Notes from an expert survivor.

17 Dec


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, claiming that by 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.







41 Responses to “Notes from an expert survivor.”

  1. Elisabeth December 17, 2017 at 10:08 am #

    You might be interested to read this essay on the subject of child sexual abuse, Jennifer, from the perspective of the child. It reinforces some of your concerns, particularly on the experience of abuse and its apparent formulaic quality. The fact that no words are said during the event, that the child is sworn to secrecy etc etc. I hope you can access it, otherwise I can send you a copy via email.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jennifer Wilson December 17, 2017 at 1:49 pm #

      Many thanks, Elisabeth. I look forward to reading this


    • paul walter December 17, 2017 at 10:53 pm #

      This looks like it is getting down to the nitty gritty of things, have posted a request but no doubt there will be some foul or other.


      • Elisabeth December 17, 2017 at 11:09 pm #

        I can send you a copy via email, Paul, if you’re interested. Please, I just need an email address.


        • paul walter December 18, 2017 at 12:07 am #

          Hi, Elisabeth and thanks. Just visited your page, hopefully i have not fouled up my email with the usual typo.

          Just been googling stuff on this, on one hand stuff about humans chimps and bonobos- humans appear to be members of a very select group indeed. Also, a sociologist called Sarah B Goode who appears to have written some books on the topic that incidentally involve a little anthropology as formative background..

          Hard, of course, when excerpts are routinely mutilated these days to make you buy the book just when your curiosity has been aroused after reading a few pages..grr.


          • Elisabeth December 18, 2017 at 9:06 am #

            I’ll chase up your email, Paul. thanks.


        • paul walter December 20, 2017 at 3:29 am #

          no doesnt work..Usual attempts to set up and login are thwarted. So sick of this crap with internet.


        • Elisabeth December 20, 2017 at 6:45 am #

          My email address is, if you, Paul, or anyone else here interested would like a copy of the essay, you can let me know. Cheers.


          • paul walter December 20, 2017 at 11:20 am #



          • paul walter December 21, 2017 at 5:07 pm #

            Just as well you are a resourceful person, Elisabeth. Corporate nonsenses go diametrically oppositional to the entire spirit of the internet as imagined by its pioneers.


  2. doug quixote December 17, 2017 at 10:29 am #

    Very powerful. And from my armchair, very right.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. paul walter December 17, 2017 at 4:18 pm #

    No further comment, looks intriguing and deals with much I have been wondering about, augmented by some curious comment in newspapers and on shows like the Drum.

    Thought immediately to mind is the formative factors and processes re paedophile brains and minds and what consequent fears drive them to such a strange subjectivity and reactivity. One thing I might do is google up Chimpanzees and Bonobos to find out if (low status?) members of a troop indulge in what we could call violent, deviant sexual behaviour as an outworking of their lowly, frustrating status. Seems to be a problem to start with, if socialisation and individuation are themselves the evolutionary problem.

    No more for now. My scan tells me it is a thought-provoking piece, but until I do a more thorough read, which is necessary given the several reasons why it is worthwhile to do so, I should not shoot from the lip but bone up first BEFORE displaying my ignorance, which might have evaporated a bit for an added think.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Barry Waters December 17, 2017 at 4:58 pm #

    I think your doubts about the effects of celibacy on pedophilia are probably correct. What concerns me about celibacy is it’s status within the Catholic Church, the part it plays in denying its priests and brothers the normal feelings of being a sexual being and thus twisting their attitudes towards themselves and the people they guide morally. There is a terrible price to pay for people having their view of themselves and those they serve being assaulted by unhealthy restrictions being placed on their view of themselves as functioning beings. Celibacy, not voluntarily assumed, must lead to unhealthy distorted views of a person’s place in the social world.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jennifer Wilson December 17, 2017 at 8:43 pm #

      I confess the whole celibacy requirement puzzles me. The priests are supposed to assist married people and families, but with absolutely no experience one wonders how.


      • doug quixote December 17, 2017 at 9:15 pm #

        Whatever gave you that idea?

        Priests are there to harvest souls.

        The well-being of the vessels is a by-product only.


        • paul walter December 17, 2017 at 10:59 pm #

          You both are forgetting their rationale, which is that clergy stuff is a higher calling secured through a rising above of the temptations of the flesh.

          Clergymen and women take on and overcome a desire for gratification which qualifies them to advise the rest of us more crass types on matters spiritual, because they can and we can’t.

          In theory.


          • doug quixote December 19, 2017 at 10:34 pm #

            I don’t give a fuck about their rationale.

            We’ve had that one for thousands of years.


  5. Marilyn December 17, 2017 at 5:17 pm #

    60% of the cases in the Royal Commission were in institutions that do not have celibacy so the whole celibacy thing is a crock. I was sexually abused for many years by family members, my grand mother took to my grand father with a stock whip when I was 9 and from that day on I was not allowed to be alone with him.

    When my mother caught my father a year earlier she blamed me and I got beaten, she has hated me my whole life because of it. She even claimed I wore sexy clothes at age 7 so it was my fault. My father went on to attack a couple of my teenage friends and rightly died alone and senile.

    My uncle abused all three of us girls when he was a teenager because his role model older brother and father made it the norm. He didn’t lay a hand on his own two daughters and would have killed anyone who did.

    Their other brother spent 4 years in prison for raping his daughters, my aunty though was well aware of his behaviour because he tried to attack me and my older sister when we were 12 and 13.

    All of these men were not celibate and none of them were gay, they were just fucking pedophiles.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jennifer Wilson December 17, 2017 at 8:44 pm #

      Exactly, Marilyn.


      • paul walter December 17, 2017 at 11:05 pm #

        Yes. “Made it the norm” seems evidence of a pretty barren outlook.

        I was going to say maybe things different, a lot harder, back then and realised why that wouldn’t explain why it is still a problem these days.


  6. drsusancalvin December 18, 2017 at 9:09 pm #

    Yes, yes, and yes. Everything you say on this accords with my experiences. It’s difficult to read. So many of us. I feel exhausted.


  7. paul walter December 19, 2017 at 3:25 am #

    An example on the other (“Turnbull”) thread from Susan Atkins I think highlights what Elisabeth has been getting at, expanding on Jennifer Wilson’s lonely exploration, which indicates a far worse problem than a casual glance might indicate.


  8. allthumbs December 19, 2017 at 8:27 pm #

    Is the assumption that pedophilia is a “lifestyle choice”?


    • paul walter December 19, 2017 at 10:04 pm #

      Seems paradoxical that they are both slave to a pathology and make a “lifestyle choice”.

      JW talks of paedophiles “expressing their sexuality” yet not all men are paedophiles, so where is the “off” button that functions for the rest of us, in a paedophile.

      We still have to figure where the phenomena, deriving from biological to socio culturally, psychologically induced or conditioned, how and where in a brain over time the combination a re different to average, where the boundaries lie between a combination of the above and how the impulse control buttons functioning can be restored in a certain type of make up or not switched off in the first place.


      • doug quixote December 19, 2017 at 10:42 pm #

        Hmm. Some are ‘genuine’ paedophiles, some are taking advantage of opportunity; others are using it as a weapon against their spouse, or against the child his/her self. There seems to be a wide spectrum of actions. It may defy easy categorisation.


        • paul walter December 20, 2017 at 2:19 am #

          Yes, it is complex, isn’t it?

          Yet until it is understood more thoroughly, not much seems to be done to rid society of it


        • paul walter December 20, 2017 at 2:20 am #

          And you are right, the cruelty aspect is sickening.


      • allthumbs December 20, 2017 at 9:51 am #

        Nature/Nurture and more than likely somewhere in between, or an interactive reinforcement of a tendency cultural or biological? Who knows?

        How much of the perpetrator’s behavior is a matter of choice or, if it is biologically determined behavior is it exculpatory evidence of mitigation?

        For me the Commission’s findings are most brutal in the cover up, the turning of a blind eye, or an institutional (societal) acceptance of the abuse of power.

        But I sort of came to a better understanding of the devastating, catastrophic long lasting effects on the victims’ lives when you consider that being singled out, chosen, selected by a perpetrator for abuse among the many. Random selection? What selection criteria did the perpetrator use to pick one child over another?

        How do you deal with that?

        I had a chilling thought, I thought to myself there but for the Grace of God (I use that as a figure of speech) go I, and I thought that from the perspective of the child victim and the perpetrator.


        • paul walter December 20, 2017 at 11:29 am #

          Yes, you understand. How is it that many/most blokes are not remotely attracted to kids (as against post-pubescent girls under the age of consent?) and if they are, well enough into impulse control for it to be a quirk at best?

          That must be where a tangible solution lies, in the operations of the mind/brain and how and how self control fails in the one group and not the other.

          Is it a question of neurology, as with psychopaths? If not, what else is at play that could be identified and traced back to some locus through interviews, counselling, questionairing, analysis etc


  9. drsusancalvin December 20, 2017 at 3:51 pm #

    A question. As a 4 year old in boarding school I was taught that masturbation was a sin. (not a crime, mind you). I prudently ignored this, as it was one of the few moments of pleasure in a brutal, isolated, loveless and inexplicable life. I was careful not to confess it. I cleaved off the act from the sin and suffered not from cognitive dissonance. Is this the process? Is this the sort of process that allows abusers to abuse?


    • paul walter December 20, 2017 at 6:54 pm #

      Yes. So how is it some adapt and others not. Where does that happen, cognitively?


      • drsusancalvin December 20, 2017 at 7:47 pm #

        Decision making is a complex brain activity. Imaging is giving real time information on the locations of the cognitive processes involved in making moral decisions, but I suspect morality is not a handbrake on pedophilia. If it was etc etc. Neither are they knowingly, consciously immoral, in my experience. I think they just do things they can get away with. So it’s a risk reward ratio, and when you have power and protection, the risk is low.


        • paul walter December 21, 2017 at 1:34 am #

          Yes. I wonder if you realise how you have cheered me up.



        • allthumbs December 21, 2017 at 3:25 pm #

          What if you noticed you were sexually attracted to younger children at the age of 12? Determinism?

          The creepy old guys you see on the news were all young once.


          • paul walter December 21, 2017 at 5:03 pm #

            It is deterministic. allthumbs, but maybe there is wiggle room.

            Thinking on that, there must there fore be a “mechanism” and there fore ways and means of dealing with that mechanism. God, that is Skinneristic, but no, am thinking of some more subtle than lobotomy developed, as medical science progresses.

            But will speak no further, we know if the Mengeles of the world had access to a more complete map of the brain, never ending the horrors that would follow.


  10. Angelika Oetken December 21, 2017 at 5:23 am #

    Great article.
    Why do many experts sit in all these commissions, but experts survivors, if at all, only as guests?

    Angelika Oetken, Berlin-Köpenick, one of 9 million adults in Germany who were victims of severe sexual abuse in childhood and/or adolescence


  11. paul walter December 23, 2017 at 6:56 pm #


  12. doug quixote December 24, 2017 at 10:53 am #

    Compliments of the season to you and yours, Jennifer; and to you, dear reader.

    Bah Humbug 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • allthumbs December 24, 2017 at 3:55 pm #

      Yes to that.


    • Jennifer Wilson January 20, 2018 at 9:56 am #

      Hi, DQ, Belated happy new year to you. The festive season so distracted me I forgot to renew my domain name and almost lost No Place for Sheep.


  13. paul walter December 25, 2017 at 11:46 pm #

    Look after you guys. You think this year was wild, nothing compared to how 2018 is going to be.


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