Tag Archives: Sex offenders

Learning to swim

20 Feb

Last night on ABC TV one of the more interesting truth seekers of the last decade, documentary film maker Louis Theroux, spent time with paroled sex offenders in Los Angeles.

I was a little chary of watching after growing up with abuse. It’s never possible to be certain that something you see or hear or smell or taste or feel or touch won’t revive a memory you thought safely long gone, as Proust observed some while before the term “trigger warning” was coined.

Theroux has the style of the best therapists: his presence is fearless, he will go wherever his subject wants to take him, and his skilled use of silence creates a space in which others can speak what they may not otherwise say.

As he frankly admitted, there were ways in which Theroux liked some of his subjects, while at the same time being unwilling and unable to set aside from his thinking their crimes, and the effects of those crimes on others, particularly children.

I felt sadness and pity for the broken, lonely lives led by the offenders.

It is almost impossibly difficult to express any emotions other than revulsion, hatred, and outrage towards sex offenders, and their crimes are deserving of all those feelings.  It is understandably required of us that our compassion be directed only towards their victims. But I am wondering if it is possible to hold the care and concern for the victim, and the sad pity for the perpetrator in the mind and heart at the same time.

It isn’t something I could have considered until I’d spent decades dealing with an aftermath of traumatic abuse that never really ends. It just changes. There are ways in which a life is broken by such experiences, and is only really ever cobbled together again. If you haven’t had a childhood, nothing and no one can ever give it to you. There is a loneliness in knowing darkness, because darkness separates you forever from those who haven’t known it. The predator passes on their broken, lonely life.

Because of my circumstances and its effects on me, I never learned to properly swim. One day, Mrs Chook said, I am going to teach you to swim properly.

I was full of fear. I couldn’t put my head under water, or breathe. She coaxed, and encouraged, and rewarded and persisted, and one day it all fell into place, and I was swimming properly.

This is one of the greatest gifts anyone has ever given me. I can be a child in the pool. I never knew what it was to be a child in a pool. Now I take that child for a swim whenever I have the chance and when we’ve swum our laps, we play.

 

Quint Buccholz Two

 

So the point of this is, I  was wondering if this long, gradual, infinite process of healing myself as best I can, with the most enormous amount of help and love, has brought me to a place where I can watch Louis Theroux give a voice to people like the one who stole my childhood, and feel sad pity for his broken life. I am wondering, is this what forgiveness is?

I am currently confined by two circumstances. Illness, and the edges of tropical cyclone Marcia. Our house is like a snug, dry cave and through the windows there’s our garden, lush, green and dripping. Confinement has it purposes, if one can but see them.

Dear Gail Dines: Don’t use that tone with me

23 May

Gail Dines

There are certain ways of speaking that I just can’t hear. For example, the anti pornography campaigner Gail Dines, currently doing the rounds of talk shows, Writers’ Festivals, and I believe appearing on Qanda tonight, speaks in a tone that I find so aggressive, so arrogant and so unrelentingly certain of her absolute rightness, that I can’t hear what she’s saying for the tone in which she’s saying it.

In an effort to be fair, I resorted to reading transcripts of her interviews with various media. Even reading what she says left me in a state of numbed exhaustion, and feeling as if I’d been held captive in a small cage stark naked and with Glenn Beck spitting on speed. This woman knows everything. She has no uncertainties. She takes no prisoners and brooks no argument. She is rude, she is bombastic, she has no respect for anyone who dares to disagree with her, and if you ask her where to find the evidence for her radical position on pornography she tells you to buy her book. If you offer another perspective she tells you you’re like a climate change denier, refusing to pull your head out of your arse and face up to the catastrophe that’s coming at us head on (so to speak) from Internet porn.

Dines damns porn of every variety and according to her it’s all “Gonzo”, that is hard core, brutal and degrading. And here we immediately come up against the dangers of accepting a single perspective on what is considered pornographic. There is no room in Dines’ world for dissent about this. She knows that men who watch pornography are, and I quote, “amoral life support systems for erect penises.”

Paedophiles, she further claims, adopt their unsavoury practices because they become “bored” with adult women,  and to alleviate this boredom watch pornography in which adult women dress like schoolgirls. According to convicted child rapists Dines interviewed in jail, six months after viewing porn they started to rape children. This notion was entirely abhorrent to them, Dines claims, prior to their exposure to Internet porn.

How the hell, I ask, do we account for the raping of children prior to the Internet then? But Dines’ theories on this are so ridiculous it doesn’t do to dignify them with serious questions. Her only sources appear to be convicted paedophiles, who are no doubt only too happy to avoid responsibility for their actions by claiming the Internet made them do it.

People who think they know everything get right up my nose. They’re a variety of particularly unpleasant and noisy bully. They might also know a great deal, but I don’t care.  I especially hate it when they wag their fingers at me, and so many of them do that. I would really like to smack them upside their heads, but I’m too civil. As I’m not prepared to raise my voice and compete, I resort to silence. This is exactly what they want. Even when they’ve temporarily exhausted their argument, by the time you open your mouth to respond they’ve recovered and you might get out one sentence before they drown you out again. I hope Tony Jones is on his toes tonight.

This is how bullies function – by silencing everyone else, and Dines is a masterful bully. Listening to her on a panel recorded by ABC Radio National at the Writers’ Festival last evening I was thoroughly impressed with the grace, respect, and restraint with which the other panelists dealt with her aggression and  barely disguised contempt for them.  Leslie Cannold was exceptional as moderator.

I would have flown out of my chair and slugged Gail Dines. I would have chucked a Glenn Milne at the Walkleys.Well, I probably wouldn’t have actually done that. I’m not good at physical violence except in my fantasies, and then only well after the event.

Dines is flogging some appalling garbage. Some important and interesting material might well be in there somewhere. But the combination of  garbage and the manner in which it is delivered is too much for me. Surely the issue of violent and degrading pornography  on the Internet, and what we can do as responsible adults to protect children from accessing this, is too important to be hijacked by this self – promoting flogger of pseudo sociological snake oil?

It’s all bad in Dinesland. If you visit, don’t stay there too long.

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