I’ve lived a long life…
The fourth consecutive Wednesday posting of Fallout: A Survivor Talks to Incest Offenders:
First, I must tell you that I was not severely traumatized by my sexual abuse. I did not significantly dissociate nor develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I provisionally met the criteria for Borderline Personality Disorder at one time. I’m telling you this so you can place the effects incest had on me in perspective.
Numerous others described herein experienced much more damage. Even with my non-violent assault, however, the damage should be obvious in the following pages.
FOR MEN WHO MOLEST
It is probable that you are much more than a man who molests. You may engage in good deeds, be a hard worker and good provider.
Like an animal that has developed rabies, however, you become a danger to society and will be/are being treated as such when your behavior is discovered. Your contributions to society become invisible and you are a marked man. The condition may not be terminal, however. In fact, you are far from alone in the population.
Most men who molest children have not yet been reported and convicted, nor have they been exposed to some of the information provided in treatment programs. You can learn to understand your urges and explore strategies for controlling them.
David Finkelhor was sensitive to the potential usefulness of shared information when he wrote of prevention programs: “Even without specifically addressing the possibility that audience members might become abusers … it is likely that these programs do have an important deterrent influence on anyone who is exposed to them, if for no other reason than that they clearly reinforce the norm that such behavior is exploitative of a child” (Finkelhor 1986b, 234). I hope the information in this book will both encourage men who are still free to resist molesting and strengthen the resolve of those currently in treatment.
The majority of incestuous fathers are symbiotic, in that they feel an emotional bond with their victim (Courtois 1988; Justice and Justice 1979). Maddock and Larson (1995, 84) refer to “affectional based incest,” reporting that “a significant amount of incest behavior appears to serve as a means of expressing affection.” (There is a difference between affection and empathy, however; see Chapter 5.)
A glaring example of this misinformed motivation is reported by de Young (1982, 36), who quotes a molester as saying: “I wanted to be her lover, not the victimizer. I wanted her to remember our affair as one of affection and warmth, not fear and pain.”
Much of the thrust of this book is, therefore, to make a case for the fact that incest is damaging, especially for a child you care about or who is under your protection. I use myself as the example, since to outward appearances I have “succeeded” in life. Read my story and you will find otherwise.
I hope that survivors will find the information within these pages helpful, not only in the section for survivors but also the perpetrator section. I myself was surprised to learn that being able to make sense of my sexual abuse is healing, as discussed later in the book.
A group of female survivors and their therapist once visited our
program during a group session. Each man introduced himself and explained why he was in prison. They answered any questions the visitors had. After the group was over, the survivors confessed they had been anxious, scared, and even angry with the men they were
yet to meet. Upon leaving they reported feeling better about the
men, whom they saw as working on themselves.
From time to time I wondered how my father or grandfather would have fit into our prison group. Would they have denied their culpability? My grandfather would deny his molesting behavior and perhaps convince himself that he was blameless. I can imagine him complaining—as I have heard more than one offender do—that “it’s gotten so you can’t even give your grandkid a hug any more.”
I do not believe treatment would have deterred my grandfather. My father would have been more honest, but both would have denied that any damage had been done.
So do child molesters—especially incest offenders—harm their
At first I resisted the idea that much of my life had been negatively shaped by the incest. Then as I learned more about the kinds of effects it exerts, I was able to gain a clearer perspective of myself. Coming to realize that I have dissociated was an eye-opener as well. Keeping a journal, along with a record of my dreams, has been beneficial not only at the time of writing but later, when tracing my journey.
FOR THE COMMUNITY AND FAMILY
It is no surprise that the community at large knows so little about incest. It’s such an ugly topic and so difficult to discuss with children! That ignorance leaves both us and our loved ones vulnerable, however. We dress our little girls as sexy vamps, don’t know the difference between “playing doctor” and juvenile sex offending, and don’t know how to respond when our young child says she wants to marry us, insists she/he doesn’t want to return to camp again this year, or begs for a different babysitter.
What if a family member who molested a child is chastened and “wants to make it up to her,” or to work on building a better relationship with her? How should you respond if a family member
who has been in sex offender treatment gets depressed and starts blaming his victim? Or decides to start coaching Little League?
People can be wonderful in many different ways and still sexually abuse children. I hope you will find answers to these and other questions throughout this book.
FOR OTHER PROFESSIONALS
I once asked Jan Hindman why there were so many survivors treating sex offenders, and she said, “Because they know how important it is.”