Is Treating Pedophilia as a mental illness the answer?
My fingers burned and tingled. A result of the leather that bound my wrists together above my head. An additional strap of leather was laced through the knot. This was tied to the small heart-shaped hole in the headboard.
Everything in the room was pitch black and spinning horribly. I tried to open my mouth to speak, but when I moved my tongue I found rough cotton filling my mouth. Something was making my lower back burn. Several seconds passed before I realized I was laying on my stomach with my face down on a pillow.
Turning my head to the side, I could see the blue light from the massive light my great grandfather had installed in our yard. He passed away just two years ago when I was eight years old. Since then I hadn't spent a night in this house without sleeping in his bed which was on the other side of the house.
I was in my aunt's bedroom, tied up to her bed. Shifting my eyes to the left, I was able to see behind me. Standing there was a pale gaunt woman, bone thin as though she had been starved for years. Her face was wrinkled, her thin lips peeled back in a sadistic smile.
My grandmother was moving her arm back and forth, but I couldn't see what she was holding. The pain kept getting worse, burning more as it migrated from my lower back to my stomach. Biting down on the cloth in my mouth, my eyes started to water. Clenching them shut I tried to scream, only to achieve a muffled squeak.
Again and again, the pain grew worse, as though something was tearing apart my stomach. The rag in my mouth was soaked with drool, I felt like I was gonna vomit. I tried to pray, but I couldn't keep my mind focused enough to form words. Instead, I just focused on her movements, counting each time the pain grew worse. I got to twenty-five before everything went black.
That night I was sodomized by my own grandmother. At ten years old I lost my ability to trust adults. She was my guardian at the time, more than that, she was my grandma Barney. I remembered her accidentally dying her hair purple when I was just two years old.
Countless fires under the starlight had been shared with this woman. From Orlando, to Live Oak FL, I had stayed in more than a dozen houses with this woman. To this day I still remember her fried egg sandwich recipe. Toasted bread, light mayo with pepper on the bread, and one egg over easy light garlic powder.
Sometimes a part of me wishes it was a dream. I think back over all the times that were genuinely good, times that I felt happy as a child. They never feel happy anymore, but I know they were. I can hear my own laughter when I think about them, can remember all the words we spoke, the songs we sang together.
I know it wasn't a dream because for a week afterward, she made me stay home from school wearing a diaper. Hiding me in my great grandfather's bedroom like the dirty secret I was. I couldn't use the bathroom without bleeding for another two weeks after that.
Shortly after this, she sent me to live with a white family that our family was friends with. Just a year into my time with this family, my mother shot herself. Six months later my grandmother overdosed on pills, dying in the Live Oak E.R. as her lung collapsed. One year later my final guardian, my elderly great-grandmother who had been in a nursing home for the past six years passed just days before my thirteenth birthday.
At that point what had started as abusive episodes, turned into a volatile living situation. What had started as severe spankings, and choking, turned into beatings with closed fists. Calling me several varieties of the word nigger while making me work, and nanny their children instead of attending school.
Across the globe child sexual assault impacts hundreds of millions of people and has been for decades. Every year more and more children face abuse. Many of them make the same mistake that I did. Clamming up, and distrusting every adult around them for years.
In 2017-2018 the United States saw a rise of six percent in child sexual assault cases. We saw a massive spike in online child sexual abuse imagery as well. According to data from a UK-based child safety non-profit known as The Internet Watch Foundation the United States led the world in URLs containing child sexual abuse imagery.
This isn't a third-world issue. It's not an inner city issue. I was abused in Suwannee county Florida, which has a population of 44k, and I was four hundred feet from the river. We had to install our own street lights because my great-grandfather hated how dark it was.
While passionate individuals scream for the death of all pedophiles, unfortunately, that attitude does not actually help. Attacking the predator after it has already sunk its teeth into the lamb does nothing for the lamb. Certainly, it makes the shepherd find some measure of closure, but it doesn't stitch shut the wounds left behind.
You can not un-rape the child. You can't delete their trauma, and make them the innocent babe they once were. Taking vengeance doesn't stop the act from happening, it only seeks justice for a crime already committed.
This is why we must start to treat pedophilia as a mental illness. How do you stop a predator that can be anyone? The simple answer is that you really can't. From clergymen to teachers, police officers, doctors, and even husbands, wives, and grandparents, there is no place where pedophiles haven't blended in before.
To this day people still listen to Elvis Presley, ignoring his blatant pedophilic relationship with his first wife Priscilla. The "King of rock" once remarked to his friend Rex Mansfield that she was "young enough that I can train her any way I want." They met when she was just fourteen years old. Elvis was twenty-four at the time and stationed in Germany as a member of the U.S. Army.
It is impossible to screen out these people. Women miss it in their husbands, children miss it in their fathers, and almost everyone misses it when it's in a woman. The only way we find out about these people is when they get so comfortable they make a mistake.
At one point other mental health disorders were the same way. People suffering from some variety of psychosis, or sociopathy have hidden it well. Using their illness to ascend the ranks of various organizations and corporations. The way we have combatted this issue is by offering help to these people. Studying those who were willing to come forward, and understand the cause of their violent, erratic behavior.
Violent crime rates have certainly decreased since psychosis/sociopathy began to be treated humanely. Since 1991 the violent crime rate has dramatically fallen, despite a spike in violent media consumption, and the population of the internet. Coincidentally the 90s saw a major shift in the public perception of mental health.
As someone who was molested, I wonder if that might not be the answer. Persecute those who offend as we would any psychopath/sociopath, but offer help to prevent the ones who haven't offended from offending. You can't un-rape the child, but if we can get pedophiles to come forward, and seek help, we can monitor them better.
This would allow us to better prevent them from harming children. To monitor potential threats, and keep children away from them. Sure we have the sex offenders registry, but the problem with that is in its name. "Offenders" means they have already harmed a child.
Someone has already had their lives changed forever. They have already been traumatized. And that's just assuming they are caught the first time. Multi-time offenders alter the lives of dozens, if not hundreds of kids. What if we got those people to come forward, and seek mental health treatment before those kids were harmed?