Are Those Who Protect Child Sexual Abusers Worse Human Beings Than The Abusers?

“It is very tempting to take the side of the perpetrator. All the perpetrator asks is that the bystander do nothing. He appeals to the universal desire to see, hear, and speak no evil. The victim, on the contrary, asks the bystander to share the burden of the pain.”

 ~ Judith Lewis Herman M.D.

In 2002, when hundreds of allegations against Catholic priests began to hit the media, an article appeared in the Los Angeles Times by a staff member who wrote of a man in his neighborhood who molested young boys when The Times reporter was a child.

The kids in the neighborhood called the molester “Crazy Charlie.” No one ever turned “Crazy Charlie” in to law enforcement. Even the parents of the children who were sexually molested by this man did not tell police he was a child abuser. How many more children were sexually molested because of their failure to report their child’s abuser?

In some ways I truly feel that the people who remain silent are worse human beings than the abuser themselves.

The abusers usually have a serious psychological problem that stems from either their own abuse or other complex mental health issues, and they are often compulsively driven to do what they do.

The parents who allowed “Crazy Charlie” to be a danger to children, the church hierarchy who allowed priests to remain around children, and women who deny, facilitate, and willfully ignore sexual abuse in the home are all people who are usually not psychologically ill or suffering from their own unresolved sexual abuse.  These people made a conscious choice over and over again to remain silent. The silence from all of these people often stems from fear of shame or scandal, from misguided religious beliefs about forgiveness, from self-comfort, not wanting to get involved, self-need, or in some cases…… all of these things.

However these are more deliberate, conscious choices based in selfish people-pleasing behavior.  The bystander remains silent out of denial or self-comfort. Perpetrators sexually abuse children because of deep subconscious inner drives and inner dynamics that they do not even understand themselves. I am in no way excusing what a child abuser does. It is abhorrent and they need to be held accountable to the fullest extent. What I am saying is that one act is a conscious choice of self-comfort. The other is a psycho-dynamic problem that is so deeply rooted that it requires extensive and prolonged therapy to be resolved, and usually, even then, the abuser will be driven to abuse a child again.

The adults in “Crazy Charlie’s” neighborhood showed how the human denial system will grasp at anything to be able to feel comfortable in ignoring or excusing a child abuser. Apparently, Charlie and his wife had a son who died at a very young age and neighbors speculated that the death of Charlie’s son is what had caused him to molest young boys!

This was how their denial system worked it into something they could handle. They created a ‘reason’ that seemed logical to them. They said to themselves (and easily convinced themselves) that ‘Charlie was so overcome with grief that it drove him to do those sick acts with children.’ Yet we all know that experiencing a child die and feeling so possessed with grief does not cause a person to become sexually stimulated by children and lead them into the dark corners of child sexual abuse.

American newspapers and television media frequently report a new tragedy that involves abuse, neglect, or violence upon a child. In these articles and reports, a friend, neighbor, or relative is often quoted as saying that the perpetrator was “a good person,” “a hard worker,” or they proclaim, “the man I know would never do this.” Just yesterday, I posted an article where the friends of an 80 year-old man inferred he molested his six year-old granddaughter because his wife was diagnosed with cancer.

Do people defend the criminal in order to make themselves look pious? Do they feel they are being valiant in ‘forgiving and excusing?’ What drives human beings to deny, ignore, and support those who harm children? Is it just denial, or is it some form of self-protection and their need to look like a “good” person?

The television show Candid Camera has always intrigued me because it exposes a perfect example of how easily human beings silently allow others to commit wrongful acts, and to cross boundaries with others. Both the early version and the re-make of Candid Camera, captured situations where adults were personally offended or even physically bothered by a stranger in a situation set up by the program producers. Rarely did any of the unwitting participants dare say a word to the person who was aggravating or nearly abusing them.

The subjects, unaware they were being filmed for the show, were silent while being shoved on the street by people wearing giant backpacks, or while being mistreated by a rude cashier. Other people were hit in the face with a woman’s obnoxious hat while trying to eat their meal in a restaurant.

Nearly every person chose to stay silent, instead of speaking up to the person who was violating their physical boundaries, offending them personally, or providing horrible customer service.

In another Candid Camera segment, several people remained silent when a stranger casually pushed them off a bus stop. The subjects even further accommodated the abusive behavior by making themselves more uncomfortable so the obnoxious stranger would have more room!

People-pleasing and a desire to look good in order to defend one’s ‘good image’ is dangerous for the children of this world. Fear of causing problems, a need to be liked, and a desire to avoid ugly situations is often more important to some people than protecting a child. These are the kind of individuals who ignore child sexual abuse and just leave the room, refuse to report it, or make excuses for the perpetrator.

These people perpetuate child sexual abuse and do so out of their own self-comfort.

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This entry was posted in Child Abuse, child molestation, child sexual abuse, Denial, dissociative amnesia, repressed memory and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to Are Those Who Protect Child Sexual Abusers Worse Human Beings Than The Abusers?

  1. Why Not? says:

    Do people defend the criminal in order to make themselves look pious? Do they feel they are being valiant in ‘forgiving and excusing?’ What drives human beings to deny, ignore, and support those who harm children? Is it just denial, or is it some form of self-protection and their need to look like a “good” person?

    First, the silence and, so often, what turns into blaming the victim, makes them accomplices to the perpetrators, imo.

    I, personally, think it IS some form of self-protection along with unconsciously minimizing a child’s value or innocence – based on their hierarchical position and misjudged level of emotional maturity, respectively. Also, the consequences to the child’s life isn’t as easy to identify with as it is with the adult – unless one has been a victim and faced their own recovery – as in relating to the ‘weaknesses in character’ of the perpetrator and the consequences to THEIR life… judge not, lest ye… blah, blah… this will destroy the rest of their lives, if convicted…. what will happen to the me… the rest of the family… blah, blah.

    It does take a village of HEALTHY ADULTS PROTECTING THE CHILDREN, for perpetrators to become more afraid of us than we have become of them.

    • Alethea says:

      Great comment “Why Not.”

      “.. the silence and, so often, what turns into blaming the victim, makes them accomplices to the perpetrators,..”

      This is the truth….

      “…in relating to the ‘weaknesses in character’ of the perpetrator and the consequences to THEIR life… judge not, lest ye… blah, blah… this will destroy the rest of their lives, if convicted…. what will happen to the me… the rest of the family… blah, blah.”

      I have heard these words by friends and family so many times in cases of abuse. What about the life of the child? It has been destroyed! I guess they think that if the child’s life is already destroyed, then gee, why destroy another life by convicting the criminal? I really think this is their mentality. Or sometimes, I think that people who have their own transgressions in life often use the “don’t judge” B.S. in order to excuse themselves for what they have done in life (I mean anything, not necessarily child abuse.)

      But it does not matter WHAT we humans have done in our lives, we cannot EVER excuse and defend a child molester just because we have also committed sins in our life. The whole religious thing of ‘judge not, lest ye be judged’ is sometimes used as a “free-for-all” for criminals.

      • Why Not? says:

        Alethea, on a very personal note, I must admit I know EXACTLY what bonding with an abuser – out of fear and/or manipulated pity, guilt and blame – is like: insanity so insidious, it cannot help but be translated into “there is no one to blame but myself for the abuse.”

        I also know EXACTLY what it is like to beg for leniency for a violent rapist in the family – that I was a repeated victim of – for several complex reasons, I now realize.

        One, my sick family system demanded it.

        However, equally as important, I now realize, because no one saved me from the abuse, one of my coping skills (rationalizations) became that of of projecting and/or transference of my own trauma and pain – that I could find no escape – onto him, for a plethora of reasons, including having to do with witnessing him also being abused, at an early age.

        I’ve done it (been my own rapist and abusers’ apologist) at the expense of my own self-worth, mental health capacity to thrive – at my own and others’ peril, all masquerading as forgiveness, divine love-compassion and/or as some kind of recompense for my own failure at somehow being able to protect or deliver us both from the insanity of our childhood abusers.

        On a final note: Yes, I also know that it can become a viscous cycle – one that plays out in one’s adult life in a myriad of ways.

        There, I’ve said it – after leaving here last night and being unable to ignore the restlessness, I got back up and wrote these revelations as they came. This morning I awakened with sadness and waded through some anger until I finally came to the realization that I really am at CHOICE in how I resolve this within myself, without self-condemnation – in a loving and gentle manner – and, to my highest good, in my quest for experiencing actual healing and freedom to be ME.

        • little nel says:

          “there is no one to blame but myself for the abuse”

          That’s a lie straight from the pits of hell and yet an abused child will accept that lie, thinking that it is a protective coating of some kind that will prevent more abuse in the future.

          If I caused the abuse, then I can stop the abuse— is how a child thinks. When this logic proves erroneous, we still blame ourselves again and the cycle repeats. It’s no wonder we loose trust in ourselves.

          • Why Not? says:

            That’s it, little nel, developing the ability to differentiate the false from the truth is a long and winding road, with many twists and turns….

            I was given a couple of books to read this week. One being:

            Will I Ever Be Good Enough?
            Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers.

            Whew. Once I got over the feeling of being a “traitor” to every woman out there – since Women and Girls have had it rough, since the beginning of time – I’ve surmised it’s a valuable read for any woman, before she becomes a mother.

        • Why Not? says:

          You know, after reading comments to my above comment, l didn’t convey what I wanted to convey. Let me just clarify what I meant regrading:

          “there is no one to blame but myself for the abuse.”

          Today, I do not “blame” myself for all of the early trauma that set up the subsequent dynamics playing out over and over. Until recently, I simply couldn’t unravel all of the denial, being blame in one way or another for the abuse I endured, coupled with my continually complying with the conditioning that I remain “loyal” to my abusers’ and their demands of me…. or else.

          I remained loyal to my abusers – subjecting myself to being controlled by abusive means, out of an innate “fear of the consequences” of more abuse – I had no where to go, but to the conclusion – “there is no one to blame but myself for the abuse.”

          That’s all I’ve got, right now. I’m still a work in progress.

      • little nel says:

        Q. When is reporting a crime synonymous with “judging” as in “Judge not, lest you be judged?”

        A. When it is sexual abuse of a child

        This is how it came down at Penn State because Joe Paterno and the officials decided to “not report a crime” to protect Jerry Sandusky from prosecution and examination before a judge and jury.

        It was a “free-for-all” for criminals like Jerry and Jerry knew it.

        Reporting a crime is not “judging” in my mind.

        • Alethea says:

          Reporting a crime is not “judging” in my mind.

          No, of course not, but so many people think that because it is a “sex” crime against a child, that it needs to be forgiven and forgotten:

          “He couldn’t help it, he has a strong sex drive.”

          “She was a victim as a child herself, she didn’t know any better.”

          “The little girl was coming on to him.”

          “It’s only molestation, get over it.”

          “It was only once.”

          “She must be mentally ill to have harmed a child.”

          “The child wanted it.”

          “He was only teaching her how to have sex with her husband one day.”

          “He’s a good man and a hard worker. Let’s just keep him away from kids and get him to talk to the minister.”

          • Why Not? says:

            Then, coming up against a perpetrator’s image to everyone else (their company, neighbors, church, extended family members, etc.,) is particularly conflicting for the victim and other immediate family members.

            Then, there’s that message – “You’re not the only one that’s happened to.” As if… the traumatized child’s wounds are in competition with other abused members in the family – or others who may have experienced abuse.

            A friend said that when she finally confronted her mother on the abuse that she knowingly allowed her to endure from her much older brother, her mother’s excuse was: “I thought that was just the way things were.”

            Sad, isn’t it, that such responses to sex crimes have been more the norms than the exceptions?

  2. little nel says:

    “Fear of causing problems, a need to be liked, and a desire to avoid ugly situations is often more important to some people than protecting a child.”

    I can say that I’m guilty of all those things aimed at myself because I couldn’t protect Little Nel when she was nine years old from sexual abuse. I had failed to protect her even though I tried to, so I turned to those “home remedies” until I was ready to acknowledge my own failure to protect Little Nel in therapy.

    The guilt that I felt was enormous, so I subconsciously kept trying to hide it from myself and everyone else by over-achieving. I had to prove to myself that I wasn’t really affected one way or the other by the abuse to shield me from the fear and guilt it produced.

    • Alethea says:

      I did it too Little Nel, for many years. I used to be such a people-pleaser that it was like self-abuse. I catered to everyone else and ignored my own inner child who needed me to stand up for her, or to say “no” if I needed to, or to allow her to voice her opinion………… Boy have I overcome THAT problem!

      Haha. I have no issue with expressing myself anymore! 🙂

      • Why Not? says:

        I relate so well to both what little nel and you just said, Alethea.

        This is brand new awareness for me, but huge, I think. So, I’ll try and keep it brief.

        I didn’t have a clue how to deal with “fear” – whether it was from simply saying “no” or that sense of dread and doom for the unexpected – because I didn’t fully understanding what was happening in my brain and body, until the last couple of days.

        I finally “saw” it from within, in relation to my cortisol quickly spiking and that utter confusion – and defaulting into that sense of powerlessness – overtaking me.

        It’s like a window into a huge part of my inner world has been opened – with greater understanding that, today, I can choose to start recognizing – choosing and exercising – my own power in situations – defining and exercising that, heretofore, elusive right to “self-empowerment,” if you will.

        It’s a brand new awareness for me but, finally, one with seemingly endless, positive possibilities, I do believe.

        • little nel says:

          “that sense of dread and doom for the unexpected”

          I remember when those things were my constant companions because I feared that my “bad karma” from “past lives” was causing my problems, because I was ignorant about the effects of childhood trauma, sexual abuse, and parental neglect and lacked understanding.

          “It’s like a window into a huge part of my inner world has been opened.”

          It was a relief to learn that my problems were not caused by “bad karma” but by “bad parenting.”

          • Why Not? says:

            Thank you for sharing that, little nel … not caused by “bad karma” but by bad parenting.” It made be laugh out loud – in a good way! (See my comment under Alethea’s next comment – addressed to both of you.)

        • Alethea says:

          “Why Not,”

          Isn’t it liberating to discover this kind of thing about ourselves? NOT knowing why our bodies and minds are behaving erratically is frustrating and life-altering.

          I just recently discovered in myself that I had a huge fear of making the wrong decision, out of a fear of punishment for making that so-called “wrong” decision. It had me stifled in life. I was so afraid of punishment from “the universe” “God” whatever….that I didn’t make ANY decision. My fears were from authority figures who punished me for doing what I wanted as a child.

          When abused children grow into adults, they often transfer the parents/abuser onto God or “The universe.” When we are children, our abusers are the authority figure….as adults, God or “The universe” as some might call God, become the authority figure….and until we heal the fear of our abusers, and the idea that they have power or the ability to punish us….we cannot have a true and loving relationship with God. Until we heal our problems with authority who punish, we remain afraid of a punishing, unloving, abusive God……WHICH SIMPLY DOES NOT EXIST.

          God is LOVE, JOY, ABUNDANCE, BEAUTY, and FORGIVENESS.

          • Why Not? says:

            Woah! You and little nel are starting to scare me a bit – like you REALLY DO understand! (those trust issues, you know) lol.

            Honestly, you two have a way of talking about your own experiences – and, within the context of the post topic or in response to comments – that, for me, is like finding those really obscure, jigsaw puzzle pieces.

            This…

            I just recently discovered in myself that I had a huge fear of making the wrong decision, out of a fear of punishment for making that so-called “wrong” decision. It had me stifled in life. I was so afraid of punishment from “the universe” “God” whatever….that I didn’t make ANY decision. My fears were from authority figures who punished me for doing what I wanted as a child.

            …I totally identify with and has been agonizingly up for me of late, big time! But, I had NO CLUE how to identify the tortuous fear, resulting in that paralyzing indecision, nor explore the God-Universe Punishment aspect, in relation to those phantom voices of my abusers-authority figures, growling: “How dare you! Who do you think you are! If it weren’t for you, I wouldn’t do this or my life would be free of you…”

            And, along comes this…

            and until we heal the fear of our abusers, and the idea that they have power or the ability to punish us….we cannot have a true and loving relationship with God. Until we heal our problems with authority who punish, we remain afraid of a punishing, unloving, abusive God……WHICH SIMPLY DOES NOT EXIST.

            God is LOVE, JOY, ABUNDANCE, BEAUTY, and FORGIVENESS.

            Seriously and thrillingly – I AM LOVING BREATHING ALL OF THIS IN!

            (You have no idea how much I’ve struggled to trust myself to get back on a path to healing, again)

            • little nel says:

              The path to healing is indeed a struggle, but it is easier than living a lie and blaming ourselves for the abuse. This is where we erred-not trusting ourselves.

              My parents had a chaotic punishing god, but I have a loving God who gives me LOVE, JOY, ABUNDANCE, BEAUTY, and FORGIVENESS, just like Alethea.

          • little nel says:

            “Until we heal our problems with authority who punish, we remain afraid”

            That statement is true.

            Isn’t that why people “punish” each other, to reinforce the fear of being punished? or rejected? or unloved? or alone?

            Until we begin to heal and trust ourselves, we feel unloved, unwanted, and alone.

  3. little nel says:

    “It is very tempting to take the side of the perp…etc. asks the bystander to share the burden of the pain”

    How true!

    This is the best explanation for denial that I’ve ever read. I’m grateful for this doctor’s understanding of it.

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