person reports a sexual assault, be it opposite or same-gender assault. Still, much remains to be accomplished. Too many teens go off to college without the basic knowledge to be a vigilant as they will need to be in certain circumstances.

Does this sound like the paranoid ranting of someone who has an axe to grind? I wish it were so. 

Here are some statistics that sounds about right to me:
  • 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys is a victim of child sexual abuse;
  • Self-report studies show that 20% of adult females and 5-10% of adult males recall a childhood sexual assault or sexual abuse incident;
  • During a one-year period in the U.S., 16% of youth ages 14 to 17 had been sexually victimized;
  • Over the course of their lifetime, 28% of U.S. youth ages 14 to 17 had been sexually victimized;
  • Children are most vulnerable to CSA between the ages of 7 and 13.
Given the fact that many, many people never tell, and live with the horror of what happened locked inside of them, this alone is alarming. 

But that is not my main point today.

Here's my question, and I am still seeking a good answer: How do you stop a pedophile from potentially abusing children who are in his/her custody?

 This is a personal as well as, I think, as societal problem. I'm happy to tell my own personal story. In it, this person, a stepbrother, committed sexual abuse when he was more than 16 but younger than 18 (hence no grounds for changes now.) Until several years ago, he'd not married and did not appear to have much contact with children. (Although now that I've learned more about grooming and patterns, I question that.) Married a woman younger than he by at least 30 years who had an infant girl, then they had two sons. All of the children are still at home. They are isolated from family and have few outside activities. Have recently located to a different school. They were reported to Family Services last fall and visited by family services, but other than a routine visit, nothing was done. Shortly after that event, the person, his wife, and the children came into my church during a service and sat through part of the service in what I took to be a threatening maneuver, since the wife had called our home yelling and threatening. They assumed that I made the report since I'd recently moved to NJ. I reported them to the local police in case the threatening behavior continued.

Beyond the almost unbelievable violation of having a predator come into your home after your mother has died, and then discovering years later that he has sexually abused your very young siblings, what could be more horrifying than the violation of having that same predator enter the sanctuary of your church, and sit there when you are helpless to say anything. Thankfully, he left in a hasty manner. I am assuming this happened because he recognized people that knew him/knew of him in the congregation. I cannot recall the last time I was more repulsed and horrified. To me, this very behavior underscored the pathology, and the need for intervention on behalf of these children, who looked terrified as well.

Since then, I have discussed this issue with at least ten different people from all angles of the "system." A lawyer, social workers, school counselors, school nurses, police, and everyone I can think of that may know how to help these children. What if everything is fine with the children and the pedophilia I am reporting was "just" a passing thing and I am making this all up out of whole cloth like a crazy person?

Would that it were so.

Number one, I have no personal vendetta, because I was not the primary victim of the person in question. But, since I was there, and attempts were made with me, I completely believe every word of my siblings who were.

Two, I am so not that kind of person. I'm a forgiver. I have left so much crap a doodle in the past that it could fill up a landfill. This consumes me and has weighed on me for 10 or 12 years now since I knew that what I know could make a difference in saving a child from abuse. At first I tried writing to or befriending the mother. It soon became clear that she is also a victim/supporter of the perpetrator as well. I have revealed the "secret" to other family members who surely know something, and they have distanced themselves from me. Again, this only confirms my worst fears.

Here's some more about grooming. There's a look to look for and look at in the type of individual who might be committing this offense. I am truly alarmed at how many people seem to have just no intuitive or gut reaction to these things. We think now of all the clergy (mostly priests when it came to child sexual abuse) and these patterns are so clear.  And yet, it seems that people just don't want to believe that a father or step father could do this to his own child. Yes. He can. And it's happening every day. 

Taking a step back, and perhaps aside for a moment, I want to draw a parallel to the Cosby case. Just now in the news, we are reading, in his own words, the detailed description of how Cosby groomed the women whom he later drugged and sexually molested. And raped.

Here is my biggest puzzlement and despair: Although I have gone to numerous websites, called hot lines, spoken with experts, and read many books, the efforts are all aimed at getting people/victims to report or getting parents to look for signs. Yet no one seems to be acknowledging that in a huge number of cases, the parents or caregivers themselves are the perpetrators. So the child will never report. Never. And no will know, until it is far, far, too late and another life has been sacrificed to mental illness, suicide, addiction, or any one of the many dire consequences of childhood sexual abuse. There are days when I feel as if I am in a parallel universe and no one is seeing this.

So I just marvel that we have this elaborate system of family services and child protective services, that our taxes are being spent on this, people go to school and get Masters' Degrees for this... and yet the child is not protected from the monster in their own home. Each night and every morning I pray for these children, then I stop and reflect upon how many hundreds or thousands or maybe tens of thousands there are in the same situation or worse.

The people from the agencies will tell you: Yes, it's really sad but our hands are tied unless someone will tell us something. And that's my hope. In this case, I purely believe that someone will tell me something. And in the meanwhile, Those kids have an inkling that there is someone out there who is trying, desperately, to help. In fact, they not only know this because they were "interviewed" and heard their mother ranting about me, but they were forced to sit in my church, my sanctuary (what in the Hell did they think that was about?) and I looked into their eyes. I willed them to see that I was not evil, I was kind. I cared, for them, I knew right from wrong. I was, after all, a minister. Could this be something they can cling to? 

Miller writes about a "helping witness"—someone who acts (routinely, or even once at a critical time) with kindness toward the child and who somehow, by looking into the child's eyes, shows the child another way to live and be. This helper may have no idea of his or her role but nonetheless acts as a counterweight to the cruelty or neglect a child experiences. DR Miller says that a critical prerequisite for normal survival is that at least once in their lives, mistreated children come into contact with a person who understands that the environment, not the child, is at fault. This helping witness teaches the child that he or she is worthy of kindness. This lesson is the basis for resilience.
Dr Miller also describes a "knowing or enlightened witness"—someone who understands the importance of being a helping witness. This person recognizes the adverse effects of childhood trauma or neglect and is willing to give emotional support that helps a child understand and express true feelings. Sadly, the first (and perhaps only) "knowing witness" in most people's lives is often a therapist—but readily could be any physician, nurse, or teacher who is willing to understand what the child sees every day.
( quotes from Thou Shalt Not Be Aware)

One of these kids is not like the other.
Speak up.
Secrets only protect the pedophile.