Friday, February 16, 2007

Failure to Understand Responsibility Makes Abuse Possible

A 62-year-old former Mormon bishop pleaded guilty in Logan yesterday to lewdness (see here, third item). According to the article, this guy took two 15-year-olds on a nude snowmobile ride and hit the sauna at his cabin in the buff with them. I assume that the two juveniles were male. Otherwise I seriously doubt prosecutors would have only pursued misdemeanor charges.

In his defense, the guy told police that “he didn’t feel that anyone was uncomfortable.” What universe does this man live in? Didn’t this guy learn anything from the MoTab member that skinny dipped with boys and videotaped it (see here)? There is obviously a good reason Mr. Nude Snowmobiler must undergo a mental evaluation. Thank goodness he’s been ordered to have no unsupervised contact with juveniles, even if he’s not in jail.

In our post-modern sexually liberated world, snowmobiling and saunaing bare is OK, right? Perhaps, provided there is adequate privacy. But not with minors. Maybe that’s OK in Scandinavia, but it’s not OK in the USA. It’s called child abuse, folks.

This man’s clueless response to police is actually a very common pattern for child abusers. In their minds they see themselves and their victims as equals. They think they and their victims bear equal responsibility for what occurs in the relationship. They completely discount the tremendous power differential in the relationship.

Can’t this guy see that being four times these kids’ age, being successful (at least successful enough to have snowmobiles and a cabin with a sauna), and having held venerated leadership positions gives him extraordinary influence over these kids? Well, no. Abusers don’t see it like that. They lie to themselves about equality of responsibility and fool their own consciences.

Don’t get me wrong. Every capable individual bears a certain level of responsibility for his/her own actions. But in interpersonal relationships we need to consider the power differential and comprehend appropriate levels of responsibility to have successful and morally appropriate interactions.


c andersen said...

I agree.

y-intercept said...

Snowmobiling in the buff sounds cold.

There is an LDS Skinny Dipping Society. I suspect that the group is seen as a pain in the side by the LDS authorities.

I wouldn't consider skinny dipping on par with the really nasty, life scarring sexual abuse that kids have to face, but I think you are completely right in discussing the difficulties of legal definitions of abuse.

The guy who exposes himself to kids in the park is clearly a perv. The guy who thinks it silly to wear a swimsuit at a hot springs is a naturist. In trying to draw legal distinctions on such matters, I would tend to the conservative side.

Scott Hinrichs said...

Like most healthy males, I've gone skinny dipping -- at venues that were private, and mostly in remote back country locations. I don't have a problem with that. But it would be problematic if I were to do it with youth, especially while encouraging them to do the same.

I have been involved with youth groups most of my life. I have had to deal with my share of abusers (including some that have gone to prison). Nudity with the youth, such as skinny dipping, that may seem somewhat benign, is usually just a stop along the road to something more serious. These guys use this as part of the process of grooming their victims.

In my personal experience, you really have to watch out for adults that relate with the youth on a peer-to-peer basis rather than on an adult-to-youth basis. (You might refer to Transactional Analysis for how this works.)

On one hand, it makes these adults very good with youth. The youth like them. On the other hand, there seems to be a missing element that instills a complete sense of adult responsibility. This allows them to behave so irresponsibly with youth on occasion that they cross the line of what is morally acceptable. They seem capable of rationalizing the problem away.