What you are about to read is quite disturbing.
It involves child molestation and incest. Oprah did a special show with 200 men who were sexually molested as children, but that was after many years of covering similar shows on women who suffered the same fate. The leaders in the Catholic Church and other Christian denominations have been accused and convicted of these crimes, recently an imam was accused of sexual assault of five, but they are investigating world wide to see if there are any more victims in his trail from Singapore to Western Europe. Female friends have also shared their own experiences with me.
After years, of hearing these stories and the ramifications, my thinking automatically defaults to mistrust –what I call default-perv mode. Let me explain.
For many years I’ve been hearing variations of the following true story told to me by a friend, I will call her Sue. She has a daughter and when she allows her to sleep out (rarely) she must wear pajamas and not nighties, because she feels that dresses facilitate easy access. She has done this because as a young girl her neighbour who babysat her, inappropriately touched her and it was always easy because she usually wore a dress. The sad irony was Sue’s mother was very strict with her, never allowing her to sleep out anywhere – not at friends or family. As a child she thought her mother was being mean. But as an adult in her 40’s Sue learned her own mother – as a young girl – had been molested by her stepfather for many years.
So with all these stories and revelations throughout the years, the default-perv mode is in a compartment easily accessed by my thoughts. If I see a child innocently being affectionate with an adult, a little girl sitting on the lap of her father, grandfather or family friend, a red alert goes off and I go to default-perv. And it isn’t because I’m seeing something abnormal or inappropriate signs of affection.
Am I overly paranoid, I question myself because I have come to realize that my default mode doesn’t just relegate itself to strangers. A friend, I’ll call Bruce, is a divorced father of three and has his children half of the time, he is very involved and sees them daily. He is a great father, he has a good balance between being a friend and a disciplinarian. The children love, respect and enjoy being in their father’s company. When they stay over, anyone of them will go hang out in his room and at times may fall asleep in his bed while watching T.V. Sometimes it’s two, sometimes its one –two boys and a girl – 8-16 yrs. old, and Bruce will let them stay there. So at anytime it could be his daughter, or anyone of his sons. And if I’m on the phone with him at the time this is happening – my mind goes there, again keep in mind there aren’t any signals for me to think something wrong is going on.
Another friend, Bob is married with a young daughter. She will fall asleep in her parent’s bed or get up in the middle of the night as many children do and find her way to their room. Sometimes his wife travels for work and their daughter will do what she always does…he will complain that he didn’t get a good nights rest because she had her foot in his back or his face. Typical scenario that happens in most families and is usually a source of laughs and good memories. He is also a wonderful father, but again my mind wonders.
These are two males (I’ve changed their names) that I consider good friends and I would never think of them crossing those lines. But of course, there is always that proverbial after-incident response that you usually hear after a conviction, “ I would never have thought he would do that.” That runs through my mind.
Because of my relationship with these two men, I thought maybe I was being overly paranoid, influenced by all these incidents being discussed in the news. Have my perception of love and affection been distorted? Jumping in your parent’s bed, hugging and kissing your uncles, aunts, cousins, sitting in their laps are all normal interactions in a loving family. How many fond memories do you have of getting up and jumping in your parent’s bed in the morning? And at 40 years old, I have one friend who still does it when she visits with them.
One evening I was chatting with one of my girlfriends (the one above who still jumps in bed with her parents) and the conversation came up, I told her that I think I have a problem – paranoia. That my default has gone to a terrible place. To my surprise and quite honestly a comfort to me, she said she does the same thing. She can’t help it! Then we tried to analyze (those who know me well, know I can analyze the crap out of everything) how we got to this point and where was the transition. We’re not sure. She remembers as a young girl that her Dad would never leave her alone with another male. He always had her by his side because of his lack of trust of people.
As for this friend, she is what I would call a child-whisperer. Children just love her. She has a very close friend who has a young son, one she knew since he was five. The boy loves her, is affectionate, always all over her, and still is at 13. For years he would sleep over and sleep with her. However, when he reached the age of 10 she put a stop to it. She didn’t think it was appropriate. Plus, all she could do was picture him going to school and saying, “ Oh I spent the night with my aunty and slept with her.” As innocent as it is, someone may misconstrue it. (A teacher’s default-perv.)
Another friend, male was visiting a family and their daughter instantly gravitated to him, she jumped on his lap and was chatting with him, showing him her toys. Everyone was getting up to go look at something and he whispered, “Don’t leave me alone with this little girl…I don’t want anyone to think or accuse me of anything.” And he thought that because he is very aware of the default-perv mode that many people have. Everyone, even those who don’t ever act or think in this way, have now become so conscious of their actions and the perception. Is this good or bad?
I have another friend Doug, who has a daughter, however he and the mother are not together, in fact his daughter and the mother moved to another city. The mother eventually met and married someone else; at the time his daughter was five years old. When she came to visit with him for the summer, he took her to the doctor and had her checked out for any physical/sexual abuse. Doug didn’t have any reason in particular to do this, just from the stories and experiences that were shared with him from various female friends. He then sat his little girl down and spoke to her about good and bad touches. Then without mincing words, he told her stepfather that if he heard anything about abuse, he would kill him.
Have we lost our innocence? Am I being overly paranoid? The beauty of today’s world, is that many things once taboo are being openly discussed now, and in cases like this it helps to prevent abuse from beginning or continuing, but is it a double edged sword.