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?