Saturday, March 26, 2005

Chuckie Watch 93: Chuckie gits creepy

Chuckie is starting to creep me out with his rants on child sexual abuse.

In his latest entry on the topic (Disgusting 03/21/05), he at least spares us any fantasies about how he would like to see the perpetrators summarily murdered.  He just says in this one that perps should git lifetime in prison.  But he also includes what seems to be his standard hypothetical example involving an old man and a young girl (although he does cite an actual case this time).

It's getting creepy, Chuckie.  So, if you're genuinely concerned about this problem, I've got some suggestions you can use in your Soapbox column.

First off, you don't have to convince anyone that child sexual abuse is a terrible thing.  Everybody but pedophiles themselves are on board with that one.  Mission accomplished.  You're totally preaching to the choir with that.

So why not try offering some actual advice that parent and relative and adults who work with children can use to recognize situations where child abuse may be occurring?  Children experiencing sexual abuse usually show symptoms of it in their daily lives.  Teachers and social workers are trained to tak notice of these things.  You might actually do some good by providing your readers useful information like that.

You could also give people some suggestions about what to do if they suspect abuse is occurring.  How do they find a social worker or counselor to talk to? When should they go to the police?  What do they do if they suspect misconduct by a teacher or minister?  Those cases may not lend themselves quite so easily to Klan-style rants about the perps, but they are a lot more common than your favorite hypothetical.

In fact, Chuckie, since you're an outspoken fundamentalist Christian, you might be able to particularly hoep in one area.  We know from well-publicized scandals in the US involving the Catholic Church, and the Episcopal Church earlier, that some priests abuse children.  It's a real problem.

But part of the reason the problem has been aired so much in those churces is because they have organized hierarchies that assign priests to parishes, so it's easier to fix responsiblity on the larger church organization and to identify systematic problems than it is in many smaller and more decentralized Protestant groups.  But it is very likely that some of these smaller denominations and independent fundamentalist churches have the same problem.  (In actual cult groups, it's endemic.)  Since training and screening standards for ministers are often more lax in those groups, it could even be worse.  You might actually help someone out in that area by encouraging your fellow fundamentalists to look for problems along those lines.

Why not post the Web addresses of some responsible sites that offer solid clinical, legal and psychological advice about the problem of child sexual abuse?  That would not include Christian fundamentalist or secular extremists sites that toss out lurid stories like the ones you've so far featured in your column without offering any concrete advice other than to be furious at the perps.  Heck, set up a page at your site with references to available resources.

Also, Chuckie, even with a problem like this, simplemindedness and hysteria can do more harm than good.  The sad history of the "recovered memory" cases in the 1980s and 1990s, which were often promoted by Christian fundamentalist therapists using bad therapeutic methods, provide some grim examples of that.  And also, pedophilia proper (sexual obsession with prepubescent children) presents a different set of social, psychological and law-enforcement problems than adults having sex with underage teens.  But both tend to get lumped together in public discussion these days as "child abuse."

Even on the latter problem, there are obviously different degrees of harm.  There are good reasons for having statutory rape laws, and setting some age limit seems to be the only practical way of doing it.  But a 40-year-old teacher pressuring a 17-year-old student for sex is quite a different thing from an 18-year-old having consensual sex with a 17-year-old boyfriend/girlfriend.  The 18-year-old would be committing a crime in every US state that I know of.  Unless they were married, which at least in California they could be with the consent of the minor's parents.

Does it make sense to put the unmarried 18-year-old in prison for life?  Or is it that on even a sensitive and important issue like this that reality calls for more complicated judgments than spewing about how horrible it all is, or mindlessly blaming it all on the ACLU and "political correctness" and whatever else happens to be ticking you off on a particular day?

(For an example of a post that actually says something useful, see Steve Gilliard's Isn't she a minor? 07/24/04, which deals with a campaign in Virginia to discourage thirtysomething guys from getting underage teenagers pregnant.)

No comments: