Thursday, February 15, 2007

Answer: Because we often protect them

Question: Why don't child molesters always get caught?

The King County Sexual Assault Resource Center publishes information on child sexual assault, and you can view one of their excellent PDF documents here. They list a number of reasons why perpetrators aren't always caught, but left out one biggie. Because the perpetrator is often defended by people who despite overwhelming evidence cannot believe that such a wonderful, generous, helpful, upright member of our wonderful community could do such a thing. And the victim in these cases rarely comes forward.

This came to mind as I read this article about a religious community seeming to cover up a young man's sexual relations with a 13 year old girl. I have to wonder when that happens. I don't believe, at least in this case, it's at all about the community choosing one individual over the other. It's about how we want to see ourselves as embedded in community life. Believe it or not, a LOT of people need to deny instances of abuse to maintain their own sense of belonging to a worthy community. Perhaps you too feel that it says a lot about you if someone you've been close to is charged with abuse.

Which is also why a lot of battered women keep quiet. First, many feel that nobody would believe that such a nice guy is capable of battering. Second, even if they are believed, they are often also covertly shunned for rupturing the fabric of friendships.

But now say you have outraged community members. Take this instance, of a man in Oregon who walks around on his property in the nude. This article begins as if it were a nuisance complaint, but then reveals how local school and police officials more or less either ignored or denied complaints, and finally that the gentleman in question is up on charges of kiddie porn. Community members are frustrated.

The lesson I take from these stories is BE PROACTIVE. The institutions you trust will always protect someone, but it may not be YOU.

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