“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.