EDITOR’S NOTE: The author of this true account led an apparently respectable life for over 20 years while secretly exposing himself to and fondling young girls. ON THE ISSUES solicited this article to increase awareness of how some men get away with—and rationalize— pedophilic behavior. With the understanding that the author no longer engages in these criminal activities, we promised to shield his identity.
“I’ll show you mine if you’ll show me yours” is not unusual for five-year-old children. Playing “doctor” is looked upon as a natural part of growing up. But I never grew up. I still wanted to play “doctor” with children when I was an adult.
As a result there are hundreds of girls and young women who had to see, hear, and feel what they never should have had to. Most were strangers, but some were relatives. And there are even wider circles of indirect victims—my former wife, our children, my sisters and their families—anyone who ever trusted me.
During my youth I was always “a good boy—never any trouble.” obeyed the rules. I attended church. I waited until I was 18 to smoke, until the legal age of 21 to drink. The Good Guy mask was easy to wear.
I don’t know whether my fascination with nudity was any more than normal for a teen. Occasionally a friend would get hold of a nudie magazine with black-and-white pictures and liberal use of an airbrush. My only prey then were my sisters, who soon learned to put a washcloth over the keyhole when they took a bath.
I turned 18 in 1962, and new opportunities for my voyeurism began to unfold. Now I could go into the smoke shops and look at Sunshine and Health along with Playboy and Nugget. Years before the [words “kiddie porn” were in the vocabulary of most people, ! realized that the younger the girls in the pictures, the more I looked.
Next came the hours in smelly theaters looking at old movies of burlesque shows, then the first color movies about some clown with X-ray glasses. Topless bars appeared soon after I turned 21, and massage parlors in the early 70s, when I was in the service.
I made the transition from voyeur to exhibitionist in the military. I went to a gym where boys and girls took karate or judo a couple evenings a week. The door to the men’s locker room was usually open and the drinking fountain was right outside. I learned how to be stepping out of the shower naked just as the children went to the drinking fountain after their lesson.
The girls were my target, and sometimes they seemed to take an extra-long drink. Ah ha, I thought, they liked it. That was the beginning of a rationalization I would use for the next 20 years. And that was how I separated myself in my mind from bad guys who hung around schools, jumped out of bushes, and enjoyed frightening and hurting children.
When I first read about the myth of rape (the belief of many rapists that women “like it” and “want it”), I remember thinking to myself, How can those jerks believe such a thing? Of course women don’t like it! I was too blind, callous, and stupid to recognize my own big lie—that I was a “nice” guy, the girls were my “partners,” and I didn’t want to hurt them.
The gym setup ended when I was assigned to a different base, but the new town had a couple of good smoke shops with well stocked, you-must-be-18-to – enter sections. There I first discovered magazines with names like Nudist Angels and Little Nudists, which had pictures of girls photographed in nudist parks.
In one early nudist publication I read a first-person story by a man who wrote of driving around with his windows down and his pants unzipped. Seeing a tender prospect, he would get her to come to his car window by asking for directions to the library or grocery store. I tried the technique and it worked.
I had the same feeling of invulnerability that is often ascribed to teenage drivers. And even when the police arrested me, it was not enough of a reality check to keep me from offending again, and soon.
Good-bye, military career. Hello, bail man, attorney, commanding officer, psychiatrist #1, judge, psychiatrist #2. Good Guy “had been found out. Time for a new mask.
|As Changed Guy. I satisfied the court by keeping all my appointments with a therapist. After a year I was allowed to plead not guilty and my record was expunged. I worked as a laborer, eventually found a real job, married a girl I met in church, bought a house in the suburbs, and had three beautiful children.
With that facade in place, I continued exposing myself. For a time I hoped that visits to nude beaches could be my outlet, but everybody there seemed bored—there wasn’t any “tee-hee.” I preferred the exposure when I could get a rise out of my victims; the girls had to be old enough (ages 6 to 10) to know it was “naughty.”
In department stores I tried leaving the curtain slightly to one side while trying on pants, always making sure that the exposure was passive, both to continue the self-lie and to lessen the chance of arrest.
When I made obscene calls, I often gave the girl a chance to hang up first by cheerfully asking: “Hi—do you have time for a friendly neighborhood obscene phone call?” If she didn’t stay on the line and go along, I would call another.
By the time my own children were old enough to go to playgrounds, I used them as a cover. I would wear cutoff shorts but no underwear. As Good Dad, I would laugh with my kids and give them a push on the swing or the merry-go-round. Meanwhile I sought places to sit so that other girls could have a look.
While committing these crimes, I also wallowed in what I call my gray world—seeking nude bars, nude beaches, and adult bookstores with their explicit, 25-cents-perview video loops. In the early days of video booths, there would be the occasional handwritten sign: “14-Year-01d Girl Shows How.” I gravitated toward those. I also looked for books that featured teenaged girls or younger who were always fascinated by sex, thereby reinforcing my rationalization.
Although my gray world was not criminal activity on my part per se, it certainly added to the deadening of my soul and provided the momentum for my activity that was criminal. I do not mean to imply that I myself am a victim or that I couldn’t help myself. I fully accept all responsibility for all my crimes; yet pornography was clearly a major influence on me.
Any addiction calls for bigger hits, and I began going beyond passive exposure to blatant abuse. Fortunately my daughter was not a temptation for me. My love for her and protective instinct as a father were strong enough to spare her. But I exposed myself to and fondled the genitals and clothed breasts of two young nieces and exposed myself to two other extended-family members.
After one such incident, I began therapy with a psychologist who specialized in abnormal sexual behavior. At that point I felt both vulnerable and fortunate. Only a few people knew of my problem, my wife seemed willing to stay with me, and I had a genuine desire to quit the criminal activity.
Insofar as the therapy addressed my criminal activity, it was excellent. There was emphasis on recognition of think- ing errors, rationalization, and minimalization. Aversion therapy was of some help. What was most effective for me was emphasis on victim impact—learning to understand that even those girls who seemed to go along with it would feel dirty, wonder why this was happening to them, and feel as if they were to blame.
My criminal activity went down to almost zero, with an occasional slip. I told one particular niece I was in therapy and promised not to touch her again. She seemed anxious to believe me. I had asked her not to tell years earlier, when I first began exposing myself to her. Now I got her hopes up and I asked her again not to tell anyone what I had done—thereby placing on her the additional burden of being responsible for my family’s staying together.
About four years later, I broke my promise. At a family gathering, I touched her shoulders in the same way I had done in the past when I used a “back rub” as a cover for fondling her breasts. Memories were triggered (but not all of them, I was to learn later). Hope was shattered. The nightmare was back. She told.
My sisters were horrified and wanted me out of their lives. My wife stayed with me for the sake of our children, including a newborn baby.
Throughout all of this, I prayed to be freed from my pedophilia. The stumbling block was my unwillingness to let go of my gray world—the world of commercial sex and nude beaches. I recall telling God that I would surrender that desire to him someday, but not yet. Then I winked and gave him permission to work on me in that regard.
Rock bottom came years later when my niece was in therapy and remembered my fondling her. I naively assumed she had told everything already; in fact her memories of my touching her genitals had been blocked.
My victims now lay all about. My wife felt that I had married her under false pretenses and had used her as a sign of legitimacy. We divorced. My direct victims have suffered the most, but there are so many indirect victims and so many ways they have been hurt: misplaced guilt, dollars for therapy, strains on relationships, lack of sleep, sadness, fear.
As for me, hitting rock bottom was the ultimate reality check. If someone needs to cross a 100-foot canyon to escape a bear, the difference between a 105-foot ladder and a 95-foot ladder is not 10 feet; it is the difference between life and death. In the same way, the distance between total surrender and almost-total surrender is between life and death.
Being free from my gray world has meant all the difference for me. I am now 50 and have lived without pornography and all its trappings for two years. I have lived without criminal activity for eight years.
For this I can thank many people who have loved me without condoning what I have done. Two men in particular have my gratitude. One of them is my accountability check. I periodically look him in the eye and tell him I am still free. The other man is the cousin who told me of a 12-step program for people with sexual addictions, a program based on the principles of Alcoholics Anonymous.
No light from heaven has shone down and hit a reset button on my psyche. The temptations are there, and I must keep up my guard for the rest of my life. If anyone would pray for me, let it be that I will have skin thick enough to withstand what comes my way and yet thin enough to care for the pain of those around me.
My prayer for my victims is that they will be healed; that they will direct all blame toward me and nowhere else; that they will be protected from all men like me; and finally, that God will use the trial that I have put them through to make them all the more sensitive to the hurts of others so that they can be loving, caring people.