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Thursday
Sep132012

The Ethics of Writing about Sexual Abuse: Gawker and Cord Jefferson (Guest Post)

Today I'm happy to welcome a long-time twitter friend @graceishuman to the blog with a reaction to a recent Gawker article on pedophiles. Given the immense power that the media has to shape our opinions and culture, I think it is incredibly important to question the way they report on things, as she has done in this article. 


Trigger warning: childhood sexual abuse, rape culture. Contains some graphic descriptions.



In journalism we tell both sides of a story and the reader kind of gets the truth, which emanates from our storytelling. - Tracie Powell

In American culture we have this idea that people who aren’t personally affected by an issue are the most “objective” and therefore most “rational” about it. Besides the fact that objectivity as we define it is doesn’t exist, it’s often the case that the those who have direct experience of an issue are better able to see its full scope and implications than those with the fewest stakes in it. White people often have a limited and distorted perspective on racism, as straight people do on homophobia, cis people on transphobia, men on misogyny, etc.

Cord Jefferson's Gawker piece on pedophilia as a “sexual orientation,” and his response to criticism of it, are a disturbing example of how wrong things can go when we confuse limited experience or knowledge of an issue for impartiality. Many of the problems with the piece seem to stem from a total obliviousness to his privilege and its implications. By his own admission, Jefferson didn’t (and doesn’t) know what he was talking about, but still believes he’s qualified to write about a complicated and extremely painful issue that’s widely misunderstood. This is the essence of casual privilege.

Controversial media coverage of sexual violence cases is hardly uncommon. For example, this past July EBONY.com faced a huge backlash over what many saw as an overly laudatory profile of Genarlow Wilson:
Wilson was acquitted of raping an unconscious 17-year-old girl, but convicted of aggravated child molestation of a 15-year-old girl. The legal issues in the case and the ultimate appellate court decision that freed Wilson after serving two years of his 10-year sentence are posted here and here. [Tracie Powell, Poynter]

Journalist Tracie Powell reflected on the piece (now deleted) as a case study of how writers should and shouldn’t cover sexual assault. Two guidelines she suggests are particularly relevant to the Gawker piece:

  • Be specific with language.

  • Cover all sides of the story.


With these points in mind, I second Ta-Nehisi Coates: this article was a huge failure of journalistic ethics, by Jefferson as well as his editors, AJ Delaurio and Emma Carmichael. I have many questions about the choices they made on this piece.

1) Why did Delaurio and Carmichael accept this pitch? And why did Jefferson want to write this piece?


Cord Jefferson says this is the first time he’s ever written about rape. Frankly, it shows.

All journalists have to start somewhere. But it should be obvious, especially given the sensitivity and complexity of an issue like sexual abuse, that a longform piece on pedophiles is not an appropriate story for someone who’s never written about rape before to pitch.

I can’t imagine what Delaurio and Carmichael were thinking when they accepted this pitch. Perhaps they trusted that his general abilities as a writer would carry over to this piece, but being good at wordslinging isn’t a substitute for being thoughtful and conscientious. Whatever their thinking, it was their responsibility to ensure Jefferson did the topic justice.
I never expected the pedophilia piece to be beloved by many people. When I touched on the topic last year, one of my coworkers told me directly that she wouldn’t be reading “that trash.” When I told my friends Amanda and Megan I was working on it, they both balked and warned me that I would probably have to live forever with the Google suggestion “cord jefferson pedophile.” …I knew the story would make some people loathe me, and others loathe me more. I knew other writers would fire off angry screeds about what I wrote. I knew people would unfollow me on Twitter and Tumblr. I knew there was a good chance I would hurt people’s feelings. If I’m being honest, I started to let all the fear around the whole thing goad me on—I wanted to be the kid who went into the haunted house while all my naysaying classmates stood and watched from the sidewalk. - Jefferson

I’m quite curious to know how Jefferson got it into his head that this was a story he in particular needed to tell. He pursued it with a tenacity that’s inexplicable given that he’s never covered sexual violence (though he had interviewed one of the scientists he profiled before). Why was he so convinced of his ability to write this piece?

Jefferson says his piece was about defending the “right [of pedophiles] to exist in a world that sees them as human beings deserving of life and support,” but there’s more than just deep seated concern for pedophiles’ rights in his comments. They suggest a personal investment in iconoclasm and taboo-breaking, a perception of himself as risking outrage (and horrors! being unfollowed on Twitter) to bravely tell inconvenient truths.

2) Why was there so little consideration of sexual abuse survivors’ perspectives?


The blowback was mostly what I expected…I had anticipated people saying the doctors and I were wrong, and that all pedophiles should “go to the therapy of Smith & Wesson,” as one commenter put it. I had anticipated people telling me to kill myself. I had anticipated people writing off the studies I referenced as junk science. I had even anticipated molestation survivors writing me to tell me how insensitive the piece was.

Jefferson was convinced (dare I say determined?) that his piece would shock and infuriate people, including survivors. Why? Did he think it was impossible to write a piece about the human rights of pedophiles without people “loathing” him, or without coming across as “insensitive” to survivors?

It sounds like Cord Jefferson got too attached to his narrative, and survivors’ experiences weren’t part of it. I’m not saying he had a conscious desire to be edgy, but his anticipation of backlash seems to have been a self-fulling prophecy. He was perhaps consumed with the idea of his argument’s originality and the controversy he expected to generate, and certainly overly focused on the ramifications for him personally.

Put simply, this was a deeply irresponsible and self-absorbed approach.
When I looked at the lede of my pedophile piece…I never imagined how hard to read that would be for someone who’d lived through molestation…I’ll admit that I wrote and read [it[ the way a guy who was never molested would write and read [it].

This much is obvious. The absence of any real consideration for survivors is pervasive.

Jefferson and his editors published an account of the grooming and rape of a child (who would now be 25) from a perspective sympathetic to the man who raped her. Worse, they used language that implied this abuse was romantic and consensual.

This woman is a real person, perhaps even a Gawker reader. She doesn’t appear to have entered Jefferson’s mind as a potential audience at all. She deserved better than to have her story told from the perspective of the person who raped her. Better still: to not have her story told without her informed consent, which I highly doubt Gawker had.
It's not easy to listen to Terry talk about the time he had sex with a seven-year-old girl. But after his psychotherapist put us in touch, he agreed to lay it all out for me during a phone call and email, and I was enthralled the way one might stare at a man falling from a bridge.

Jefferson writes about childhood sexual abuse (CSA) from a remove - it seems almost abstract to him. Perpetrators are more real people in his piece than survivors. There’s a lack of inquisitiveness about the lives and experiences of victims, a lack of identification with them that’s viscerally horrifying when Jefferson goes to such lengths and lurid detail to get readers to identify with pedophiles, and equates them every oppressed group he can think of.

I have a suspicion that listening to someone recount being raped as a child and its effects on their life would not “enthrall” Jefferson nearly as much. It’s a bit harder to indulge voyeurism when you have to sit with the real victims of child rape and deal with it from their perspective. Take survivors out of the picture and you can focus on treating perpetrators as a fascinating freak show and hypothesizing about whether you’d be willing to have them over to dinner.
The old adage is that the true mark of a society is how it treats the weakest in its ranks. Blacks, women, Latinos, gays and lesbians, and others are still in no way on wholly equal footing in America. But they're also not nearly as lowly and cursed as men attracted to children.

By any common sense reckoning, it is not men “attracted” to children who are the “weakest” in our society; it’s children who are sexually exploited and abused. I’m confident that Jefferson would agree if asked to speak directly to this point. But in this piece he seems to have gotten so caught up in hand-wringing over the plight of pedophiles that he lost sight of survivors of CSA.

3) What research did they do to substantiate the comparisons of the marginalization of pedophiles to the racial, gender, and sexual oppression?


Without evidence to justify it, Jefferson’s claims that pedophiles are more “lowly” and “cursed” than “Blacks, women, Latinos, gays and lesbians, and others” is nothing more than lazy sensationalism. It’s particularly egregious given that children with these marginalized identities, especially girls of color and queer and/or trans youth of color, are at much higher risk of sexual abuse and exploitation than children outside these groups. Jefferson’s failure to consider victims in his reductive argument kept him ignorant of the intersectionality of identities and oppressions in CSA.

Jefferson also co-opts “born this way,” a slogan that some LGBT people have claimed (problematic though it is) as a source of pride and resistance against bigotry, fraudulently applying it to people who rape children. It was incredibly irresponsible for him to do this in a culture where the idea that queer and trans people - especially gay men and trans women - are sexual predators by nature remains widespread. In fact, one prominent conservative Christian blogger has already used Jefferson’s piece to promote the argument that the “sexual liberationist logic” of queer people and our allies will lead to a future where “adult-child sex is no longer stigmatized.”

4) What did Jefferson and his editors hope to add to the conversation about CSA?


Somatic Strength, a survivor of CSA and incest, has written that people frequently and without proof extrapolate from the idea that pedophiles can’t be rehabilitated to assuming they can’t control themselves around children, or that they really believe their actions are innocent and consensual.

This comes from a mindset that treats the rape of children as somehow ontologically different from the rape of adults. A rapist who could only experience sexual arousal through coercing adults - such a condition does exist - wouldn’t elicit such sympathy. There’s also a failure here to connect CSA to the psychology of abusers in general. Abusers of any sort often lie and claim they were provoked, or not in control of their actions.

Jefferson’s argument that pedophiles who abuse are not predators but rather tragic figures struggling mightily until they give in out of desperation is far from original. It’s conventional wisdom packaged in pseudo-intellectualism and a shallow theology of caring for perpetrators, rather than survivors, as the “least of these.”

The real intervention of the piece is the argument about the human rights of pedophiles - a point I agree with. Its moral force is undermined, however, by Jefferson’s refusal to name the crimes he’s talking about honestly: rape, coercion, and molestation, not “sexual relationships,” or “sex.” If he couldn’t make this intervention without relying on a lie of omission, again, he wasn’t the right person to write the piece.

5) Did Jefferson and his editors make any effort to determine what best practices for writing about child sexual abuse are? Did they consider how their language and story choices fit with other reporting or the current climate re: sexual violence, and how that’s been commented on by survivors or advocacy groups?


Between Jerry Sandusky, the Catholic hierarchy, the GOP’s war on sexual and reproductive rights, and other stories, the media has been full of stories about sexual violence and the language different groups use to describe it. Just in the past month there’s been furor over Todd Akin’s “legitimate rape” comments and Father Benedict Groeschel’s assertion that children can be “seducer[s]” in cases of sexual abuse. Advocates for survivors have decried the unfortunate decision of many media outlets to call rape and sexual abuse scandals “sex scandals,” as though unfaithful politicians are on the same level of offense as a Jerry Sandusky.

If Jefferson and his editors tackled this lengthy and controversial story in ignorance of the ongoing discussions about media depictions of sexual violence, it was despite abundant resources, easily available from their peers’ work, or failing that, a simple Google search.
“How you tell the story of exactly who is the harm-doer and what is the nature of the harm matters…Using a term that conveys pleasure when you’re describing a crime is always wrong, but particularly when there’s a child involved and especially when it’s highly erotic. It’s just the wrong descriptor.” [Poynter]

When a major news outlet describes a high-profile case of convicted rape and sexual assault as a “sex scandal,” that blurs the boundaries between the public perception of rape and sex and both glamorizes and sensationalizes the serious crime being described. When an internationally renowned paper describes a Ugandan rape survivor as “beautiful, sitting there with her scarred cinnamon brown skin,” or tells how “her lips shine with a natural gloss” and her legs look “polished,” it confuses sexuality and sexual assault, and encourages readers to objectify and sexualize her as a survivor of rape. [Women Under Siege]

My thinking was that no sex with a prepubescent child can be considered consensual, meaning if you’re talking about sex (read: intercourse) with a kid, you’re automatically talking about rape. - Cord Jefferson

Question: if you’re “automatically talking about rape,” how is that a reason to not use the word rape? Rape is the accurate and honest term.

It’s hard not to notice, though, that “sex” softens the impact of the violence described in way that’s more congenial to Jefferson’s argument about the great sympathy we should feel for child abusers. These choices may not have been conscious, but they were also not accidental. I’m sure Jefferson and his editors see the difference in impact between the following phrases:

  • “attempting to rape a minor” vs. “attempting to have sex with a minor.”

  • “decided to groom a 7 year old with the ultimate goal of raping her” vs “began a sexual relationship” with that 7 year old.


They can’t really believe there’s no material difference between using these words because lack of consent is implied.

Speaking of sexualizing rape…can anyone honestly imagine the lede for such a piece focusing on the rape of a boy? If it had, it’s extremely unlikely that it would have been written like the actual lede, which reads more like erotica than an account of the deliberate grooming and rape of a child. It’s a highly sexualized account with eroticizing details about the victim “taking off her shorts” and “straddling” the rapist. If you think such an account would have been written about a boy victim, I have a bridge I’d like to sell you.

Again, I don’t assume this was a conscious choice. But it was a choice made in the context of a culture that routinely sexualizes the rape of girls and women in a way it doesn’t do with the rape of boys or men.

And then there’s the sheer sloppiness and inconsistency of distinguishing between “real pedophiles” who never harm a child, “real pedophiles” who become sexual abusers, and sexual abusers who are not “real pedophiles, but nevertheless using these categories interchangeably throughout the piece (Ta-Nehisi Coates notes some examples of this). This confusion of language and categories - paired with Jefferson’s failure to comment on the 80% of sexual abusers who, according to the research he cites, aren’t “real” pedophiles - may give some readers the misleading impression that every adult who sexually abuses a child is “struggling” with of a “sexual orientation” that they can never disclose to anyone. The lack of clarity in his use of these categories is incredibly irresponsible given the nature of what he’s writing about. (Jefferson was naive and uncritical about the research he touted on pedophilia, but I’ll leave that for a separate post in the interest of length.)

In conclusion: Privilege


[The response] I didn’t expect was being branded a ‘rape apologist.’…I do not believe that I published 3,500 words of ‘rape apologia,’ and the claims that I did were what really kept me tossing and turning in bed last night. …Did I defend rape? Absolutely not, and many, many people, some of them survivors, have written to me or commented to say that, to them, my intended message was conspicuous.” - Jefferson (Emphasis mine)

I wish my editors and I had been more aware of all this beforehand, because I believe we would have changed a lot of that language. Alas. I think we handled the lede and the headline poorly, and for that I really do apologize…

If I had to write ‘Born This Way’ all over again, I think the ways in which I’d change my approach are pretty obvious. But I’d still write it and publish it…[I got an email] from a man who said that, after decades of being attracted to young boys and not acting on that attraction, he read my piece and is finally ready to talk to someone about his problem…maybe knowing there are people in this world who don’t think he’s a disgusting animal changed the course of his life and his unrealized victims’ lives forever. I just wish I hadn’t hurt people to possibly help others. - Jefferson (Emphasis mine)

Jefferson has made a partial apology. I don’t question its sincerity. I also don’t believe he intended to write rape apologism (I mean really, how many people would?). It’s nevertheless what he did. I’d put it to him that if he’s fully committed to his intention to avoid rape apologism, he’d do well to try to understand why people are calling his piece that and work to do better in the future.

As it is, Jefferson seems to say that he, not survivors, gets to decide what’s rape apologism, and which survivors’ evaluations of his writing are most valid (conveniently, the ones who didn’t call it apologism). He decides whether the “help” offered to pedophiles by this argument is worth the pain could cause survivors, or any false impressions of CSA it might give to the public. He decides that he’s qualified to write such a piece again, despite all he’s conceded about what he didn’t know and didn’t even consider for the first piece.

Privilege is a helluva drug.

Jefferson’s self-pity party is a bit contradictory given his apparent bravado about how much anger he was willing to risk to write this piece. Really, he was tossing and turning at night because people called his article rape apologism? Tell that to people for whom being a survivor means they routinely can’t sleep at night, who always sleep facing the door, who are afraid to even take a shower because it might trigger a flashback or worse. Tell that to survivors who can be triggered at any moment, just living their everyday lives like anyone else.

I’m sorry Cord Jefferson lost a few nights of sleep because people were mad about his article. But I’m mindful of the fact that he can take peaceful sleep for granted.

The bottom line is those of us who aren’t survivors of CSA have to recognize our positionality. Our voices are privileged over those who have survived it, even when (perhaps especially when) we write in ways that decenter survivors or misrepresent CSA. We have the loudest voices and stand to lose the least. If our work doesn’t make survivors more visible; if it doesn’t make their voices more audible; if it doesn’t center their accounts of their experiences and reliable knowledge about the psychology of abuse, we are using our privilege to do survivors further harm.

Some resources (far from exhaustive, please make additional suggestions!) for supporting survivors and working against sexual violence:

Organizations:

Survivor’s websites:

T.F. Charlton is a former evangelical Christian, recovering academic, spouse to a pink-haired musician, and mama to a wise-cracking (almost) 4-year old. She's the founder of the religion and gender blog Are Women Human?, where she blogs as "Grace," and a writer and commentator on media and culture from a black, Nigerian American, queer feminist perspective. Say hi to her on Twitter at @graceishuman.

Image credit: Justin Baeder on flickr
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Reader Comments (25)

This is a really mindful and sensitive article. Thanks for sharing it. As someone who was abused I find myself always qualifying my experience at age 11 (I escaped my attacker before it escalated to rape) rather than accepting it for what it was and by extension expecting others to accept it for what it was.

I think the absence of clear language and transparency about what these adults do to children puts those of us who were abused in a cage of ambiguity and self doubt, and that's a second level of victimization. Thanks for calling child sexual abuse exactly what it is, we need more of that not less.

September 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda Rose Adams

[...] can read the whole thing at PhD in Parenting. I’ll also be saying more soon about the shoddy science reporting in the piece, so stay [...]

September 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAt PhDinParenting: The Ethics

Thanks so much for this. I was absolutely horrified by the piece, and his refusal to listen or understand why makes me deeply uneasy.

September 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDani Kelley

Amazing response. Thank you so much. Let's hope Jefferson reads it.

September 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJo

[...] Consent” from Ta-Nehsi Coates (one of my favourite contemporary writers) and this, “The Ethics of Writing About Sexual Abuse” from @graceishuman (one of my favourite people on Twitter and a kick-arse writer, too). These [...]

September 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterA discussion on writing about

Thank you for this wonderfully sensible response.

September 13, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterblue milk

Here because of Blue Milk's recommendation ( I learn a lot from following her links). Thank you for articulating the thought process that should have happened before Cord Jefferson's piece was written or published (helping me understand what the piece lacked, in addition to what it got very, very wrong) and your clear conclusion, which should be required reading for anyone who identifies as a journalist.

September 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLiz

[...] to leave my thoughts on the science reporting in Cord Jefferson’s piece out of the post at PhD in Parenting. It was already long enough, and it made sense to keep it focused on Jefferson’s approach and [...]

September 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterOn Science and Sexual Abuse |

All I can say is wow. Good post.

[...] On the ethics of writing about sexual abuse. [...]

September 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterWeekly Feminist Reader

As someone who was sexually molested by my grandfather as a toddler and am, more than 65 years later, still trying to understand how my grandfather (the only male in my family I felt safe with) could do such a thing to me, I would really like to understand what this writer believes make men do such things. My grandfather was an evangelical Christian, highly respected in his community, and when I tried to "tell", I was shunned with disgust by the family who told me he was a fine Christian gentleman and I was a dirty little girl with a vivid imagination. I saw the hatred and disgust in their eyes and was made to believe that it was my fault that it happened, and more than 65 years later I still "feel" that way though I know it can't be true. I haven't read this man's article, but I would give anything to understand what makes a man do such things to a child, and how he feels while he is doing them... I am still struggling with the feelings that it must have been my fault it happened, but another part of me feels that can't be true either, though many of the memories are vivid, and I suspect my own mother (and maybe her sisters) were abused in the same way. Nobody in the family ever talked about it, and everyone lived the lie.

September 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Thanks for the insightful article. What are readers' and CSA survivors' takes on the novel Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov?

September 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEmily

I tried to read it because it's a "classic," but wound up having a panic attack on an airplane and throwing the book across the aisle while hyperventilating/crying.

September 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer

grace, thank you for this important and careful take-down. that gawker piece was horrifying, and your perspective is much needed.

annie, i appreciate your hosting this conversation.

September 17, 2012 | Unregistered Commentersuzannah | the smitten word

I tried to read it, and got maybe a chapter or two in before I couldn't take it any more. I'll take any horror movie over listening to Humbert Humbert's creepy view of the world. (And I'm not even a CSA survivor.)

My impression is that Nabokov wanted to take us inside the mind of a paedophile, and, though I'm not an expert, I think he succeeded. If his goal was to make us like and sympathise with his protagonist, he failed utterly, at least with me. I found him repulsive, and I never got to the point where he meets the girl he insists on calling Lolita.

"Reading Lolita in Teheran" has an interesting take on Humbert's behavior. E.g., that his insistence on calling her "Lolita" instead of her name is one of the ways in which he erases her identity and replaces it with his own idea of who she should be.

September 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAMM

What an incredibly well-written, forensic dissection of Jefferson's piece and his privilege. I read a lot about privilege, the rape culture and other horrors of our world, but the clarity of this piece really stands out. Thank you.

September 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterFinisterre

This was phenomenal. Thank you for taking the time to write it.

September 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCharity

[...] A reaction to a Gawker article about pedophiles : The Ethics of Writing About Sexual Abuse:Gawker and Cord Jefferson [...]

September 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRandomly Scheduled Shout-Outs

Your article outlines why ethics is so important, but everyone does not have the same ethics. People need more tolerance of each other and try to learn other cultures.

A stirring piece of in-depth writing. Thank you. Unfortunately, Cord Jefferson is and always has been unbelievably dense and unbearable. He is THE reason I stopped buying GOOD magazine, after a number of inexcusable pieces. Looks as if he is getting worse, not better. Ugh.

September 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEve

[...] an exception with Gawker and other Gawker Media properties. This is the same outlet that gave Cord Jefferson the greenlight to write an article that sexualized the rape of a 7 year old girl and was extremely [...]

October 15, 2012 | Unregistered Commenter“Cultural scavengers&#82

" I’d put it to him that if he’s fully committed to his intention to avoid rape apologism, he’d do well to try to understand why people are calling his piece that and work to do better in the future."

Bravo. His "apology" seems perfunctory and backhanded, and Jefferson's persistent inconsistencies reveal more about his intent than any backpedal.

October 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNick

dear anon who lived something almost the same as what i lived;

there are myriad reasons why people [not just men, despite the over-riding belief that only men molest and rape children...] do this, but it really is the same reason for rape in general:
i.e. the person raped - adult or child, male or female - is NOT A REAL PERSON WITH RIGHTS AND FEELINGS IN THE EYES OF THE RAPIST.
it is WORSE when it is a child, since our culture IN GENERAL seems to feel that children are PROPERTY, owned by their prants and families.
and is further exacerbated by the lack of agency children have, the lack of communication skills, coping skills, and lack of ability to make a "NO!" stick

a rapists desires to rape. he/she finds a person they feel they can get away with raping. they rape the person. they will absolutely try to "justify" it, in the worst, most disgusting, victim blaming ways... and people will tend to accept these justifications, for reasons ranging from fear ["well, then, if i don't do X and Y and Z that was the "reason" he raped him, then *I* don't have to worry bout being raped, right?"] to misplaced weird guilt ["if she really raped someone for "no reason", then i'm friends with an evil rapist! my judgement can't be that bad! therefor, she isn't a real rapist!."] add in things like "he did it to me, and *I* wasn't so stupid/immature/selfish/evil/[lucky]" as to tell" and you begin to grasp why this is an endemic problem.

IT WAS NOT YOUR FAULT! if you didn't have the ability and agency to refuse to eat your veggies, what makes ANYONE think you had the ability and agency to stop a grown man from doing things like this to you?
like myself, you DID WHAT YOU SHOULD HAVE - you told other adults, WHOSE JOB IT WAS TO PROTECT YOU FROM PREDATORS, INCLUDING YOUR RAPIST. [sadly, also like me, they BLAMED YOU. because it's easier to blame the victim, who is inherently seen as weak because s/he has already been preyed upon, while the TRUE person with blame is the predator, who is already proved to be "strong" by attacking the victim. dear gods, is our culture SICKSICKSICK]

the people who rape are master-level geniuses at removing the humanity of those they rape. as children, our humanity is was already suspect, because we weren't adults, with the rights and responsibilities of adults, with the education and life-experience of adults. as girls, our humanity was already suspect, by sheer "virtue" of the fact that we are female, have vaginas and vulvas and uteruses [i apologize if words of this nature discomfit you - i'm doing my best to not use my normal cussing levels - i'm strangely enamored of many, many cuss words, and as a 35-y-o woman, it's strange that i cuss more than either a teen or a sailor, but i'm trying to not!] i could expound for DAYS on why being female is a crime [and for an equal length of time on why being a child is a crime] but these are, i think, a given [though if you want to discuss it more, my email is denelian at yahoo dot com]
there is the added irony and sin that it was well-known "Christian" man who did this to you - "CXhristian" because he went to church and was known to "practice" the Christian faith [practice DOES NOT make perfect!] people forgetting the very words Jesus said. ["As you do to the least of these - the children"] the hypocrisy of religion allows people to hide from the mistakes and crimes of their co-religionist; "of course Bob didn't do that - he's a good Christian/Muslim/Jew/Hindu/Buddist/Shintoist/etc". i bet they ALSO gave you BS about "not spreading lies and hate and gossip and evil" right? the APPEARANCE of evil [TALKING ABOUT an evil that occured] is almost always considered worse THAN THE ACTUAL EVIL DEED THAT HAPPENED. why? well, to start, there's fear - fear that if it's talked about, it will happen more, fear that if person A protests evil commited against a victi, then the perpetrator of the en attavk person A. the continued guilt of "but i'm friends with [evildoed]!" and weird ideals like "if a Christian [or other religion] person can do this, does it mean Christianity [or other religion] IS WRONG?! because we're taught to not do eil, but evil happened, so...?" and the added, SPECIFIC issue of Christianity that is ONLY applied in cases like THIS; the "Though Shall Not Judge" because Judging is God's province - people will judge EVERYONE AND E4VERYTHING ELSE! BUT! bring out a person who has done SPECIFIC AND CALCULATED EVIL LIKE *THIS*, and all the sudden! they can't judge. which goes along with the weird idea that sex is sinful, but ONLY on the part of the person who "was penetrated" [i don't know how better to phrase that - generally, sex is ONLY sinful for the woman involved, or the person who plays the "woman's role" in sex] the AGGRESSOR in sex, the person who persues it, or the rapist if it's rape as opposed to consensual, isn't the one to blame. there's that whole "I couldn't help it, i was TEMPTED!" mindset, BS that it is, and so the person at fault MUST be the one who was "pretty" or "sexy" or in a mini-skirt, or who is male but looks faintly feminine to the rapist, or whatever. t goes back to the continued BS about Eve and the apple, and is INCREDIBLY insulting to men as much as to women, but there you are: sex is ALWAYS the fault of the woman/penetrated partner, and rape EVEN MORE SO, because gods forbid we expect MEN [and women, but this is mostly applied to me] ADULT!, to CONTROL THEMSELVES! they're only men, you see, and if they're "tempted", the problem isn't that they have the self-control of a 2-year-old-with-an-addiction-and-impulse-control-problem, no! the PROBLEM is them evil, evil temptresses and temptors, who need to stop with tempting and such! wear more clothing! cover it up! don't walk sexy! don't breath deep! don't turn that way! i can't control myself, i must control you to make sure *I* don't commit any sin because you look so damned rape-able!

it's sick and it's wrong and it's VERY un-Christian [and every other religion!] and is one of the BIGGEST, if not *THE* biggest, problems with Patriarchy [kychiarchy? however it's spelled. discussion for another day/time]
and it won't go away until EVERYONE, or at least the majority, starts to blame the people who are actually AT FAULT - the rapist, the molestor, the harrasser, the assulter. it's NEVER the victim's fault - i don't care if i walk down main street naked as birth, NO ONE has the right to touch me without my express, enthusiastic consent. until THAT is the standard, until we stop hearing "well, he shouldn't have raped her, but SHE shouldn't have worn that, in that place, at that time, while drinking, and then talked to him..." it wll continue.

i am so sorry that this happened to you, too. i'm sorry for little-girl you, betrayed not only by her grandfather but also by the rest of her family, her friends, her church, her community and her society; i am sorry for growing-up-girl you, who had labor under the twin stigmas imparted by this evil; i am sorry for adult you, continuing to struggle and question "was it really my fault, after all?" despite the fact that it is NEVER the victim's fault, despite all the work that has proved that ALL abusers try [and, sadly, mostly suceed] to convince their victims that it WAS their fault ["i'm sorry i beat you, but you made me SO MAD! don't do that and i won't hit you!" utter BS they'll FIND reasons to abuse, and then find reasons it was "your" fault, and it never was your fault and it was ALWAYS them looking for reasons] i'm sorry for now-you, STILL questioning and hurting! sorry you never got justice, never got support, never ever got "forgiveness" for the "crime" of having a person with power over you decide to abuse it. that you've probably been told all your life that *YOU* need forgiveness! when you don't [not for this!!!] and also that you've probably been told by OTHERS that you "HAVE" to forgive him! like it's ever that simple! by the tenets of Christianity, you have to TRY - but you're only human. [presming you are Christian. not everyone is. i'm not. but if you are, i'll say again - you do NOT have to. by the book, what Jesus said - everyone fails, give it to God. God understands. TRY to forgive, *IF* you have it in you. don't beat yourself up if you can't. GOD LOVES YOU. no matter WHAT religion one is, or none - God loves you. period. even atheists :D though i don't tell them that *G*]

and again - if you want/need to talk to someone who went through similar stuff, you can email me. though it would probably also be very useful to you to get counseling. it is NEVER too late to try to come to terms with it, to try and heal.

October 27, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterdenelian

The sanctified division between pederasty and other forms of abuse is part of the reason why nothing changes, children get murdered to cover up lesser crimes and children (like me) end up being the only people to be exposed to the realities of their abuser's psychological condition and isolation-and we get drawn into that isolation with them and have to deal with it on our own.Society should take responsibility for men who are attracted to children by responding to them in a way that encourages them to seek help in the surety of being treated compassionately and pragmatically-we should be solution oriented. If I hear one more person on the media saying 'I just want children to know it isn't their fault' my head' my head will literally explode! Is there one person out there who was abused who is helped by all this cliched victim-speak? If anything it just suggests to me that there is a possibility that it was my fault-or that what really matters, still, is whose fault it was. The reality of my vulnerability as a child (and as an adult) is quashed by this neat little one size fits all statement-and worse, my vulnerability seems a complex things now-too complex for anyone who deals in cliches to bother trying to understand. It is a matter of my individuality-my specific circumstances which like any other life are characterized by ambiguity, ambivalence and division. Yes I did seek out the attention-I enjoyed it and was also terrorised by it-pat reassurances turn my unique experience-one of the primary sources of meaning in my life into a fracking mid-day movie replete with fuzzy camera angles and children's school yard songs as a sound track.
Every article like the one above adds to a discourse in which victims are encouraged to set their suffering apart from the rest of the world's-child sexual abuse is this special category-its victims are special cases who can never fully share their pain. Anyone who deviates from the dogma and generalisation becomes a focus for this hunger to condemn. I mean did anyone even bother to read Anomynous's post properly? She said that I would give anything to understand what makes a man do such things to a child, and in our eagerness to tow the party line her voice is smothered-again. She will only have a chance at understanding what led to her victimisation if people are encouraged to speak honestly and freely-then we might have a chance at raising a generation who experience the wonders and terrors of sex in a reasonably healthy, non-violent way. Lots of people who have not been sexually abused can understand the internalisation of the pressure to never acknowledge an adult's transgressive behaviour-and the madness and circular shame that is part of the conditioning of abuse in general-and is there anyone in the world who has not been abused as a child in some way-at home or in school? it is the norm, not the exception.. The puritanical, 'special' approach to pederasty grows out of the same puritanical approach to sex that drives pederasts-and that drives them underground. It mirrors the 'specialness' that children are sometimes encouraged to feel as part of the abuse. I find it not only unhelpful-but its part of the lip service and fake moral division that isolates children and ensures that nothing will ever change-reading articles like this makes me feel hopeless, frustrated and isolated-like a blob with a label on.
Also Nabakov's Lolita is a masterpiece-what's the point of saying 'it wasn't your fault even if you enjoyed it' if we are compelled to deny that for some of us those early sexual experiences, even though painful-or perhaps because they were so painful and intense-have become the essential, central iconography of our sexual identities? I actively seek out literary accounts of child/adult sexual relations, including violent ones, I need a sexual outlet for my dis-ease. I am not attracted to children but my own sexual identity is inextricable from my child self.
I have to see myself as a child, with an adult, usually old, male who has power over me, to get off-so that;s that-the end of my rant and my contribution to a more enlightened society.
PS There is a difference between a 'real' pedophile and a man who is an opportunist and has 'poor boundary issues' in the jargon of the day-it is the difference between systematic abuse and sloppy opportunism and I think you'll find that a lot of people who were abused as children end up experiencing both-and can see the difference-zero tolerance policies have never been effective in a war on anything-is there some underlying reason that society doesn't want to get real on this issue?

November 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKatya

[...] The Ethics of Writing about Sexual Abuse: Gawker and Cord Jefferson (T.F. Charlton at PhD in Parenting) [...]

January 1, 2013 | Unregistered Commenter2012: A Review « Speaker

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