I spent 3 years in Israel. There is very little pedophilia in the Middle East. Very little reported anyway. I remember returning one year from Israel and passing through the Salt Lake City airport. Plastered on every wall and window were pictures of a young girl named Elizabeth Smart – abducted right out of her own home in the middle of the night. I remember those fliers conjuring a number of feelings in me…including resentment at the fact that so many of my fellow Americans told me aloud how unwise I was for taking my wife and kids to such a dangerous place like Israel. In fact, I only got tense about the safety of my family once I’d crossed back into the States.
Pedophilia isn’t a strictly American problem. The curse spans the globe and may very well be more rampant in countries other than this one but simply less well-reported. Still, the practice is alive and well in the States and – fair or not – I have this sneaking suspicion we lead the way in terms of numbers and severity of the problem.
The hardest thing for me about pedophilia is that I don’t really understand it. One half-glance at Angelina Jolie, or – insert scantily-clad, photoshopped, verneer-toothed, 1000 bucks/month hairstyle babe or hunk here – and I can understand the allure of adultery. That’s easy, actually. Example: I’m out walking my dog…well, actually I’m out pooping my dog. When I take out my dog (Fetch) often all I want is for him to just not BM in my yard. I take him all over the rural trail behind my house in the hopes that he’ll go there instead. He snifs and prifs around forever, but it’s worth it. It saves me from having to pick up – gagging – endless piles of dog poop and dumping them into a bag that gets disgustingly heavier as I find ever more gifts from my “best friend”. Let’s pretend, then, that there I am, pooping my dog. I’ve been working all day. Dinner’s burnt (actually, my wife never burns anything, but we’re in make-believe). I have lots of sick patients in hopeless situations in the hospital. I haven’t worked out since bench-pressing was invented and the idea of being adventurous is as foreign to me as the click consonants of Zulu. Unexpectedly, a woman jogs – no, gllliiides – up looking painfully lonely which is inexplicable because her face is airbrushed to perfection and she’s moving around all silky-like in her tight jogging stuff and looks just like a magazine cover. In fact, I think I see the word “Elle Magazine” hovering mistily just above her head.
“Oh, what a wonderful dog! Look at him pooop!” She exclaims, clearly impressed beyond belief at my dog-training skills. She looks at me with unabashed admiration, flutters her eyelashes and demurrs, “Maybe we could take him to meet my dog and they could poop together.”
My answer in each of these type of bizarre fantasies is a gallant, loyal and banal, “No. I’m in love.” But why would I have the fantasy? Actually, this particular dog-pooping fantasy is just made up for you, dear readers. Never dreamed up anything much like that except now, to make a point. And that point is that I can at least relate to the people who do have unhappy marriages and do run into some scantily-clad potential mate, and do fall into the very bad choices one can make in those circumstances. I get it. Haven’t done it. Don’t want to. But I get it.
Not so with pedophilia. I can’t make up a scenario that makes me say, “Well, it isn’t for me, but I guess I can understand it.” It just doesn’t make sense – even theoretically – to me. Because of this, I fear it more than other things like leukemia or car wrecks.
Aside from fearing what I don’t understand, it makes sense to fear pedophilia because it is much more common than many other calamities that can befall kids. Bike helmets? Statistically useless. Severe head trauma is almost non-existent compared to the risk of being sexually molested. Guess how many (I’d insert some funky little poll here that you could click on if I knew how to work the tech stuff, but I don’t.)? The depressing answer is at least one in every 4 kids will be sexually molested by the time they are 13! That’s 25% of the American child population. Additionally, a random survey waaay back in 1988 (so things are probably worse now) found that close to 1 in 10 men admitted sexually molesting a child at some point. This is a mind-boggling number. Please, if you have kids, let that number boggle your mind.
So, if you forget the bike helmet once in awhile (little more than peer pressure in head-shaped foam, I say), no big deal. But don’t forget, or neglect altogether, to teach your kids about sexual predators.
Here are some things to know:
– If done well, you won’t scare your kids by talking to them about sexual predators.
– Give your kids – even as young as 5 or 6 – the right words to describe their sexual organs. It doesn’t have to be “penis” and “vagina” exactly, but it does need to be specific to the areas. They need to be comfortable talking about this area of their bodies.
– Educate on what is acceptable touching in those areas. It’s pretty limited (doctors, parents), so this should be a short conversation.
– Roll play. Kids like this because it’s imaginative. Be as creative as you can in your stories. Tell them you’re going to try to trick them, and then do it (“Hiii little girl, I have an extra Polly Pocket in my car that my own little girl doesn’t want, would you like it?). Most kids will think it’s fun, but be as persuasive as you can. Believe it or not, this is a great dinner-time conversation. The message to them is simple: NEVER BE ALONE WITH ANYONE UNLESS YOUR PARENTS KNOW ABOUT IT.
– They’re usually known – personally or visually (janitor, or teacher across the hall, etc) to the child.
– They usually start small. Always be wary of a present given to a child from an adult.
– Their push is always going to trend – eventually – toward being alone with the child.
– Molesters tend to know what your kid likes and dislikes. They’re often very current on child trends.
– They often speak harshly about molesters.
– They are often charming, good-looking, in leadership roles and work with children.
I recently saw a child who had been molested by another older child. The molester was 12, and already had a strong addiction to porn and a fetish for oral sex. Naturally, this kid was almost certainly abused at an earlier age, and now has a very grim life to look forward to. The prognosis for the younger kid is actually good, if he continues to get good treatment. Bravo to the parents for listening to their child and believing him when he made a few off-hand comments that were out of character.
Lately I’ve wondered if my response to pedophilia is similar to the medical establishment’s response to homosexuality 60 years ago. They said it was aberrant. It was a psychological disorder. They were opposed by a committed group of people (mostly gay themselves) who insisted the practice was normal. Today, the docs of that generation are considered to have been in error and homosexuality is accepted as a normal variant of human sexual relations. Perhaps this is my generation’s bias. Maybe we’ll look back in 60 years and think of people like me as close-minded fascist prudes. There are actually a number of groups that promote pedophilia (replacing my ominous language with terms like ‘love’) and see it as completely normal.
While I’m open and often intrigued by the myriad ways that people think and behave, I don’t think I’ll ever see pedophilia as anything other than strength preying on weakness, leading ultimately to complete destruction. I see it as an evil and a horror and a practice that must be opposed in every way.
I suppose I’m just a bigot like that.