Children sexually assaulted by paedophiles are not the only ones who are groomed, writes Clinical Psychologist Dr Michelle Epstein.
Bravo to the Headmaster and the Dean of Sport at St Kevin’s College, in Melbourne (ABC, 4 Corners, 17/02/2020). What spectacular contempt for the findings and recommendations of the Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses To Child Sexual Abuse.
Not only did they completely abrogate their duty to protect and help children in their care, they provided a character reference for a convicted sex offender.
The real problem is that this is not an isolated case. As a Clinical Psychologist who has over 30-years experience treating adults who were sexually abused during childhood, I hear about so many cases where convicted paedophiles routinely get reduced or stayed prison sentences, or merely community service orders, due to the influence of character references.
Ok, so he or she was a sexual predator but, apart from that, he or she is a really great person and therefore doesn’t deserve to be punished.
Of course all these character references speak of a person who has dedicated their life to working with children. The fact that they have always gone out of their way to help, mentor, coach and teach children, is deemed proof of their good character.
Surely only a really nice person gives up their weekends and spare time helping children? In their own home?
By systematically placing themselves in positions of trust and authority with children and within institutions, the paedophile not only gets extraordinary, unfettered access to potential victims, he/she also develops an impressive CV and a long and illustrious history of being a ‘really good person’.
This is the modus operandi of the charismatic sociopath; leaving a very visible trail of good deeds and high-status referees. Many will be awarded medals, honorary positions, lifetime memberships and Orders of Australia. They will position themselves to be beyond reproach and above the law.
The other problem is that judges and people in positions of authority do not seem to understand that this is part of the phenomenon of grooming.
In 2020, everybody is familiar with the concept of grooming. However, it does not seem to be widely understood that it is not only the children who are groomed.
In order to be put in positions of trust so that children will be placed in your care, the paedophile must groom neighbours, friends, parents, teachers, headmasters, sport’s masters, clubs, communities, organisations, institutions, parishes, popes, politicians, prime ministers and shock jocks.
Tragically, when high-status people give character references for convicted paedophiles, they do not realise they have been groomed over many years or even decades for the precise moment when the paedophile is found out, and is in great need of people in high places to vouch for him.
This is the paedophile’s insurance policy. Whether its ex-prime ministers vouching for Pell or Headmasters vouching for athletics coaches, it is the result of systematic, calculated grooming and long-term planning.
The stage was set years before; the script perfected for the actors to enter on cue to deliver their lines.
All who are groomed to clear the way for paedophiles, are victims of deception. Unfortunately, people in positions of authority do not even want to think about the possibility that they were used, duped, manipulated and befriended for the sole purpose of aiding and abetting sexual crimes against children.
It’s unthinkable and unbelievable, so they don’t think about it and they don’t believe it. If it helps their denial, they don’t believe the victims either.
It takes courage, self-reflection, healthy self-doubt, insight, empathy, humility, conscience and morality to stop, think and question your certainty.
It takes guts to entertain the possibility that you were abused in such a callous and calculated way by someone you trusted, liked, admired and supported.
It takes character. After-the fact feeble apologies and face-saving statements of regret really don’t count.
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