Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Gray Areas and Grays Matter

I just received and published a comment by Rosie, who responded to my post, "The Victimization of Victims". What Rosie had to say was very interesting and I understand her points completely. I know it may not seem like it, but I do. I appreciate that Rosie didn't attack me, rather she made her points in a very sensible and calm manner and I am glad she posted, because I want to encourage people to respond regardless of what side of the fence they sit on, as long as they do so in a respectful manner.

I try, REALLY hard to see things from ALL sides. Those that know me know that I can be a good referee or moderator between two sides, because I have the ability to step into someone else's shoes and see their side of things.

However, since being thrust into the life as the wife of a registered sex offender, I am aware that trying to see things from both sides of the sex offender issue has been more challenging.

Before I met my husband, I was just like most of America. I assumed that ALL sex offenders were child molesters and rapists. It wasn't until this touched my life when I learned the truth. If you've read my book, then you know that when I met my husband, his crime was five years old and he was NOT then a "registered sex offender." My belief that all sex offenders were child molesters and rapists remained intact, then. Since I knew what he had done; engaging in a consensual act with an underage girl, I didn't consider that "rape" or "child molestation", and in my mind, I still don't. Perhaps I was wrong to do so, but I was mirroring my own experiences as a young teenage girl who sought out older men, to the experience of my husband's victim. In truth, I don't know what she was thinking or feeling at the time of the incident and it was very wrong for me to assume I knew. For that, I am genuinely and terribly sorry.

The truth is every case is different. As Rosie pointed out, I said,

"Most sexual abuse victims are abused by family members or someone close to them. If the victims are given a choice as to the method to end the abuse, they would likely choose to handle the abuse within the family, in a positive manner, or with a professional counselor."

What I should have said was:

"Most sexual abuse victims are abused by family members or someone close to them. If the victims are given a choice as to the method to end the abuse, SOME would likely choose to handle the abuse within the family, in a positive manner, or with a professional counselor."

In my case, all it took to end the abuse was to report it to my mother. The minute I did, the abuse ended. But, in some cases, as Rosie points out, there are NO family members to report the abuse to that would make it end. In those cases, I would certainly encourage the abused to report the abuse to the police because the bottom line is that the abuse MUST STOP. Even better, it should never even begin!

In my case, if my mother had reported the abuse to the police, my abuser would have been arrested, most likely sent to jail (this was 1978, so who really knows?) and our family would have been ripped apart. I considered all this when my mother asked me, "What do you want me to do?" We had suffered enough, and I believed - and still do - that if my abuser had been arrested and sent to prison and our family ripped apart, that things would get much worse than they already were. One of the things a child needs most is stability, and I could envision my entire life being shattered into pieces and the thought of that terrified me most of all. I do think a lot of abuse goes unreported because many victims fear the same things I did. I do believe that victims should be given CHOICES if they want the abuser to be arrested, charged, imprisioned, etc., as well as they should be given a CHOICE if they want to offer any statements or testimony either for or against the abuser. I know of many women who are labeled victims who want to scream to the world that they are NOT victims and they want their abuser freed but their voices are not heard. I am not saying that victims should be forced to make statements or testify, I am saying for those that want to, should be allowed to. Trust me when I tell you: Many DO want their voices heard! I get emails frequently from such women.

In response to Rosie's assumption that I am a supporter of pedophiles, I can tell you honestly that I am most certainly NOT! I would never support anyone persuing a child for sexual gratification. The very idea of it disgusts me. Pedophilia, as defined by wikipedia: As a medical diagnosis, pedophilia (or paedophilia) is defined as a psychiatric disorder in adults or late adolescents (persons age 16 or older) typically characterized by a primary or exclusive sexual interest in prepubescent children (generally age 13 years or younger, though onset of puberty may vary). The child must be at least five years younger in the case of adolescent pedophiles (16 or older) to be termed pedophilia.

My husband was NEVER a pedophile. If he was, I would NOT have married him, period. His victim was, in fact, 15 1/2 years old. She was well developed and could have easily passed for someone much older than she was. Am I making excuses for him? I suppose some would think I am, but I think I am making excuses more for myself. When I was 15 1/2, I was sexually active. I was seeking the attentions of older men, and I found it. Often. While I was a victim of child sex abuse by a family member for two years (ages 12 - 14), I do NOT consider myself as a victim to the men I engaged in consensual sex with as 15 year old. Were any of those men seeking me? No, not really, but opportunities for them presented themselves and they always, ALWAYS, welcomed those opportunities. Was I groomed in those incidences? No way. BUT, I do think that if I hadn't been abused earlier in my life that I might have valued my virginity and had some self-respect not to pursue those men. In other words, I fully believe the abuse I experienced earlier lead to my promiscuity as a teenage girl.

I will never be convinced that ALL young girls who are seducing older men are "victims", not from THAT anyway. Perhaps they are victims in other areas. We try to teach our young girls morals and to respect their bodies and to wait until marriage, etc... But, when they don't listen, when they go off and have sex, who is really to blame? The men who had sex with them? The girl? Or the parents? Or could it be, no one at all? I don't have the answer. I just know it is not all black and white, that there are a LOT of gray areas, and there are many, many things that can lead a young girl to willingly engage in sexual activity.

Anyone who thinks teenage girls aren't seeking sex are sticking their heads in the sand. Why on Earth would God create us to procreate at such a young age? After all, with puberty comes menstration which we all know means girls are physically able to bear children. For millions of years, kids began having sex with the onset of puberty. Only in recent times has this become an issue and become criminalized activity. We are criminalizing that which we are biologically programmed to do. While there are men in prison who are truly pedophiles, the prisons are FULL of young men who were only responding to normal and natural hormonal impulses, that was not in any way, a form of pedophilia.

Getting back to the topic of child sex abuse, and particularly when it comes to within the family, this is not something I would EVER support or approve of. But, like I said, every case is different and each case needs to be handled differently. Same with sex crimes. Each case needs to be handled differently. When a system can label someone peeing on the side of the road the same as someone who viciously rapes and murders a small child, there is something terribly wrong with that system. And, THAT, my friends, is what we advocates for reforming of laws pertaining to sexual crimes, are trying to change.