A word about guilt...Kinds of Guilt | Child Molestation | The Age of Consent | Seeing the Dinosaur | An Invitation
There are two major kinds of guilt...
The kind that comes from things you do and the kind that arises from things that have been done to you...
I frequently talk to people who have been brutalized or abused by other people and have a lot of guilt about it…They say things like:
"What did I do to deserve this?"
"I must have done something to deserve this..."
"There must have been something about me..."
"If I had been different, they wouldn't have done it..."
Instead of dealing with what the other person did, they are constantly searching themselves and beating themselves up for something someone else did...
For convenience I'm going to break these down into the most common areas.
1. Sexual Misconduct with Children...
I have talked with people of both genders, young and old, who tell stories about having been molested sexually by relatives, teachers, employers, neighbors, boyfriends of their mothers, and they tell me the same things over and over.
At the bottom of it they can't figure out what they did to deserve it.
And it's even worse if they enjoyed it.
Okay…well, there's another wrinkle.
What if you liked it, or grew to like it?
Before you run screaming for the door, let me explain myself.
Most of the time, in a situation of long-term molestation, a relationship has developed between the molester and molestee. Frequently, but not always, it's warm and even loving. Obviously, there are cases when a physically abusive relationship spills over into a sexual area and that's really ugly. But most kids do enjoy or at least tolerate the contact they have with adults in a long-term sexual relationship. That's a heresy in counseling circles and I already know that... it's why I'm not a regular counsellor
I know that even if the first times are rough, the young person involved frequently has mixed feelings, or comes to believe what they are told about the situation.
And at this point, I should make a note about terms...
I'm sure you've all heard the term "age of consent". For most people, that means something similar to the drinking age or the voting age; before your birthday you can't do it, afterwards it's legal and you can.
But it means something else to people in my profession. It means that before that date... let's say the age of consent is fourteen... you haven't got the ability to give consent, any more than an animal would.
So, if the age of consent is fourteen and you're thirteen, even if you say yes to an person over the age of consent... even if you want the contact, have grown to love this person, even if they've paid you or given you presents, you still cannot give consent.
It's a legal concept.
Other people who cannot give consent are the retarded and persons who are drunk or in any other way inebriated... We'll talk more about that later...
Okay. So you have to make that now your overarching premise.
Was it below the age of consent? If so, you were constitutionally unable (that means completely) to give consent
You cooperated or tolerated it without complaining
You were aroused
You liked it,
You took presents or money (one guy gave boys socks and underwear),
You enjoyed the hell out of it and loved the perpetrator deeply
You felt grownup doing it
You still were incapable of giving consent...
Counselors will say, "Oh, you poor victim..."
But inside, you know you went along with it.
So even the best intentions of the counselors are thwarted because they're too stupid to understand what really happens.
What's the point? Only this...
If you were below the age of consent, you are not responsible in any way for what happened... period...
You could not, legally, morally or emotionally have done anything to "bring it on yourself". It's impossible. If there are an adult and a child in a situation, the adult is the one completely and solely responsible for what happens.
You aren't expected to have fully functioning adult emotions, and you cannot be held to the same degree of accountability in your behavior.
SO EVEN IF YOU SAID YES, YOU COULDN'T SAY YES.
If you felt pressured, coerced or threatened in anyway, your consent wasn't any good, EVEN IF YOU WERE OVER THE AGE OF CONSENT.
In other words, if somebody said, "If you tell anyone about this, I'll hurt you, or someone you love," or anything like that, your consent wasn't valid.
If you were above the age of consent, you may have to examine the situation more closely.
The second big kind of guilt is that which you feel because you did something either wrong or that you perceive to be wrong.
WE CAN'T SEE THE DINOSAUR...
In the late 1980s, an attorney told me a story about a case I had been working with him on…There were two young brothers, about ages seven and ten, who were already in a lot of trouble. The case was a dispute between their parents with respect to custody and visitation and involved the mother attempting to prevent the father and, more specifically, his parents from dealing with the children. The boys were badly behaved, were intractable (uncooperative) and had a number of strange quirks.
When the hearing came, an expert witness, a psychologist, was called to testify. She stated that the children had been abused seriously at a very young age, and probably sexually. The attorney for the perpetrator said, "Look, we've all talked to them and they say nothing ever happened..."
She looked at him for a long time and then said, "Well, we can't see the dinosaur but we know him by his tracks..."
It was the most profound statement I have ever heard with respect to abused children...
What does it mean? Well, this... sometimes things happen to children who are too young to talk about them, or they happen to older ones who feel bad about talking about them later.
But whether or not they can talk about it, or even remember it, there are certain sets of behaviors that indicate a problem…if I talk to a person long enough I can usually tell which ones have been seriously abused and which ones haven't.
When you are abused, you change.
You don't deal with the world like other people do.
You think differently.
You feel differently.
You behave differently.
For my suicidal friends, I can hear you now saying, "Then I might just as well be dead, I'll never be normal..."
Half that statement is true. You'll never be "normal", whatever that is, and thank God...
But that your life is not without value just because you have been changed by your experiences... you are alive, you survived this long, you can go on, and even, amazingly enough, be happy and productive...
Besides, you would be surprised to know how many other people there are out there who have suffered the same things you have. In fact, and horribly enough, almost all perpetrators of abuse were once abused themselves.
This is not an excuse for them, or permission for you to abuse other people.
The trick here is to learn how to deal with yourself as you are...
The world is full of "professionals" (meaning people who take money) counselors, teachers, etc., who are supposed to be experts in emotional things.
Every counselor and psychologist I know came to the profession because they had a positive experience in counseling at some point in the past... BUT... most of them are still a mess...
Furthermore, counseling is not an exact science. You can't fix somebody, and they lean back on that truth and do a shoddy job. If you have to pay for counseling and do it in a fixed setting, you are confined by time and space and money...
Most people who are troubled, are suffering NOW, not two weeks from now when they can get an appointment, and if they have a problem, it isn't going to fit into a neat fifty minute time slot.
What did people do before professional counselors?
They talked to friends and relatives, or religious authorities (a minister, for example).
But I've listened in on friends counseling friends, and they generally don't do a very good job. They're good at spouting platitudes (Awwww, it'll be okay... you have to pull yourself up by your bootstraps... you're the one in charge here...)
Jeezzzz... you might as well keep your mouth shut.
Alright, so, here's the deal.
If you need to talk, we can talk.
There are a few things I will promise at the outset.
1) You can expect me to really listen. I'm not going to be doing four or five things at once.
2) You can expect that I'm going to listen openly. I don't need to be critical of you to make myself feel big.
3) You don't have to worry about shocking me.
4) I want to know what you want to tell me. if there's something that's too painful, we don't have to talk about it. If I ask you questions you don't feel comfortable answering, tell me.
5) "I don't know" is a wonderful answer. If I ask you what happened and you don't know say you don't know... it's okay. I like that better than having you try to guess what might have happened...
6) Everything you say to me is confidential. If you need to confess to some wrongdoing, it's okay; my only legal obligation is in the event that someone tells me they are about to commit a felony and I reasonably believe them.
7) Don't feel bad if your problem or situation isn't as bad as somebody else's. If you feel bad about what's going on in your life, that's good enough. Other people may cope better with bigger things and fall apart when they can't find a sharpened pencil. I meet you where you are.
8) I am not going to get mad at you, irregardless of what you say or tell me. You have the right to ignore everything I say, disregard my advice, and even make the same mistakes over and over. Let's say you tell me everytime you get drunk you throw up. I advise you not to get drunk. Three days later you come back and tell me you got drunk and threw up. "Are you mad at me?" is a question I frequently get after things like that. I'm not going to get mad at you, I'm just aware that you haven't yet learned what you need to know. You're the one that's suffering, not me. I may feel for you, but you have to decide what's best for you.