Docsplainin' -- it's what I do

Docsplainin'--it's what I do.
After all, I'm a doc, aren't I?

Friday, June 26, 2009

Hypothetically speaking

It is not possible to diagnose someone we have not met and properly evaluated, and by extension it is not ethical to suggest publicly that one can. That is why when the media have a psychological question about a public figure, the experts will only offer hypotheticals.

What we have here, accordingly, is a hypothetical.

If you were to ask me about someone who has tricked out his property like some children's amusement park, names his home after Peter Pan's (a story about a little boy who never grew up), has never had a mature adult sexual relationship (two sham "marriages" do not count), and who invites other people's children for "sleep-overs", I would venture out on a limb and say that there is very high risk that you are dealing with a pedophile.

In fact, I would go so far as to say that you were dealing with the fixated type offender: Adults who inside are still children and identify with the age group from which they choose their victims. This type does not often even see what they are doing as victimization. In the deepest emotional/psychological sense, they see themselves as these kids' peers. As they see it, they are giving and getting "love".

Pedophilia is a highly compulsive behavior, like unto an addiction. The one victim you know about is just that--the one you know about. There are likely to be many, many more. The older the perpetrator, of course, the more likely this is to be true, as s/he usually has been offending since reaching her/his own sexual maturity. If the accused is, for example, 73, then s/he has been at it for 60 years or more. That's a lot of victims. I have had cases in which the perpetrator had more than a dozen victims across three generations within the immediate family alone. One particular fella who comes to mind abused his sisters, his daughters, the children he conceived with his daughters, his grandchildren, his nieces, the children he conceived with his nieces, and his grand-nieces.

What typically happens in any child sexual abuse scenario is this:
(1) It is almost never stranger on stranger. The kid doesn't run home and tell mama and papa. (In fact, the abuser usually is mama and/or papa, but that's for another post.)
(2) Perpetrators know how to single out kids who don't have good parental support/supervision, who are emotionally needy, who are not likely to tell, who are likely to comply with sexual demands, etc. Often these are children who are the offspring of survivors who themselves lack good boundaries or assertiveness skills. Such parents may not be able to spot potential trouble or to act to protect their offspring when trouble occurs.
(3) Because it is not a stranger-on-stranger crime, the non-offending parent(s) is (are) in a bit of a dilemma. Who do you believe? The family friend you love and trust, or your kid? The church VIP or your kid? The perpetrator never would have abused this particular child in the first place if s/he didn't think s/he had very, very good credibility with the family.
(4) That's if the kid says anything at all. Pedophiles have, by the time they get to your kid, had a lot of practice at this. They know how to convince a kid either that this is normal behavior or that the kid needs to keep it a secret, or both.
(5) Pedophiles often have a position of power in the family/community that is virtually unassailable. This is, in fact, how they gain access to children in the first place. Consequently, even a parent who believes her/his child may be loathe to press charges.

Child sexual abuse is damned difficult to prove in a court of law.
(1) It doesn't often leave evidence. Children's skin heals quickly. Bruises and tears and even infections can have a number of other plausible explanations. Rape kits are useless if the parents only learn of the abuse weeks or even months later. Depending on the sexual act performed, there may be no scarring or semen in the first place.
(2) There are no witnesses other than the victim, and children's testimony is problematic. Just for starters, a young child especially may not have the verbal skills to put into words what happened. Children may not be able to give details like dates and times, and an unskilled investigator/prosecutor may not know how to get at that information. Etc.

One often hears that the non-offending parent(s) put the child up to making the accusation and coached the child's testimony either in a custody dispute or to get money from the accused. To that, I would say that it would be damned difficult to coach a child to hold a sufficiently detailed story together over a sufficient length of time to get through an investigation, preliminary hearings, criminal trial and civil suit. Not gonna happen. It'll all fall apart somewhere in that lengthy process.

Emotionally and psychologically speaking, it's a hard way for a child to make a buck. You aren't going to find many genuine victims who are willing to go through it, never mind fake ones.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I can easily understand what you're saying and agree for the most part. There is something else that nags in this case, however - something I have been wondering about for many years.

I have always suspected that Michael Jackson was a castrada. Maybe not surgically, but at least hormonally. Just last night, watching video of him at 13 years old, immensely popular, the family meal-ticket. His voice never changed, he never displayed secondary gender attributes subsequent to that age.

He always appeared to me to be androgynous and even asexual. This is why I think I've always tended to give him the benefit of doubt on the sexual molestation aspect of his relationship with children. Inappropriate? Yes, indeed, in a deeply psychologically scarred kind of way. But actual physical molestation? I wonder...