Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

They Are Not All Monsters –Dr. Nancy Irwin’s Weblog

“In psychology, there is a basic belief that “What is beautiful is good.” Therefore, if someone who is beautiful (or does beautiful things) does something bad, it creates cognitive dissonance, a confused state of being that can block comprehension and appropriate action.”

They Are Not All Monsters (article at  Dr. Nancy Irwin’s Weblog)

hile many are still reeling from the recent painful Penn State scandal, I fervently hope that this will be a tremendous learning lesson for our society.  As a treatment professional of sex offenders as well as victims, I would like to address some dynamics of perpetrators and witnesses that the public in general is perhaps unaware of.

What do child molesters look like?  Your grandfather, your brother, your aunt, your employee, and yes, brilliant college football coaches.  No one is all good or all bad; and sex offenders are no exception. They may be extremely talented, intelligent, successful, good-looking, blessed with beautiful families and “normal” sexual outlets. They cover all walks of life: early 20’s through 70’s, all ethnicities, races, religions, IQ levels, education, sexual orientations, and all socioeconomic strata. They don’t all look like “perverts.” There is no typical profile.

In psychology, there is a basic belief that “What is beautiful is good.”  Therefore, if someone who is beautiful (or does beautiful things) does something bad, it creates cognitive dissonance, a confused state of being that can block comprehension and appropriate action.  It is fairly easy for us to believe that an unattractive, low-achiever could commit sex crimes against children, and we then vilify the “pervert,” even after he/she admits it works to control it.

Many child molesters and pedophiles actually hate themselves for what they consider uncontrollable urges and would get help if they knew where to turn.  Sadly, the global belief is that they cannot be helped, and most reoffend.  Fortunately, this is completely false.  With treatment, the recidivism rate is between 5%-13%, much lower than for non-sex crimes (US Dept of Justice; Bureau of Statistics). While there is no cure for an attraction to children, it can be managed much like substance addictions.  Again, therapy and support are crucial to success.

Adults fail to intervene and report abuse for a variety of reasons, one of the most salient being denial or minimization of the offense.  This is enabling, and enablers are more culpable than offenders, who can be “crippled” by their  disorder. Enablers do not want the offense to be a reality, and keenly hope that it will just “go away,” particularly if it involves a celebrity or someone we really admire. The American culture all but deifies sports figures.  We want heroes, and athletes and coaches bespeak health, fitness, confidence, winning, and an all- American wholesomeness that blinds some of us to their blemishes or weaknesses. While not excusing their response to the recent accusations at Penn State, Joe Paterno, Mike McQueary, Spanier, et al, I believe, were caught in this immobilizing, enabling position. While it appears that they put football before the wellbeing of children, potentially what was occurring was their inability to comprehend the severity of the crime and respond appropriately. Their actions may have been completely different and appropriate if the perpetrator were a stranger and not part of the success machine of Penn State Football.

November 16, 2011 - Posted by | Consumer Health, Consumer Safety, Public Health | , , , , , ,

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