How to Survive an Exorcism

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Recently I commented on Tom O’Carroll’s “Heretic” blog about the striking parallels between religious response to “sin” and treatment for SOs and CSBP (children with “sexual behavior problems”). I based this on professional publications about treatment and stories I’d heard from people forced into it who hadn’t actually abused anyone. (Here’s a particularly harrowing account published in Salon magazine.) Here’s the core of what I wrote:

“Disclosure” of past “abuse” in treatment and taking responsibility for terrible harm done to all people is identical to the public admission of and repentance for sin found in religion. In treatment, questioning with evidence or logic is stopped in its tracks with accusations of “rationalizing,” being “entrenched,” and perhaps being deluded by one’s sickness or other “pedophiles”. In church, such questioning is stopped dead by accusations of being “rebellious toward God” and perhaps deluded by “apostates” or by Satan himself. That’s why those in treatment and those in the church must be kept away from “non-believers.” Both pedophiles and the demon possessed have supernatural-like powers to deceive people and destroy children, souls, and society.

Even treatment providers are like members of the church. Treatment techniques are handed down from the authorities without being questioned because they agree with what they already believe, make the providers feel good, and are punitive toward those othered evil-doers. Some uncomfortable therapists might even avoid questioning the authorities for fear of being excommunicated from the profession and called “pedophile/devil sympathizers.”

It’s important to note than none of this treatment is based on mainstream psychological or sexological research. Treatment for other (even violent) disorders does not use such techniques. So where did they come from? It appears that they emerged (possibly subconsciously) from Western religious ideas about sin.

…there probably are some offenders who have proven themselves in need of authorities over them, like unsocialized children. But it should be clear that in general, authoritarianism will backfire on thinking adults (and children!), leading to defiance or radicalization.

I should add another parallel: the aversive “therapies” used in treatment to eliminate the sexual attraction to children are like exorcism–an effort to remove an evil (“deviant”) power from a person’s being.

This brings me to the point of this blog entry. I recently come across some advice given to a teenage atheist in a conservative Muslim family who feared he was going to be forced by his family to attend an exorcism “retreat,” after having endured similar traumatic sessions before. The advice was from retired Marriage and Family Therapist Richard Wade who apparently authors a series of advice posts for “The Friendly Atheist.”

It was amazing to me how applicable Richard’s advice would seem to be to CSBPs, SOs, and MAPs, especially those who haven’t actually harmed anyone but have been forced into treatment. All I had to do was change three words:

  • “retreat” to “treatment”
  • “atheism” to “sexual feelings”
  • “clerics” to “therapists”

and Richard’s advice reads as follows:

If you end up having to go into treatment, I think you should do whatever it takes to survive with as little hardship for you as possible, and with as little risk for revealing your sexual feelings. Because you are in a vulnerable position with little or no power, I suggest that you play the role of a rather dull and uninteresting student. Do not defy or argue with them, and do not go overboard agreeing with them or pleasing them either. Don’t be too dumb or too smart. Don’t irritate them, and don’t impress them either. Just cooperate properly, adequately, and offer nothing extra that might accidently provoke the therapists to be suspicious and question you closely or browbeat you about your beliefs. Just be another one of the people on whom they’re making money, not someone to notice or to remember. Survive, just for now, the way a chameleon survives by taking on the colors of its surroundings, not standing out at all, one way or another.

I wish I could call in a helicopter rescue, but it’s probably a good thing that it’s impossible anyway. Heroic, dramatic, or drastic measures usually cause more problems than they solve. Bold, reckless courage that is not balanced with prudence and pragmatism is just for the movies. In real life, that’s usually called stupidity. No, because your power, freedom, and choice are very limited, and because there are people around you who could react very irrationally, this will have to be solved with patience, quiet courage, discreet caution, and with carefully selected allies. It will take time.

After you’re out of there you can begin building a plan for a life that will gradually be yours. Eventually, with the help of people who have done the same thing before you, you will be able to be true, free, and open about who and what you are. But the full realization of that will not come right now. Right now you must do whatever is necessary for your short-term safety and survival.

So I’d love to hear from others, especially people who’ve undergone treatment. What do you think of this advice?

ATSA: Welcome to the 20th Century

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I just discovered a groundbreaking article published by ATSA, the premier organization for professionals who treat sex offenders–and the leaders in treatment for people who are attracted to children. Here’s the amazing article.

It’s about a revolutionary new theory that says therapists calling people insulting names might interfere with the therapeutic process! The author shows amazing insight when he says that describing them or their sexuality as “deviant” might actually not be the most optimal way of treating them. Who would have thunk it?! Wow–the author must be a genius! Here are some of his amazing new insights about the words “deviant” and “deviance”:

  • “both words carry a negative valence.”
  • The words are not used anywhere else in the mental health system, only for sexual differences: “People with schizophrenia behave in ways that are different from normal, yet we do not call them deviant or ask them to explore their deviance as part of their treatment. We neither refer to individuals who engage in non-sexual violent behavior as ‘deviant,’ nor do we make them talk about their ‘deviance’ in treatment.”
  • “We do not use these terms [for other clients] because they are indeed derogatory and unsympathetic.”

The article radically speculates that ATSA therapists use these derogatory terms because they would like to think their clients “are very different from us, not only as clinicians, but also as members of society. Yet, this is not really the case.” He cites a cutting-edge study from only 25 years ago that found many “normal” people are sexually attracted to children.

Then the author gives us this incredible nugget of wisdom: “the argument is frequently made that society is our client, rather than the person in front of us. I find it rather striking that we may not even consider the person(s) in front of us to be our client(s). If we have this level of distance from them, I would argue that it is quite difficult to develop a true therapeutic relationship with them. Without a proper therapeutic relationship, treatment becomes compromised.” No! Really?! I never would have thought that ignoring the mental health needs of the person receiving treatment would compromise that treatment!

Next, the article raises this very complex issue: “We do not know if the use of the words ‘deviance’ or ‘deviant’ with our clients impacts the therapeutic relationship, our ability to be warm and empathic, or the way our clients feel about themselves and us.” Hmm. I wonder! Do you think?! It’s just too difficult to answer, even for the high-functioning ATSA therapists!

And here’s another innovative idea: “we inadvertently (or not) encourage our clients to internalize the concept that they are deviant. We require them to talk about their deviance. Therefore, it seems worthwhile to assess how our clients may be affected. On the one hand, they may just reject the label and dismiss us, which begs the question of how well they are connecting with us and the group, and what else they may be dismissing in treatment?”

Wow! I have trouble believing smart clients would dismiss anything that the therapist says. After all, the therapists are the authorities–they know more about the client’s nature, experiences, and behavior than the client himself does, even before they’ve met him! That’s because the profession’s carefully researched articles about MAPs tell therapists how deluded and nefarious all MAPs are, incapable of feeling love or empathy, and incapable of harboring any good motives or doing any good deeds.

The article continues: “On the other hand, if they internalize the label, could that impact their self-image?” He supports this possibility with brand new research on something called “labeling” and “stigma” that’s only been around for about 50 years. No wonder the ATSA therapists have never heard of it! I’m sure it’s not even taught in undergraduate psychology programs yet–not even at leading-edge schools like Liberty University where so many ATSA therapists must have been trained!

The author concludes, “Given the power of labels and their potential effects, it may be time to rethink our use of ‘deviance’ and ‘deviant.’ There are plenty of precedents with the respect to the evolution of terms in psychology. Early in the 20th century, we ceased to use the terms ‘moron’ and ‘idiot’ to refer to intellectually disabled individuals. In fact, we recently opted for the latter term to replace the label ‘mentally retarded’ given that we decided as a society that such a term was derogatory, and rightly so.”

Words escape me! Will readers heed the advice of this article? The ideas just seem too new and untested! I for one am just so amazed that ATSA would even publish something suggesting they could come into the early 20th century, and maybe eventually even join the rest of the mental health profession!

I was sexually abused

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I was sexually abused starting when I was 11, and I am full of rage now about it as an adult. This is my blog to let off steam.

Studies have shown that the effects of sexual abuse can be long-lasting and can include poor self-esteem, sleep disturbances, anxiety disorders, intense shame and loathing about sexuality, depression, self-harming behavior, substance abuse, and suicidal thoughts and behavior. I’ve struggled with the first three all my life, and only in mid-adulthood resolved the fourth one. I still deal with hopelessness and lack of motivation (I don’t think it’s clinical depression) and sometimes think suicide could be a rational course of action, but I guess my desire for a better life prevents me from seriously considering it.

People never talk about how sexual abuse causes these effects. They can’t even rationally talk about what sexual abuse really is, instead sticking to simplistic moralistic condemnations. When they do that, how can they expect to understand sexual abuse, ways of preventing it, or ways to help victims? One has to decide which is more important: protecting children from harm, or enforcing a moralistic agenda. These two things are NOT always the same!

Everyone can agree that an adult coercing or manipulating a child into sexual behavior is harmful and therefore reprehensible. It’s especially harmful when an authority figure does it, when it involves humiliation or shaming, and/or when it happens repeatedly—that’s why my abuse was so harmful.

It began when I was 11, when I admitted to myself that I was gay. I was a defective, disgusting, shameful “queer”, “faggot,” “pervert,” and “deviant.” Or so I was told by everyone around me—authority figures as well as peers—by the way they talked about gay people. This occured day after day, month after month, year after year, into my adulthood. I knew that I was a “freak” and would always be alone, never experiencing intimacy, romantic love, or sex.

That was the abuse. No, no one ever coerced or manipulated me into sex. But before you tell me that isn’t “real” abuse, think about the fact that I experienced the same effects that “conventionally” abused children experienced. And I know plenty of people who were also shamed and humiliated for their sexuality like I was, and have gone on to abuse alcohol or drugs, engage in cutting, or attempt suicide in their teen or young adult years.

I blame society’s moralism for this, but I have special loathing for the psychiatric and psychological profession. Yes, they now advocate for LGBT people, but they only changed their tune begrudgingly 40 years ago, after long-running protests from gay activists. Before that, the psych profession gave society ammunition for its hatred toward LGBT people by publishing sensationalistic documents and “studies” about the evils of homosexuality.

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This wasn’t due to benign neglect—it was self-imposed ignorance; they simply didn’t want to do any decent research because their moralistic beliefs made such research irrelevant and they didn’t think LGBT people were worth it. They were happy to repudiate the hippocratic oath and support society’s call for the suppression and control of “sexual deviants” through all kinds of hellish sexual aversion therapies. The psych profession was responsible for the abuse of countless LGBT people, including me, in the twentieth century.

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Left two pictures: Electric shock therapy device and device connected to penis to measure erection and determine arousal to male and female stimuli. Both were used on gay men in the 1950s. Right picture: Similar device used in the 1990s and 2000s on men and boys as young as 12 thought to be attracted to children. All devices are manufactured by Farrall Instruments.

The problem is, they’re still doing the same thing now, just do a different group of people. When I was 17, I noticed I wasn’t attracted to boys my age or men anymore. Eventually I figured out I was attracted mainly to boys 11-15 years old. Just like when I was gay, I internalized all the negative stereotypes coming from society, led by the psych profession. Intense shame and self-loathing. But I was puzzled: I was a very gentle person, yet the psychs told me (via the media) that I was a vicious animal—a predator—and that I would eventually abuse hundreds of children. How could this be?

Once I got on the internet, I was able to find real research, in reputable books and journals, that defied the horrific stereotypes and proved that popular and professional beliefs were false and destructive. This was the stuff that the psych profession ignores or even attacks as “obfuscating the moral issues involved.”

I also met or communicated with several teens and young adults who were hopeless, dealing with depression or anxiety disorders, turning to drugs or alcohol, cutting themselves, or considering or attempting suicide because of their attraction to children. Some of them had been forced into these medieval “sexual aversion treatments.” I even read about these treatments being inflicted on juvenile sex offenders and “children who molest”, often for willing sexual experimentation, leading them to psychiatric disorders and violent or suicidal behavior. Abusing “deviant” children to protect the “normal” ones?!! Teaching these kids that their sexuality is destructive and monstrous?! This isn’t child protection. It’s child abuse. Sexual abuse.

That’s when I became angry and realized that the instutions of society, especially the psych profession, are blinded to facts about sexuality and the well-being of children and youth by their moralistic condemnation of people with the wrong sexual feelings or behavior, including those who are attracted to children. They’re blinded to facts that could help young teenagers who are struggling to understand their attraction to children, and could even help those children who have had sexual contact with adolesents or adults. Instead, the profession would rather condemn, control, and abuse, using the same aversion therapies, chemical castration, and containment of “sexual psychopaths” (now called “civil commitment”) that they used in the 1950s against LGBT people. Will they ever learn?

In the “What They Really Mean” Department

A google search for articles about mental health and authenticity turns up the following (among others):

This all seems hopelessly impossible for the person attracted to children. Consider these excerpts from the first article, a published research study:

  • Authenticity reflects acting in accord with one’s values, preferences, and needs as opposed to acting merely to please others or to attain rewards or avoid punishments.
  • Moreover, authenticity is not reflected in a compulsion to be one’s true self, but rather in the free and natural expression of one’s core feelings, motives, and inclinations in the environmental contexts one encounters.
  • Relational authenticity involves an active process of self-disclosure and the development of mutual intimacy and trust so that intimates will see one’s true self-aspects, both good and bad.
  • Authenticity is related to healthy psychological functioning and positive subjective well-being.

The psych profession tells us authenticity is important, then they fully support and even propel society in making it unattainable for people who are attracted to children. So are we fucked?

To both APA’s and the whole psych industry, I say, “Fuck your hypocritical ass. By your own research, you’re responsible for the poor mental health of countless teenagers and adults who are attracted to children, and you have the blood of teenage and adult suicide victims on your hands.”

Easy way to fight back

Here’s an easy and safe thing to do: Just use your anonymous email account to send the pictures below to both the American Psychiatric and Psychological Associations. You’ll need to put these pictures into the body of your email rather than attach them. That way the recipient will see them right away. Also, include text in your email, in case they have images turned off. The text can just say:

Each day 30 to 150 American teens realize they’re attracted to younger children.
Almost half will consider suicide.
APA’s response: Ignore them or threaten prosecution.
Implied message: Just do it!

Source of stats:
About 11,000 children are born in the U.S. every day.
Up to 3% of males are preferentially attracted to younger children, according to DSM 5.
An internet study found 85% of people attracted to children remember first having these feelings when under age 18, and 45% considered suicide (http://b4uact.org/science/survey/01.htm).


Imagine if just a few hundred people did this, so that suddenly the “professionals” got deluged by these images and messages from hundreds of different addresses. They’d at least take notice. Here are the addresses to send your email to. They cover the relevant public relations and public policy offices:

apa@psych.org, pracmarket@apa.org, public.affairs@apa.org, ppo@apa.org, publicinterest@apa.org

Tell everyone you know to do this. Post this message at every discussion board you can. Easy and safe. Takes just a few minutes.

It’s time to fight back. Help make these go viral.

Both APAs have just released press releases in response to right wing fundamentalist complaints that the new DSM 5 classifies pedophilia as a sexual orientation. The press releases ignore the mental health of people with the diagnosis and instead advocate their prosecution—an interesting approach for so-called mental health organizations. The press releases can be found at:

http://www.dsm5.org/Documents/13-67-DSM-Correction-103113.pdf

http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2013/10/pedophilia-mental.aspx

Source of the stats above:

About 11,000 children are born in the U.S. every day.

Up to 3% of males are preferentially attracted to younger children, according to DSM 5.

An internet study found 85% of people attracted to children remember first having these feelings when under age 18, and 45% considered suicide (http://b4uact.org/science/survey/01.htm).