Thursday, May 31, 2012

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

I’m sitting here reading an article in the Wall Street Journal about the controversy surrounding the decision of a church in Milwaukee to pay suspected pedophiles priests to leave the ministry. It turns out that any priest suspected of pedophilia was given $20,000 to get out of the ministry and return to civilian life.

All the predictable points are raised about the pros and cons of the payments.

Naturally, the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) protested the payments as payoffs and bonuses to priests for molesting children, saying “You don’t give a bonus to a man who rapes children,” and, “If they paid them anything, it should have been for therapy and counseling.”

Of course the archdiocese defended the payments, saying they’re just an incentive to get rid of the priests without getting into a lengthy, bureaucratic process of removal and the payments were to help the men transition to lay life without completely losing access to needs such as health care.

Whoooooah just a minute. Hang on a minute. I feel like somebody has a great big whitewash brush they’re trying to slap over my sensibilities. I have two problems.

First of all, where is there any mention of the victims here? All the focus is on the poor (suspected) predators who need to be looked after as they transition into the world in which the rest of us strive to survive. They need health care. They need counseling. They need therapy. They need. They need.

I can say from experience that when a church pays more attention to the needs of a predator, whether convicted or suspected, than it does to the needs of the victim, the spiritual fallout can be devastating. When a victim sees all the concern and attention going to the person who robbed them of their innocence, childhood and sense of themselves – and sees their own woundedness ignored – something dies inside. Disappointment in the establishment morphs into disappointment and rejection of God. When the rehabilitation of an offender takes precedence over the healing and restoration of a victim, it doubles the deep sense of victimization and injustice.

Anyone who has read my books knows that I place great importance on efforts to rehabilitate offenders, in hopes their restoration will prevent them from offending again. However, the victims have been robbed of so much and when there is no effort to affirm and attempt to recompense them, the wounding just goes deeper and the victim can build deep resentment against those who did not see the bigger picture. The priority must always be with the victim.

My second issue is with the word “suspected” as in “suspected pedophiles.” Why were they suspected? Someone must have complained. How can a suspicion be strong enough to warrant the paying of $20,000. without a conviction? If there were formal charges laid and the “suspected pedophile” was not convicted, that should mean he was exonerated – so why pay the $20,000.?

Let’s get clarity in dealing with predators. If they are “suspected,” they need to be formally investigated, charged (if warranted) and processed in a court of law – where they are found guilty or innocent. No profession should be above the law in being subject to its requirements. Victims always need to know that they matter to the courts, to the community and to the church. Affirmation of what has been done to them is the starting point for healing. Lastly, when convicted predators are released from prison, we need to do all we can to ensure they do not offend again. But that’s lastly.

© Diane Roblin-Lee - May 31/12

Thursday, May 10, 2012

...But He Was So Nice!

Paul Gibson seemed to be nice enough. Slight, with reddish hair and beard, a fair complexion and pale blue eyes, he was a trusted member of the Parkdale community. Everybody knew what a fine fellow Paul was. He was the guy who could always be counted upon to help out at the food bank –  the friendly one who took such a kind interest in the kids.

In 2008, a grandmother, who visited the bank for Christmas presents, particularly appreciated Paul’s friendliness. Life was tough for her, looking after her two grandsons aged four and seven. She had taught the children to be polite and they were nice little boys – but she wasn’t as young as she used to be. Paul seemed to understand her needs. It was nice to have someone who obviously cared. By summer, he was baby sitting the boys whenever she had to do errands or  shop. Outings to the CNE and Centre Island became easier because Paul was there to help.

Strangely though, life became more difficult. The happy, outgoing boys weren’t as nice anymore. The seven-year-old was becoming an angry, belligerent child who was no longer doing well in school. He started wetting his bed again and would wake up at night screaming. One day, he kicked Paul in the groin and swore at him. The grandmother was horrified! She had taught him never to speak like that or say those words. When challenged, the boy simply said he “was mad.” Who could have known that the boys had been warned that their family members would be killed if they told about what “the nice man” was doing to them?

Eventually, one of the boys told his parents about the abuse they suffered whenever their grandmother went out. The parents ambushed Paul the next time he went to baby sit and he was charged. Thankfully, he was convicted in February of sexually violating the two boys. He now awaits the results of a psychiatric assessment and could be declared a dangerous offender, a designation which carries an indefinite sentence.

My point to this whole story is understanding what was going on in Paul Gibson’s head when he so ‘generously’ volunteered at the food bank, ‘befriended’ the harried grandmother and her two grandsons and so ‘kindly’ spent his time ‘helping’ her with the boys and ‘making life easier’ for her.

It’s called, “grooming.” Behind Paul’s gentle smile and friendly offers of assistance, were dark thoughts of the perverted things he was going to be able to do to those little boys as soon as he could get them alone. Grooming is a carefully planned strategy for gaining the trust of both the children and the parents or caregivers. It requires the planned establishment of a legitimate connection to the child that will allow for the process of time the “grooming” takes. Teaching, bus driving, sports coaching, camp counseling and volunteering to help with children’s activities all offer opportunities to be alone with children with no adult supervision. In order to protect our kids, we have to understand and be on the lookout for “groomers.”

One characteristic shared by all child molesters is that they are finely tuned manipulators and they recognize their adeptness at manipulating people to achieve their own ends.

In her book, The Manipulative Man, Dorothy McCoy referred to the ICD-10 (the mental health manual used in Europe) in listing the following characteristics to watch for in classifying someone as a manipulator:

  • Callous unconcern for the feelings of others
  • Gross and persistent attitude of irresponsibility and disregard for social norms, rules and obligations
  • Incapacity to maintain enduring relationships, though having no difficulty in establishing them
  • Very low tolerance to frustration and a low threshold for discharge of aggression, including violence
  • Incapacity to experience guilt or to profit from experience, particularly punishment
  • Marked proneness to blame others, or to offer plausible rationalizations, for the behavior that has brought the patient into conflict with society.
While these are guidelines for identification, not every manipulator will exhibit all of the characteristics and those who do, will do so in greater and lesser degrees.

Manipulative men hide in plain sight. They hide their true selves from everyone.

Child molesters hide in the hope that their victims will be too ashamed to tell the awful secret.

Paul Gibson did not have any history of police involvement in his life. He would have passed a police check with flying colours.

Not all nice men and women are nice men and women. We have to get savvy for our kids.

1. McCoy, D. (2006). The Manipulative Man, Adams Media, Avon, Mass. p.9.

© Diane Roblin-Lee - May 10/12