Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Thought Picnic: Is our childhood sexual abuse their therapy now?

He was abused

This is as worrisome as it is upsetting to read that it would have been best that the case was not made public at all.

A primary school teacher now aged 39 has been sentenced [1] to a “three-year internet sexual offending treatment programme by Manchester Crown Court.

Whilst he lived in the US he had subscribed to child sex abuse websites and when his laptop was seized in March after having been teaching in the UK since 2007, 88 quite extraordinarily and deeply unpleasant pictures were found and another 2,968 had to be recovered by experts after they had been deleted.

He sought closure

In mitigation, he was abused between the ages of 6 and 8 by his grandfather and the court accepted the plea that he “started to look at images as a source of comfort to himself, so he could appreciate he was not alone.”

Now, given that none of the images involved any of the children we worked with as a teacher or had any contact with, that it completely beside the point; it is the material that is at issue regardless of its normal titillating usage by criminal child sex abusers or in this case an unusual therapy aid to deal with previous horrible experiences.

None of which is right or excusable, what makes this matter so difficult to read is the way the judge appears to have bought into this precedent making excuse in words that are best quoted verbatim.

To any normal person these pictures are quite extraordinarily and deeply unpleasant. You carried on accessing the indecent images to prove to yourself you were not alone and it provided you with some sense of calm and closure. I have never seen quite so glowing references to a man in all my long experience of sitting in this court.

Is our abuse their closure?

As I read that, I imagined the situation of those who abused me as a child and that was from 7 onwards and the idea that those events were recorded with some other person who experienced the things I did but already an adult seeking “some sense of calm and closure” from viewing the rape of my innocence.

There is no doubt that man needed help and probably had issues that required professional help, now, if some registered psychiatrist, psychologist or therapist had recommended continued exposure to such material as a way of dealing with previous sexual abuse, there might have been an interesting and plausible excuse but this is just beyond the pale.

As damaged people

The untold damage done to children with the rape of their sexual innocence and sexuality cannot be properly profiled for understanding, too many things are left in the inner recesses of the mind that will never be revealed but might well determine the course of many lives.

If they ever get to learn to use sex in any healthy and wholesome way, it would be by the grace of some power beyond them, the others trod through life damaged goods seeking temporary respite and succour at the mercy of other unspeakable experiences.

For all the empathy I can have for this man and for the mercy the court was willing to show to this unfortunate man, this was one judgement that simply accentuates the hurt of a lost childhood, abstracts the reality of those who were depicted in those images and condemns many who still suffer to the possible justification others might have for abuse, the production of the images, the trading of the images and probably a free pass to a treatment programme.

Setting a bad precedent

That memory is still etched on my mind along with that of others that I recall as I write through the tears welling up in my eyes is served an injustice so cruel as if my sexual innocence were being made to count for nothing once again.

This is hardly the message that we all need to hear especially where the person has been caught and it sets an unhealthy precedent very much along the lines of those who plea insanity for murder or even gay panic defence [2] for hate crimes with the prospect of getting off lightly.

I would hope no one else gets to use this strategy much as I hope that the man does find “some sense of calm and closure” for the rotten abuse he suffered of his grandfather.

Sources

[1] BBC News: Tameside abuse image teacher spared jail sentence

[2] Gay panic defence: From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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