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Friday, June 22, 2012

From Sex Trafficed Child To Child Advocate: The Men's Group

The Men’s Group

Because of the distance Vicki

was driving Isaac recommended that she
attend a group therapy for women.  There was no cost for this group
and it would give Vicki more therapy time to help compensate for the
long drive.   Isaac said that different kind of healing takes place with group
therapy and Vicki was interested.   The group met once a week in an
old church building, but from the beginning Vicki didn’t like it.

It was all about anger for those women.  They couldn’t even function;
they hated men so much.  Their lives were a wreck and I couldn’t
identify with any of them.  None of them could even hold a job; in
fact, they were so angry they had to meet on a different hall than the
Offender’s Group.  They threatened to claw the eyes out of those men
if they passed them in the hall.

After several sessions with the Victim’s Group, Vicki decided to quit.
 Therapy was hard enough without getting depressed being around those
women.  They talked about anger and retribution, not about forgiveness
and that’s what our church stressed.  That’s the direction Vicki
wanted to go in.  Then she had the idea of attending the Offender’s
Group.  These were men, accused or convicted of incest or sexual abuse
of children, that were court-mandated to attend.   It would require
special permission, interviews and the consent of the men’s group, but
Vicki thought it might be helpful in understanding her father and his
motivation.  She hoped it might eventually lead to forgiveness.

Although the men were initially wary of having a victim in their
meetings, Vicki was tentatively accepted into the group.  On average
about twenty men attended the once a week meeting.  If they missed a
meeting, they were immediately sent back to jail.  This was a
mandatory part of their probation.  There were also one or two other
women—a wife and a girlfriend of two of the offenders—at the weekly
meetings.   Much like an AA meeting trained therapists helped the men
acknowledge and come to terms with their crime.  Whenever a new member
came into the group, each was required to “tell his story”.

Vicki learned that all of the men were sex addicts and sometimes had
gone to great and crazy lengths to get that rush.  They had almost all
been molested as children and some had thought that it was just part
of your initiation into life:  even though it was illegal, it was like
speeding—everybody did it.  They had been convicted of molesting girls
between the age of eight and twelve, usually their own daughters.
Each man had already spent time in jail and was doing individual
therapy with a counselor like Isaac, Vicki’s therapist.  It was
embarrassing for them to be in such a group and almost all of them
wanted to get out of it and put this behind them.  But the truth was
that their lives were a wreck.  Inevitably their wives divorced them
and they lost contact with their children.

When Vicki did not castigate the men for their crime, a healing,
reciprocal acceptance entered the group.  To her surprise Vicki came
to like most of the men.  They had much in common; they were both
damaged goods and spent too much time thinking about sex.  Some were
able to compartmentalize their behavior out of consciousness.  One
man, who reminded Vicki of a younger, heavier version of Archie
Bunker, told the group that he would get irate with stories of rapists
and child molesters on TV:  “They ought to cut their-you-know-what
off!”  he admitted ranting, oblivious to what he was doing to his own

“Sex-offenders” quit being a category for Vicki, but a group of
individuals, each with their own heart-rending story.  She learned
that sex offenders were not born but made.  Much like an alcoholic
they probably had a proclivity but fed it until it became a
full-fledged and out of control addition—not that hard to do in our
sex –saturated society.  Empathy replaced hatred as she got to know
these men and their tragic backgrounds and the uproar that their
malicious behavior had caused in their own lives.  Many had destroyed
their own families and it was just plain sad to see them struggle to
rebuild on those ashes.  But it also created hope for her relationship
with her own father because she had seen that repentance and
restitution was possible.

One of the things that struck me, Vicki, so much in this group was how
hard it is in our society to deal with a sexual addiction. The men
spoke of it often:  How TV, movies and bill boards were always in
their faces and how children were sexualized.   Children’s clothing,
even costumes copied after Walt Disney characters, was often sexual.
And that was 20 some years ago before the internet. I have seen a
sickening increase in sexual crimes against children.  Then it was
said that 6% of the male population becomes addicted to porn.  Now,
with the internet and the increased availability of pornography I am
sure it is much worse.  So we have men (and sometimes women) who are
molested as children and then go on to molest more children and we
have a vicious cycle.  Everyone wants to blame the perpetrator, but I
feel sorrow, as well as anger, towards them.  It is the public
tolerance of the sexualization of children and our sex-saturated
society that leads to child rape and child trafficking.

While Vicki’s father rarely talked about his childhood, we did know a
little.  His father had owned a burgeoning auto parts business but had
drunk himself into bankruptcy and then died.  At fifteen years old
Vicki’s father had to quit school and work to support the family.
Vicki’s grandmother had lived with Vicki when she was a teenager and
was obviously mentally ill.  Vicki saw that her father’s childhood had
been at least as dysfunctional as many of the men in her group.  From
Vicki’s perspective there was room for reconciliation but her father
first had to acknowledge his trespasses.

Since these long biweekly trips to therapy took so much time and
energy, Vicki decided to start making business contacts.  Before long
she was doing drapery estimates and making the trips profitable.  She
would leave around noon on Tuesdays and do any business she had.  Her
session with Isaac lasted from four to five-thirty.   And then she
went to economical restaurant with the three older girls and the
nursing baby.  After dinner it was group therapy with the men’s group.
 It would be around midnight when she returned home.

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