The Devils we Know

Sunday, November 14, 2010

I am a survivor of child sexual assault. I am pretty sure this isn't "news",as I have been fairly open about my experiences...once I came to terms with them and stopped fearing the stigma of the brand "victim".

With the internet in an uproar about the self published book on Amazon about pedophilia ( for which I will not be providing a link, if you don't know of what I speak, google it), it cracked open a few doors in my brain.

Was my father a pedophile? My Uncle? My Male Cousins? They were certainly using children for their own sexual gratification, but not exclusively.  They also had access to consenting adult female partners. My uncle, in particular, has fathered at least 10 or 11 children that we KNOW about.  They all seemed heterosexual* in their orientation, so I have always assumed they only perpetrated against my female cousins and myself. Always girls....at least what I know about, often pried out of them in fits and starts and over the course of years only to be spoken after people died or moved so far away there was no fear of reprisal.

(I am not implying that one has to be hetero or homo sexually oriented to be a sexual predator - only that in my own family, it seemed that the perpetrators were all heterosexually oriented, as they chose the girls...that I know of.  In hindsight, I really wonder since so many of the older boys seemed to step into the pattern so easily. Were they also being abused and said nothing or was it a culture of of opportunistic abuse? I just don't know)

Of course, as an adult I have often wondered who perpetrated against THEM. For I know that the cycle of sexual abuse tends to be just that - a cycle. One begets another, who in turn eventually begets another. Like a ponzi scheme of dysfunctional family sexuality, the logical part of my brain knows that this little "habit" didn't simply start spontaneously with the generation of myself and my female cousins.  You need flies to lay maggots, after all.

But I don't know.

But I can tell you what I do know. I was the person who helped to manage the Child Abuse and Neglect Registry for the State of New Hampshire from about 2002 until 2005. I entered cases into the registry. I cross checked matches to make sure it was the same individual. I read and entered cases into the files to make sure they were accurate against the notes in the computer systems and then I closed them.

In short, I read a lot of terrible, terrible shit.  Some of the shit was so terrible that I would go home at night and tell Terrance to sleep out on the couch because I needed to have Emily in bed with me. I needed her body next to mine so I knew she was all right.

Occasionally, I would come across children  I Knew. Families I knew. Suspicions would be confirmed and I would feel helpless and bitterly Angry. Sometimes I would cry because I had held those children. I had diapered them or washed their faces.

More often, these were not children or families I knew. Bad decisions were made about leaving kids in cars in the the winter while Mom/Dad went inside sex shops, or kids in cars when parents were busted for drug deals, or parents who simply did not have the resources - emotionally, mentally, physically or otherwise to care for their children's bodies needs.  The sexual abuse cases, however, nearly Always Always Always involved people whom the children KNEW.

Cases in which a child is sexually abused by an "unknown Perp" are  comparatively rare. That isn't to say it doesn't happen, it just happens much less rarely that for a child to be sexually abused by people the child knows.

Because, you see, that is how the pedophile, or person who targets children, gets Away with it. The child invests in the relationship. If it is Dad, or Uncle, or Grandpa, or Best Family Friend, or your best friends Dad or Moms Boyfriend, then the child has an investment in keeping the perpetrator SAFE. After all, MOST of the time, that person might be nice to them...Extra Nice in fact. Or if the perpetrator is your Dad  , well then , he is your hero, isn't he? The man who keeps you safe and the monsters away from your bedroom, the one who can beat up other kids Dads in school yard taunts. The one who puts food on your table and clothes on your back. You are tied to him. To give him up would be to cut off your lifeline, and children are uniquely wired for their own self preservation when it comes to protecting their parents/family/loved ones.

So while this idiot self publishes a book on Amazon and brings the fury of a million terrified mothers on his head, I am here to tell you that it isn't the people who "Out" themselves who are the potential abusers of Your children.

Oh No. It isn't the pervy guy in the park who is hunting for your kids, or the crazy people who kidnap children out of bedrooms at night. Nope.

The monsters we have to watch for are those we invite into our homes. Maybe even those we live with or next to or go to visit. They are invested in keeping themselves low profile and hidden from sight. I used to joke that it was only the stupid or reckless ones who got caught, a sort of gallows humor for me in a job that was exceptionally difficult.

So were my father and uncle and cousins pedophiles?  I don't think they were in the classic definition of only being aroused by children. Were they simply men who sexually assaulted based on opportunity and availability - or what is called non-exclusive sexual offenders? Most Likely.

I will never be able to trace the fissures of destruction that their actions, and the actions of their victims, and the actions of their possible perpetrators began. I will never know when it started, and with whom.

All I can do is watch the other adults in the life of my daughter, and her friends and respond when my "gut" tells me something is off. Because my gut is Never wrong.

16 Baleful Regards:

Dawn said...

And I did not intend to exclude women from the possibility of being sexual offenders or pedophiles. It certainly happens...and I did see one or two cases, but it statistically is Much less common and was not something I experienced or witnessed in my own family.

Dawn said...

Oh, and I also wanted to clarify that in the third paragraph I was not implying that pedophiles or people who sexually assault children are homosexual...I was only reflecting that I was only aware of - in my family - the sexual assault of girls by Men. I was not aware of any assaults on my male cousins by the men of my family. I have also talked with my brother and he had not experienced any inappropriate sexual contact.

Oddly, I must admit that it had never occurred to me that my uncles/father/cousins might be perpetrating against the younger boys of the family. But it is entirely possible.

Aside from my discussion with my brother, I just don't know.

Pam said...

I am so glad you wrote this post. Oftentimes, the media doesn't do stories on predators that live in our homes or predators that are superheros.

Dawn said...

Pam - I read thousands and thousands of cases in my time at DHHS. The number of known versus unknown simply can not be compared...it was a tiny portion of the entire caseload. Of course, those were the cases that got media attention since they were "sexy" in the way news stories have to be to get any attention.

The one where the GrandFather had abused his daughters, grand daughters and then great granddaughters and was only turned in when one of the grand daughters bargained with him to not touch her daughter - only to find that he did assault her daughter? Not a peep in the local news. 3 generations of women were assaulted and not a word.

I don't worry so much about a dumb ass writing a book, I worry about the ones who Aren't writing books.

Gurukarm (@karma_musings) said...

...and the ones buying such a book to ...what? learn from? get off on? Disgusting, no matter what. I read somewhere that when the news came out, its ranking went from somewhere in the several hundred thousands to under 100. Sick.

Good post Dawn. And thanks for all the work you did and the sh*t you waded through to try to help all those kids.

Victoria said...

Thank you for sharing your insights. I was one of the furious million moms who tweeted, facebooked and blogged about the evils of Amazon et al... mostly because the book went against my own personal moral standards but also because my daughter was a "victim" of sexual abuse by her grandfather. Supporting, promoting, discussing this behavior in a flippant, cavalier, and asinine way is ridiculous. To call it freedom of speech, even more so.

Anyway, thanks from one mom to another who knows perverts and pedophiles aren't just the creepy guys, and that moms ALWAYS need to listen to their gut, even if they think they are being silly.

Cagey (Kelli Oliver George) said...

Yes. I had two minor incidents as a child - one was a neighbor (inappropriate touching that I immediately reported, so that was the extent of it, thank goodness) and an uncle by marriage (he tried to groom both my sister and me. We reported it immediately, so again, nothing escalated)

We shouldn't be nervous of the man in the bushes, we should be aware and alert when invite that man in the bushes into our home.

Similar topic? I am tired of child abductions being splashed on the news, only to find out it was a PARENT who did the supposed abduction. Um, yeah - that is so NOT an abduction. It is still heinous, but we really need clarifying words to better describe the act of a child being taken by their own parent!

Dawn said...

Kelli - good for you and even more kudos to your Mom for raising girls who knew their own instincts were correct and Talked.

I too get riled at those news stories...but generally they have the trappings of the "sexy" story, in so much as the family generally tries to say initially that the child was taken by a stranger.

Dawn said...

Victoria, I hope you didn't interpret my piece being pro-amazons original policy decision. The book in question is on a topic which is so abhorrent that it is difficult to even fathom it's existence.

My commentary was intended to remind us - and I use the collective us here - that it isn't just the "book" in question, but something that goes far beyond our need to feel proactive by stopping one "symbol" of our fear.

I worry that we - collective use - too often feel good about stopping the bad stuff out "there" that we overlook it right under our noses.

Anonymous said...

I just want to add as a survivor that these predators are very very good at manipulation...not only of the children, but of the adults around them. It makes it tough on me as a mother of 2 a nine yr old girl and 15 yr old "learning disabled" boy to let them out of my site. I don't let anyone into my home..we live privately just cuz I don't trust. Period. So TALK to your children, let them know it's ok to kick scream or yell if their boundries are violated. That to talk to me is the best and only thing to do if it does happen. And as for the predators who got to me ( one my own father) I don't wonder anymore what happened or may have happened to make them who they were. I don't CARE! It happened to me..and I can't imagine for a second doing that to my own. Yeah I have issues but I'll be damned if I pass them on to my kids :)

Michelle

tripleZmom said...

I also protested against the book, but I think your post should be the companion piece. When I heard about this, my mind jumped straight to someone using the book to abuse a family member, neighbor or friend. The fact that it's still so taboo makes me sad. Everyone wants to talk about the bogeyman in the bushes and stranger danger and your post makes it clear who really need to watch out for.

Dawn said...

The saddest thing, tripleZmom, is that the people who want to sexually abuse? They generally don't need a book to figure it out - they most likely have made attempts or been successful long before they get caught.

Another case I processed was of a Dad who finally was caught because he moved on from his own daughters - to their friends. He had been abusing his own daughters for quite a long time - and felt like he would never be caught, so when his girls started bringing friends home for sleepovers, he began grooming a few and then moved to widening his circle of abuse. The other girls didn't talk either. It wasn't until he started videotaping the assaults and forgot the tapes in a box when they moved that authorities were able to uncover and prosecute.

I don't want people to live their lives in fear of their neighbors/family/friends. Emily still attends sleepovers (after I meet the parents), she still goes to summer camp, she walks to and from school most days.

BUT, I have always trusted her voice when she says she feels uncomfortable, or is wary of someone or a situation. The Gift of Fear is a book I have liked very much as it emphasizes listening to your "gut", rather than having societal rules about politeness rule our interactions and reactions.

Hillbilly Princess said...

I deal with this regularly on a professional basis. I get so frustrated with other people in the system that I work in who ought to know better and don't. I get frustrated with my friends with children who worry about their kid being the one in a million who gets picked up in a van walking home from school. I deal with law enforcement who try to be sensitive, but sometimes don't understand "why didn't you tell?" I've made it my mission and my profession to be the person who tries to explain to all of them, and to do that, I have to be the one who tells MY truth, because if I do it, maybe I'll help someone else see it's okay to tell. Because it's terrifying and embarrassing, even shameful (though it shouldn't be) when it's not a stranger. And you're right, it's usually not. IF ANYONE WANTS TO SPEND MORE TIME WITH YOUR KIDS THAN YOU DO, WORRY! Not the creepy guy, the nice coach, the friendly neighbor, the uncle with a pocketful of candy. But be ready, for whatever reason, no one wants to hear this message. No one wants to believe that they know "those people". It is an exhausting and discouraging mission you're undertaking, but a worthy one. Good luck.

IzzyMom said...

Everyone I know who has been sexually abused (and the number is frighteningly high) suffered at the hands of a family friend, relative or neighbor. It's beyond disturbing.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, as always, for sharing, Dawn. You have my respect.

I totally take the points given here, but want to share my own story as well. Two men in my extended family were pedophiles who abused girls close to them (their daughters) but also, both my sister and I were nearly abducted by complete strangers when we were little.

I was accosted by a pantsless freak while reading a book in the car as I waited for my mom. I was six; I loved to read; she could see the car through the window from the line in McDonald's. It was only a few minutes, but if I had caved in and opened that door, I'm sure I wouldn't be around to tell about it. I didn't tell her about it until I was sixteen.

My sister nearly got grabbed by a driver as she walked home from kindergarten. We were only across the street and three houses down from the school. If it hadn't been for the elderly lady crossing guard screaming her head off and running after the car, my sis could have disappeared....

These events both took place in attractive, old/new money suburbs, the kind of places where families love to move "for the schools." As if that matters! I have so often thought of what those experiences might suggest, statistically, and I wonder how many close calls either of us had that we never even noticed. It haunts me. Even after those things happened, all of them, I wanted to believe that I and the girls I knew were anomalies, and simply unlucky. But I know we weren't.

I don't much care what statistics say about stranger-danger. I trust my gut and personal experience, and I don't trust strangers.

Dawn said...

Anon - your point is apt - the bottom line is that we need to be vigilant from all angles and at all ages.

Have you read The gift of Fear? It is a book which really emphasizes listening to our "gut" - that it is part of our evolutionary toolbox which kept us alive. The author worries that we too often suppress the "gut" in order to be "nice" or conform to some other socially constructed paradigm when it is indeed the "gut instinct" we Should be listening to...

I am sorry that those things happened to your sister and yourself.

 
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