EFFECTS WHICH LAST
I watched the Leaving Neverland saga and I am glad that despite a slow start I watched all of it. It was compelling and moving. I believed the stories of abuse as there were some very telling points and moments that could hardly be invented and feigned. They helped me better understand how abuse victims can suffer and react over time. [ Three weeks on I have doubts in light of new evidence about the two victims, Robson and Safechuck whose dates and more don’t correspond with established facts. I can only say they must be good actors and perhaps well read – Robson’s narrative is said to have been borrowed from a novel about paedophilia ]
Any abuse which as in the case of Wade Robson and James Safechuck, is continued over childhood years is real and serious abuse. I am not surprised that it can be misunderstood by victims, be denied and lie buried only to return belatedly to trouble sleep like so much post traumatic stress disorder. It is even functioning like a virtual possession. Indeed, if one accepts the esoteric explanation of sex which would maintain there is a blending of soul bodies or auras, then the unreadied person of the child, has been entered and joined with by an unequal force in a way that stains the inner being and hurts development.
As against this, the plea that the perpetrator case could have been kind and generous in some ways, as Robson and Safechuck freely concede, is irrelevant; irrelevant as in another direction is Macauley Culkin’s rush to Jackson’s defence declaring nothing was done to him in Neverland. That’s a situation one could attribute to the fact that from the outset, child star Culkin would strike Jackson as more Hollywood, less pliable and cutey-innocent.
Be that as it may, I find it strange the public anyway ever idolized Jackson so long and as much as it did, never suspecting the singer with his ghost-like appearance might be another, more sweet-talking Jimmy Saville. I could never feel easy about someone who dangles his child out of a window. But someone who issues an album like Bad and who keeps clutching his crotch in performance and who brings children on stage with him is surely trying, however unconsciously and despite himself, to admit to something out of kilter.
Anyway, the main thing is that victims of abuse deserve our sympathies and socially we should all be more discerning and vigilant about who we put on a pedestal. But questions remain, and I feel we must also recognize there’s abuse and abuse if society is ever to manage this difficult issue properly.
Since people do suffer severe stress for all manner of negative life experiences like home robbery, murder of relatives, domestic violence (for which, they may currently receive less overt sympathy from society than sex abuse victims), what I have yet to understand is the alleged effects of what looks like another level and kind of abuse.
I don’t understand how and why there are victims who suffered some brief experience above the age of, say, twelve (Robson and Safechuck’s abuse began well before that ) which they claim, has overshadowed and half ruined their lives. They may claim this although the experience occurred decades ago and maybe only once or twice, wasn’t rape or major intimacy and maybe lasted only a minute or two (as with cases the genitals got touched or somebody masturbated in front of somebody).
This is closer to some of the casting couch #MeToo charges or controversial tribal rituals which over the centuries some young people have been subject to without necessarily suffering the worst possible effects. So, if it’s not a case of making accusation for dubious motives, I would suspect something other or more than the purely sexual has got to be involved, something which perhaps modern law and its terminology might need to adjust in order to cover with greater accuracy and justice.
THE TRICKY PELL CASE
This is not a prelude to any topical defence of the disgraced Cardinal Pell (who seems to have suffered fall from the heights about as great as Cardinal Wolsey centuries ago!). Like not a few people I do have doubts that he is guilty as charged for specifically something briefly occurring in a sacristy in 1996 according to only one witness. However, although such doubt, including from a non Catholic, is supposed to render me in the minds of abuse advocates friend of some party of ultimate cruel bigotry and right wing reaction, the fact is I am suspicious Pell might be guilty of other offences not taken up by the courts and reported as occurring in a swimming pool years ago. But even if he is innocent of all such charges, the fact seems unavoidable that in the past he has been coldly dismissive of, possibly deceitful towards, traumatized persons making legitimate complaints. My sympathies for him are accordingly modified.
Even so…. in any circumstances I would still question whether there is any cause to have a person of Pell’s advanced age and in poor health registered lifelong as a dangerous sex offender for what, if true, were rare, brief failures long ago. Indeed, the failures are getting called “heinous crimes”, apparently so heinous that for some people no amount of punishment would be sufficient. Though it’s likely Pell will anyway die in jail unless appeal gets him out of it, the still suffering victims and their vocal supporters seem to imply years of imprisonment won’t do. They seem to imply the criminal should be locked up and the key thrown away, that he should certainly be imprisoned for life,( ideally executed if the laws would allow it), and then let him rot in hell. “Don’t forgive them” declares the human headline Senator Derryn Hinch of any abusers.
What levels of trauma support these kind of attitudes? I suggest it could be something along the lines of the “homosexual panic” reaction that once used to be allowed as a plea to excuse the manslaughter of gays who had the misfortune to make a pass to the wrong person. It was assumed the psyche couldn’t suffer the shock of being thought an object to any other man. While that idea was always controversial, I could more easily accept that harder to take would be the potential shattering of worlds, self-image and faith in a trusted person like a teacher, or a priest (seen as a power figure and often identified in children’s minds with God), suddenly become a threatening user. Here really is a basis for trauma with some lasting effects..But shouldn’t that be defined more as ”breach of trust crime’ than sex crime pure and simple?
The question can well be asked, especially in an age of supposed sexual freedom and “equality”; because as matters are and the law stands, behaviours are still getting the worst possible, dated, demeaning descriptions that only risk missing the point and confusing the sentencing. This is why Pell’s defence lawyer initially declared (but was forced to retract by the outcry from victims and the public), what Pell had done was “fairly vanilla”. But comparatively speaking he had a point given the brute reality that all manner of modern crime is often lightly treated by courts(against the public will it must be said) and we live amid a rather oversexed, porn-ridden popular culture. It seems that Pell, apart from managing to raise his heavy garb to expose himself (which at least some adolescents might have thought derisively amusing – children do have their dirty jokes) and masturbating himself, he had briefly committed “oral rape”…. which means engaged some forced fellatio.
Of course the accused had no business to be forcing himself on anyone, especially not any young person in his general care; it would always be inexcusably wrong. But for the very short time long ago involved and in its broader socio-sexual context, was it exceptionally heinous, fit to refer to the accused subsequently in terms normally reserved to someone more like a serial killer or a socially dangerous pervert never to be let out of supervision?
IT DEPENDS WHAT YOU MEAN BY…
Like it or not, fellatio, but admittedly not forced on the underaged, is what one hears most men want when visiting prostitutes, while it’s the substance of a lot of porn and semi-public gay bath house activity. And no one is going to be prosecuted for it. They won’t be because the laws changed and legal description of acts as “gross indecency” and “indecent exposure” etc were questioned. “Gross” and “indecent” for whom, when and why? Terminology was allowed almost to judge a case almost before it was heard, for example a person naked in public for whatever reason could be on trial for crime itself, disgusting because, well, the word “indecent” was attached to it.
With this in mind one asks, no matter how inexcusable it might be on the part of the active perpetrator and repulsive for the passive victim, should some briefly forced fellatio be regarded and treated as super-criminal “rape”?…..A female rape victim could be bloodied and battered, even left unconscious. If forced male fellatio could arrive at anything remotely similar, it would be specially criminal indeed, so why the emotive word “rape” as opposed to something more like “exploitation” of, or aggressive “self-imposition” upon, the innocent?
HOW MUCH CAN AND SHOULD ONE LET GO?
I don’t suggest justice should not be sought and pursued for sexual abuse and the Catholic church’s mismanagement of serially offending priests marks a serious scandal, but I do feel what I would call the victims of the “lesser” and most historic abuse need more and better counselling so that they are not suffering feelings of shock, shame, or betrayal over long periods of time and pressing for the severest possible sentencing in all cases. I shouldn’t wish to add to the burdens of those already feeling burdened, but there just might also be another factor people and the courts don’t like to stress to them.
Difficult though the task may be, and again needing active counselling support to manage, at least some degree of cure would come through just forgiveness. Forgiveness is ultimately something we all have to do or failure to achieve it rots the very bones and prolongs the suffering. As the longtime falsely charged and socially pilloried Lindy Chamberlain had it, forgiveness is really almost more a letting go than anything. It’s admittedly something perhaps easier to do in the religious context where one is meant to believe “vengeance is mine, says the Lord” while serious offenders of the innocent are promised “better a millstone be put around their neck….” If that’s the fate of the unrepentant abuser, it should be easier to pardon and pass on in this life. But in a secular, materialist world it is possible to hang on, hoping for other outcomes and benefits which however will be found to have cured nothing in the long run.
It’s right and good the public should re-think Jackson at this time, but it may also be necessary to re-think a few laws and little questioned attitudes too in the light of the tricky Pell case. If Pell does get out on appeal as he actually could, I hope there won’t be riots and Australia is left with a public so divided it borders on a Dreyfus case. In the age of social media it is too easy to get carried away in waves of popular emotion and unexamined opinions.