Part II Underwager/Wakefield Interview
THE AMERICAN SITUATION
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.
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.
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?
RALPH UNDERWAGER: Yes, I would.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
PAEDOPHILIA AND SPIRITUALITY
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.
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.
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.
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.
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