By Terry Joseph
May 26, 2006
Long ago, it was not uncommon for a visiting uncle to demand nieces play “horsie” on his lap, a ritual cheerfully endorsed by parents thinking relatives couldn’t possibly harbour inappropriate fantasies.
Actually, any older man, having earned the trust of those parents through whatever ruse, enjoyed patriarchal rights from the family being visited; such occasions rendered all the merrier if he frequently called at the home bearing trinkets for everyone.
Bereft of an appeal process, objection was futile. A conspiracy of social values forced children into submission and by the same opportunity, imbued the lecher with extraordinary power, enhanced by the tenet: “Little children should be seen and not heard,” which offered safeguards against protest. Uncle was free to insist on as many lap-dances as literally pleased him.
Steadily gaining parental trust, the deviant elder would ramp up the level of the game. His thoroughly inappropriate observation: “Eh! Eh! Like this girl getting little bubbies”, would more likely trigger blushing laughter in the home, than concern among less-astute parents.
He could “pinch the butterfly”, playfully spank prepubescent girls getting too big for their britches or wrestle with boys, each approach containing manoeuvres so subtle, parents either didn’t want to or couldn’t identify ulterior motives from sporadic demonstration. Even when repetition made it obvious, they avoided adducing sinister purpose.
All persons with authority over children had such opportunities and as the folklore will proudly tell you, every adult in the village enjoyed dominion over all its children. The odds of finding a community devoid of sexual predators with such access were clearly not considered.
Far more often than custodians of that era would even today concede, some exemplars abused that power and facility, confident kids wouldn’t squeal, given the social guarantee that if they did, there was a better chance of the child becoming twice the victim than securing redress against the molester.
With the advent of single parenting and concomitant increase in divorce, women desperate to find new mates, selected largely on the basis of how well the man got along with children, often inadvertently delivering fresh temptation into the waiting arms of the paedophile.
None of this is new. According to the 1986 book by Diana E Russell The Secret Trauma: Incest in the Lives of Girls and Women (Basic Books, Inc. NY), stepdaughters were over eight times more at risk of sexual abuse by stepfathers than from biological fathers. Unable to complain at home, residual options included interaction with arms of law-enforcement historically dominated by men.
John Crewdson’s 1988 work, By Silence Betrayed: Sexual Abuse of Children in America (Harper & Row) goes one step further, arguing that “a growing number of stepfathers are really “smart” paedophiles, who marry divorced or single women with families as a way of getting close to children.”
Nor does it need be strictly “family” affairs. Mature men are still revered for having a “young thing” as a constant companion, age difference treated as a badge of honour rather than a warning sign.
Culturally, the concept of mature men and very young girls-statutory rape, really-was not only intact but reinforced at every opportunity. Pop legends Billy Idol and Chuck Berry immortalised “Sweet Sixteen” and the Crests hit No. 1 on the American music charts with “Sixteen Candles”.
Calypso had its own skewed appreciation of “Shame and Scandal in the Family”, revelling in the insinuation of “Benwood Dick”. It took decades before Scrunter advised young ladies at risk to “Take the Number”.
In short: dirty old men didn’t descend without warning, nor are they a product of recent vintage. In those days when any adult from the village had authority over the punishment of any child, only some grown-ups used that facility for social good.
What is now painfully obvious is that many used it for sheer evil, sparing the rod-on the one hand-while striking a bargain that would deliver greater long term trauma, creating subsequent generations comprising an even larger percentage of sexual deviants.
Today’s frequency of sexual abuse of minors was therefore promised long before yesterday and by factoring widespread use of mind-altering substances and contemporary liberalism, not to mention evidence from social workers, the number of cases coming to public attention is nowhere near a true indication of episode tally.
We wept for Akiel Chambers and Sean Luke but a new low is established when a sanctuary for abused children, known by the poignant acronym, CRY, becomes the latest cause for tears.