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Part II Underwager/Wakefield Interview


PAIDIKA: You are speaking mostly about paedophiles in the U. S. What tack should they take given the societal attitudes? What solutions do you envision for their lives?

RALPH UNDERWAGER: The solution that I'm suggesting is that paedophiles become much more positive. They should directly attack the concept, the image, the picture of the paedophile as an evil, wicked, and reprehensible exploiter of children.

HOLLIDA WAKEFIELD: The United States is really pretty schizophrenic right now in its attitudes. On the one hand it glorifies sex in things like underwear advertisements, or James Bond movies. On the other hand it's very puritanical. You don't have good sex education in the schools, just these ridiculous prevention programs. 
     Let me give another example. Video recorders and video cameras are in right now. Couples are making their own pornographic movies. The comparison is on the one hand people running around making their own pornographic movies but on the other hand reacting hysterically to child sexuality issues. There was actually the case of a man who had had the nine-year-old son of a friend spend the night at his house. He kissed him on the neck, patted him on the rear, told him good-night, ad was later sentenced to two years in prison for these acts. They were labeled sexual abuse. The child later told his mother that it made him uncomfortable when the man kissed him on the cheek. 
     Given this schizophrenia and these hysterical attitudes about childhood sexuality, it's going to be difficult for paedophiles to appear more positive, to start saying they're not exploiters of children, that they love children, the sexual part included, even if it's a minor part. If they made such statements, they would be arrested. 
     What we see going on in the United States is the most vitriolic and virulent anti-sexuality I know of in our history. It may take people being arrested. Revolutionaries have always risked arrest.

RALPH UNDERWAGER: I was in the courtroom for the case that Holly just cited and I actually heard the prosecution say, "No man should ever be permitted to claim as an excuse that he was just being affectionate when a child says they were uncomfortable." I don't know; I don't think we can just label these attitudes "hysteria." Perhaps "madness" is better, or "pathology." What we see going on in the United States is the most vitriolic and virulent anti-sexuality I know of in our history. It may take people being arrested. Revolutionaries have always risked arrest.

PAIDIKA: In your book, you said that there was "a matter of national interest and a focus of federal interest in child abuse in 1974, but then in 1984, it seemed to suddenly shift and become more hysterical." What reasons do you see for the outbreak of a child abuse hysteria, or pathology, in the mid-80's America?

HOLLIDA WAKEFIELD: I think that what we meant in that passage was that we had personally been observing a steady progression of awareness about actual child abuse up to around that period, 1984. We had routinely been dealing with sex offenders and cases of incest. Around the mid-80's, we began to see cases of false accusations to a degree we had not seen before. it was the rise of this incidence of false accusations that led us to use the term "hysteria."

RALPH UNDERWAGER: Child abuse around that time became more a matter of attention and discussion. There had been child abuse before but the earlier focus was on rehabilitation and treatment. In the early 80's, this focus shifted to prosecution. As more federal money became available, child protection teams and child molestation units were set up in every county in the United States. As this structure was put into place, the emphasis changed to prosecution. This is where it is now, and as a consequence, there is very little interest in treatment, rehabilitation, or healing. The emphasis is: punish the bastards, put them in jail, hang them up by their toes, or other appurtenances, get rid of them.

PAIDIKA: You seen to be saying that the shift to prosecution, and the sexual hysteria, are connected. Could you clarify how such a shift might make a country pathological about sex?

RALPH UNDERWAGER: I believe these shifts happen when the social contract in a given country or culture breaks down. What is happening in the United States is that the populace no longer has the sense that the country knows what it is about. During the Second World War, when I was about fourteen years old, it was a great time to live in America. We stood together. Everybody knew and understood what we were all about, what we were doing in the world. Beginning in the 60's and through the 70's into the 80's that confidence disappeared. We became fractionalized into smaller and smaller groups, each group fighting for its own to the point where we have now evolved a political system of special interest groups. There's no longer consensus politics in America. 
     The result of the breakdown of the social contract is that people do not have sufficient ego to handle or tolerate the ambiguity in their society. They don't have the inner resources. What they must do, then, is find something outside of themselves, something external, to give them shape and identity. Sex throughout history has played a specific role. It has allowed people both to define themselves and to locate an enemy. A sexual minority becomes a scapegoat. Whenever there has been social upheaval, whenever the social contract has disappeared, there has always been violent anti-sexuality outbursts. 
     The breakdown of the social contract and anti-sexuality outbursts are interconnected because there is in times of social instability, a need to say that someone else is evil, wicked. The blame for everything gets put on the so-called deviants, while the true American remains at home, pure, probably mortifying the flesh, crucifying the body, being a good citizen. The citizen becomes the knight riding off into the sunset victorious, leaving behind him a trail of battered and beaten people that they have judged bad. And the citizen feels justified. 
     In a society in turmoil, people can't tolerate anything that is different from whatever the myth of that society is. The society holds on to the myth, the belief. The myth is what they must believe. There's not enough strength in the society to deal with the facts.

PAIDIKA: Why is sex the focus of the hysteria in that situation, why not something else?

RALPH UNDERWAGER: Sex has always been the penultimate answer to the ultimate question, which is unity and wholeness. In theological terms, sex has been the way that human beings have tried to avoid dealing with the mystery of the Trinity, the mystery of Unity. Sex is penultimate. This is why the root cause of sexual dysfunction is always some form of genitalization of sexuality. Sexuality has become, in the dysfunction, limited to genital tissue. It is not unified.

PAIDIKA: Would you say that the sexual hysteria is a kind of mystical or religious dysfunction?


PAIDIKA: Your scenario for the child sexuality hysteria is the breakdown of the social contract and a religious/mystical dysfunction. Do you recognize other causes than these?

RALPH UNDERWAGER: I would add radical feminism, which includes a pretty hefty dose of anti-males. I think in a very real way, these women may be jealous that males are able to love each other, be comrades, friends, be close, intimate, work cooperatively, function in groups. The point where men may say that maleness can include the intimacy and closeness of sex may make women jealous. This would hold true for male bonding, and paedophile sex too. The woman is jealous of the connection. She says, "Wait a minute, we're not going to let you do that!"

HOLLIDA WAKEFIELD: I would disagree with that one hundred percent. That women are jealous because men have close bonds with one another doesn't seem to me to make sense. The common wisdom, whether one agrees with it or not, is that a man is handicapped in a divorce more than a woman, because the woman has female friends she can talk to. Women are socialized for relationships more than men. For women to become close and intimate is easier than for a man. Men can't express feelings. These are the common beliefs. And, after all, some of the most hostile, enraged people about sexual abuse are males. Jim Peters of the National Center for the Prosecution of Child Abuse, for example. 
     I think the radical feminist opposition to paedophilia comes out of the general perception of men as aggressive and dominating. They use sex to dominate the weak. The weak would be women and children. That the opposition comes out of women's jealousy because men can have meaningful paedophile relationships, and they wish they could, I don't agree with it.

RALPH UNDERWAGER: Certainly some men aid and abet the hysteria. They are opportunists. They have opportunistic rage. What I am proposing is that there is an aspect to femaleness that is hardly ever discussed. I believe that women also are violent, cruel, and hostile. Possibly more so than men. The radical feminists only express that side of femaleness against paedophilia. 
     Among certain Indian tribes, the people who did the torture were the women. A sociologist in Milwaukee who studied the records of domestic violence found that women are much more violent in domestic disputes than men, and paedophilia can be thought to be a domestic matter. My argument is that the radical feminist position arises more from women's nature than from a politics. That has been overlooked.

HOLLIDA WAKEFIELD: Well, I wouldn't agree with this point of view at all. All statistics, history too, show that violent crimes are committed more by men than by women. Violence, cruelty, hostility have been much more male domains. THE QUESTIONING OF CHILDREN

PAIDIKA: The main purpose of your book, it seems to me, is to devise a method for determining the facts when there is an allegation of child abuse. This has sometimes put you in opposition to the official system. How much have your methods been adopted at this point, and how much are they being opposed?

HOLLIDA WAKEFIELD: Our main effort has been to develop methods that avoid suggestive questioning, that lead the child on. It's becoming increasingly apparent that what we are proposing is the right way to go. what we have suggested, other people are also suggesting. There is a developing consensus that this is the way to do it. 
     Not many people any more are advocating suggestive or leading questioning. The problem is still that people who say they agree with us still go ahead and do leading questioning anyway. They don't know they're doing it. As you know, the main reason for the acquittals in the Mc Martin case is that the interviews were so terrible that the jurors said, "You can't tell what went on at all because the interviews are so suggestive." 
     Unfortunately, there are still very few people thinking about what happens to the child if the adults make a mistake. The worst result of bad questioning for the child is that if it is not abused, and is taught through suggestive interviews that she has been abused, that is extremely harmful. It runs the risk of making children psychotic. 
     Take the Mc Martin case. I think we can assume that nothing happened to them. But now these children who are fourteen, fifteen years old believe that they were subjected to horrible, bizarre, ritualistic abuse. That's now part of their reality. How are these teenagers going to turn out as adults?

RALPH UNDERWAGER: Holly and I can demonstrate two basic things. We were the first people to publicly say, "Let's be more cautious, there's a better way to do this, we should be doing it differently." We're finding now that there is a growing concensus joining us. We can be more accurate in making discriminations between real abuse and false abuse. 
     In August, 1990, when we were at the American Psychological Association convention, the majority of the programs were in the same direction that we have been talking about. There were two or three programs that were still saying, "Children must be believed at all cost, they can't talk about things they haven't experienced." The audiences at those symposia were violently critical of that approach. Four years ago that would never have happened. When you get to the people who are doing the actual taped interviews, though, it is another story. 
     We're urging caution because of the child, as Holly pointed out. What you do, when you require a child who has not been abused to engage in repeated statements about having been abused, is blur, if not destroy, the capacity of that child to distinguish between reality and unreality. When a child is reinforced by adults to repeat over and over accounts of having been abused, of having been violated in these strange, bizarre ways, children come to believe it. It becomes subjectively real. You end up with, say, a sixteen year old who was never abused but who now has a subjective experience of being abused. The person becomes convinced that all these terribly bizarre things happened. I was led into a tunnel; I was undressed; I was placed on an altar; I was drenched in sacrificial blood; I have observed people cutting the heart out of others and eating it." That is now subjectively real for that child. But, the person who's taught them to believe that is the one who actually abused them. They've distorted their reality. They've made them pathological.

PAIDIKA: Are you describing a distortion of reality that occurs because of ignorance or because of malice and evil?

HOLLIDA WAKEFIELD: I think ignorance is a big part of it. These aren't evil, wicked people who are purposely setting out to make children believe they were abused when they weren't. They see themselves as child advocates, child savers. They're more or less convinced they're doing a good thing. Ignorance is a very large part of it. 
     We have no experimental verification of this, but our suspicion is that the front-line people are young and have no children of their own. They're not trained in child development. The social workers who do the initial interviews just don't know about what a normal child is like, how suggestible they are, how they behave. 
     Ignorance leads to a lot of things. ordinary exploratory sex play between children is often misunderstood. It is seen as indicative of a child sexual abuse, and can therefore result in false accusations. Say a parent walks in and a four year old has a three year old's clothes off and they're exploring. The parents becomes upset, angry. "Who taught you this? Where'd you learn how to do that?" If it's a divorce and custody case, they might say, "Did Daddy ever do this?" 
     You get bizarre things. For example, we consulted in a case of a three year old child who reported that a four year old had poked her in the genitals with a stick. This was in a pre-school. The social services were called, and the first thing they did was go to the four year old's house to see if the four year old was being sexually abused. Their reasoning was that if the four year old poked the three year old in the genitals, he must have been sexually abused, or where would he have learned to do this? 
     There was also the incident of a ten year old girl and a twelve year old brother who were discovered fooling around with each other. The girl was put in a sexual abuse victims treatment program and the boy was put in a perpetrator's program. Seriously, these things are happening. The underlying feeling is that if you see children being sexual, they must have learned it from some adult who abused them.

RALPH UNDERWAGER: I agree with Holly. Ignorance is a very large part of hysteria. Almost all the people we encounter who are involved in the system of dealing with child sexual abuse allegations, have no knowledge, no sophistication in developmental psychology. At most they have been given, one, maybe two, weekend workshops. You can't make an expert in a weekend. They form something called "multidisciplinary teams," which is one of the favorite ways that abuse is somehow supposed to be controlled. Multidisciplinary teams do not result in any increase in the effectiveness of the decision. What it results in is a pooling of mediocrity and ignorance. of course, the APA code of ethics maintains quite clearly that both ignorance and ineptitude are unethical (laughs). 
     The dilemma, the reality is that we do savage things to our children; we brutalize them. Children do require the protection of society, and the protection of the law. 
     We've had a certain concept for a number of years. Simply stated, it is that whenever two or more human beings get together and attempt to accomplish some joint task, one of the first things they do is to set up some rules. Now generally this works. You get the joint task accomplished. Rule-making is rewarded. As you add more than two people and you increase the resources and the complexity of whatever the joint tasks are, rule-making does permit more effective functioning, and that's how making laws get reinforced. 
     However, there is a finite number of laws in proportion to a given population that work effectively. Any law above this number results in an increment of ineffectiveness. Let's say the number of laws necessary in the U. S. is 13,246. Law number 13,247 would then be over the threshold. Each law you now add divides your society. People now begin to exploit. There is more and more opportunity for malice, evasion of responsibility and so on. The next effect is to begin to destroy that society. However, nobody realizes or understands it so they keep on making laws. You have now reached the point at which there is some form of revolution required to start the process all over again.

PAIDIKA: one of your goals in formulating questions for the child about possible abuse is to avoid distorting the child's reality. In your interrogation methods, do your questions presuppose for the children that they themselves see the sexual relationship as abuse?

RALPH UNDERWAGER: No, no. Not our methods.

HOLLIDA WAKEFIELD: No. What we would do is get the child to use free recall, to describe what took place. As scientists, our goal would be to get as much information from the child about what happened and what took place as possible. We would see it as somebody else's responsibility to interpret this, or see whether it's legal or illegal.

RALPH UNDERWAGER: We don't tell children things like, "Well, it's all the other person's fault, you were helpless, you were powerless, and you're not responsible." Some people are now saying that this is the best thing to tell children. If you tell them they were powerless, it gives the children more power. We don't do that.


PAIDIKA: We spoke at the beginning about paedophilia and spirituality. This is not an issue that is very often discussed. Given the opposition to and oppression of paedophilia in American society, how would you describe a spirituality for paedophiles?

RALPH UNDERWAGER: For me, the beginning of spiritual life is in knowing that God is gracious, knowing that it is God's purpose that we have a good life, knowing that it is God's purpose that we be free. The freedom that God intends for us to have is absolute. The only thing that can match absolute killing, and judgments that condemn us, such as St. Paul's, "You have sinned and come short of the glory of God," is the absolute, "You are free." You are free, that is, from all accusation, nothing, no one can accuse you. 
     The issue is never what is right or wrong. That's mistaken question. Paying attention to what is right and wrong is, I think, a penultimate goal because the issue is not right and wrong but good and evil. That's totally different. Right and wrong has to do with whether or not you hit the mark, whether a given behavior matches a certain standard. If it doesn't, then it's wrong. 
     Good and evil only pays attention to outcomes. You can never know the outcomes until you have already acted. Spirituality that attends to the issue of good and evil must always be courageous, bold, operating always with incomplete information. You never know, so you are continually making a responsible choice about which there's always risk. You can only know if something is good subsequent to having acted, and observing the outcome. 
     As with all human behavior, I would suggest that paedophiles can't say, "I have chosen; I choose; I will act in this fashion. I believe that the outcome will be good. I will pay the price for that act, whatever that price may be."

HOLLIDA WAKEFIELD: The price might be the difficulty of integrating oneself into one's society.

RALPH UNDERWAGER: Or, going to jail, certainly. As I said before, it may take people being arrested. In a sense, what is, well, I guess I can say this, what is offensive about what I know about paedophiles is their intention to be able to do what they choose without paying the price. "I want to be able to do this, but the society should let me do it without exacting any kind of price from me."

PAIDIKA: Is it reasonable for paedophiles to want and to work for the decriminalization of what they believe is right?

RALPH UNDERWAGER: It's not reasonable if the goal is "I want to do it, and I don't really care what other people tell me. I'm not going to engage in the attempt to communicate or to talk to people." It's like saying to somebody, "Accept me because after all, I'm really the same as you are." That's what tolerance is supposed to be, and that's why tolerance always falls short. It is never to me, acceptable. 
     I don't think it is honest to tolerate somebody only because they are saying, "At rock bottom, I'm really the same as you." or, conversely to say, I can tolerate you, I can accept you, because you are the same. I think it is much more honest and direct to say, "Yes, we're different. You're black, I'm white, you're smart, I'm not. I'm paedophile, you're heterosexual." Those are real differences, real differences. Paedophiles should point out how different they are, what the difference are.

PAIDIKA: Still isn't it a reasonable wish for paedophiles to want to see paedophile sex decriminalized? It may not be realistic right now in the U. S., but does that make it less legitimate a goal?

RALPH UNDERWAGER: oh yes, sure, sure. I mean Jesus said, "I really don't want to do this. I don't want to go up there onto Calvary." But when it came down to it, he said, "Well, okay, I'm going to walk the steps." As for decriminalization, the question is really if you're not there, how are you going to get there?

PAIDIKA: Any advice?

RALPH UNDERWAGER: Take the risk, the consequences of the risk, and make the claim: this is something good. Paedophiles need to become more positive and make the claim that paedophilia is an acceptable expression of God's will for love and unity among human beings. This is the only way the question is going to be answered, of whether or not it is possible. Does it happen? Can it be good? That's what we don't know yet, the ways in which paedophiles can conduct themselves in loving ways. That's what you need to talk about. You need to get involved in discourse, and to do so while acting. Matthew 11 talks about the wisdom of God, and the way in which God's wisdom, like ours, can only follow after. 
     Paedophiles need to become more positive and make the claim that paedophiles is an acceptable expression of God's will for love and unity among human beings. 
     I think the paedophile movement makes a mistake when it seeks to label the church as the instrument of repression, and in a sense, the enemy. I'm certainly aware of the accusation that it's the church that represses sexuality. I don't believe that's the case at all. I believe that the repression of sexuality begins with Greek thought. People who want to deal positively with human sexuality will do best to see the church as an ally, and to elicit from the church the positive responses about sexuality that are there.

PAIDIKA: You spoke about the need for paedophiles to engage in a discourse. What should that be?

HOLLIDA WAKEFIELD: We can't presume to tell them specific behaviors, but in terms of goals, certainly the goal is that the experience be positive, at the very least not negative, for their partner and partner's family. And nurturing. Even if it were a good relationship with the boy, if the boy was not harmed and perhaps even benefited, it it tore the family of the boy apart, that would be negative. 
     It would be nice if someone could get some kind of big research grant to do a longitudinal study of, let's say, a hundred twelve year old boys in relationships with loving paedophiles. Whoever was doing the study would have to follow that at five year intervals for twenty years. This is impossible in the U. S. right now. We're talking a long time in the future.--END

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