Saturday, September 23, 2006

Three things I've figured out about real sex offenders

I have a problem with the sex offender registry, which is why I I put the caveat "real" in there. I think there are quite a few guys on the sex offender registry who simply had consensual sex with a 16 year old girl who looked like she was 18, when they were 20. I feel really bad for those kids.

On the other hand, I know there are a lot of dangerous offenders who do not register. They slip in and out of our communities largely without incident. I'd like to see the registry make qualifications about the nature of the crimes and the age of the victims vs. the offender. Additionally, there needs to be a more concrete way of keeping track of dangerous offenders.

But because of my experience with my friend's son this last year, I've come to some very strong convictions about the nature of true offenders.

1. Offenders will always lie about their crimes, and probably about a lot of other things, as well. They have to learn to be very good liars--heck, I'm convinced they even believe their own lies. They have to, to keep telling them.

They will say things like, "it only happened once" or " I was drunk/on drugs and didn't realize what I was doing."

The other two things I've figured out are related to the lying:

2. They will conveniently forget the facts of their crimes. "It was so long ago." "I was pretty young myself and I don't remember exactly what happened. SOMETHING happened, but it's all a blur to me."

3. They believe that their victims enjoyed the abuse. Especially if the victim is a young child and the abuse wasn't violent, the abuser will convince themselves, and attempt to convince others, that the child somehow invited it. They believe no harm was done.

Did you know that even women who are violently raped can have an orgasm? And that young children can have orgasms? I cannot imagine the burden of guilt this puts on the victim. I believe this is a big reason why so much of this abuse is unreported. A victim must see these things in black and white and if the abuser brought pleasure to them, they believe they are at fault.

This case in my ward exemplifies these three things. The hard part for me to deal with is not what happened all those years ago--it happened approximately 20 years ago and went on for an unknown number of years. No one except perhaps the perpetrater knows how many victims there were.

What has tormented me in this case is how the family, particularly the mother and sisters of the abuser, has treated the victims and their families. The polarity in our ward has been intense, but the families of the victims hunkered down and stuck to their guns. This boy would have been convicted in juvenile court had his lawyer decided he should plead not guilty. His crimes would not have been publicized, he would not have had jail time, or had to register as a sex offender.

But when he chose to plead not guilty in the face of overwhelming evidence, the judge decided to bump the case to adult court, where he was forced to admit his guilt in a plea bargan.

His family, in return, feels they have been victimized. His stepfather (his father passed away) has accused the girls of simply enticing this boy, then turning on him. He was 13-17 (as far as we know)--his victims ranged in age from 5-8. When they got over the age of 8, they resisted and he went on to other victims.

His family feels these girls are simply promiscuous liars out for attention and possibly money, although I doubt anyone will ever file for restitution. I wouldn't touch their money, that's for sure.

His father was the bishop while this was going on. Because my James had caught this boy abusing our daughter, had pulled him off her, and punched him and reported it to us, we knew years before the other parents. We just didn't know there were other parents. Bill met with our bishop and told him discreetly about the problem and we let it go. We loved that kid and his family. When we found out that others had reported the problem to the bishop and that his mother was aware of one other incident, as well, we were appalled, just shocked to our toes.

We don't hate our bishop or condemn him. The times were different then. He did take some action, but probably, like us, he had no idea of the severity of the problem. They were truly different times.

But now there is awareness. His mother and stepfather are pillars of our ward and community. Several months before the abuse was made known, she gave a wonderful talk in my sister's ward about how we need to be vigilant and kind to the abused among us. She spoke of her friend (me) who had been sexually abused and how much she loved and sympathized with me, with my sister sitting in the congregation.

Now, though, that shoe is on the other foot. She refuses to believe the depth of this boy's deviant behaviors. She believes the two things I listed above because her son has lied to her and he's very good at it.

So I chose sides, against one of my oldest and dearest friends. But I've learned valuable lessons.

I don't know if they will help anyone out there, but know this: sex offenders are some of the best liars on the planet. Thanks for listening.

22 comments:

Stephen said...

Nice summary.

The only thing you missed is that many are defended and surrounded by co-dependent individuals and enablers.

Anonymous said...

Anne:
More general rules of thumb that I believe are near universal truths:

1. "Closeted" (secretive) alcoholics and all hard drug users are also consummate expert liars and manipulators. I qualify the alcoholics like that because I know some alcoholics who are totally open about their alcoholism. And when they are sober I can trust them. But not when they are drunk.

2. The vast majority of those who sexually abuse children were abused themselves.

I would hope that the court, or the families involved, try to find out who it was that abused the boy who abused your daughter. It may not have even been direct sexual contact from an adult. It's even possible that exposure to hard core pornography may have played a part. Another possibility is that he may have been coerced into child-child sex by an adult voyeur or pornographer.

I'm not saying any of that excuses what he did, but what you've discovered is likely to be merely the tip of the iceberg.

I think it would also have been better for all concerned if James would have killed him the moment he was caught "in flagrante delicto". Killing someone in the act of rape is usually classified as legitimate self-defense, even when the killing is done by a third person on behalf of the victim.

An associate of mine was telling me about studies of child-abuse and dealing with abused children. 98% of abuse victims go on to be abusers. With extensive counseling and treatement, the percentage only drops to 97%.

Peter said...

I clerked last summer at a district attorney's office, and I worked almost exclusively on child sex abuse cases. Many of the cases, if not most, involved offenders that were extended family members. And in most of those cases, other family members obstructed the investigations because they thought it should remain a "family matter." In a relatively large percentage of those cases, the offender had repeated the abusive behavior or had a history of such behaviors that had gone unreported by friends or family. Family inaction essentially led to further abuse.

As a side note, while I did see some abusers with a history of being abused, I protest vehemently to the notion that 98% of sex abuse victims become abusers themselves. I suspect that statistic was fabricated somewhere along the line, and I do not believe it for a moment.

Anonymous said...

Peter, there is likely further qualifications to the 98% figure that I was not told. For instance, it might be adult-male-to-juvenile-male abuse victims.

In cases of adult-male-to-juvenile-female abuse victims, those girls generally go on to marry abusers.

annegb said...

I don't know if this boy was abused. There were some boundary issues, I think. I've seen it in other families where boundaries are blurred or too severely established.

Also, I think this could be a case where youthful experimentation just took on a life of its own because this boy just was given too much freedom to explore his sexuality and his parents defended him.

I'm with Peter on the statistics. I think they should definitely be qualified. Although it is true that many women go on to marry abusers.

I have heard that men tend to lash out at others when abused and women tend to self abuse. But all generalizations in these types of cases can probably be disproved.

I do believe that most juvenile offenders do not go on to become true sex offenders. What makes me convinced that this boy is an offender is the pattern, the length of time the abuse went on, and the awful lies he has chosen to tell.

The really sad part is that we know he is lying, he knows he is lying, he knows that we know, but his mother does not. She is looking quite stupid and I don't think I will ever forgive that boy for that.

Téa said...

Those are good conclusions to come to, Anne. I hope your friend can see the light before too long.

Reform is needed on the registry level, definitely. Here in Arizona the program to keep dangerous sex offenders locked up in custody of the State beyond their sentence is facing legal challenge. I think when everyone who comes in contact with them knows they will do it again, to release them is unconscionable.

Elizabeth-W said...

Hi Anneb-
This thing has got to be so hard for you to be going through. I can't imagine what church is like these days, and how you've been doing it so long...Just wanted to comment on your comment on the victim's enjoyment. Time after time as I have talked to women about this issue, I eventually ask if there was any pleasure involved that they remember. Often the answer is yes. I use the analogy of touching a hot stove-your body responds to pain automatically; we have nerve endings that can respond the same way; when women find out that other women also have 'responded', it seems to help them relax about it, feel less guilty.
As far as the alcohol thing goes, I think people may use alcohol or drugs to do the things they really want to do, or are conflicted about doing. For example, every 'exotic dancer' I've ever known has had to loaded on something in order to 'dance'.
I wish there was a way for you to get to some peace about this thing.

annegb said...

I am slowly finding peace about this, Elizabeth. I don't feel those waves of hatred when I go to church, I simply ignore anything and act in as friendly manner as possible with people who are not speaking to you :). I am giving this to God.

Although, you know, when I began the post, I was only going to share those three things, which were mostly news to me until the last few months. And then I went on. Maybe it was catharsis.

As an alcoholic, I'm not so quick to condemn alcoholism, although I surely deal with my share of manipulative drunks. But in AA, I meet many good alcoholics. I don't know too many secret alcoholics, anonymous. I know some functioning alcoholics, but it's sort of hard to keep a secret.

White Man Retarded said...

I got into drugs at the age of twenty for a period of a few years; since I was a child I've always read about LSD and it making 'colors' and lights, and other stuff appear out of nowhere, and at twenty I was in a place (spiritually, not literally) where I didn't care about my life, before, presently, or in the future. I just did not care. Therefore, in giving up, I was curious to see what the deal was with drugs and it happened to be a friend was going to trip and I decided I'm already lost, why not? and then I took acid. Hmmm...I was more curious and apathetic about myself than wanting to do something I didn't feel comfortable with doing sober. At the time there was no conflict. Enough of me.

I have a friend with whom I talk for hours on 'fronts' versus 'reality' and about the Gospel, about Power, what it does to people (Church) who perceive they have some, and so on. People are weird. I wonder if I've dealt with the mental shock of awakening to the reality of others I've looked up to in my youth being flawed. I mean, not tendencies to lie, cheat, and steal, but serious issues, such as gender misidentity, sexual orientation, and so on. Child abuse...There is no easy way out, no pat answer to fix anything. It's like that comment on the post prior about 'stop asking what the Church can do for you but what you can do for the Church'-it's a nice thought, submit it to the Ensign, but in reality-it's not that easy. I think in my own spiritual evolution all I've used to know continually gives way to a sudden realized ignorance. Like growing up, homosexuality is wrong, evil, liscentious, but why did I think that? Was it scripture or culture? I don't know. I'm just using that as an example. Sorry for rambling.

Barb said...

It is so important to educate people as you are doing. I know of someone from a forum who was sexually abused as a child and has worked with sexaually abused youth. According to him, it is very important for someone not see themselves as a "victim" as those who view themselves as a victim are most likely to repeat the crime. I also know another friend that was abused by several men, and is a virgin today as he never has done anything outside of abuse. He is someone who I have the utmost respect for as he tries to make the most out of his life. He has done the hard work of therapy and is past the nightmares and flashbacks. He is still in therapy as issues recycle, but it is a different level than the intitial work that he did. If you put myths and sexual abuse and males in a search engine, you should get some data that may be helpful. One link that I found is http://www.menweb.org/sexamyth.htm

Barb said...

it should end dot htm

I can understand a mother being in denial.

Healthy people know that children are not at fault when they are abused.

I met a woman who confronted her dad who molested her and he told her how he did not do anything once she reached puberty as if that made it more acceptable.

I have another friend whose did was a serial abuser and abused her and her sisters and even raped her as an adult. He violated her at a very young age. And people told her she was just vindicative to press charges that allowed her dad to be locked up. She is a person who does not have the anger that most people have. I think that she only cares about keeping others safe from her father. I think someone like him she never be set free. I really have a problem with severe offenders ever receiving parole.

White Man Retarded said...

Maybe the abusers become consumate liars because they are afraid of the truth themselves? Just a thought...

White Man Retarded said...

Maybe the abusers become consumate liars because they are afraid of the truth themselves? Just a thought...

Bookslinger said...

Anne, I know how frustrating it is when others don't or can't see what we see. You just want to grab their shoulders and shake some sense into them. I have to keep reminding myself that I can't change others' opinions.

I think it was on your blog, where I read that someone said "I no longer have to make my point."

I remember that it was a big growth step when I finally realized I didn't have to assume responsibility to make sure others had correct beliefs and opinions. I finally gave other people the right to be wrong, and life became easier for me.

I came from an environment where there were both traumatic physical injuries and ongoing emotional abuse in the home.

I'm starting to realize that I should spend less time grieving over the tragedies, and be more appreciative that I survived all that.

I know some Army vets who saw combat in Vietnam. Some of them are still suffering because they focus on all the tragedies they experienced and even worse ones they witnessed.

But the veterans whom I admire are the ones who celebrate having survived and whose attitude is "Yee-haw! I lived through it! They couldn't kill me!"

Who was it who said "Success is the best revenge" ?

Lisa M. said...

Okay, I am going to break presidence here and really comment. So sit back and be prepared.

I was sexually abused, for a lot of my youth. My first memories are long before I as baptized. I especially have memories of that day. I remember feeling "Clean" And then, later that day, feeling *not clean*

I am not an abuser nor am I lying about not being an abuser. Though I suppose you have no way of knowing. I am however, a bit hyper about my kids and have been a little over protective. They don't have sleep overs, ect.

I think that number is horribly ficticious.

I also have very strong feelings about abusers using "I was abused" as an excuse. I was too, and blah blah, we all still have our own free agency and we all have this internal voice in us, that lets us know right from wrong. I am sure people would argue with me, but I am a firm believer in this philosophy. There are very few people who really don't KNOW that what they have done is wrong.

I really do think you have a point about pleasure reeking guilt. I experienced that in HORDS. I had orgasams from an early age, and I started masterbating WAY early. I always feel sick inside about my reaction, because I never looked forward to it, and did everything to avoid my abuser, but it didn't take long before my body would react.. and I had NO control over it. I didn't even know what "IT" was, but I knew it was wrong.

I never told my parents. My older sister did, and they didn't take her seriously. I over heard this, and after that, I knew I couldn't count on my parents.

We had such a closed dialog in our house. Nothing was discussed. NOTHING.

In my early teens I started to get terrified of other things. I thought that eggs and orgasams were the same thing, and that every time my body did that, it was one less chance that I would be able to have a baby, and I constantly worried that my husband would HAVE to know, when I didn't get pregnant.

Eventually my *guy* was caught and a court battle enstrewed and my sister had to testify. Again, I kept totally quiet.

By the time I was fourteen I was having sex on my own. I was out of the house by 16, and learning the ways of the world on my own.

I do think that my love/hate relationship with sex came from my years of abuse. By the time I was 19, I was reading the scriptures, and I came in contact with a man who would have a great influence over me.

He gave me a place in our ward, and a calling. He heard my cries and my tears, and he took me seriously.

Life, after abuse isnt' easy. I don't think it ever will be. For a time I thought I had to forget what happened to me. Then for a time I thought it defined me.

After "giving it up to God" I realize, this is just something that happened to me, it has a bit of an influence over how I feel about some things , but it does NOT define me.

I define me.

Boy, this is one of the longest comments I have ever left. *Grin*

Thanks Anne, for you're light.

Lisa M. said...

Oh, I didn't marry an abuser either.

Nope, nope, nope.

Barb said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
annegb said...

Lisa, I'm blown away by your post. This has been extremely painful for me in so many areas, not the least is the loss of an old and dear friend.

I was slow to wake up to the three things I listed here. I spent a year defending my friend and her son and I felt betrayed when I realized the deal.

Thanks so much to all of you for sharing this with me and validating my beliefs. It helped more than you know.

Barb, you're a rock. Never underestimate yourself.

Barb said...

Thanks Annegb! I thought I had worked through those feelings. I knew they were still there. I really had not planned to say all of that. And I want to make it clear that at least my surface feelings are for the majority of the time not very angry. And my situation is good the majority of the time. It really is my desire to move forward. Sometimes I wonder if I should express my views to the proper channels. I also wonder if I should just let things go. It is so important not to let yourself be consumed with an issue in a way that it could inhibit your spiritual progress. It is so complicated. Those who I spoke so with so much anger had also done so much for me and helped me with my ocd. I really feel that I am in debt. And I don't understand it all. But that is life. I know I have been greatly blessed and that burdens have many times been liften from my back from a loving Heavenly Father.

Bookslinger said...

Here's my take on the after-effects of the trauma of severe assaults.

"Letting go" can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on how one let's go.

"False forgiveness" tends to guarantee continued suffering and perhaps even PTSD.

First, "It's okay" are the worst words to hear after being assaulted. "It", the offense, assualt, or rape is never okay. "You'll be okay" may be acceptable, but never "IT is okay."

As a young child, my mother's mantra "It's okay", whenever I got hurt by someone, was like her telling me it was okay that I got hurt. I could never understand why she thought it was okay for others to hurt me.

This is essentially calling evil good, and denies the crime. Denying that a crime or offense occurred is a false way of pretending there is no wound or hurt. The wound will still stay unhealed if this false belief of "It's okay" is ingrained in the victim's mind.

"Letting go" sometimes wrongfully entails pretending the offense didn't happen. That is false forgiveness too, and also leaves the wound unhealed.

The proper "letting go" is to acknowledge the crime/offense/assuault, acknowledge the badness of it, but go to the Savior for healing of the spiritual and emotional wounds.

By pretending that the wounds don't exist, or that the offense didn't happen, the healing process is essentially ignored, and the wound is untended. After a while, the spiritual/emotional wounds "fester" and start producing spiritual/emotional toxins that poison the victim's life and the lives of family members.

An example of the toxins getting on others is "Secondary PTSD" that can occur in the children of combat veterans or rape victimes.

One of the keys to obtaining the Savior's healing for wounds sustained by the offenses of others is to realize that Christ paid not only for the sin of all offenders, but he paid for the healing of all wounds. Christ paid for both sides of the sinner/victim transaction.

To claim that healing, we usually have to ask for it in prayer. We essentially give the wound to Christ, and we "accept the check" that he wrote to heal us.

A part of this also entails forgiving those who hurt us. As a sinner must repent in order to receive forgiveness, a victim must forgive in order to receive healing.

But remember that this forgiveness that unlocks healing is not the "false forgiveness" so common in our Western soceity. We never have to say that "It's okay" that someone hurt us, or pretend that what they did wasn't a bad thing, or that it didn't hurt us.

Forgiveness in the healing sense is to let the Lord take care of it. Let the Lord judge the offender, realizing that the Lord already paid for the sin, and paid to heal us. Forgiveness is realizing that the Lord now owns that sin. It's accepting that payment and letting the Lord handle it.

Barb said...

Bookslinger, I appreciate your comments knowing that you know about what you speak.

annegb said...

Neal, I appreciate that. It sort of sounds like the small inkling I gleaned from The Peacegiver.

But, I wonder, how do you treat people who have wounded one in such a grievous manner? I still see these people all the time in church and it is becoming harder, not easier, to fight the bitterness.

I am going to pray about it. I have started praying for them. It worked on the other four people I was mad at. Well, not on them, on me. It worked. Really.

But it's hard. I don't easily say "bless them." I say, "it galls me with every fiber of my being to ask, but please bless them with good things."

And then I add, "if that good thing is a good hard smack up the side of the head, well, thy will be done."