Listening to an NPR story about the PBS Frontline documentary A Rape in the Fields, got me to thinking. So much of the discussion about rape focuses on the victims. With many social problems, we often focus on dealing with the aftermath of the crime, the “band-aid” fixes. What would change if we focus our discussion on the perpetrators?
Sadly, at least one in four women in the U.S. are victims of sexual attacks. We all know that people in positions of power sometimes take the opportunity to abuse that power. So how can we focus on these situations?
Who are these men, determined to abuse vulnerable women? Are these men living in isolation? Are they able to hide this trait from their friends, their peers, their boss, their wives and family? In this documentary, agricultural workers report knowing about the frequency of attacks, they even go on to call the farms “fields of panties.” Can it be that all the workers know about this barbaric behavior, but other supervisors and people of authority have no idea that this abuse happens?
Who is letting these people get away with abusing women, or children? First, we have to stop being dubbed by false impressions. Jerry Sandusky, and some holy priests, hide behind a veil of charity and “good” intentions; and the Tim Curleys of the world are encouraging such behavior by intentionally hiding the truth of these relationships. Might this complicity fuel the manic fetish, increasing the prevalence and intensity of abuse? Given the facade of honest character that lets some people perform such heinous acts, shouldn’t we focus on these types of opportunities where perpetrators have unquestioned authority over others?
Maybe we are at the cusp of change, where the Tim Curleys and Gary Schultzes are also held responsible, and have as much to lose as the perpetrators.
I heard this story on the radio show This American Life, and it made me think. Most parents are trying to give their kids a “better life.” The dad in the story is maybe an extreme version of a particular behavior that I think all people share. The main story is a bit crazy to think about, but the underlying story between the dad and the two daughters is interesting and I think enlightening about human nature in general.
The dad had a rough childhood, and we don’t get the full story of what he went through but apparently it involved verbal and physical abuse. For him, he knew that was not good parenting and he wanted to do better with his own children. Although he did better than his parents, it was still not good enough to earn the respect of his two daughters and the girls have now cut off contact with him. Surprisingly, some of the behavior he hated in his own parents, he repeated toward his own family. It’s hard to know how conscious his re-enactment of the bad behaviors, because during the interview he denies that part of the story.
If the story is true, we can imagine how the dad developed coping mechanisms to distort reality, just to deal with the abuse he suffered as a kid. In a way, although he knew this behavior was not normal, it was normal to him. And therefor, the definition of being a good parent was altered to believe that being better than his parents was enough. I believe, that in a way, his entire parenting process was an attempt to hide the difficulties of his own childhood. However, having not dealt with his difficult childhood, he wasn’t prepared to be a supportive and non-abusive father.
The same discussion happens in the end of this Radiolab story. The initial story is wildly unusual. But it circles around to another difficult childhood and lifelong consequences as a person and a parent.