(The following is the 9th in a series of posts related to my re-reading of Miss America by Day: Lessons Learned from Ultimate Betrayal and Unconditional Love, by Marilyn Van Derbur.)
Following on content from my previous posts on Chapter 1 of Miss America by Day, another point:
The facade is real.
At least, the facade is often real to a substantial degree, when it comes to “perfect” families, such as Ms. Van Derbur’s, or, at least, economically and socially successful, apparently normal families, such as mine was, in which child sexual abuse is occurring.
There sometimes seems to be an unspoken assumption, among many people—an assumption which people holding it may fail to articulate even to themselves—that any aspects of a child sexual abuser’s life that are considered as positive or virtuous from a societal standpoint are obviously “false”—mere fronts whose basic purpose, in the abuser’s life, has been that of camouflage; i.e., to help conceal the abuser’s abusive “core” identity and lifestyle.
And yet my experience in the case of my father—and based, as well, on various books, articles, and other materials regarding child sexual abusers, including research results, that I’ve read over the years—has convinced that a child sexual abuser can be every bit as genuine about various socially virtuous and positive aspects of their lives as any non-abusing adult.
In the case of my father, for example, I believe he was every bit as genuinely interested in and committed to his roles as a university professor (at Vanderbilt University) and as a regularly attending member of one of Nashville’s most prominent Presbyterian churches (Westminster) as a great many professors and churchgoers who are not child sexual abusers.
In the case of dysfunction on the order of, say, alcoholism or even drug dependency, society, I believe, has come a long way since the time of my childhood—the 1950s and 60s—in realizing that a person having a dysfunction such as alcohol or drug abuse can genuinely lead an entirely normal, productive, successful life in many other respects. Similar progress has, however, been quite limited when it comes to child sexual abusers, such that any aspects of their lives which involve social productivity, success, and normalcy tend to be viewed as somehow “false”—as not a part of their true, authentic identity—thereby more easily allowing the perception of child sexual abusers, implicitly if not explicitly, as being beyond the pale of what can be considered as being human—allowing them to more easily be perceived as out-and-out “monsters” rather than all too human beings who sexually abuse children. The popular categorization of child sexual abusers as “monsters” can, it seems to me, make it easier for society to avoid the task of working towards the development whatever approaches and methods might most effectively discourage at least some potential abusers from becoming actual abusers.
More on this matter of the abuser’s “facade” in my next post.