One argument from child molesters is that, if the child is willing and no force has been used, no harm is done. They cite the circumstance that a previously unmolested child will sometimes be seen to be behaving in a sexual manner giving the appearance of being ready for and even inviting sexual activity.
The counter argument of psychological and emotional damage meets with the response that guilt and shame are created by social taboos, backed up by the legal system and, in fact, it’s the bleeding hearts and do-gooders who cause more harm than the sexual act itself.
Leaving the taboo to one side for the moment, this argument completely misses the point of why we have a law governing the age of consent i.e. protecting children from consenting to something that they cannot understand.
We must take into account that children learn best from example and practice. They are born mimics and will copy the behaviour and mannerisms of the people around them. This innate learning mechanism is so strong that behaviour can even be influenced by what they see on TV. Newborn babies mirror the facial expressions of their mother right from the moment of birth.
A child who lives with a sexually active mother might well imitate her conduct and postures in just the same way she has learned to copy her accent and use of language. A childs innocence of how the world works and how to fit in with it, relies on the authority of adults to know and, at least to begin with, an acceptance of the way they do things.
Imagine the distress of a child who mimics the behaviour of her mother only to find that her father/mothers partner responds in a sexual way. Not only is she burdened with trying to understand something beyond her comprehension but also feels the guilt of having instigated what is happening, as well as the feeling that she is betraying her mother. Because she is still learning to rationalise her behaviour and because of the immature response of the man, she will nearly always blame a ‘badness’ in herself. The same scenario applies equally to boys mimicking adults. Poor youngster, who as a child mimics his elders only to find that adults respond inappropriately, confusion of sexual persuasion often starts in the home.
Mentally, on a physical level, the structure of a child’s brain is distinctly different to an adults. The amygdalas, which is the region of the brain that deals with emotion and emotionally charged memory, is pretty well developed from infancy. A child completely relies on its emotional state to decide and alter its situation. Over time it learns by experience and adult response which emotion is appropriate and that response will become autonomous. All of this information is stored in the neural network that stems from the amygdales’ and which is creating connections with other developing areas of the cerebral hemispheres.
With our growing knowledge of the processes of the brain it is now understood that traumatic disruption to normal emotional development can alter the physical processes within the amygdales’. This creates a dysfunction in the neural pathways that dictate autonomous emotional responses. The cause is emotional but the result is a physical synaptic alteration in the function of the brain that differs from the accepted norm. Schizophrenia is thought by some experts to originate in developmental abnormalities to the central nucleus of the amygdalas. Also, although the causes are not agreed upon, the effects of damage to the amygdalas can be seen right across the Aspergers/autistic spectrum in which it is a prominent feature. For a long time, because of this emotional link, Autism was believed to be a result of cold, unaffectionate parents.
In contrast the prefrontal cortex of the brain, responsible for reasoning, logic and goal orientated strategies only comes into its own at around 7 and takes, at least, all of childhood to develop. Sometimes referred to as the age of reason this is the time that academic education really takes off and begins to influence permanent synaptic patterns within the brain. It can also be a very distressing time for a child that can make no sense of the double binds of immorality.
Children who have been given good academic knowledge of what sex entails still have no comprehension of the consequences of being involved in sexual activity while still immature.
Children practice for adulthood, they strive towards independence and self-sufficiency. Flirting is a natural part of growing up, it’s what makes adequate fathers so protective of their daughters, they know the risks because often their daughters, and sons, have flirted with them. This strategy works well in a place of love and safety and can be a marker to prompt discussion on sexual health and ethics. It in no way means they are sexually mature or have any understanding of what sex really is. Even toddlers try to kiss their parents in an adult way. There is absolutely no point in asking a child ‘why’ it is doing what it’s doing, it doesn’t know. Intelligent children are bound to be curious. Naturally, the reactions of their parents will affect their future attitudes.
The repetitive pattern of child abuse within families and communities is strengthened by the lack of emotional education given to each new generation. An adult who has never come to terms with the shameful feelings of their own childhood can quite simply project them onto their own offspring. With this parental ignorance, a childs attempted disclosure will often meet with anger and disbelief, and the parent who hasn’t the ability to deal with such distressing taboos must, again, retreat into denial
Emotional intelligence has for a long time been left to chance and the expression of ‘negative’ emotions has been frowned upon. Of course, all emotions have meaning, negative emotions tend to be warnings. Because they provide energy for action they can feel unpleasant if not acted on and may cause physiological disruptions (what we often call stress or distress).
Very simple meanings of just 4 are;
Jealousy – a possession is in danger of being lost
Guilt – involvement in wrongdoing
Shame – being seen not to act on knowledge of guilt
Anger – response to threat or wrongdoing
These emotional reactions are very necessary to maintain social order.
A child who hasn’t had the benefit of an accurate sexual and emotional education has to find other ways to cope with emotional distress. Children who have been groomed into accepting increasingly gross sexual violations don’t become immune to feelings of guilt, shame and anger but, because they are unable to cope with the hugeness of the dilemma, instead carry the thoughts and feelings subconsciously.
As a psychological defence mechanism, we are able to construct strong mental blocks to hold down and repress very powerful feelings that cannot be expressed because they are believed to be inappropriate or dangerous. This form of denial to consciousness allows the child to shelve the unsolvable problem and concentrate on day to day survival. However, Freud believed a vast amount of energy is required to keep the defense in place and over a period of time creates neuroses and, in severe conditions psychosis. Even before any serious mental illness is reached a child will often display difficult or challenging behaviour.
Another consequence of burying emotions, such as fear, means they are apt to become defunct in other situations. Molested children who don’t trust their feelings to guide their actions can be extremely timid or reckless with their own safety and wellbeing. Because allowing the flow of suppressed feeling and its attendant confusion and pain is intolerable, any indication of fear is quickly repressed and the child will not clearly perceive a need for caution. Alternatively they may become so timid they are unwilling to take even the smallest risk. The same can be said for many other emotions such as anger or jealousy, even love can be repressed if an adult has corrupted its meaningful expression.
It is known that bottling up emotions isn’t entirely efficient and that a certain amount of ‘leakage’ will occur. A child with no reasonable outlet for the anger it feels towards its carers/abuser will often not be able to repress, or control, a displaced outlet. For example, they may adopt a passively aggressive attitude towards adults or perhaps bully smaller, younger children, some might just kick the cat. Often the abuse will act itself out and can be seen in the child as sexually precocious behaviour, which can lead to further abuse and loss of self-esteem. When it is acted out with another child in the role of powerless victim, the structural pathways in the brain take another turn. A child in emotional distress will sometimes turn to other criminal activity to bring attention to itself, the shame of being complicit in an indecent act can provoke a need for punishment that cannot be gained by disclosing the true origin of the guilty feelings.
Children who are unable to influence their situations at all often turn to destruction, if it cannot be projected outwards it turns inwards and self-destruction becomes almost inevitable, paving the way for future self-harm such as drug or alcohol abuse. All of this is happening to the child without any of the benefits of mature, adult cognition.
During adolescence, when the body is releasing hormones never yet experienced, the attempt at integration of reason, physicality and emotion (mind, body and soul) are reflected in the turmoil of puberty. The unfortunate teenager who must also try and bring reason to child abuse may be forgiven for a rebellious stance when confronted with the taboo or, if they are lucky, the painful alternative of catharsis. .
Another ingredient in the confusion can be the strange effect of what is known as the Stockholm syndrome. Operating as a psychological defence mechanism, it’s named after the events of a bungled bank raid in Stockholm that resulted in the taking of 4 hostages. Although held at gunpoint over six days, when they were released, the hostages supported their captors against the authorities. It gives a name to what has long been known, that in threatening situations, when the flight or fight response is impossible, identifying with the abusers and taking on their views makes survival more likely. It is a completely unconscious process and can take a very long time, if ever, for the effect to wear off. Unrecognised, it obviously makes the likelihood of abused becoming abuser that much greater, especially within gender.
With this in mind it is clear how adult/child sexual activity is damaging to individuals and society and why it became taboo = Don’t talk about it; definitely don’t do it; in fact, don’t even think about it.
Taboos are set up within societies to distinguish an activity as forbidden, they mark activities that disrupt or corrupt group wellbeing, necrophilia is one example. They are often, but not always, housed in religion. Many people comply with taboos without curiosity or question and, for as long as only a few break them and it doesn’t affect too many people, the taboos work to protect the whole. The natural order for humanity is a man woman partnership that bonds together to provide a nurturing environment for the benefit of the family and community. Taboo’s such as incest are not often spoken about and by their very nature are surrounded by dark secrecy, this has made discussion of the phenomenon difficult for centuries. They tend instead to reside in the collective unconscious and while children are not often explicitly told what is and what is not taboo they pick them up on a subliminal level. The guilt and shame brought on by breaking a social taboo, even if it is committed in the innocence of childhood, is immense to both victim and perpetrator. With conservative statistics of one is four children being sexually abused, we have as a society reached a critical mass of people affected and it has been forced into open consciousness.
Children are not sexually mature. Any form of exploitation of children creates a void between generations and genders that is akin to a social disease. The misinformation and misunderstanding has been with us for a long time, the cure can only come from understanding its source and educating the innocent and the ignorant.
By definition, it stands to reason that a healthy mind has no disease, it guides us happily along through life without the fear of it’s own dysfunction, it relies upon itself to supply our needs and realize it own worth. It is relatively peaceful and develops structures that work for the good of the whole organism as well as creating opportunities for itself to experience life as an individual. A healthy mind in a healthy body is the ideal we are all measured against.
The argument for the practice of paedophilia comes from a place of ignorance and the people who try to rationalise this behaviour are in a state of delusion and denial. The repression of their true emotional states separates them from the very real guidance of feeling and intuition and creates physical as well as cognitive dysfunctions.
Many people who are affected can appear to be quite normal, albeit often ‘cold or un-empathic’, and show no sign of the disease except for the immoral behaviour. Some child molesters have psychopathic traits that include ruthlessness, charm and well practised manipulation, the same traits that can propel individuals into positions of power. Some really are dirty old men; unwashed and living in dirty houses.
For the very badly affected, a life lived without shame or remorse, creates extreme psychosis. It is a sad fact that our society is riddled with psychotic adults and children whose inner life is a moral and spiritual wasteland.
Now we must deal with it.