Monday, February 17, 2014

"ruining the life of the offenders in the name of justice is not working"

A woman who grew up in a family that suffered incest talks about healing. She talks about the abuse her father experienced as a child and the effect that abuse had on him as a parent himself. She says the current approach--yanking the offender from the home and isolating him with incarceration and then with the sex offender registry--does little to help the family heal.
We have it all wrong. Shunning the offenders is not working. Locking them up is not working. Settling in court for massive sums of money is not working. Ruining the life of the offenders in the name of justice is not working. Leaving victims to pick up the pieces of their life alone is not working. The sexual abuse of our boys and girls is still going on, generation after generation.
Kim Cottrell watched her sister suffer through incest and considers herself an incest survivor because everyone in the family felt the effects of it. Years later, when her father had a stroke, she brought him to her home to care for him, something we do not expect to happen in families like this.

She has her own ideas about how to help families heal.
I wonder if we could agree, the first goal is to stop the molestation and abuse of children. I used to think it was as simple as finding evidence, separating kids from their parents or abuser, and locking them up. Case closed. But when I was a speech pathologist in a large trauma hospital where I worked with babies and young children who’d been hit or shaken by adults, enough to cause brain damage, I saw a different side of the story. In many situations, removing the child from the parents caused further trauma. That’s when I realized it’s not so simple.
Not so simple. Families who have been separated from the offender do not magically turn into happy families when the offender is gone. The offender was always more than what he did to harm the family. He may have been the breadwinner, the funny guy at breakfast, the one who taught the kids how to ride a bike, the one who took the kids fishing. When the offender is removed from the family, the man who plays Scrabble and teaches shoe-tying goes with him.

The current system--law enforcement, child protective services, the courts--behaves as if the child will be relieved that the offender is gone. Instead, in many cases, the child victim would be more relieved if the offending behavior stopped and the no-longer-offending family member were still in the home.
Second, and I don’t expect agreement but I believe this is crucial, we need to stop pursuing vengeance. We must lay down the judgment and shame game. 
Our capacity for forgiveness should be given more room.
For there to be any systemic, generational healing, we need to bring secrets out in the open. We need to stop banishing people, offenders or victims. We need to slow down enough to let the healing process take place. We need to support the healing process and let it be a normal part of life. There is clearly no evidence blaming, shaming, and shunning have anything to do with finding our way out of this crisis and the crisis our children are facing today.
She is clear about responsibility but she is also clear about forgiveness and shame.
...the fact I’m caring for my father does not excuse his behavior. Nor is it my place to absolve him of responsibility for those he has hurt. What is true is that, together, he and I worked on our relationship and I no longer need his penance. Knowing he wakes up every single morning with the shame of destroying his family has taken away any taste I had for restitution.
Caring for him when he still feels such shame about his life, that's mercy.

4 comments:

Ethan Edwards said...

This is consistent with everything else I've read on the topic. A mother (say) who realizes there is abuse going on can of course turn the guy in and rip the family apart. But she can't get any help short of that, because of all the mandated reporters (*maybe* a minister or priest could do it?). So the other side of the laws is all the cases where someone might be able to stop the abuse but instead it just keeps right on happening.

Anon q said...

In the article the author states:

“Second, and I don’t expect agreement but I believe this is crucial, we need to stop pursuing vengeance. We must lay down the judgment and shame game.”

and I couldn’t agree more with this statement. I read the comment by Ethan Edwards where he states

“But she can't get any help short of that, because of all the mandated reporters (*maybe* a minister or priest could do it?).”

As a registrant I never touched a child in a sexual manner nor have I ever had a desire to do so , I looked at some pictures, so what I'm about to say is just a theory. I've always wondered how these psychologists think they can help people overcome any sort of aberrant behaviors that they have only studied and never experienced themselves. An example would be someone who never had a problem with drug addiction thinking they can help a drug addict overcome their addiction; when they themselves never experienced any of the things, thoughts, feelings and emotions a drug addict experiences. It really doesn't make much sense to me.

I believe a more logical and sensible approach to helping families and children that have experienced incest would be to use the same method Alcoholics Anonymous uses. That is to say; one drunk helping another (one man or family that has moved beyond the problem;that have found a solution). I'm sure there must me many men and families that have overcome this kind of behavior that would probably be far more effective that the state psychologists. I would think they would be willing to help in this capacity, as it would have a healing effect on the man and family helping, as well as the struggling family. It's proven method of one person helping another with no expectation of compensation aside from the healing they experience. I feel this altruistic approach makes much more sense because, as we have witnessed; whenever the state or money are involved the outcome is never good.

LizaMoore said...

"This is consistent with everything else I've read on the topic. A mother (say) who realizes there is abuse going on can of course turn the guy in and rip the family apart."

If abuse is happening, a crime has been committed. "Help" is the police coming and arresting the abuser.

There is help available for the victims and their families. I agree that there is a lack of help for the abuser. Tearing the family apart isn't a reason not to turn the person in and getting help for the victim.

The victim comes first. Not the abuser and the family. I prayed daily for my family to be torn apart.

Danielle said...

Not reporting is EXACTLY what keeps the abuse going.
These POOR abusers. They feel such shame for the sick crime they committed.
Who gives a crap? What about the shame they've caused the child they've abused?
I guarantee you, if you had a child that was sexually abused, you wouldn't feel bad that the perpetrator lives in shame.