Sex Abuse is too Prevalent to Ignore

September 22nd, 2008 Comments

My brain is so full of images, ideas, and thoughts.  I just have to sit down and write.  I’m attending a madatory inservice/retreat at a conference center on the Oregon Coast.  Today’s presentations were by Cory Jewell Jensen, the co-director of the Center for Behavioral Intervention, a sex-offender’s specialty clinic in Beaverton.  A friend of mine attended one of her presentations last Summer and couldn’t say enough good things about the material and the format.  Today, I learned first hand how right my friend was!

Did you know that one out of every 108 men in Oregon is a registered sex offender?  Neither did I.  Did you know that between 20 and 30% of the population is a victim of sexual abuse?  I’d never heard it put in that framework, but it registers with the numbers I’ve heard before.

I’ve been exposed to this material before, but not with the depth and breadth I heard today.  My past exposure was regarding protecting the children, installing windows, learning proper boundaries, avoiding liability, etc.  But today, we saw into the minds of convicted offenders.  We watched video-taped interviews, read predatory letters these men had written, and heard first-hand, from a lady with 30 years of experience, working with offenders.  This seminar dealt with the real issues – beyond corporate liability.

as one who has seen a lot of unnecessary pain in the world

As a Dad, as one who has seen a lot of unnecessary pain in the world, as one who is involved in trying to improve the lives of those around me, I have this overwhelming feeling that the information I learned today is vital and needs a wider audience.  Without an ounce of pride, I believe what I am about to share with you is some of the most important stuff I’ve ever written.

The defining moment today, came when our presenter showed a video clip that had been aired on Oprah a few years ago.  A quiet man had been having sex with his daughters for years.  The oldest left home at age 21 and escaped the abuse.  After a short time, she decided to reveal her secret to her younger sister.  When the younger sister admitted to the incest she was enduring, the oldest let go of her shame and replaced it with a protective anger.

After the feces hit the rotational air mover, the father spent some time in prison and some more time in therapy.  The clip showed the oldest daughter confronting her father, after he had completed a mere three years of therapy.  He talked about his daughter and how she was the first person to ever really love him.  He talked about his total love for her and how he “never meant to hurt her.”

As I watched this video, my eyes welled up with tears

The girl talked about the father’s betrayal and the incredible scars.  She was quite measured in her responses, but also quite flat in her affect.  She talked about how her father had isolated her from others and how she learned to seek solace in him.  Unfortunately, the father was trying to play the role of the victim, and he was only seeking to apologize so that he could appease.  He was still playing the role of the perpatrator.  He was still seeking to victimize his daughter.

As I watched this video, my eyes welled up with tears.  They were showing video clips of this beautiful young woman, from when she was very young, through puberty, and into her teen years.  I couldn’t help but see the pain and loss of innocence.

The majority of sex offenders are known by their prey.  They are people of trust and responsibility.  By the time they are caught, they have generally abused several others, sometimes dozens, if not hundreds.  They are often so adept at gaining trust, lying, and manipulating situations, that they have often talked their way out of situations in the past.  

The truly amazing thing is that many of these offenders have confessed their previous crimes to people, but have stated they have been cured (there is no cure for this kind of cancer), then, because of their great salesmanship, people allow them into their lives and entrust their children to these men.  One video we watched, the man talked with disdain about the stupidity of people – and how gullible they are.

boys are easier to abuse than girls

Too often, these situations are mishandled by pastors, teachers, parents, and other people of trust.  Seeking to find the truth, they go to the offender and attempt to reconcile the situation.  Amazingly, some of these offenders believe in their hearts that they are doing the children a favor.  One man, talked about how the boy was enjoying it and was living out his own rebellion through this sexual encounter.  He was speaking about a five year old boy.

We were told that these perpatrators have found that boys are easier to abuse than girls.  To them, it’s all the same.  The grooming process is calculated, patient, and quite successful.  Often, in group therapy, they will learn from one another, tricks and tips.  

There are over 100,000 child porn websites and over half of them are based in the US.  It was once thought there was no direct link between pornography and sex abuse.  That has since been disproved and we now know that most of those viewing child porn, are abusers.

While the majority of offenders are men, the women who are caught, and are prosecuted, tend to be the worst of the worst.  The female offenders are more violent than men, and are often involved in forcing groups of children to perform and act-out on one another.

 many of those techniques are flawed

Our instructor talked about how published lists of neighborhood sex offenders can actually do more harm than good, as it may lull us into a sense of safety that we’ve instructed our children who to avoid.  However, it is usually someone already in the family circle, a coach, a teacher, a neighbor, who is preying on our children.

We were told stories of predators who case schools and watch how children are picked up at school.  The kids whose parents simply drive up, still talking on their phones, and hardly give the kid any acknowledgement, are the ones they target.  The kids whose parents get out of the car, greet their kids with a big hug, and show a lot of attention – they don’t tend to target those kids.  It’s all about picking the easy targets.

When my daughter was born, my awareness went up in this arena.  But, as I learned today, it is actually my son who is more at risk.  We’ve begun having frank conversations with our Darling Daughter, and she is well versed in the correct anatomical names of all her body parts.  Recently we’ve been discussing some techniques to reduce our kids’ risk of abuse.  Today we learned that many of those techniques are flawed.  Here are some of the methods you’ve probably heard of:

  • Stranger Danger.  Inneffective, because most offenders are not strangers to your children.
  • Good touch, Bad Touch.  There are two reasons this is bad.  First, it teaches kids (soon to be adults) that sexual touching is bad.  Think about the long-term implications of that one.  Second, the predators, use good touch, as they build trust and desensitize these kids for increased boundary crossing.
  • No. Go. Tell.  Doesn’t take into account the MO of molestors and assumes that children will want to flee, especially when it seems pleasureable.  Indeed, this may even set kids up to feel guilt and shame and avoid “telling” afterwards, for fear of getting in trouble.

One very important point Ms. Jensen made towards the end of her presentations tonight, really caught my attention.  She said that some of the best prevention is parent education.  Seminars like the one she was giving us, helps give parents the tools to better protect their kids.  Indeed, one very real dynamic, is that abusers steer clear of groups that participate in this sort of education.

we, as a society, are raising these sex offenders

What amazed me however was her explanation about where abusers come from.  She said that “we” – society – are raising offenders.  They aren’t coming in from foreign countries.  They are rising up right under our noses.  The better prepared we are, the more educated we are, the more we’ll be able to deal with these situations early.

Kids that are abused at a young age, if treated correctly, have a better opportunity to recover from the trauma and shame of that abuse.  More to the point, they are less likely to go on to be abusers themselves.  

Additionally, offenders who are identified early, most begin in their teens, are more likely to get into a program that can help them successfully manage their abarent nature.  As it stands now, most people want to look the other way, they don’t want to believe their “friend,” their father, their coach, or their pastor is a child molester.  So, once again, another abuser slips through the cracks and will most definitely abuse again.

It really is up to us, to educate ourselves, educate our children, and flush out those who are doing great damage to our kids, our families, and our society.

Comments

  1. Peat Bakke says:

    I think this is the real nugget here: “… the best prevention is parent education … abusers steer clear of groups that participate in this sort of education.”

    It sounds like the most valuable protection is the awareness of awareness — that if potential offenders are aware that other members of their social circle are educated on the subject, they are less likely to act.

    It looks like Justice Department statistics back this up — sexual assault and related crime rates are falling per capita, while reporting is rising, roughly mirroring public awareness campaigns over the last 25 years.

    What those statistics don’t provide is insight into the individuals. I’m interested in learning more of the specifics — not about the victims and their experiences, but about the psychology and behavior of the offenders. Can you provide more links to other constructive resources?

    1. missburrows says:

      this post is giving me chills. and it’s 88 degrees today.

      thanks for this post. 🙂

  2. steffan says:

    What statistics are available on abuse of children by women ? It seems from the news reports we get that this is going to be the next big problem we have to deal with. Just as you mention above how the perpetrator thinks he might be doing “good” I have heard in many cases in which the women was the perpetrator that “she really loves the child”, etc.

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