Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,
I hate to bring up assaults on children, especially at "the most wonderful time of the year," but it's not a wonderful time in the United States for the one in four girls and one in six boys who are molested. And those numbers only account for attacks that are reported. The Children's Assessment Center estimates that seventy-three percent of children keep their devastating secret to themselves. The same organization reports that children are victimized at a much higher rate than adults, but the rape of an adult receives far more attention than the rape of a child.
Knowledge is power, so I present two documentaries this week. They should not be watched by children, though you should certainly talk to your children about boundaries that no one should be allowed to cross.
The first movie is Awful Normal (2004, Available on DVD).
Director Celesta Davis documents her own and her sister Karen's confrontation with a man who molested them in 1978 when they were young children.
I'm amazed by the calm manner in which they meet with Allen, who obfuscates and claims not to remember many events, though he does not deny that the abuse occurred. He also does not apologize.
I suspect that in the awful normalcy that is the lives of Celesta and Karen that they continued to think of Allen as a friend in spite of the misery he caused them. When they told their parents about Allen, they did not report him to the police, nor did the friendship end. They continued to see Allen, his wife, and their children regularly. It was normal.
This documentary is brilliantly made. It doesn't sensationalize the events. Instead, we follow Celesta and Karen on a quest that leaves them with even more questions, especially about their late father.
Since the documentary is ten years old, I'd like to know how the sisters feel about their rapist now, and how their lives have changed--or perhaps stayed the same.
Our second documentary is Deliver Us From Evil (2006, Available On DVD).
Filmmaker Amy Berg tells the story of Father Oliver O'Grady who spent the 1970s molesting the children in his congregations as his superiors moved him from one church to another in a desperate attempt to cover up his crimes. A number of the now adult children and their parents are interviewed.
Berg also speaks with O'Grady, whose behavior in many ways reminds me of Allen in the first movie. O'Grady admits to his crimes to a certain extent, but somehow can't seem to remember many details. Like Allen, he doesn't seem to feel guilty. However, his crimes seem even more egregious than Allen's because he exploited so many children, and because I sensed that he enjoyed recounting what he is willing to reveal about his evil deeds. This is not a repentant sinner.
Because of the persistence of his victims and their parents, O'Grady eventually went to prison for seven years and was then deported to his home country of Ireland, where he mixed with children, unknown as a child molester.
These documentaries can be learning experiences. We glimpse the minds of two child molesters, and we learn how they "groomed" their victims before raping them. We also witness their complete lack of remorse and absence of concern for their victims. Awful Normal and Deliver Us From Evil earn the Janie Junebug Seal of Highest Sad Approval.
Watch these documentaries after your children are in bed. The next evening, bake cookies with the kids, watch A Charlie Brown Christmas, and do what you can to gently teach them about what some people do to children that is so terribly wrong.
And listen. Be sure to listen. Sometimes children can't tell their parents about molestation because they don't have the vocabulary. Listen for phrases such as "he touches me too much" and "he tickles me", seemingly innocuous descriptions that may indicate a problem.
Infinities of love,
Let's finish this post by talking about happy memories: