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Notes from an expert survivor

Of the 400 hundred or so recommendations in the Royal Commission’s final report on institutionalised child sex abuse, two were at the forefront of discussions in the MSM and social media yesterday.

These were the alleged role of celibacy in causing pedophilia, and the call by some churches for women to be given more authoritative roles in their institutions as a means of curbing the sexual perversions of some churchmen.

Both of these arguments, to my mind, minimise the gravity of the crime of sexual assault of children by claiming that making celibacy voluntary and hauling in a few women to clean up the mess, pedophiliacs will be brought under control. This is a ludicrous, and to survivors, an insulting notion.

The argument minimises the sexual assault of children by implying that this crime only occurs because men resort to raping children when they are denied access to adult sexual partners. Give every man a sexual partner and there will be no more pedophilia. This attitude demonstrates a profound ignorance of the psychology of pedophilia. It is not a crime to which men resort because they can’t, for whatever reason, have adult consensual relationships.

A survivor, if she or he can speak of it, will describe to you better than anyone else ever can, the demeanour of the pedophile in the moment. It is very specific. It is pathological. It is entirely predatory. It is secretive and it is threatening. It is everything consensual relationships are not.

The claim that celibacy is an indicator of pedophilia comes about as a result of the Catholic church winning hands down in the numbers of sexual abusers in institutions. People are, quite reasonably, searching for explanations and the most glaring difference between the Catholic church and other institutions is its demand that its priests are celibate. This demand, it is argued, leads to priests sexually abusing children because they have no other outlet for their needs.

However. Hundreds of thousands of children are sexually abused in non institutional settings, and by members of their families and family friends. The overwhelming majority of the male abusers in such situations have access to adult sexual partners, and they are not celibate. It is gravely misleading to peddle the suggestion that celibacy is an indicator of or a precursor to the sexual abuse of children.

It occurs to me that blaming Catholic celibacy for the majority of child sexual abuse is yet another means of ignoring the admittedly challenging reality that ordinary men walking amongst us, fathers, grandfathers, uncles, brothers, cousins, friends, men you might eat Xmas dinner with, men you might work with, men you might have a drink with at the club, ordinary sexually active men with partners and without, rape and sexually abuse children.

It is also yet another means of ignoring the children and adult survivors who’ve endured the attentions of such men.

In my opinion, the celibate priesthood community does play a role in the Catholic church’s global pedophile ring. It offers protection and support. It feeds, shelters and clothes them. It gives them unlimited access to children. It covers up for them, denies survivors’ experiences, grants them the comfort of the confessional without any fear of being referred to authorities for the crimes they confess. The Catholic church and its celibacy protocols enable pedophiles to enact their fantasies, however, they do not cause pedophilia.

Again, if you consult a survivor on her or his experiences you will unfailingly hear similar accounts of the specificity of the offender’s behaviour, details that bear no relationship to adult consensual sexual encounters, details that indicate a particular and predatory mind-set, peculiar to those who sexually abuse children. That such a mind-set is “caused” by celibacy is not believable, and the experience of hundreds of thousands of survivors of non-celibate offenders is an ongoing challenge to the theory.

Likewise, the notion that more women in positions of authority in churches will somehow prevent child sexual abuse is not borne out by the experience of victims in non institutional and familial settings. There are women aplenty in these settings, mothers, sisters, aunts, cousins, friends, grandmothers, the majority of whom are unable or unwilling, for very many complex reasons, to prevent a child being sexually abused. The notion that parachuting women into middle management in the churches will stop any pedophile in his tracks is insultingly ludicrous. It will not.

The other theory raised yesterday is that child sexual abuse is “only psychological, not physiological.” “It has nothing to do with sex.” “It’s not about sex, it’s about power.” As if a power dynamic is absent from consensual sex, which it is not, and only rears its ugly head in child sexual abuse.

The definition of sex is not solely consensual sex. Even when it’s rape driven by the desire for domination and brutality and power over, it’s sex. A criminal sex act is about sex. Sex can be very, very nasty, and it’s still sex.

Child sexual abuse has everything to do with sex. Perpetrators take physical pleasure and gratification from abusing a child. They do this because absolute control and power over a child is a sexual turn-on for them.

The abuse is the expression of their sexuality, a sexuality driven by the need for total control, secrecy, self-gratification, and domination over a defenceless child. It is absolutely misleading to claim the sexual abuse of children has nothing to do with sex. It has nothing to do with consensual adult sex. But to imagine that sexual predators experience no physiological stimulation is entirely wrong-headed.

Again, ask a survivor. If he or she can bear to speak of it, we can describe the physiological reactions of the man who raped us. We can tell you how he sought his pleasure, the quickening of his breath, the demands that we touch him and where and how, and in many cases, his orgasm. It is physiological. It has everything to do with sex. Sex is not simply defined by a consensual experience of it, and it adds to the marginalisation, confusion and suffering of survivors to claim that what we experienced had “nothing to do with sex.” Our bodies know differently. Our minds know differently.

I have no idea what is meant when, from the safety of their armchair, someone assures me that a pedophile’s actions have nothing to do with sex, and that it’s all psychological for him. That is not my experience as a survivor, and my experience trumps your armchair expertise.

In fact, many commentators on this topic would do well to remember that survivors’ lived expertise trumps any of their opinions.

None of us ever forgets the specificity of the demeanour of the perpetrator. It is unlike anything else. It is unforgettable, and most of us have no wish to describe it, for our own sakes and for the sake of others. We know, better than anyone else ever can, what we are dealing with here. We know, better than anyone else can, the depths of depravity a man must inhabit to sexually assault a child, because we have seen it, and felt it. That knowledge haunts us for life.

“Giving women more power in the church and ending celibacy will stop pedophilia” said no survivor ever, and with very good reason.

Thank you for reading this.

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.


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  1. babyjewels10

    Yes, I was shocked to read of this inference that lack of access to women sexual partners, causes priests to rape children. It made me wonder what expertise, if any, the reporter of this nonsense has. Deeply disappointing.

  2. Freethinker

    Very good article, I am worry in only blame the Catholic church for this terrible crime and distract the authorities and the public fro the rest of the low life people that are abusing children every day.
    We cannot concentrate in only one group and let the others off the hook.

  3. Bob McIntyre

    It happened in the Anglican Church and their priests are allowed to marry.

  4. Wam

    The lady doth protest too much, methinks.

    The church takes no consequence of women and children. It was created by men for men.

    However, the maintainance of the church is through the women and children.
    The cycle of indoctrination is through women.
    The chains of belief are maintained by women through the children on their knees.

    Should women get into the church, they will discover the charade, a change will be started and the church is unlikely to survive.

    So, ironically, it is not in anyone’s interest for women to get into the church.

    The report is released and bits repeated.

    What is the chance that children will be abused by the church, its priest and its women?

  5. Möbius Ecko

    Bob McIntyre, the emphasis on the Catholic church and celibacy is that the RCIRCSA found that by far the Catholic Church was the greatest abuser.

    The reasoning is thought to be twofold, celibacy and confession. The confessional because it trivialises criminality.

  6. Jaquix

    Trouble is that all this focus on the churches must be very damaging to the survivors. Sure, these issues need to be discussed, but so far some of the Australian Catholic church’s recalcitrant attitude is engaging and enraging. Added to Turnbull & Porter coming out and saying the government will not be giving compensation to victims who have later served prison sentences, is just salt in the wound. (Porter proclaiming that this would “ensure public confidence in the system”)What hypocricy. What despicable mean spirited people they are. Victims, and also their spokespeople like Hetty, have come out swinging against this notion.

  7. Jack Russell

    A rigorously enforced quarantine of religion from children … no contact, by any means, or for any reason, ever … is the only answer. Indoctrination of undeveloped minds is the very foundation of their business model. Two thousand years, or more, of deliberate perversion of children’s minds have given these god creatures every deviant thing they have ever wanted … all based on access to children. It is an unspeakable horror.

  8. Joseph Carli

    The Vatican will learn from this, slip those admonishing notes along with the lies and excuses and tragic stories into the filing cabinet which contains a legion of Catholic Church misdemeanors like the hunting down and killing of the Montanists and the other fringe catholic groups and the Spanish inquisition etc..They will file them away in the archives, make adjustments to their policies and then send out once again the proselytizers and brochure spreaders and get those numbers back up so as they can keep that healthy bottom line…after all, the game they are playing goes to “forever”…so they are in no hurry.

  9. mick loughlin.

    A child abusing priest is not going to ‘confess’ his crimes. You already spoke of the secrecy these abusers use. Like celibacy it is just a distraction.

  10. Matt

    Thanks Jennifer, A good critique of the flawed arguments in relation to the recommendations. It does beg the question why the Catholic Church had such a high relative proportion of abuses reported. Could it be related to a controlling and powerful institution attracting controlling and power seeking people do you think?

  11. kerri

    The Royal Commission has suggested that changes be made to celibacy in the priesthood?
    May I politely suggest that until priests are allowed to marry little boys and underage girls this will not alleviate the risks.

  12. Phil

    If one were looking to point to one instance that in isolation shows beyond any doubt, what is so wrong with the MSM in Australia, then this article written by Jennifer Wilson is it.

    The MSM is at the centre of what ails the public discourse in Australia – it is central to the continuation of support for this vile, torturing Turnbull government – it not only does not do what it was intended to do i.e. hold power to account, it does in fact the very opposite – it hides power from account – it makes excuses for power – it perverts the national narrative. We would be a far better nation if the MSM simply ceased to exist – we do not need its toxic, corporate propaganda, its lies by omission and its grandstanding for corrupt power.

    Imagine the impact of the truths that have been exposed by this royal commission if Jennifer’s article was published in the MSM – it would prove that we have a true fourth estate. Wishful thinking indeed – but why should we not aspire to higher ideals than accept the shit we call MSM today?

    The RC made 400 recommendations yet the MSM picks the eyes out to serve its perverted agenda – a despicable MSM that plays with the national mood and perverts the national narratives.

  13. townsvilleblog

    When I was a young man I was attacked by a paedophile while I was drunk, I managed to scream as loud as I could which saved me from being raped. I have a genuine hatred of these predators, and have had friends who have been attacked who have never gotten over these attacks and blame themselves.One lady I know was attacked by her grandfather when she was 6 years of age, the old bastard is dead but she still blames herself because he asked her (as a 6 year old) if she wanted a bit of this (penis) and she as a 6 year old said ‘yes’ trying to please her grandfather.
    She is manic/depressant has studied at university and gotten a degree but he still haunts her. If I could I’d build a little town out west somewhere and fence the place so as they could not get out. We had a case in Queensland this year where a paedophile who had raped a 6 year old girl got sentenced to 6 months in prison, that was his full sentence. These perverted bastards should be expelled from our communities and kept well away from our children.
    There are not too many jobs I could now do, but one I could do is administering a lethal dose of poison to each and every one of them.

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