If we don’t revamp our thinking about what predators do to boys, a lot of kids are going to fall through the cracks, and a lot of predators will never get caught.
But it’s a complicated matter, because it’s hard to put a simple name on it like “abuse”. We always like to have catchy social phrases and clear concepts – a “handle” – on such things. But in many sexual molests of boys, they don’t work anymore.
Remember “stranger danger”? The guy with the black trench coat and shady hat, lurking behind a tree? Good concept, except that it’s a little like handing out literature on the Ebola virus to millions of healthy Americans. Good to know, but probably will never even affect 99% of them. In the same way, “stranger danger” only applies to the few children who will ever be victims of “stranger rape”.
So we’ve learned to broaden our perspective concerning, especially, “pedophiles” and boys. (Pedophiles is in quotes, because that in itself is a very bad term to use. It means “child lover.” So they have even succeeded in getting us, the ones trying to stop them, into using their own preferred – and horribly twisted – term for what they do. How about “PedoRapist?”) So we began to refer to this type of activity as “abused boys” or “molestation.” That helped some.
But after several years of personally using just such terminology, I realized that the broad brushstroke wasn’t reaching boys’ understanding. That’s because, as sophisticated as most abusers of boys were at surrounding the boy’s molestation with plenty of perks and “good” things, it becomes like trying to explain to a kid who gets free cake and ice cream every day that there’s a sliver of POISON inside. And that it may not hurt him right away, but after fifty or so servings, it will kill him. It’s a tough sell.
So we need to start by understanding, first, why many predators succeed and many boys agree to being sexually used.
In many instances, you have to think of it as a six month to a year or more seduction of the boy. Few predators just meet a boy once or twice and then get them alone and molest them. Rather, they have a whole sack full of tools they use to prepare, weaken and trap the boy:
– Ego strokes, status and flattering
– Treating him like an equal
– Computer games, video games, music, movies
– Allowing adult activities: Smoking, drinking, drugs, pornography
Like it or not, the predator provides an ideal “father figure” many boys crave and don’t have – one who listens, cares, plays, hugs – and that isn’t glued to the television all the time.
Like it or not, that bag of gifts is as real as the wining and dining and gifting many men use to try to get a woman into bed. Deal with the fact that that’s how the predator views it. He’s romancing the boy. And unfortunately, by the time the boy is overwhelmed with all the “stuff” and all the time and attention he’s getting, he’s so hooked that he’s afraid to say no when this father figure/best friend wants to perform oral sex on him, and he will do it out of guilt, or fear of losing the comforting “love” and attention, or both. And once the boy has experienced it, he may actually get hooked on the feelings this “professional sex expert” has provided. The boy may only see the cake, and how nice the baker is, and afraid the baker will get mad and leave and the cake may be gone.
I think you can see what a tough job it is to convince many boy victims that they are victims at all. After all – the abuser gave them all this seemingly “good ” stuff too. And in many cases, in the boy’s mind, he knows dad should have given a lot of those good things like affection and time and didn’t, which may turn into a shocking scenario and revelation to the parent or parents when the boy remains loyal to his abuser – if only out of anger – for the dad that wasn’t available emotionally or physically. “So what?”, the boy may think. “He did stuff to me. It felt good, now everybody wants me to get MAD at him?” In his mind, the benefits of having a nearly full-time friend/dad substitute may far outweigh the shame and guilt of being sexually used. He may even numb his guilt by telling himself, “Yeah, I don’t want to do the sex stuff, but he’s such a nice guy, and he’d really get hurt if I rejected him.” It gets to be a complicated mess.
I believe the lynchpin of changing a boy’s mind has to be a three part work:
(1) Unbrainwashing him.
Help him to see how carefully he was set up, lured and seduced to have sex with this man. Help him see that he would have never even thought about having sex with a man – in fact, the idea would have repulsed him – before he was coaxed and plied with gifts, affection and attention.
(2) Help him to understand, based on the reality of every single boy predator anyone has tracked, that he will only receive all this attention from his “friend” for a year, maybe two. Then, when he reaches puberty, gets muscles and grows pubic hair, his “friend” will lose interest, gently begin pushing him away, find younger friends and then forget him. And what the boy will be left with is profound loneliness, pain, confusion as to “what he is”, (gay or straight) and an unbearable emptiness.
In other words, we’ve got to convince them in a way they can understand it that they were just used – for sex – from an adult – who is already looking for a younger “friend”.
(3) If you can get him this far, the next move should be fairly simple. Tell him his “friend” is about to do the same thing to another boy – probably younger than him. Statistically it’s nearly 100% inevitable. To this new boy will go all the gifts, the time, and the attention, and the boy will see it happen until eventually he is completely abandoned by his “friend”. And then the new boy will eventually be abandoned and replaced, too.
Hopefully, that will be enough to stir up the real fear of this inevitable future scene, and stir up enough real anger at being abandoned and betrayed and dumped like yesterday’s garbage to get him to talk, to testify, to take this soul-cannibal down. Help him to see what’s going to happen to his friend’s next victim. “Do you want another kid to go through what you went through?” Get him to fight for the next kid.
The phrase “molested boys” doesn’t connect with a great number of boys who are being sexually used by adult predators. But betrayal, being used, and being rejected because they grew up – that, I think, carefully and starkly portrayed, may.
Out with the “abused boys” terminology. I’m not sure what to replace it with. “Broken boys”, maybe. “Seduced, used and abandoned boys”, perhaps. Unfortunately, it really is nearly impossible to sum up such an evil and complex crime with one of the clever, easy to digest psychological catch phrases we are so fond of.
If all else fails, don’t hesitate to bring in another older “discarded boy) who has recovered and is fighting back, to talk to the boy. He may be able to explain it in a way the boy will understand – and respond to.