Complex Persecution
May 22, 2003 9:42 AM   Subscribe

Is this excessive punishment? Some might think so . . . until they find out the crime is pedophilia. Or is it? Interesting excerpt:

According to the new book Remembering Trauma, by Harvard psychologist Richard McNally, which debunks the "traumatic amnesia" theories that have been bruited by some child protection workers, children may forget molestation simply because they were too young when it happened or because the abuse didn't feel weird or troublesome enough to remember for very long.

At what point does the zeal to persecute cause more harm (to the criminal and his victim both) than the crime itself? Of course, I fully expect that no clear thinking will prevail, since "OH MY GOD THINK OF THE CHILDREN!"
posted by yesster (49 comments total)

The more I see this statement written out here on MeFi, the more irate I get. It comes across as a putdown, as though "thinking of the children" prevents people from having rational discussion about a subject. As soon as it's mentioned, the subject becomes polarized into two or more camps, primarily of those loud and outspoken people who, shame on them, actually do think of the children to the point of irrationality, and those who don't think of the children at all, also often to the point of being irrational.

As far as I'm concerned, we should think of the children, all the time, since they are the ones who will be making our world a better place, as will their children and their children's children and so on. At the same time, however, we should also think of the perpetrators and of learning how to make them better, or at the very least learning what caused the behaviour and perhaps preventing it in the future.

Anyway, about the linked article, it sounds very interesting. I believe that the police sometimes do turn a crime, or possible crimes, into something that doesn't exist. You certainly can't blame their zeal when child molestation is at issue, yet I can't help but agree with this statement: Research by Bruce Rind and colleagues, published by the American Psychological Association in 1998, indicates that many children seem wholly unaffected by sexual contact with adults. This should not surprise. The Arnold Friedmans of the world are kinder to kids than many normal adults. Please note that I'm not saying that molestation is okay, but that perhaps in the grand scheme of things, verbal abuse and physical abuse cause more damage than sexual abuse in some people.

The Friedman's have had a tragic life and I feel for them. I find it hard to resolve my feelings for them, since if father and son did indeed molest, they deserved to be punished, yet, without knowing them, it saddens me that the potential for positively affecting so many people was thrown into prison along with them. Sometimes punishment meted out by society goes to far, but there has yet to be a system invented that allows fairness and justice equally to everyone.
posted by ashbury at 10:29 AM on May 22, 2003

I really enjoyed this article and would love to see the movie.

This is such a knee-jerk issue that it is difficult to promote anything that resembles civil rights or innocent-until-proven-guilty protection for possible offenders. There are probably many innocent people out there whose lives have been severely affected by false molestation accusations.

I'll probably get slaughtered for this, but the article and the excerpt above bring up a very interesting point that I agree with: that sexual molestation/touching of a child does not *always* have to be traumatic. I would imagine that many children who were non-violently and non-threateningly sexually touched by an adult would simply shrug it off - were it not for all the judgements and labels they'd later hear about inappropriate touching. I think the double standards about sexuality and nudity in the States are extremely damaging - human beings, including *gasp* children, are naturally curious about anything that feels good and don't feel bad about sexuality until they learn that it's wrong. This also creates a lot of guilt about any pleasure that was felt at the time and thereby further increasing the trauma.

Please do not take this to mean that I am pro-child molestation or that I do not think it is inappropriate and potentially very psychologically harmful.
posted by widdershins at 10:50 AM on May 22, 2003

Speaking of children and sexuality: Who was it that decided that breasts, and especially nipples, are bad for children?

Is breast-feeding child molestation?
posted by spazzm at 11:03 AM on May 22, 2003

Is breast-feeding child molestation?

It is in Texas, apparently.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:20 AM on May 22, 2003

All of you are hereby exempted from babysitting my kid FOREVER.
posted by UncleFes at 11:33 AM on May 22, 2003

Jordan, Minnesota
posted by jcruelty at 11:40 AM on May 22, 2003

As far as I'm concerned, we should think of the children, all the time, since they are the ones who will be making our world a better place, as will their children and their children's children and so on.

Jeeze, then what are us useless adults doing sticking around, trying to actually have our own lives..

Bravo! For taking a very unpopular POV. This has been mentioned before, but always with the same reaction -- HANG THE PERVERT!

While I in no way advocate the sexualization of children, I do agree that most of the trauma that a child sustains from it is due to the bad atmosphere surrounding it in today's society, as you allude to.
posted by eas98 at 11:45 AM on May 22, 2003

Here's an interesting list of online articles and opinion pieces that argue we are overprotecting children. And here's a piece from The Guardian on the myth of childhood innocence.

Then there's the issue of sex offender registration - besides the very good arguments that it may violate double jeapoardy, ex-post facto, due process, or other civil liberties - and the vigilantism registration encourages - there's the glaring imbalance of NOT applying the same principle to other crimes. If it is appropriate to publish the names and addresses of sex offenders, isn't it even more appropriate to publish the even longer list of burglars and robbers (for example).

My whole point was to call attention to the way rationality flies out the window when pedophilia gets mentioned. The reasonability of the first two responses, above, is quite a surprise to me.
posted by yesster at 11:47 AM on May 22, 2003

From jcruelty's link above: All the defendants in the Jordan, Minnesota trial were also acquitted but not before they had been financially ruined and everybody who believed them innocent (including the Deputy Sheriff and his wife) had been arrested so that a total of 24 people were eventually prosecuted.
posted by widdershins at 11:51 AM on May 22, 2003

Of course, I fully expect that no clear thinking will prevail, since "OH MY GOD THINK OF THE CHILDREN!"

You're not doing much to promote clear thinking by putting an polarizing F-U on the front page.
posted by rcade at 12:03 PM on May 22, 2003

I do agree that most of the trauma that a child sustains from it is due to the bad atmosphere surrounding it in today's society, as you allude to.

eas98, just wondering: are you speaking from personal experience with adults who were molested as children? Having had several friends who were molested when they were young, I do not agree that most of the trauma is due to the "bad atmosphere surrounding it" (although the fact that the parents swept it under the rug didn't help). I would say most of the trauma stems from the sexual abuse itself, abuse of adult power, etc. This may take years to come up, but I think it pretty much always does. I am interested in reading Remembering Trauma, though, to see in more depth what the author has to say about this.

On the other hand, forcing confessions out of children, or feeding them lines to say in order to try and convict someone, or planting "false memories," and so on, is also abuse of power and in no way helps children who have been abused.
posted by witchstone at 12:05 PM on May 22, 2003

i once watched an amazing thing. it came up during an extended life-examination seminar, as the facilitator was engaged with a young woman who was unable to speak without hatred about her father. she, with some prodding, was eventually able to say out loud that her father had molested her repeatedly as a child. the molestation consisted of touching and kissing her genitals. at the time, this young person had experienced physical pleasure and enjoyed her fathers activities. until the seminar this had been a toxic family secret, the girl had eventually made the abuse known to her mother, who divorced the father, and proceeded to inflict far more damage on the girl via her reaction than her father ever had. this young woman had grown up beleiving that something precious had been "taken" from her. she grew up beleiving that she was "ruined" and her "innocence stolen" (her words, which, it turned out, had actually been the oft repeatedly words of her mother). and worst of all, she beleived that if her father was a monster, then she was even more so, as she had enjoyed the acts her perpetrated on her. her self-esteem was crippled, she had layered herself in 300 pounds of man-repelling fat, she developed substance abuse issues, she was unable to sustain work or personal relationships. over the course of 2 hours, the facilitator of the seminar was able to have this woman describe in intimate detail, EXACTLY what had occurred and speak it out loud. but ONLY EXACTLY WHAT HAD OCCURRED IN THE PHYSICAL UNIVERSE. no abtractions, no emotions, just the actions. remember now, the only actions that had occurred were touching and kissing, nothing was ever "destroyed", nothing "stolen" or "ruined", and by this process she was able to come to grips with the fact that nothing awful had in fact actually happened to her, in fact all that had happenned to her was touching and kissing. she was able to verbalize that the behavior of her dad was inappropriate, selfish and criminal, but that no violence had been committed against her, that she was in fact as intact in every sense of the word after the abuse as she was prior to the abuse. she had never had any sense of having been abused until her mother freaked out, tore the family apart, and proceeded to teach the child a litany of horror and hatred and a sense of loss of things which have no concrete existence in the real world. she was no less "innocent" for having been touched "there", she wasn't "ruined" then, and wasn't ruined now. this turned out to be a watershed moment for her - she literally immediately understood that she could forgive her father or not, forgive her mother or not, but by god SHE HAD NOTHING TO FORGIVE HERSELF FOR. over the course of the next few years, she lost whatever compelled her to drink and drug, she lost 60% of her physical bulk, she began an ever spiraling UPWARD series of jobs and established a career for herself. she CHOSE not to open old wounds, so her mother died without a discussion of the past, but she died forgiven in the daughters mind. she CHOSE to seek out and confront her father, whom she hadn't seen in 20 years and who she found out had actually died in a car crash years earlier, but she has forgiven him in her mind. she can speak about him, and does so. for her, he was a sick man who needed help, and deserved a prison sentence, but he was no longer a horrible monster and by extension, she was no longer the offspring of a horrible monster. she has peace. note that i don't mean to paint mom as a villain here - mom had reacted in a fashion consistent with what she had been taught to beleive. but that's the problem. i will never forget this. i've lost touch with this person over the past 10 years, but the last i heard she was prospering in her career and engaged to be married.
i just had to tell the story here after reading the article.
posted by quonsar at 12:17 PM on May 22, 2003

Jeeze, then what are us useless adults doing sticking around, trying to actually have our own lives..

Us useless adults are hopefully making the world a better place for our parents and grandparents, as hopefully they did for their own parents and grandparents. It's a chain that starts at the last broken link... At the same time, we live our lives to the fullest we can, taking as much enjoyment from it that we can.

Eas98, I suspect that you don't have kids, since you would know that you don't have a life once you get 'em. Personal space and free time go right out the window. :)

That said, I agree with you that the trauma associated with molestation may have a lot to do with the fact that it's a taboo. As children we don't know any better, and it's only as we age that we find out that these things are not only not allowed, that people get severely punished for it. As Witchstone mentions, I think that the abuse of power is far more damaging than anything else, and that those doing the investigating can compound that abuse.

quonsar, your story is very life-affirming. Thanks for sharing it.
posted by ashbury at 12:20 PM on May 22, 2003

we should think of the children, all the time, since they are the ones who will be making our world a better place

Basic biology tells us they're just going to grow up to be adults. Thus consumers, accountants etc. Don't believe everything Whitney Houston tells you.
Kids have a right to be protected but does that mean they have to be put on a pedestal? Is this something that is also on the increase, and if so, has it been a contributor to the increasing rabidity regarding paedophilia in society? What reasons do underlie how this subject is increasingly dealt with?

You certainly can't blame their zeal when child molestation is at issue, yet I can't help but agree with this statement: Research by Bruce Rind and colleagues, published by the American Psychological Association in 1998, indicates that many children seem wholly unaffected by sexual contact with adults. This should not surprise. The Arnold Friedmans of the world are kinder to kids than many normal adults.

Whilst there does seem to be a difference in the level of psychological trauma suffered by different victims I'm not sure how that should manifest on how society treats perpetrators. Can anyone comment on what consideration that kind of factor is taken into account in other crimes against the person?

Something else that bothers me is the other damage that occurs within society as a result of the fear engendered by the media and the effect this has on trust between adults and other peoples children, and what this will do in terms of society as a whole.

Good posts all. Quonsar especially.
posted by biffa at 12:26 PM on May 22, 2003

quonsar, what a very, very cool story. A perfect illustration of what I was trying to say.

Well, I'd never have thunk it from the phrasing of the FPP, but we've managed to have a pretty civilized discussion about this. And I didn't get slaughtered (so far) after all. Kind of reaffirming, all this.

*knocks wood, backs slowly away*
posted by widdershins at 12:36 PM on May 22, 2003

quonsar, that's amazing. I've had many sexually-abused friends and have rarely seen things work out as well as with the woman you describe. This makes me bitter.

On the other hand, having seen a very young cousin aggressively "coached" by a shrink into nearly making unfounded allegations against a family member, I can also say I believe in that type of thing happening.
posted by Shane at 12:54 PM on May 22, 2003

shane, it's just something that happened. don't be bitter. this woman happened to be at a point where she, for whatever reason, was willing to work on this, expose herself to people, to have some difference made. i beleive that nobody ever does anything until the pain of the status quo exceeds the pain of change. and i also beleive that sometimes, the status quo, is the best thing. every situation is different, no matter what the problem may be. also, those are MY observations above, i don't think this person ever attributed her subsequent recovery and successes uniquely to this one incident in the seminar, as a rereading of my post seems to do - but i DO beleive that a major chunk of blockage got blasted out of the way that day. and i think it illustrates quite well the way we as human beings assign abstract meaning to certain physical acts and in cases like this that assigned meaning can be poisonous.
posted by quonsar at 1:12 PM on May 22, 2003

Pedophilia damages the child. No matter what is said otherwise, adults engaging in sexual situations with kids will somehow warp their mind. Did you know that most pedophiles were molested themselves as children? (Sorry, I don't have a link)

I don't want to sound reactionary, but this vicious cycle needs to end. Cut it off at the root. Cut the bastards dicks off. Am I going too far?

"David once told me, when they were young, each of the brothers had run into them (the magazines) while poking in Arnold's things. David said it was no big deal, because Arnold was, in all other respects, such a good man." Wow. Talk about skeletons in the closet.
posted by Keyser Soze at 1:34 PM on May 22, 2003

adults engaging in sexual situations with kids will somehow warp their mind.

well, we'll just have to take your word for it. can't argue with an expert who goes into such detail as "somehow".
posted by quonsar at 1:58 PM on May 22, 2003

Keyser Soze -

Even if it were true that most pedophiles were molested as children, that doesn't mean that a significant portion of molested children will become pedophiles. But even the myth of pedophiles being child victims isn't as true as you might think. It is discussed in one of my links.

Cut a guy's dick off? Molestation doesn't require a penis.
posted by yesster at 1:58 PM on May 22, 2003

I'm not sure what prompted me to click on this thread, since I was sure from the post format that it would be a flamefest (yesster: Of course, I fully expect that no clear thinking will prevail, since "OH MY GOD THINK OF THE CHILDREN!" was a really, really bad idea), but I'm glad I did, since it unexpectedly turned into one of the better MeFi discussions. Thanks to all (except Keyser Soze, who seems to think the thing to do with a civilized thread is to toss a "Cut the bastards dicks off" into it).

Things I Never Thought I'd Read on MetaFilter:
quonsar, your story is very life-affirming. Thanks for sharing it.

The scary thing is that I agree.
posted by languagehat at 2:00 PM on May 22, 2003

sorry about the FPP flame-bait comment - i'm out of practice with posting here, and I was pissed since i'd just read the article

wish we could edit after posting
posted by yesster at 2:14 PM on May 22, 2003

"I've been thinking about my childhood," I said. "There was a time I never told you about, a time when Zeyde touched me. You know, inappropriately."

"Yes, you did," she said, not missing a beat, not sounding surprised. I was floored. I was certain I had never told her. I remembered telling my brother once, many years ago. Perhaps he told her. But I didn't want to get into an argument.

"I don't remember ever telling you," I said without accusation.

"Well, that's how important it was," she said. "You don't even remember."

Clueless writer on Salon fails to wrap her head around the fact that her mother didn't mind being touched sexually as a child, or that she herself may not have minded it much when it happened to her.(sorry, it's salon, so you gotta register and all that.)
posted by alms at 2:15 PM on May 22, 2003

p.s. I had sexual contact with my mother when I was a child. It didn't bother me much at the time. It created some difficulties and psychological work for me later, but in going through that work it has never been clear to me whether my issues were caused by my mother's behavior, or by our culture's assertion that I "must have problems" because of my history. This cultural climate led to lots of self-doubt and self-questioning that took me a while to work through.

For the record, I don't condone or recommend sexual contact between adults and children. Also, I do not deny that for many people the experience is horrific and traumatic. But I also believe that it need not be horrific and traumatic, and I believe that other people's reactions can often be the most damaging part of the whole episode.
posted by alms at 2:35 PM on May 22, 2003

I've got a friend - who happens to be bisexual - who made a comment to me once about pedophiles simply being guys who "like to make young boys squeal."

I've also got a two-year-old little boy, and if you think I will ever let said two-year-old alone with the aforementioned friend, you are out of your freaking mind.

People's brains work in mysterious ways, so I won't argue that some who are molested as children enjoy it, on some level, then are wracked by guilt possibly for the rest of their lives. But I absolutely do think that whenever possible, society - and even moreso, families - have a vested interest in heading this sort of thing off at the pass. If only for the feelings of guilt likely to persist throughout adulthood, child molestation can impart lasting harm. It is a crime for a reason, so let's not softpedal the impact of that crime on some lives while arguing that it might not be utterly crushing on all lives.
posted by kgasmart at 2:44 PM on May 22, 2003

Two things that are probably far too flip to post to a topic like this:

1. yesster the molester.

2. quonsar, the fat woman was you, right?

Sorry, but everyone was thinking it.
posted by elvissinatra at 2:57 PM on May 22, 2003

um, no, for one thing, i'm a big fan of substance abuse, and for the other, my career is in the shitter. but 'yesster the molester' made me lol.
posted by quonsar at 3:10 PM on May 22, 2003

Okay, TMI here, but when I was 7, a stranger lured me out to the woods behind my house and molested me. While I am suspicious of "completely forgotten" abuse, I have experienced my own kind of traumatic amnesia. I remember absolutely everything lerading up to be being taken into the woods, and absolutely everything after it in clarion detail, but I no longer remember what the guy actually did to me. I'm not sure when I forgot, though I know that by the time I fourteen or fifteen, it was very abstract. At this point, the only reason I know what happened was because I've seen the police report made at the time.

And as for molestation not being particularly traumatic or harmful-- maybe not for some people, but I do remember how awful it was for me. This was some strange man, who had touched me in places I didn't want to be touched, and even though my family was incredibly supportive and made absolutely sure that I knew this wasn't my fault, and that there was nothing wrong with me; even though the police were kind and gentle, even though I had therapy, none of that could take away the fact that I didn't trust grown men anymore. None of that could take away my fear that someone else might do the same. I was seven years old, and for the rest of that summer, I dressed myself in two pairs of panties and two pairs of shorts, and I never really played anywhere but in my own, fenced back yard again.

I know that there are occasions where things go too far, I know that there are people who are falsely accused, and I know that even I am distrustful of someone who suddenly remembers an abuse they never had any cognizance of before (though I forgot what happened to me, I never, ever forgot that something had,) but I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss all traumatic amnesia as bogus, nor so quick to claim that the only reason molestation is harmful is because we as a society stigmatize sex.
posted by headspace at 4:03 PM on May 22, 2003

Let's separate this thread into its component parts: (1) The Friedman case in interesting as a study of legal enforcement and counselor zealous disregard of due process.

(2) A study cited that concludes, in part, that children may not remember and therefore not be harmed by sexual contact with an adult.

(3) We have a heart warming story about someone who spoke up about her abuse and turned her life around.

(4) We have an argument that pedophilia damages the child and that molested become molesters. But no link.

Some info:

Here's a synopsis of the study on which the book was based.

From a review of the book: "McNally defines a traumatic event as one that is unexpectedly life-threatening or horrifying or both—as properties of the event itself rather than as a reflection of the subjective response to it."

And also from that review: ". In July 1999, Congress unanimously passed House Resolution 107, which "condemns and denounces" three psychologists, Bruce Rind, Philip Tromovitch, and Robert Bauserman, for a "severely flawed" study, and the Senate then approved it unanimously. The psychologists' offense was publishing an empirical paper in the prestigious journal Psychological Bulletin concluding that child sex abuse does not inevitably lead to lasting psychological harm. McNally presents new evidence showing that the psychologists' conclusion—which was by no means an irresponsible reading of the data they examined—might not hold up, but he is fierce about protecting their scientific freedom. " (emphasis mine)

I think we can all read about the Friedman case and agree with (1). I don't believe a study has been cited to agree with (2). Item (3) is apocryphal, heart-warming, but apocryphal. Item (4) is addressed in this study (pdf) and the conclusion is that there may be other factors involved. I urge you to read it. It isn't written in psychobabble.
posted by ?! at 4:22 PM on May 22, 2003

I am adding this in a separate comment because I would like to ask a couple of questions:

If you believe that most of the trauma of the sexual touching of a child is due to the outrage of society would you agree to let your young child have a tender sexual relationship (or event) and then spend the rest of his/her life telling him/her how beautiful and loving it was?

If you believe that a child may not be harmed by sexual touching because he/she is too young to form a memory would you agree that if I am drugged into oblivion and can't remember my rape then there is no harm?

These are honest questions. I have my answers to them. I want to hear others answer since I probably fall into the "OMG think of the children" group. I believe strongly in the need for informed consent for any sexual activity. (And other activities, but they are not on topic.) I firmly believe children can not give informed consent. For me this means any adult/child sexual contact is abusive treatment of the child.
posted by ?! at 4:36 PM on May 22, 2003

yesster, the list of articles on overprotecting children is very interesting. This issue troubles me as the father of an 8 year old girl. Physical demonstrativeness, modesty, perceived vs actual risks of harm, yadda yadda.

However - are you aware that the site it is on appears to be owned by a group ("IPCE") whose mission, shorn of the genteel language, is to make it ok to shag children?
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 4:45 PM on May 22, 2003

?! and headspace - caution. You are both using "all", "only" and "most" where other people have been saying "some".

For the record:
- no to the first, since a) I don't think "most", I think "some", and b) my child lives in and has to deal with the rest of society whether I agree with societal norms or not;
- no to the second. You can't consent when you're unconscious, just as a three year old can't meaningfully consent. Harm from an assault has several components, of which traumatic memories are only one. Others include physical harm, and trespass to your person. (Can I steal your car while you're out, as long as I fill the tank and return it before you get back? Of course not).

Another thing worth considering in this debate is what constitutes a child. I am always disconcerted to think that differing ages of consent around the world make one country's consensual relationship another's child abuse.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 4:54 PM on May 22, 2003

?!, no and no.
and see headspace's post for a first person perspective.

and on preview, what joes_spleen said.
posted by quonsar at 4:57 PM on May 22, 2003

I firmly believe children can not give informed consent. For me this means any adult/child sexual contact is abusive treatment of the child.

I agree.

As a parent of a three year old son, I am naturally as protective as I can be. I find the idea of anybody, anybody touching my son in any sort of untoward fashion utterly repels me and upsets me. I think there is a consensus in the thread in this regard.

I attempted to answer your questions in depth, but I'm finding that I have too much too say and an inability to put my thoughts into some sort of cohesion.

My quick answer to question one is that if we lived in a culture that accepted child/adult sexuality, there wouldn't be a problem. Obviously we don't, so no, I wouldn't let my child have such a relationship. Unfortunately, your question is impossible to answer without cultural context.

Question two is trickier and I don't have an answer for you. One side of me wants to say that child molestation is not the same as adult rape, but the other side of me puzzles over it for a few minutes and then thinks that they are the same. I think the difference is that children don't have the ability to protect themselves, whereas as an adult, you do. In either case, the potential for harm exists, so my answer has to be no, you have been harmed. It's a good question and I can't puzzle my way through the moral maze you've posed.
posted by ashbury at 5:24 PM on May 22, 2003

For those of you who can fathom molestation not being terribly harmful to the child in itself, I have some questions: even if it's all happy and pleasant and nice, somehow the adult has to get the child to agree to never tell anyone about it, or they'll end up in prison. How do you think this can possibly be accomplished without some sort of emotional manipulation, abuse of authority, or threat of violence? I'm asking because I can't think of a way.

And once a molestation event has happened successfully once, I think there's a high motivation for the molestor to do it again. What are the odds that the child is going to eventually feel weird about it and ask for it to stop? How respectful of the child's boundaries do you imagine this hypothetical molester to be?

I just can't picture an adult doing this to a child in a way that does not abuse trust in a massive, extremely damaging way. Even a child who may be seemingly willing can have no idea what they're getting into...

And as the mother of a four-year-old girl, I have to say that anyone abusing her had better damn well hope the cops get to them first, because I am merciless when my child is involved. "Chopping a dick off" would be just the beginning.
posted by beth at 7:13 PM on May 22, 2003

In my case, when I was molested by my mother, it wasn't very severe and it didn't go on very long. I may have indicated that I didn't like it or something, I don't remember the details. I do remember not feeling terribly violated by it and didn't really think about it much until I was an adult and people told me that it was really weird and fucked up that these things had happened to me when I was seven years old, and the fact it had happened and that it didn't seem to bother me was possibly the reason for whatever particular things I wasn't happy about (or they weren't happy about) in my life at the moment. Eventually it got to me and I went and did a couple of years of therapy and talked about it all a lot more, and went through various sets of feelings, and here I am now in a happy marriage &etc.

BTW, my mother died of metastasized breast cancer when I was 14, so there's no issue of whether I have an ongoing relationship with her or not.

So that's my experience.

Now, does that mean that I think child abuse is great, or that it's all right for grownups to have sex with kids or that I'd want my three year old daughter to hang out with a man who liked having sex with three year old girls? Of course not. That's not what I'm saying.

Here's an analogy. It's something you've probably all seen. A toddler falls. S/he takes a second to sit up and looks kind of dazed, but not crying. The s/he looks up at mom or dad and sees the concerned worried freaked out look on mom or dad's face, and immediately the kid starts crying. So what's going on there? Maybe it just takes the kid a couple of seconds to figure out that it really fucking hurts. I'm sure that happens sometimes. And maybe sometimes the kid gets the cue from their parents that they should be crying because their parents are freaked out so obviously something really bad happened.

Now, does this mean that I want my kid to fall down a lot, and that when they do I'm going to burst out laughing? Of course not. It just means that sometimes when people fall down, they don't get hurt. And telling them that they did, that they must have been, can cause more pain than the falling down did in the first place.
posted by alms at 8:28 PM on May 22, 2003

Well-told, indeed, and a nicely empathy-inducing story to boot.

While I see the merit in what people are saying here about social stigma playing a large role in trauma of sexual abuse victims. This being true -- or partially true or whatever -- does not have to be an avenue to "maybe sexualizing children isn't that bad." The place that this starts to fall apart is when you get around to the fact that child mollestors are sociopaths. I'm as freaky and free-spirited a mofo as you're gonna find, but there are some taboos that have historically proven to be pretty sweet.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 8:33 PM on May 22, 2003

Then there is James Kincaid on the topic:

But what if, in our culture, "the child" and "the sexual" are not independent terms to begin with? What if we can hardly think of one without the other, if they grew up together and are, in our discourse and in our minds, inseparable? I think the modern child and modern ideas of what constitute sexual allure and even sexual activity were developed only yesterday -- in the last two centuries. I think, further, that these two new manufactures are overlapping: ponder, for instance, what our culture does with ideas of "innocence," how "innocence" gives us something to sanitize and pant after, something we can pretend to protect while exploiting it to the hilt.
posted by y2karl at 8:56 PM on May 22, 2003

Uh, yeah,y2karl, but who wants to think about that?

OK fine, interesting link.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 9:23 PM on May 22, 2003

joe's spleen: I was being cautious. Yes, I used "all" once. In "I think we can all read about the Friedman case and agree with (1)" with (1) being "The Friedman case in interesting as a study of legal enforcement and counselor zealous disregard of due process." (quoting myself) I have to stand by that blanket statement. I still "think we can all read about it and agree it is an interesting case....and etc"

In my questions I first pointed out that only those who held certain beliefs should answer. That automatically ruled out many. Hence, only "some" could answer it.

In the first question I failed to note that "most of the trauma" was a direct quote from eas98. Since you do not believe "most" that question wasn't directed at you and those others who do not agree with eas98's statement.

I would point out that one blanket statement is due to my definition of abusive treatment in regard to children. I define the abuse as any sexual activity by an adult with the child. No, it doesn't leave any wiggle room. I stand by that.

I agree we have not discussed the definition of "child." When is someone able to give informed consent? I will take the conservative stand: At that age where society emancipates the child from the family.

I believe that exact age is difficult to determine though. Many rituals of "Coming of Age" have fallen by the wayside in my culture. Therefore, much of western culture poorly defines this milestone.
posted by ?! at 10:51 PM on May 22, 2003

Uh, "yesster the molester" ain't that funny to me. Laugh your ass of though, if it pleases you.
posted by yesster at 6:02 AM on May 23, 2003

Well, this thread is going downhill again. I always distrust people who are willing to knowingly distort what those they disagree with are saying, and ?! and beth are blatantly guilty of that. ?!, either you don't know what "apocryphal" means or you're calling quonsar a liar. And beth, nobody (for chrissake) is saying molestation is "happy and pleasant and nice"; that's baseless abuse comparable to conservatives calling their liberal opponents commies.

To back up alms with a different analogy for those who are slow of comprehension, it's like getting hit (non-fatally) by a car. Some people have injuries that stay with them all their life; some people walk away with only bruises and go on pretty much as if it had never happened -- unless, of course, an ambulance-chaser runs up, persuades them they've got "whiplash" (which, oddly, only seems to exist in countries where it's covered by insurance), and gets them to spend a lot of time, money, and energy pursuing a court case. (No, slow-of-comprehension-person, I'm not saying abuse victims shouldn't sue, I'm comparing ambulance-chasing lawyers to the kind of people who persuade kids that they must have lifelong scars because they've suffered something terrible—see quonsar's story above.) People are different; experiences are different. To say "some kids aren't all that traumatized" is not to say "it's all bullshit, molestation is fine." For instance, I'm not saying getting hit by a car is fine. Capeesh? Now can we return to our regularly scheduled civil discourse?
posted by languagehat at 7:09 AM on May 23, 2003

Now, does this mean that I want my kid to fall down a lot, and that when they do I'm going to burst out laughing? Of course not. It just means that sometimes when people fall down, they don't get hurt. And telling them that they did, that they must have been, can cause more pain than the falling down did in the first place.

That is the most cogent analogy I've ever read regarding child sexual abuse.

I should think anyone who knows a kid aged threeish to sevenish knows they're obsessive little masturbators who only learn to keep their hands off their nubbins (or learn to hide their actions) through persistent commands of "don't do that!" And, of course, kids play "doctor," which is really just a kiddy version of sexual exploration.

It's safe to say kids like sex.

So if they're able to masturbate without ending up traumatized as adults, it can't be sexual feelings that are causing the problem.

I can readily accept the idea that most children who have a sexual encounter with an adult are unharmed by it... IF it's as innocuous as playing doctor or diddling oneself.

I think the damage must come from the abuse of power. When kids play doctor it is by mutual consent: no kid who doesn't want to play can be tricked or forced into playing by their peers. Three/four-year old children aren't any good at trickery and power.

And damage must come from the importance of secrecy and the threats of secrecy. I think most doctor-playing kids are aware that this is something you don't run into the house to tell mom about, but they're also not feeling wracked with guilt and worried about BadConsquences. Any kiddy-diddling adult, though, is going to have to make a fuss over the importance of secrecy and the direness of consequences.

Finally, there are some cultures in which sex-with-kids is an accepted part of the culture. I'm not aware of any studies that indicate these children grow up to be traumatized adults. This would further indicate that abuse of power and dire secrecy are at the root of the problem.

Bottom line: I've really got nothing to say. I think I just reiterated other's points! I don't have any solutions, I don't have any particularly brilliant ideas, and I certainly don't think we adults should be sexually involved with children.

What a waste of text...
posted by five fresh fish at 10:05 AM on May 23, 2003

I just agve up trying to navigate possible google results, but I remember studying a people from the Cairn Rainforest in Australia (I think they were the Dyirbalnyun, though maybe it was the Jingaloo) who had an interesting cultural "take" on one aspect of child sexuality. Their society had these sort of broad categories that determined interpersonal interaction roles which were based loosely on kinship and family roles. Every male child would identify a portion of the population who was in the "grandfather" group, and their relationship with them would be entirely joking. Whereas a kid would onyl be formal with their own mother and father, tehy would constatnyl cut it up with these older adults, and a primary component of the "joking" was tugging on and playing with one another's penises. To the extent that this is perfectly normal in tehir society, and that rigid gender roles preclude any kid-on-kid sexual expoloration among the young, this probably serves a healthy social role.

So basically, cultural framework can trump all, but pointing out a cultural antecednt halfway across the world for activities at home is akin to saying "yeah officer, but there ain't no speed limit in Montana."
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 11:48 AM on May 23, 2003

DO NOT read the above. I can't type.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 11:50 AM on May 23, 2003

Puts a whole new spin on the saying "yah, right, now pull the other one."

posted by five fresh fish at 11:55 AM on May 23, 2003

languagehat: apocryphal: "Of questionable authenticity"

Yep. I know what it means. No, I didn't call him a liar. I'd use that word if I wanted to. I just said it was "of questionable authenticity" since he depended on us to accept what he said without citing an independent source.

Now, I believe using that word is not much different than dismissing a persons recollection simply because they didn't link to a study proving what they said. (See quonsar's comment: "well, we'll just have to take your word for it. can't argue with an expert who goes into such detail as "somehow".)

He could have taken Keyser Soze's word for it. He chose not to. I applaud him for that. I find citing one person's story without any corroborating evidence to be a weak argument.

Distrust me all you like. I encourage it. Question. Find out for yourself.

I find smartass comments like "for those who are slow of comprehension..." means the writer lacks the desire to honestly discuss a issue and just wants only his/her "side" to be voiced. Yet, I will attempt to again explain my thoughts on part of this thread.

If you truly have read anything I posted you will note I never addressed the "false memory" issue. I felt no need to. I have read some of the studies and I agree it exists. I never entered into that part of the discussion.

If you have read any of my comments you would understand that I believe all adult/child sexual contact is wrong. (See comment on informed consent). I honestly don't give a damn how you, or anyone else, place the child on the "traumatized" scale. To use your analogy: hitting a person with a bus is always bad. Period. Capite?
posted by ?! at 9:04 PM on May 23, 2003

?! must be terribly upset with the cultures in which the mothers stroke their baby boys to sleep.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:14 AM on May 24, 2003

And the mothers are doing this for their sexual gratification? Would you give me a link to a study on this culture? I'd appreciate another opportunity to learn.

But, how about you five? How is it in Canada? Mind an aunt, uncle, or babysitter "stroking" your baby boy when he just won't go to sleep? How about a little genital/genital contact?

Come on, it is easy to make fun of ol' ?!, but, really, who here, in our primarily western culture newsgroup, will volunteer their child for an adults sexual gratification?
posted by ?! at 9:07 PM on May 25, 2003

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