Seeing evil, doing evil

A recent article in Monitor on Psychology by Tori DeAngelis, “Porn use and child abuse,” presents evidence about links between those involved in internet porn and those who perpetrate abuse on children directly.

Now this may seem obvious to those of us who would intuit the relationship between acting out and watching (after all, why on earth would someone want to look at child abuse if one isn’t compelled toward such behavior, whether it is being repressed or not?).

Michael Bourke, PhD, Chief Psychologist of the U.S. Marshals Service, and Andres Hernandez, PsyD penned a study published in April’s Journal of Family Violence (Vo. 24, No. 3), that focused on 155 men convicted of possessing, receiving or distributing internet-based child pornography.  The men took part in an 18-month treatment program.  At sentencing, 74% of the men had no documented hands-on victimization, but by the end of treatment, 85% confessed that they sexually molested at least one child (with an average of 13.5 victims per convict). 

The researchers believe that the higher levels of confession (in contrast to other studies) reflected the trusting treatment relationships they developed with these men—which bred and honesty and introspection that seems central to the healing process and to stopping the cycle.

While all this makes a sick sort of sense, as a collective we have to think about the magnitude of the problem—about the number of children who are continually pulled into the cycle of abuse, often leaving them as potential ticking bombs at risk of acting out later.  Rather than pointing fingers and merely vilifying offenders, we need to deepen our compassion, increase awareness and opportunities for treatment so as to stop not just the cycle of abuse, but the pervasive materialism and objectification, particularly of sexual desire, that sets the stage for alienating cruelty and zombie-like victimization.

All porn, particularly child-porn, but also non-criminalized porn, is a symptom of the Shadow of the human condition.  It is not a modern, or technological problem (although this may disperse it more readily); it is really the problem of hurt kids growing up to hurt kids. It is a question of where darkness comes from and what we might do about it; it is a challenge to find the Shadow within to help compassionately deal with it in others.

This study was initially suppressed, and cloaked in controversy (including a NY Times story about it). The breakthrough in this study really comes in the fact that compassionate psychologists dropped judgment and repulsion in order to make real contact with offenders.  Given that around 100,000 people currently fit the profile of being a sex-offender who violated their registration requirements, this could easily mean that approximately 1,3500,000 children face potential sexual abuse.  Even if the numbers are off, zero children should face potential sexual abuse.  Yet the effective way, rather than the easy, finger-pointing way, is to see these offenders as seriously ill and sorely in need of help, treatment and understanding—as well as consequences, restraint and isolation from potential victims.  The value of bringing things into consciousness is that it empowers a person to have more choices about what they do; helping offenders be conscious of the horror within them is a tough road that will ultimately protect kids.

Things to do with the collective, and the Shadow, are often beyond our understanding, much less our control; but sometimes a violent offender needs to confess and make a stand that leaves them in prison for life, but makes it possible for their victims to get help and heal.  Perhaps this is karma-redemptive; how sure can any of us be that we were not once the very worst sort of villain in some other lives, some other universes?  It is only when we truly see all others as the Self that we transcend fear and desire and become free.  I’m not saying that I’m there, but I’ll send a post-card if I ever get there.

Thus, at the level of subtle spirit, and having worked with too many sexual abuse victims to count, I would still encourage us as parents to send a wish of healing and understanding to sex-offenders so that they might find the courage to stop, to seek help, to face consequences and to break the cycle that very likely initiated them into it through abuse when they were kids.

As parents, we need also to be educated and aware so that our kids are safe, supervised and their allegations of abuse taken very seriously.  Some of the most damage I have worked to repair has been in those whose parents turned a blind eye, or minimized things, when directly told by their child that they were being abused.

So, let’s dedicate today to the Shadow, to sympathy for the devil within our human condition, striving for consciousness of the horror both within, outside and between us all that, if better metabolized by the group as a whole, might find less press to act itself out on our collective children.

Namaste, Bruce

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One Response to “Seeing evil, doing evil”

  1. Stephanie Says:

    Good True Post.

    And may I point out that most sexual abuse is perpetrated by someone who knows the child, a parent, relative or baby sitter.

    Thanks Bruce for bringing forward the need for compassion for offenders to truly protect children.


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