Thanks to an e-list from the University of Minnesota/Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality (SSSS) I did see the documentary “Pervert Park” last evening on the PBS show “POV”. It is probably viewable somehow via computer or apple TV if you have PBS. It was excellent and informative. I am not surprised at all by the horrific childhoods and lives these individuals led prior to the crimes they committed, nor that one ‘offender’ in there never was an offender but had been set up.
I have every compassion for such individuals. Of course its not OK that they in turn hurt others, and these film participants seem glad they are in a place where they can do no harm; where they are getting help and understanding. Some are experiencing a modicum of healing from the lives they themselves have been victims to. Some had never told anyone about their own horrible abuse experience.
We KNOW this sort of thing is a cycle. Stopping it requires understanding the brain and how trauma and early experiences impact thinking and behaviors. Until someone gets help, information, understanding, and support they CANT make a change - they really have no choice but to somehow act on the experiences that shaped their brain function. WITH information and healing, they CAN make changes. Perpetrators are victims first. If we’d met them and heard their story before they in turn committed the same crime that was done to them, we’d feel sorry for them and want to help. Its like someones foot gets cut off yet we expect them to be able to walk and run normally; when they cant and they cut someone elses foot off, we’re horrified and surprised somehow and just want to never forgive them and punish them forever.
FEAR makes us all act in self defense. Acting out of our fight or flight systems is what got people doing these things in the first place. Those of us fortunate enough not to be so traumatized need to re-evaluate the danger we believe this population to be and HELP rather than lock away and isolate. Not that its OK to have unhealed victims - of any sort - running around. Yes they need helpful incarceration and a chance to truly rehabilitate which IS possible for many, most likely. But stopping the cycle means helping them while they are in safe keeping, and seeing that they can change and dont want to be perpetrators OR victims.
As the counselor in the film pointed out, every person committing sexual crimes is/was a victim themselves. Helping them potentially helps prevent ten other victims from being created. This of course makes logical and therapeutic sense. I wish there was a way for more people to see this film and im glad someone had the guts and ability to make it. The participants are brave and in a lot of pain.
Like Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young sang, surely this can't happen in the light of day. Well, we do a great job of keeping scary sexual issues all locked in the dark, where they can fester unheeded, causing great suffering. Knowledge and informed action will interfere with the cycles of abuse, of all kinds. Not just locking people away so we can't see them. Thats like putting a bandaid on one sore of many that are part of an epidemic. Not seeing the truth, doesn't make it less true. People convicted of sexual crimes were victims FIRST. We have to stop it out HERE, not just believe it will go away if we lock up the few people we know of who acted out their own trauma.
These unspeakable topics are the ones we need to look right at, find the root causes, and get information out to stop such traumas from happening in the first place. It pretty much comes down to training young people how to parent, before they become parents, and having comprehensive relationship and sex education in schools. Any abuse victims i know or work with didn’t feel they could tell anyone what was happening to them. So they just grew up seriously damaged. Why can’t they tell anyone? Because they are scared and ashamed. Why are they afraid and ashamed? That's up to us as adults, to create schools and homes where children and teens can disclose that they are or have been abused without fear of reprisal. They have to feel safe and that other adults in their lives are more to be believed and trusted, than the person who is abusing them and scaring them into silence. They need to feel that in general, blame and disbelief will not be the response they receive if they try to tell the truth.
Since sexuality and relationships are rarely talked about in schools or at home, including in an open and positive manner not just about biology and diseases, then no child or teen has an environment that welcomes their disclosure. "Just say no" - or just never talk about it - is an absolute failure, and puts everyone at risk. This is well studied. When do we find the strength to accept the truth, instead of feeling comfortable by pretending sex doesn't exist and is COMPLICATED?
Children and teens need help understanding what is wrong behavior on the part of adults, and HOW to vocalize if its happening. Clearly any such efforts made in grade schools with little children learning about “good and bad touch” is not nearly enough. Further, its documented that a majority of abusers are people the child/teen knows and is trusted by the family. Despite the abuse, many children and young people (and battered wives) want to know that the abuser will be stopped - but HELPED.
Victims are confused by many emotions and often care about the abuser. This is another reason victims sometimes do not report what's going on. Sexual (and other) crimes are caused by TRAUMA. Yes contain perpetrators so as to prevent additional tragedy, but TREAT the original trauma, just as we would with any other serious injury.
And isn't it a shame that the first help this person might receive has to come from jail. Rather than long ago in their lives before they became so damaged that they end up hurting others. Unfortunately, as it is, there is usually no help in jail either. And therefore, no resulting information that could help prevent others from committing the same crimes.
With the abuse rate being 1 in 3, isn’t it? Even if im wrong there, i know its very high. I do know that 3 in 10 women have been molested or sexually assaulted or abused. Did you know that? Of course we dont mention men and boys. This needs to be an open topic throughout childhood and teen years in age appropriate formats and settings. Im sure there are some countries with much lower abuse rates. But far be it from America to learn from someone else (or numerous studies we already have) and open up…
Ill stop here, who knows how much controversy i may cause just voicing my response and opinions.
Hope everyone has a great day! Thanks to James Cantor at U of Minn. for posting about this film Im really glad to have seen it, and i hope its part of many inroads to understanding, healing, and preventing abuse.