sexual abuse of children
This is a review of a Netflix series called The Keepers, about abuse so devastating that the abused couldn’t face it or speak of it for three decades; about how fear and shame are magnified or distorted by lens of the past. As you read below or watch the series, think about the various cultures or religions of the world where abuse of women is the norm. I think you will conclude that the world is at an inflection point of change. If you don’t have Netflix it’s free here:
http://123netflix.com/watch/RGb0XqvY-the-keepers-season-1.html at least for the time being.
Prologue: A parent can be given a child to raise, and teach, and love. In time that child may set off on the stream of life, and later return to reform and teach the parent. My daughter Lili called my attention to The Keepers. I would never have found it by myself!
Review: The Keepers
If we ponder about the fuss over abuse of some people by others with greater power, we might well spend a few hours with this Netflix original documentary series. It is as revealing, and edifying as any great work of art or literature. The series opening is subdued and unspectacular’ we listen in on a conversation between two middle aged women. Only gradually, we discover they are former students of a nun who was murdered in 1969, thirty-three years earlier. They speak of how to solve the cold case. But why? Because they were abused themselves, by Father Joseph Maskell and his friends.
We begin to realize these are real people, rather than actors; and the Baltimore murder is a fact; the majority of protagonists are themselves, almost like a U tube flick. Cathy, the murdered nun had said, just before her death, that she was aware of the abuse, and would put a stop to it. We hear of the nature, depth, cruelty and degradation of that abuse, and see more clearly how power can not only promote sexual abuse, but in this case, lead to murder, under unwritten rules that protect the abusers; the Church, Justice, and public opinion… all are dismissive, incredulous or/and complicit.
We learn that by 1992, more than three decades after the abuse, only one Jane Doe (Jean Hargadon Wehner) , was able and willing to remember her feared mmemories, and speak about them. Wehner tells how, after the murder of the nun, Father Maskell took her to the woods to see the maggot ridden decomposing body, warning,in effect, This is what happens when people talk.
Another abused classmate is Teresa Lancaster, the other person we meet in the opening of the series. Ultimately they obtain the addresses of many former students and mail letters asking if anyone else knows of such abuse. The response is immediate and huge. In 1994, the two get legal advice, and file charges against the priest.The diocese reacts, as does law and justice, through denial, obfuscation, accusation and intimidation. And almost in a tacit admission, the priest is judged by the diocese, to be ill, or perhaps depressed; he is sent for private psychiatric inpatient treatment; he is sheltered.
The two women establish a ‘tip line’ and hear that two more men may have been involved in the murder; though they find one they have no authority or help, andget nowhere. Worse, their lawsuit is thrown out because of the Statute of Limitations. A rehabilitated Father Maskell is moved about among various church assignments, like a chess piece knight, who can hop around to abuse more people. It appears he also grooms and abuses a man, who later comes forward. But, in the final act of outrageous injustice, Maskell becomes demented, and dies. There is no resolution; at least not yet.
The series lasts about 6 hours long. I have spent weeks at a time with people like Gibbon– Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire; Hugo– Les Miserables; dead Greeks, sacred religious books and philosophers. Yet The Keepers is alive. It is about us, the here and now, as we become more aware that power can– and is– used to abuse people of all genders, ages and cultures. That awakening may become the most sweeping societal, political, and cultural event of our time. The right and power to abuse, whether exercised between individuals, within families, or between Nations, or by those who believe they speak to– or for– Gods, can no longer be overlooked. The Keepers, as ugly and disgusting as it is to watch, is well worth the time. I have not included pasted photos because I think it is important for the reader to see the series, see them personally.
My Favorite Pedophile
Elvia was my first pedophile . During the early years of WWII my father worked in a Mexican Copper mine. He was a mining engineer, and we lived in a hilltop compound above the mine, near a small village. My mother taught school there in English, using the Calvert System, a British mail order curriculum that completed 8 grades in 6 years. I had been raised in many small mining towns, often with one room schools, where a curious child may tend to leap frog ahead of his years. Not quite 11, I was ready to start high school at the end of the year.
To make it possible for my mother to teach, we had a cook, whose younger sister, Elvia, was housekeeper and laundress. On weekdays both my parents left early for work, while I went off to school about an hour later. Elvia was young, flirty and playful; she soon began to ‘goose‘ me as I walked by, while her older sister frowned in amused disapproval. I found the game enjoyable, though I didn’t know quite why; perhaps the rich nerve endings about the anus are particularly sensual.
In the morning Elvia began to wake me for school, and of course, our game continued. I was beginning to be affected by early morning testosterone rushes, the sort of angry erections that mortify young boys on school buses. It soon became quite enjoyable to rub my little member up against a willing Elvia herself. There is no doubt in my mind now where that game was headed. I was probably being ‘groomed’.
But the game ended. WWII wore on. Eleven year olds were older then than they are today. I finished grade school that summer and was immediately sent to California. My Dad gave me a brief lecture the night before I left El Paso, stressing two points: First, that one has to judge others carefully; to welcome new friends, but be alert, and avoid those who would do harm; and second, to use a condom.
I had no idea what that was or what it was for, but it was something I didn’t want to talk about. He seemed to consider me much more aware than I really was. The next morning put me on a troop train headed for Los Angeles; someone stole my money but soldiers fed me, and I went on North to the Sacramento Valley.
A scoutmaster was my second pedophile. He was a music director for a radio station, able to invest most of his energies and appetites into the work closest to his heart: his scouts. He had acquired for the troop a twenty-acre piece of land on a lake near the Canadian border. To finance, build and maintain it was a year round activity requiring continuous paper drives, magazine sales, ticket sales and participation in an annual fund raiser: a Sigmund Romberg operetta.
There were periodic work trips to the lakeside camp including a two week construction session just after the ice broke up, two weeks of camp itself, and– for older scouts–a summer-ending two week canoe trip to the border waters.
I advanced rapidly through the ranks of scouting and the Scoutmaster began take more interest in me. I became an Eagle Scout by age 13. After a weekend trip to clear heavy spring snow off the camp buildings, we all returned so late that I stayed with him at his home one Sunday night. I trusted him implicitly. Moreover, he was always affectionately gruff, dominating and assertive. Again, I was being groomed.
His method was to introduce young boys to the pleasures of prostatic digital self-stimulation, as an initial step in masturbation; and as the first step to pederasty. If that is hard to picture, think of the crude expression: “sitting around with your thumb up your ass.” That best reflects my Scoutmaster’s method of instruction. (Our language contains many other more or less subtle references to pederasty: flipping bird, the fist, ‘up yours; asshole; fuck you man, etc.) Bill’s purpose seemed not to harm, frighten, or prematurely to penetrate, but to, imprint; to teach; the lesson was not at all innocent, but fortunately very brief. I did not find the experience unpleasant. And yet, what I remember most unwelcome was his full mouthed beard barbed goodnight kiss. I started college that fall, left the scouts and never returned.
Humans are normally, both innately and overtly, at least as sexual and sensual animals as any other. Our children are not asexual beings, but are simply less developed. Their behavior is partly learned, despite the current dreary politically correct cant that insists sexuality is chiefly, if not wholly, inborn, or ‘discovered’.
It is patently absurd to hold that sexuality is inborn while other measures of societal behavior are not. That dogma ignores the clear fact that we are all capable of learning many sorts of behavior; and that our earliest experience is very significant. If my second episode of pedophilia, had been my first – or a continuing– form of interpersonal sex, I am sure it would have influenced me more.
I hold no resentment for my assailants. Maybe that is because of my own good luck in escaping their potentially harmful influence so quickly. Surely they are both dead now; as surely I will follow. The Scoutmaster left me Romberg, the North Woods and Waters. Elvia left me sweet memories of cheap perfume,
Silky-cinnamon skin, and playful sensuality. Perhaps she pre-empted the more powerful and technically more skilled pederasty-devoted Scoutmaster. That is why, of the two, Elvia will always be my favorite pedophile.