I would like to start by paying tribute to Dr Robert. The man is a true healer and a rare gem in the world of mental health care..If he ever writes a book in the future I know I would certainly buy it. Something tells me in years to come he will be properly recognised globally for his immense, selfless dedication to helping people the world over with an approach to psychotherapy adapted by very few of his peers..i.e helping people for free because he genuinely cares for them, not because he is being paid to..
First off, genuine child sexual abuse is of course a terrible thing. The use of a child for sexual gratification by an adult or older teen/adolescent (i.e somebody who knows what sex is, knows what self gratification is and how to do it, could normally have sex with same age peers if they wanted to etc...)is something I think most of us find very upsetting and hard to understand. I know somebody who suffered sexual abuse as a child to the hands of an elderly man and I know the devastating impact it can have on somebody’s life.
It is understandable therefore in the age we live in that the internet is awash with websites and forums on child sex abuse. There are a multitude of papers online from various academics and experts, child care workers etc were they seek to define what child sexual abuse is. While most of us instinctively know what it is without having to write it down, the academic world requires that topics for study are “defined”. And so an intellectual narrative is arrived at and people give their opinion on the matter, or on what they believe constitutes normal childhood behaviour etc. Each time an academic writes a paper or each time a Child Support worker issues a guideline document, what they say becomes immortalised to a certain extent.
None of us of course, can control this and at the end of the day, everybody is entitled to their opinion. But we must always remember, no matter how many letters somebody has after their name, no matter how many qualifications, years of experience in the field or how much of an “expert” they claim to be, this is an aspect of life and human nature that to a greater or lesser extent we all share, and so therefore, we are all entitled to have our own unique opinions on. The opinion of an academic is of no greater or lesser worth than the opinion of any other human being, from mothers and fathers through to children themselves. However what we are exposed to online is generally the viewpoint of academics, professionals, child care workers etc and so their viewpoint can seem at first glance to be refelective of the way everybody thinks about the subject matter. This of course is not so..In the war on child sexual abuse, just like the war on terrorism and the war on drugs etc..there will be innocent parties who suffer for no reason..
Dr Robert tells us that he has received a huge amount of emails on the matter of guilt over child sexuality, many from confused & upset individuals who wonder if they have done something wrong or abused somebody while they themselves were a child ??? They wonder was their behaviour normal or abnormal.
The truth is nobody can truly say what is normal or abnormal childhood behaviour, sexual, physical, mental or otherwise. We just simply don’t know, we don’t have the research to tell us. A few university questionnaires carried out on American students will not tell us. You would have to talk to children and adults all over the world to find out and even then to define “normal” would be difficult. Nobody can intimately follow a child through life 24 hours a day or accept their parent’s observations as the truth. Many of the reports on the matter use people’s memories as the basis for assessing what’s normal. Our memories are subject to being faulty as we know and there are a variety of cultural factors that affect an individual’s viewpoint on whats normal, depending on what part of the world they live in. Basically what might be normal childhood sexual behaviour in a ten child family living in an Indian shack may not be so normal to an affluent British family with only one child.. What might be normal child sexual behaviour in an Ethopian tribe may not be normal to an American family etc, the Dutch may view things differently to the Canadians and so on so forth… Despite the fact that Dr Robert has written many extremely comprehensive responses to this issue (and is probably sick of repeating himself) there still appears to be posts on the forum from people seeking guidance. I have no doubt he still continues to receive many emails privately also.
From what I have seen on this website and from posts on this forum there seems to be a common thread emerging. The emails/posts seem to come from individuals who remember incidents from their childhood relating to sexual contact were there was five year age gap between themselves and the other child. Most of the writers appear to have between the ages of 9-11 themselves when the incident happened. Pre pubescent and without an understanding of what sex was or what exactly was happening with their bodies. Most of the posters/writers say that what they are dealing with are upsetting, guilt laden memories and thoughts, i.e the other person involved has never actually said anything to them about the incident since childhood. So in many case’s they don’t know if the other child even remembers any aspect of the incident or if it had any impact on them at all. As nearly all say that the incidents were one off of very infrequent and none to my knowledge have mentioned using force or coercion, I can only deduce that what is causing the upset and guilt is the existence of an age difference between the children.
This obviously stems from the fact that some academics or experts have in the past said that the existence of a five year age gap in, would of its own accord, constitute sexual abuse. It is so sad to think that people the world over have considered suicide over this confusion and many remain severly depressed today constantly wondering where they as a child, a sex offender?? They have read something in a book or the internet and know feel like killing themselves because an “expert” has told them that they should have known better, that as they were the older child they must take the blame, that they have “abused” somebody. And this must be a fact or the truth because the “expert” says it so, the “expert” has decided and know the person is doomed to a miserable existence.
We can’t know exactly why somebody would deal with a definition of sexual abuse in such a blunt, generalistic way. We don’t know what experiences they have had in their own life’s etc.. but in my opinion it is extremely sad that there was not more tact shown by these professionals. There can be very innocent, natural acts of sexual curiosity by six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven year old children brought in to this supposed category of abuse that really belong no where near the term. This normal curiosity of a pre pubescent child is a million miles away from adult sexual behaviour. It does not have the same energy, the same motives, the same feeling or the same rationale. Its commonly spontaneous, unplanned and about touch/sensation. Its hilarious to think that people would seek to retrospectively condemn children in this age group for supposed “abusive” behaviour when in all likelihood they know that these kids probably never had any form of information, discussion or awareness of what sex was passed on to them by the adult world when they committed their so called terrible acts.
These children are not automatically sexually abusing other children, just because the child happens to be five years younger. It is ridiculous to think that the same behaviour could be deemed normal in the event of a 4 year and 11 month age gap and then suddenly deemed sexual abuse if an extra month is added on. This is quite clearly nonsense. I don’t know who the first person was to come up with this logic but in a way it’s not that surprising. In the intellectual world of academia its always necessary sooner or later to quantify and measure so I’m sure at some stage somebody decided that “5” was the magic number following a peer review that asked the author to put their money where their mouth was when it came to defining the problem of an age gap with child sexual behaviour.
Of course we don’t encourage our children to act out sexually with each other, either with children of the same age or with children five years younger. However we can’t bring our mature adult mindset and standards and then suddenly start imposing them on children. Labelling them “sexual abusers” and offloading our discomfort with the subject matter on to them. This whole area is delicate and needs to be treated with consideration and proper understanding. Ridiculous sweeping generalisations or definitions can cause a lot of unnecessary upset but only if they are allowed to do so.
Of course young children can do worrying things, including acting in a sexually aggressive manner. This is obviously a cause for concern and indicative of the need for specialist treatment and intervention. However rushing to label children as sexual abusers is not the way to go about things. Every case needs to be taken on its own merit, every case will be unique and ridiculous generalisations and definitions help nobody at all.
I hope that people out there carrying the unnecessary guilt from childhood memories can let it go and get on with their lives. It is not my intention to offend anybody with this post or downplay how serious genuine sexual abuse can be. These are only my opinions and as I said already, they are no more or less valid than anybody elses. Sexual abuse victims deserve every bit of sympathy, support and understanding. However professionals in this field must act responsibly in terms of how they deal with the matter and using a sledgehammer to crack a nut is not the way to go about it. Thankfully common sense seems to have taken over almost all of the main child protection governmental bodies the world over and nobody appears to be defining the term sexual abuse in the ridiculous way that some individuals chose to ten or fifteen years ago...So if you are carrying this guilt unnecessarily, please let it go!!!
Paul, thanks for your kind words and an interesting post. The idea of a book has been suggested to me often, but at present I prefer the immediacy of the web along with the stimulation of meeting other minds directly to the protracted, solitary labor required to produce a tome, particularly since I seek no special recognition, but simply enjoy being of service when possible.
Yes, Paul, I agree wholeheartedly. The doctor is a great man, and a truly great spirit who deserves to be known all over the world whether he cares about that or not. If I had some way of promoting him, I would.
Personally I think a book would be a good idea!
1. It would bring the issue into a wider professional debate cirlce than an online forum.
2. This would be due to the fact that a published, peer reviewed book would garner more respect and attention from professonals.
3. I would also garner more respect I think from ordinary people like myself who have also been struggling with the issue in hand and give the kind of advice you give more wieght than on an online forum, which anyone could start up and pose as soemone else etc. That is not MY position on your site (though I would say I do have qualms due to the apparently - to my mind - random and arbitary selectivity in which posts you choose to reply to or not as in the cae of my own on page 1 of this forum for example, yet on other posts on the SAME topic, posted a month or 2 subsequent to mine - you HAVE replied) but it's a fact that in society, peer reviewed books published by a good publisher are simply respected more and deemed to have earned their credentials more than websites.
And it all happens because of these kind of headlines..
Yes, good point, BloodyTears.
This demonizing of childhood sexuality is, I think, a direct result of the outrageous religious mania which has taken over in the US. European countries do not have this attitude and it shows in their social arrangements. But in the US, everyone is presumed guilty just for being sexual at all. This is fairly recent--the past twenty-five years or so. Before that, religion was more of a private matter. Now the entire mess is intertwined with politics and money. What an affliction all this morality (from a book!) is.