What happens when a child is the victim of a molester who is a family member? What emotional pain will the child continue to suffer well into adult years? What feelings of guilt will the parents experience when made aware of their child’s trauma while in their care?
I recall such an occasion when a detective came to my office, wanting to share a severe emotional trauma. I will call him David.
David had been a police officer for 16 years. He was professional, thorough, confident, and excelled in his position. As a detective, David continued with his devotion to his work and was a highly productive detective. There were never any signs of any personal or emotional problems with him.
David, obviously distraught and shaken, went on to share that as a child, living in his parents’ home, he was sexually abused by a family member that had been temporarily staying with them. David had suppressed this trauma and went on to live a productive personal and professional life. He explained the perpetrator had returned to the area. His painful memories were no longer suppressed. By all appearances, David was a devout Christian, and his witness was an example for all around him.
I referred David to our mental health services for evaluation and treatment. The year was around 1987, before the 1996 Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, better known as HIPAA. However, even at that time, disclosure of treatment or diagnosis was never provided to supervisory personnel unless the (client) officer was a threat and should not be armed. David returned to duty and continued to serve as a great detective.
Excluding David, I witnessed many other examples of innocent children who were victims of pedophiles. They never get over those perverted and tragic experiences. It was incredibly difficult for David: the pedophile was a trusted family member. As with David, the strongest of people carry the guilt and pain of molestation. Also, people close to us can be exempt from suspicion.
Pedophiles are all too often stereotyped as some ugly older man enticing children to come to him, offering candy or favors in exchange for their attention. People ignore the fact that child molesters can be anyone, including family members, clergy, friendly parishioners, neighbors, work associates and others in a position of trust. Many of these pedophiles are respected members of the community. Child molesters come from all walks of life. Those who hide behind a cloak of normality and respectability are the worst offenders of all.
The U.S. Department of Justice developed the following characteristics and behavioral indicators of a pedophile: the incestuous or interfamilial molester is usually an adult male, married, works in a wide range of occupations, and relates well with children. He socializes with few adults unless they are pedophiles. He prefers children in a specific age group, either males or females, but may be bisexual. He may seek employment or volunteer with programs involving children of the age of his preference, pursuing children for sexual purposes. He frequently photographs or accumulates photographs of his victims, either dressed, nude, or in sexually explicit acts. He may collect child erotica and child-adult pornography. He may possess and furnish narcotics to his victims.