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Getting Out : Creeps

Understanding Sexual Abuse

from anovagrrl - Wednesday, August 27, 2003
accessed 3264 times

There are very few international or cross-cultural defintions of child maltreatment.

There are places in the world--and the United States is one of them--where actively promoting masturbation among minors would be considered abuse. At a minimum, it is viewed by Child Protective Service (CPS) workers as "grooming behavior" designed to normalize adult/child sexual exchanges. Although "grooming" a child may not result in a conviction and prison sentence for sexual abuse, I can guarantee you that in most states there is a high likelihood that CPS workers will remove children from homes where adults engage in this type of activity.

I'm not talking about a situation where an adult informs a minor that masturbation is normal and healthy or that the appropriate place for this activity is in private. I'm talking about adults encouraging children and adolescents to actively engage in mastrubation by instructing or showing them explicitly how to go about doing it. As in "Loving Jesus."

In the some countries--Sweden, for example--clinical practitioners will sometimes instruct young people with serious emotional disorders in masturbatory methods as part of their treatment plan. In the United States, this is strictly forbidden as a form of treatment and would be viewed as grooming a child to engage in inappropriate sexual contact with an adult. During the early 1990s, the Surgeon General for the Clinton Administration--Dr. Jocelyn Elders--was forced to resign from her position as the nation's chief medical officer because she recommended that sex education programs should encourage adolescent masturbation as a means of "safe sex."

Although you may not believe at this time that you were abused, you may change your mind about this after you have learned more about what child welfare experts consider healthy discipline, appropriate socialization, and normal human development in cross-cultural settings. Furthermore, no one can know for a fact that younger sisters or brothers in TF are NOT experiencing sexual abuse (SA). Sexual perpetration is typically done in secret. It may involve coersion, where the victim feels too threatened to disclose, or seduction, where the victim feels that s/he enjoyed it, actively participated, and no harm was done. In both cases, a deep sense of shame leads to silence and denial.

It is estimated that one in four "systemite" girls growing up in the U.S. experiences sexual abuse. Just because David Berg is dead, there's no reason to believe that the SA statistic is any better for kids growing up in TF than for kids in the system. There's plenty of evidence to suggest that tightly bounded patriarchal social systems such as TF are an ideal breeding ground for child perpetrators. Yes, even the Amish have a problem with child SA! I seriously doubt there are enough social, emotional, economic, or professional supports in TF for recently victimized children & adolescents to disclose very much of anything that might occurring.

Victims frequently "forget about it" until they reach a point in life where they feel safe enough to "remember" and secure enough talk about it openly. It is not unusual for sexually victimized individuals to remain silent until their mid-to-late 20s and early 30s, when they finally have enough information and life experience to put their childhood experience into perspective--as well as enough social support and economic resources to deal with the consequences of speaking openly to family members and others about the abuse.

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from 70s kid
Wednesday, August 27, 2003 - 22:31


Thank you for this article, anovagrrl. I am still dealing with the effects of the childhood sexual abuse I experienced at the hands of my TF shepherds and supposed caretakers, which was my first and only sexual experience until much later on the outside due to the rule changes TF made when I was growing up.

You mention coercion and seduction as alternatives methods for perpetrators. Do you think the TF brand of child sexual abuse when it was permitted was maybe a mix of the two, maybe even with extra elements added? It was coercion to put kids through that who knew nothing else in the world and had nowhere to go, and it was maybe seduction because we were forced to believe we were "sharing" and it was a godly thing, even an honor. for me this became confusing since I knew how I was supposed to feel doctrinally about the situation, but I still felt shame and just plain grossed out. For those of us initiated by adults in the early 80s, it was often an open thing that people even felt free to make "cute" about. At least in my corner of the world. Pretty fucking confusing. I still am totally confused about romance, I mean I have a new outlook but I don't have much hope for ever living it as a normal person, I think I am too scarred.

BTW, is there any good reading about Freud's theoretical flip-flop on child sexual abuse?

(reply to this comment)

From anovagrrl
Thursday, August 28, 2003, 09:54


First off, I do make errors of fact when I write stuff off the top of my head during a coffee break. IMHO, errors in fact do not necessarily negate the substantial truth of the material I post.

I used the wrong term to discuss Freud's original theory re: sexual abuse. Regarding childhood SA, Freud initially proposed "Seduction Theory" (NOT infantile wish fulfillment). Freud later replaced Seduction Theory with Oedipal Theory--and specifically in the case of women--the Electra Complex--which states that male children have an unconscious wish for sex with their mothers and females for sex with their fathers. Oedipal theory gets really complex and is highly debatable.

The groundbreaking study on Freud's flip-flop re Seduction Theory was done by Jeffrey Masson (1981) in The Assault on Truth: Freud's Suppression of the Seduction Theory. Masson's conclusions are hotly debated by Freudianians.

An introductory chapter on the subject of imagined versus actual childhood sexual seduction can be found in a seminal study by Diana Russell (1986), The Secret Trauma: Incest in the Lives of Girls and Women. Although there are some methodological limitations to her study (meaning: errors in the way she gathered and interpreted "facts"), Russell's seminal work is widely accepted as having established the reality ("truth") of childhood sexual trauma.

Finally, I would agree that the officially sanctioned child SA promoted by David Berg during your childhood is VERY confusing. I would add that the social and culturally (religious) sanctioned abuse you experienced is somewhat unique in the known universe of child SA. Encouraging little girls to dance topless in their underwear was aimed at grooming COG children for more invasive and overt sexual activity. You were being taught to behave in a seductive manner from very early childhood. Seduction involves enticement, encouragement, and stimulation of the child's natural sensuality beyond a level that is age appropriate. Coersion involves threats, punishment, shaming, etc. Psychological manipulation falls somewhere in between on the continuum. I'd say you experienced quite a lot of psychological manipulation. That is, after all, the hallmark of a psychopath's "charisma".

From what you describe, pleasure and pain are intertwined in ways that are extremely difficult to pull apart. This is not an uncommon sequelae to abuse among SA survivors. The social and cultural context in which your experience took place adds a complicating factor that makes it unique. IMHO, there is no such thing as "normal" where human sexuality is concerned. By that I mean, regardless of how an individual was raised or how mainstream s/he outwardly appears to be, we've all got psychosexual kinks and quirks that make each of us "different" or "queer" in some way. Some of us are more obviously different than others. The main thing is to get comfortable in your own skin (self accepting). I believe that if you choose to work on it, you will eventually grow comfortable in your own skin--even though you may outwardly remain more obviously different than others.(reply to this comment

From Mir
Thursday, September 11, 2003, 17:40

Just a question, would you give the same advice: "the main thing is to grow comfortable in your own skin" to a pedophile? Or a rapist? Or someone who is incestuous or is into bestiality? I mean, where do we draw the line?(reply to this comment
From anovagrrl
Thursday, September 11, 2003, 20:23

I draw the line at the point where a person is the victimizer rather than the victim. I draw the line when someone has treated another human being purely as an object of utility. (The bestiality example applies here, too.) The only condition under which I'd encourage a perpetrator to move toward greater self-acceptance is if that person demonstrated s/he had taken responsibility for his/her crime.(reply to this comment
From 70s kid
Thursday, September 11, 2003, 01:29


OK, I got freaked out so I went away for a bit, but I have a few things that have stuck with me from your comments that I want to mention. First though I will apologize in advance if I get emotional or I get angry, it's not personal, it is just a difficult subject.

I really don't get your following comment:

"IMHO, there is no such thing as "normal" where human sexuality is concerned. By that I mean, regardless of how an individual was raised or how mainstream s/he outwardly appears to be, we've all got psychosexual kinks and quirks that make each of us "different" or "queer" in some way. Some of us are more obviously different than others. The main thing is to get comfortable in your own skin (self accepting). I believe that if you choose to work on it, you will eventually grow comfortable in your own skin--even though you may outwardly remain more obviously different than others."

I am not talking about having inclinations I feel are considered odd. I am talking about being ravaged, devastated, obliterated. Is that a "kink" and a "quirk"? If so, then the twin towers are kinky now, and should be more self-accepting and then it would be better for them. What am I supposed to be "self-accepting" about in all this? How do you get comfortable in your own skin if you have been scalped?

I am glad that you explained the following:

"Sorry I got off on that tangent. When I process sensitive information about someone's abuse experience, I will often intellectualize my responses as a way of controlling feelings of sadness and dismay. I am very sorry to hear about what you experienced as a child."

Unfortunately, at the time, what I took in was the intellectualizing, which is disorienting and frightening for me, it felt like I could dissolve, disintegrate. I think it's great that you have so much knowledge and learning in the field, but your comment about the nailed to a bed drawing as well as your comments on another site about "The Girl Who Wouldn't" make me feel like I'm tossing at sea again. I wish it could be a phenomenon that I analyze. Unfortunately, it was my life, the only one I am sure that I have, and certain things are irrevocable. I will never know what it is like to experience these things without the maiming. Perhaps I should avoid the terror of hearing it spoken about with equanimity by shutting up.

P.S.: you are brave.(reply to this comment

From anovagrrl
Thursday, September 11, 2003, 20:14


I am so very sorry if I've said insensitive things. I cannot possibly know all the dimensions of your reality, which you continue to describe so vividly and powerfully. I cannot know if I'm being helpful or hurtful unless you tell me how you feel about things I post. I appreciate your courage and honesty.

Without knowing very much about you, I was attempting to reflect on my own experience of abuse. Over many, many years I have learned self-acceptance, which means I've learned how to live more comfortably in a body that carries the lacerations of sexual trauma. I'm not suggesting that what I experienced in my own childhood is comparable to what you have lived through and continue to live with. Just like you, I only have my own experience to reflect upon.

For much of my life I felt like a freak. Nowadays the word I use to explain that awareness is queer. To you "queer" has connotations like "kink" and "quirk." Maybe I should go back to using the word freak, but then, I no longer feel like a disfigured monstrosity. I just feel queer, different. I have given up trying to figure out what "normal" means.

This forum--an online chatboard--is a very unusual place for two people to be having this level of communication. If I was listening to you face-to-face, I would know better than to intellectualize a response. Frankly, I am personally revolted by the image of a woman crucified to a bed. If you were watching me listen to you tell your story about the crucified woman, you would have seen my face drain in a moment of nauseating self-recognition. I've learned to handle my fear of vulnerability by intellectualizing.

As I get more involved with this chatboard and others, it is my desire to move past such defensive reactions by become as human as I know how to be in an online setting. Your posts force me to get in touch with my humanity, and I thank you for that. While I regret saying anything stupidly insensitive, I am just that--stupid. I cannot get smarter in my comments if you do not educate me about your life experience and perceptions.

As far as my comments about The Girl Who Wouldn't on the other board, please consider the context and audience. I appreciate hearing your reactions to what I write.

(reply to this comment

From 70s kid
Thursday, August 28, 2003, 10:07


Thanks for your informative reply. I will try to write more later, but I would argue that within the context of "The Girl Who Wouldn't"-type attitudes about not "sharing" together with the very harsh discipline received since infancy for even "bad" thoughts, let alone deeds, coercion was the baseline reality. Our upbringing was not only marked by the aberrant acceptance of the child SA but also by the isolation and control exercised over every aspect of our lives. If we are to fully take account of the reality of that context, expecting the same overt signs of coercion would be a bit like saying how free Elizabeth Smart was to run away. And she even had the benefit of a non-isolated childhood up to the time of her kidnapping, which we lacked!(reply to this comment

From anovagrrl
Thursday, August 28, 2003, 23:08

Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5(Agree/Disagree?)

Regarding "the very harsh discipline received since infancy for even 'bad' thoughts": I flashed pretty heavily on a memory from my COG days in 1973. I recall watching a young mother disciplining her toddler--the child couldn't have been any older than 3--under the direction of the colony shepherdess. I was working in the kitchen and all this was occurring on the steps going down to the basement.

This mother kept spanking her child over and over. The kid would cry and scream, and the mother would talk to him as he began to calm down. The toddler listened in silence. Then the mother started spanking him again, he cried, she would go into rebuking a sobbing toddler who had nothing to say. This process went on for what seemed like an eternity. When I become obviously freaked out about what was going on, the shepherdess pulled me aside and explained that what the mother was doing was necessary in order to break the child's will. This breaking would allow the kid to "get the victory."

I thought to myself, victory over what? His pain? His shame and humiliation? Victory over his THOUGHTS? I asked the shepherdess how the mother could know whether or not her child was "getting the victory," since the kid wasn't saying anything. I also asked if they weren't expecting too much from a toddler. Needless to say, I didn't get any satisfactory answers to my questions.

When I think about it today, I feel dumbfounded by the cruelty and rage that mother poured out on her child. I am even more astonished that there was someone in a "teaching" position who instructed her in how to break a child's will. Or that I was standing there watching it go on with no clue about how to stop it. Christ, we were such a despicable bunch of fools and freakin' Nazi jackboots!(reply to this comment

From 70s kid
Thursday, August 28, 2003, 10:10

P.S., I am curious where you found the "pleasure" in what I described (which you said was intertwined with pain)?(reply to this comment
From P.P.S.
Thursday, August 28, 2003, 10:23

Reward and punishment might be a better term. But "pleasure"?? Really! In my own personal experience, I never understood pleasure to even be an expected element. Remember, "sharing" like FFing was a highly "sacrificial" act! Sharing was mostly for the poor men who would die if they were not attended to, and for the woman, it was being crucified to a bed. It WAS Berg who came up with the whole thing. In that cultural context the message I got was that sex was like any other need, like hunger, and as the Bible says, "if a brother or sister" be in need of being clothed and fed, well, shame on you for not remedying that (funny how they didn't extend that to feeding and clothing their children who left). At least, if there was some "pleasure" concept involved, my child self missed that part of the lesson. In my own personal experience, pleasure was an alien concept that never came into the picture. When my 30-year old self goes back in my head to my 12-year old self at those times I am astounded at having had to experience so much while knowing and understanding so little. I don't think growing up in the Family I understood much about pleasure.(reply to this comment
From anovagrrl
Thursday, August 28, 2003, 20:11


I agree that reward and punishment are better terms than pleasure and pain. When I wrote "pleasure and pain" I was thinking about stuff I learned about the development of neural pathways in the limbic system as a consequence of trauma and abuse.

I have not read The Girl Who Wouldn't. Someone on the exfamily site has asked me to read it and tell her what I think. I don't know where to obtain a copy. Could you help me?

Crucified to a bed? Jeez, that's interesting. There was a 17th century Catholic mystic-- St. Mary Margaret Alacoque of the Visitation Sisters--who described visions of being joined (crucified) with Jesus the "marital bed" of the cross. She experienced intensely ecstactic trances, which could be interpreted as dissociative episodes often seen in trauma victims. If you read her biography, she alludes to circumstances and events in her childhood that hint at perpetration by male family members. Mary Margaret's writings provide very interesting material for psychological autopsy.

Sorry I got off on that tangent. When I process sensitive information about someone's abuse experience, I will often intellectualize my responses as a way of controlling feelings of sadness and dismay. I am very sorry to hear about what you experienced as a child.(reply to this comment

From 2 cents
Thursday, August 28, 2003, 20:41


Lord Justice Ward spoke specifically of that drawing of the woman criucified to the bed as particularly revolting. I have a copy of it.(reply to this comment

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