After I wrote my memoir, I collaborated on a second book entitled “Beyond Betrayal: Taking Charge of Your Life after Boyhood Sexual Abuse. ” The theme is that what causes trauma in a child abused by someone older, is not so much the physical act, but the betrayal of a relationship. No child grows up with an innate understanding of an ideal relationship. At the deepest level, children learn what relationships are by their own relationships.
If a boy gets into a relationship with an older man, he will think that the man cares about him. But when it becomes obvious that what the man wants is the boy ‘s body, the boy may feel betrayed. And so as he grows up, he may “know ” that all relationships are fake, or that they aren ‘t what they appear to be, or that they are simply a way of “getting what you want. ” You hustle people for one thing or another. Conversely, you feel that you have no worth other than what your body can be used for. Your idea may work as long as you are young and attractive. But when you grow up, and you realize that the man you thought who cared about you is now grooming a younger boy to replace you, you may well feel an emptiness and anger and ultimately, well after the events have passed, betrayed.
If you are a boy who ‘s father is molesting your friends, you may grow up believing that your father cared more about your friends… or your friend ‘s bodies, than you.
This is part of the trauma of boyhood sexual abuse.
Several months ago, I saw something which I wish never happened. But I saw it nevertheless: a friend committed felonies against some minors. It was a brief but shocking episode. Afterward, to make certain that I was not being overly sensitive to the incident, I conferred with a diverse set of parents and mental health professionals. Each person I spoke to confirmed that what I had seen was wholly inappropriate and should be reported. (This reminds me of Socrates, who after being accused of corrupting the youth, tells his judges that their minds had been poisoned when they were young and impressionable. Paradoxically, his words work in a way he did not intend.)
I asked one of the country ‘s leading psychiatrists in the treatment of sex offenders if I could set up an “intervention ” with my friend. The answer was that interventions do not work. Offenders will not keep the promises they make.
So I had to make a decision. I could let things be, knowing full well that child abuse would go on for years and irreparably damage several children, or I could try to stop it by reporting the abuse to the state hotline. (Every state has a child abuse hotline). The problem of course, was that by making the report, I was also going to betray a friendship.
The paradox of evil, is that to stop it, lesser evils must often be done.
The Path of Least Injustice.
Adults can betray one another and somehow get on with life. But boys who are betrayed have no one to save them, or protect them, or stop the things that are making them feel ashamed and confused.
Stopping, or trying to stop the evil of child abuse (and emphatically… it is evil) is a matter of identifying the path of least injustice.
When an adult is abusing children, there is no way, absolutely NO way to end the trauma without causing injustice to others. Spouses and partners will be embarassed, families may be torn apart, friendships ended, false accusations thrown at innocent loved ones, and children put into foster care. At minimum, innocent people will be distressed. Others may be truly hurt. Stopping a sex offender is like pulling a poisioned barb out of a family ‘s flesh. It ‘s going to hurt. Sexual offenders depend on the fact that exposing them will likely bring injustice to innocent people. They depend on silence. It is their ally.
Sexual offenders do NOT stop what they ‘re doing (and scheming to do) simply by being told to stop. They will offend even if it means risking a marriage, a partnership, a business, a family, a friendship, even if it means risking a prison sentence. Like addicts, they will do what they want regardless of the inconvenience, distress, pain, disappointment, frustration, and money they cost others. Interventions do not work. Chats do not work. Warnings do not work. The sexual offender will deny that he has done anything wrong. He may attempt to place responsibility on the child: “he wanted it, ” or “he ‘s lying, ” or “he ‘s been around the block; he knows what he ‘s doing. ” The offender will go on scheming to get what he wants no matter what.
Silence = evil.
So when a child is being abused what do you do to stop the evil while causing the least amount of harm? I ‘m not sure anyone has a good answer. But when we remember that adults can get on with their lives after betrayal, whereas children need help in growing up, I think the problem is easier to solve.
In my memoir I mention the Magic Question. This is a question that the knight Percival failed to ask when he saw a lance with blood on it. If he had asked about the lance, an entire kingdom would have flourished. But “in an hour of evil he remained silent. ” And so the kingdom continued its decline, barren of food and life.
What I did, was call the state ‘s hotline. One can say that in doing so, I betrayed a friendship. But I also believe that I did what I could to stop an evil. It does not feel good. But I can ‘t say that I ‘ve ever met anyone who “feels good ” after dealing with a sex offender, no matter what the outcome.