Part II: The Lolita Effect – A Prevalent Worldwide Phenomenon & How It Affects Our Lives

The bottom line is that we live in an increasingly sex-saturated society, while lacking the ability to talk about children and sex in a measured or meaningful way. I was ill-informed as a child in all aspects of sex. My parents and the schools I went to lacked the knowledge to effectively teach me. Growing up I knew what sex was. But I didn’t know what sex was — and the implications it could have physically and psychologically on my life.

6262006It may be because of this lack of knowledge, or pertaining attitude, that the United States has the highest rate of teenage pregnancies, births and abortions, and the highest incidence of adolescent STDs in the industrialized world. To better combat these issues in the future I believe we need to have a better and more comprehensive sex education in school with a greater access to contraception. We need to develop more coordination between the medical and educational fields. Gender roles, power and interpersonal communication all need to be addressed more extensively.

Dr. Meenakshi Gigi Durham says it best:

“Sex is complicated and emotionally fraught; it is intriguing; it can feel pleasurable and transgressive, but it carriers consequences and risks that young children are not well prepared to recognize or handle.”

There should not be any shame in addressing sex to children at a young age. If our children are better prepared to deal with the complexities involved, then they will be more likely to engage in less risky behavior during adolescence.

The Lolita Effect robs many young children of the pleasure that is pure sensuous, self-adorning, and self-confident. It is the cause of many phenomenons, including eating disorders, dating violence, teen pregnancy, sexual abuse and sexual exploitation. Some children can move past these experiences and live fulfilling lives as adults, but others are not so lucky and they suffer significant, long-term, and devastating effects.

I’ll leave you all with this quote to ponder:

“In an ideal culture,” writes the psychologist Mary Pipher, ” sexual decisions should be the result of intentional choices.”

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Part I: The Lolita Effect – A Prevalent Worldwide Phenomenon & How It Affects Our Lives

Lolita is a bone chilling novel written by Vladimir Nabokov that dates back to 1950’s Russia. Today, Lolita is still the centerpiece for what is widely known as the first published work that involves the topic of incest. The novel is a piece of classic art. Because of the success of Lolita, it has been used as a learning device for many professionals, including Meenakshi Gigi Durham, whom wrote the book The Lolita Effect: The Media Sexualization of Young Girls and Five Keys to Fixing It.

Lolita, the novel, is the story of a middle-aged man who is obsessed with a twelve-year-old, and later becomes sexually involved with her after he becomes her stepfather. “Lolita” is the nickname Humbert Humbert gives to Delores Haze.

Think about this: Lolita was written in 1955. 1955! Fast forward and it is now 2017. 2017!

I am boggled by the lack of urgency in 2017 to tackle these issues given how we now live in a world where girls who get involved in grown-up eroticism begin at younger and younger ages. Girls these days are encouraged to become involved in the sphere of fashion, images, and activities that exploit sexuality.

Here are some really eye-opening examples of what I am talking about, according to Durham:

  • Abercrombie & Fitch once sold thong underwear for preteens. The seductive slogans on the thongs included Wink, Wink and Eye Candy.
  • My faaaavorite store, Wal-Mart, sold panties for teenage girls that said Who needs credit cards…?…. on the crotch.
  • The British chain, BHS, was once selling an an entire line of push-up bras and lacy briefs to preteens called Little Miss Naughty. If the British are involved, then we know things are out of hand. They are supposed to be the good guys.
  • Another British entity, Tesco, once sold a Peekaboo Pole Dancing kit. This was a toy… promoting sex. Unbelievable.
  • The last point involves the tale of one of the most polarizing pop culture figure in America, Ms. Miley Cyrus. When Miley was fifteen, she caused an uproar from people who believed she was too young to be so seductive. At the time, Miley was a young teen sensation and role-model. She played the innocent character of Hannah in Disney’s Hannah Montana. When she  posed topless for Vanity Magazine questions and eyebrows were raised.
    Then 15-year-old Miley Cyrus poses topless for Vanity Magazine. She would receive much criticism for the photo.
    Then fifteen-year-old Miley Cyrus poses topless for Vanity Magazine. She would receive much criticism for the photo.

    Is a fifteen-year-old actually capable of distinguishing the difference between seductive and not? Was Miley yet capable of knowing the type of reaction the photo would cause worldwide?

We have already discussed in length the difficulty children have when it comes to saying no to an older and more powerful adult. I believe Miley was too young to understand the impact this photo would cause. And even if she had her own self-doubts (she later said she was “embarrassed” by the photo) she was probably told how great the photo looked and the amazing things the photo would do for her then-budding career.

Remember: this is the same Miley Cyrus who said she did not swear (skip ahead to 25:00) the first time she was interviewed by Barbara Walters as a “Most Fascinating Person” in 2008.

Whatever your take on Miley  may be, remember how she might have been negatively influenced when she was younger. Even famous people can be influenced. Miley is a classic public example of this sphere of fashion that girls are being infiltrated by as young as three-years-old.

Lolita is a reminder that there is some sort of public acknowledgement that a preteen girl could be sexual. Here’s Durham’s take on the subject:

“One reason for our fascination with the sexy little girl is her tricky double role in a contemporary society – she is simultaneously a symbol of female empowerment and the embodiment of a chauvinistic “beauty myth”. She invokes the specter of pedophilia while kindling the prospect of potent female sexuality.”

Clearly there is a bold focus on an incestuous liaison between grown men and little girls. That is what has made Lolita the character into a fantasy figure. Sadly, we do not see her as a sexually abused and tragic figure in the novel.

As Durham so eloquently reminds us, Lolita has become our favorite metaphor for a child vixen. Lolita was a sexual character. However, Lolita was not allowed to experience her sexuality in a safe and ethical direction of her own choosing. Instead, her sexual appeal was imposed on her in ways that suited Humbert’s needs and vision. She was raped and victimized, and she was deprived of her childhood.

Lolita, in truth, is a cautionary tale.

Turning a Blind Eye Towards Child Abuse Can Help Foster A Dangerous Social Climate

Sadly, the American society fails to make its’ children a priority. For example, a number of professionals believe that teaching children awareness of child sexual abuse is sexually abusive. Proponents to this delusional theory compare it to teaching children to look both ways before crossing the street, which does not create excessive fear about roads and traffic.

Typically, when kids report inappropriate touching, they are not believed, told to quit making up stories, and generally ignored. It would not be crazy for a child to think that, in order to actually get adults to believe they have been molested, they actually have to have seen molestation occur. By that time it is, obviously, too late for the victim, and the adult has let the safety of a child go to the back burner once again.

Here is Dr. Carla van Dam’s take:

“In no other area of child safety do adults put the onus of responsibility on children. Children are expected to look both ways before crossing the street, but adults take on the task of establishing traffic laws and ensuring that they are enforced. When traffic laws are violated, the adult community assumes responsibility for ending these violations, Yet, in the case of child sexual abuse, adults unthinkingly and unintentionally abdicate responsibility and even seem blind to improprieties that should alert them. Then, when children or their supporters describe problems, the adult community will typically blame the messenger and strongly defend the accused.”

It may seem strange, but it is true that societal responses to reports of child sexual abuse often include blaming the victim. This creates a potentially dangerous social climate that enables abusers now and in the future, and further implicates and endangers potential victims.

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The gap between the responsibility the adult community has to protect children needs to bridge closer with the responsibility children have to protect themselves. We cannot expect one group to protect the other. Both groups need to do their part and that is essential to a conscious effort of overall protection in society.

Think of it this way: Were child sexual abuse a physical disease such as cancer, then the prevalence of data alone would classify it as an epidemic. Child sexual abuse may not be a contagious disease, but it spreads and flourishes when coupled with secrecy, isolation, and confusion.

Child Molestation: Who Does It? What Is The Harm? & The Need For Clarity

Until more recently it was widely assumed that a molester was a single man who could easily be identified by his unsavory looks and unshaven appearance. He would lurk in the shadows and grab children one-by-one. Many families believed they could protect their children by teaching them not to talk to strangers. Recent studies show, however, that molesters whom commit these heinous crimes are most often a person a child knows and not a stranger.

The age of the internet and social media has connected the country’s news cycle more than ever before. We are all now well aware that it is not only men who molest children, but just as many women partake in these crimes. Unfortunately, even in the twenty first century, societal attitudes towards women make disclosures about female molesters less likely. As noted by Dr. Carla van Dam:

“… boys prematurely sexualized by an older female are traditionally considered ‘lucky.'”

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Highline School District teacher Mary Kay Letourneau is seen in this Fall 1996 school photo. (ABC News)

Another bizarre molestation case involves Mary Kay Letourneau . Letourneau became a media sensation in the late 1990’s as the public grappled with the seeming puzzlement of an attractive, successful, married teacher and mother of four charged with the sexual assault of her student, Vili Fualaau, who was in sixth grade. But in a strange twist, Fualaau’s mother became Letourneau’s ally and advocate; she blessed the sexual relationship between her son and this adult more the three times his age. Her son was robbed of his childhood and prematurely became the father of two infant daughters.

Letourneau and Fualaau are now married. Some of you may be confused by this. Some of you may ask why Letourneau went to jail for numerous years if her and Fualaau were “in love”. The Letourneau story is about as bizarre as they come. Here is a relatively simple explanation about why her and Fualaau were never, and can never be, “in love”.

According to van Dam’s research:

“For true consent to occur, two conditions must prevail. A person must know what it is that her or she is consenting to, and a person must be free to say yes or no.”

Neither of these conditions applied when Letourneau started becoming sexually involved with Fualaau. Her grooming process started when the boy was in second grade. Consensual conditions can never occur between any child and an older, more knowledgeable and powerful adult. When adults consider sexual interactions with a child, they automatically enter into an exploitative relationship with the child, meeting their personal needs and agendas, rather than attending to the child’s best interests.

Another psychological explanation says:

“Sexual abuse is a violation of a trust relationship with unequal power and/or advanced knowledge (and) the need for secrecy (and) sexual activity.”

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Mary Kay Letourneau and Vili Fualaau at their ABC interview with Barbara Walters, April 2105.

Fualaau became so brainwashed by Letourneau that he married the woman. That is how dangerous perpetrators such as Mary Kay Letourneau can be.

So, again, we come to the “need for clarity” when it comes to how to a). identify child molesters and b). educate and protect our children not to enter into potentially dangerous situations with these people. People’s views on what constitutes child sexual abuse often differ, which may prevent them from responding appropriately and with the necessary certainty.

There are many reasons for this thinking. Why?

  1. There are too many gray areas that implies nothing more should be done — this includes all parties involved.
  2. This is a crazy one: in no criminal case is an understanding of events primarily determined by soliciting explanations from the accused person.
  3. This ties in with number one: Doing nothing condones child sexual abuse, without even knowing so.

Dr. Diana Russell sums up the confusion perfectly:

“There is no consensus among researchers and practitioners about what sex acts constitute sexual abuse, what age defines children, nor even when the concept of child sexual abuse is preferable to others such as sexual victimization, sexual exploitation, sexual assault, sexual misuse, child molestation, sexual maltreatment, or child rape… Cases in which children are raped or otherwise sexually abused by their peers, younger children, or children less than five years older than themselves are often discounted as instances of child sexual abuse.”

And van Dam puts a bow on the confusion by saying:

“The failure to recognize each identified instance as, in all likelihood, representing a larger pattern is “the second largest societal blind spot,” which “sex offenders themselves have little reason to emphasize.”

Obviously, there is no clear definition so there needs to be a zero tolerance policy when it comes to potential molesters. Typically we respond to such uncertainty and discomfort by blocking it out altogether. It is imperative to remember that sexual abuse does not necessarily mean sexual intercourse.

The next time you find yourself dealing with an individual who has nonverbal mannerisms or gimmicks, or has dramatic hand movements, and so on, and they tend to overwhelm you, close your eyes or look away. But do not stop there. Start to carefully listen to what the person is saying. For it is there that you might find a clue that will lead you to better identify danger right in front of you.

Why Adults Cannot Identify Child Molesters

There are many obstacles  when it comes to accurately identifying child molesters, but the obstacles begin with adults. Children rely on their elders for guidance and protection. When an adult is fooled by an abuser then the child is rendered defenseless.

It is, obviously, not entirely adults who are at fault. Monsters who molest children follow no particular pattern in regards to their age, sex, and occupation, although they seem to choose lifestyles giving them access to children. It is extremely difficult to identify a child molester. However, it is the adults responsibility to be aware of emerging signs and patterns of a potential child molester.

This is all easier said than done. Take for example the case of a man who was voted “Citizen of the Year” before being convicted on a number of molestation charges. This individual was in charge of running the annual community fair and he used young students to run the booths. Despite the eventual convictions against the man, the community whose children he molested appealed to the courts for a temporarily release to run the fair again.

Bizarre, but it points mainly to confusion and denial amongst the adult population.

In another case, a Canadian teacher was accused of molesting children at numerous schools during the 1970’s-1980’s. How did this man get away with molesting for so long and at so many different places?  Because the police departments involved decided to treat each case as an isolated incident. This teacher was essentially getting a glowing letter of recommendation to facilitate a move to another district. In every community, therapists working with him knew about his sexual activities, but kept quiet despite legal obligations to report their knowledge. School district personnel also failed to report what they knew to the police, as each complaint they heard was also handled separately.

To recap: Every single time someone encountered indications of sexual abuse involving the teacher, they assumed the information reflected only an isolated instance, encouraged everyone involved to keep quiet, and feared a libel suit from the teacher should they discuss his tendencies.

That is some extreme negligence.

Here is an amazing quote from a mother who had a child abused. These cases can get so twisted that at one point she thought she was being unreasonably crazy, saying:

“Maybe I’m making a big deal about it. I don’t feel that we’ve been taken seriously. In some peoples minds we’ve made a big deal about nothing. They tell us, “It was just little boys,” and “It only happened for four months.” You get the feeling, not from what is said, but from what is not said, that, one, your son did something wrong, and, two, you’re making a big deal of it. You get this not only from the school system, but when you talk to other parents, or your doctor, and you begin to believe, ” Maybe I should shut up. Maybe it’s not a big deal.” Then you think, “Damn it. My kid did not do anything to have this happen to him (van Dam).”

As a child I would not have known how to handle a situation involving molestation. Nobody ever talked about it to me growing up. Not my parents, not my teachers, not my coaches — nobody with an authority figure ever addressed this issue to me. I knew not to talk to strangers, get in their car, take candy, etc. But that was about the extent of it. I am grateful I never encountered a situation that remotely felt like molestation on any level.

Some kids are not so lucky.

Before I began advocating, I’m not sure I knew enough about molesters to say I could have, hypothetically, as a father, been able to educate my own kids on how to identify molesters and what to do if they were ever encountered a situation of molestation with another adult. That is a scary thought because I feel like there are a lot of actual parents out there who feel the exact same way. Their biggest fear is their child(ren) being taken advantage of by an adult. They fear for a number of reasons, but maybe the biggest reason is because they themselves do not know how to even begin to go about diving into the topic of molestation.

side-bannerThere are ways to end molestation in our communities. The education starts with the adults. They cannot be confused or in denial when it comes to the safety of so many children. They cannot accept to live like past generations. This needs to be an issue that is addressed as soon as a child is competent enough to realize the implications involved.

Remember that sexual abuse, for the abuser, is not about sex. Instead, it is an expression of the need for power and control taken out in a sexual manner. That should be our basis for identification. If we remember that, then we can more accurately begin to identify molesters.

Sexual Crimes Against Children Have Risen To Epidemic Rates

Of all the serious harms that could come to a child, sexual abuse is the most common.

There are a number of factors that play into the continual rise of this horrifying crime made by adults. For example, there are more mothers working than at any point in our country’s history, and the need to put children in day care facilities where they are more prone to attack than ever before. The same can be said about divorce –children are now at a higher risk of being abused by their stepparents. Finally, due mainly to the aforementioned factors, adults who were molested as children are now doing the molesting themselves.

Fact: The more children that are molested, the higher the risk for the trend to continue to get worse.

Here are a few stats to mull over:

  1. One in three girls and one in six boys will have sexual contact with an adult.
  2. The average molester of girls will have about fifty victims before being caught and convicted, while the average molester of boys will have on average one hundred and fifty victims before being caught and convicted.
  3. Molesting doesn’t stop for abusers once they are caught. In fact, there are reports that say most molesters will have as many as three hundred victims during their “careers”.
  4. The epidemic of child abuse has now reached over one-fourth of the American population.

In the past three decades there has been a significant amount of documentation regarding child abuse, but there is still very little reputable, and maybe more importantly, helpful literature, for the public to educate themselves on. So when a case is reported in the popular press people are left to wonder how it could have happened. Parents, teachers and friends are questioned as to how they were so ignorant about an abuser right in front of their faces. More notably, most people assume an abuser is a person who could not be likable when in reality that assumption is actually the complete opposite.

Or there is the phrase that people think of whenever a major and traumatic event rocks America: It would never happen here [where I live].

Wrong.

The over-assuming and smug individuals are the same people who cannot get past how any reasonable adult could have entrusted the care of children to a sexual predator.

Dr. Carla van Dam is the author of the book Identifying Child MolestersHere is her take:

“The topic of child sexual abuse frequently engenders extreme views and emotional reactivity that only helps to distract everyone from the primary concern of creating safer environments for children.”

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Child abuse is an epidemic, folks. Protecting children should be something every American believes in and wants to fight their hardest for.

How Sexual Predators Groom Their Victims

Pretend that you are back in high school and pretend that you are (for lack of a better word) a nerd. You spend more time at home figuring out quantum mechanics than you do socializing. In this hypothetical story, it is nearing finals week of senior year. You have already mentally clocked out of high school and moved on to a prestigious university.

acda21f24765e2a66af2cb0b90480e13You sit in physics class touching up your scientific reading knowledge when someone taps you on the shoulder. You turn around and it is the smokeshow blonde from the back of your classroom -– and get this, she is smiling at you!

You fumble to get real words out of your mouth, but not to worry because she already knows exactly what she wants to say to you. After charming you with a sweet hi she says she wants to know if you would tutor her for the final exam. You agree and instantly begin to put a thorough lhkv7cs-iesson plan together in your head. She arrives at your house (of course she has a sweet ride!) and you let her in and offer her a soda pop. She declines and you head to your room where you are ready to teach. Only you get in your room and she does not want to learn. No, she wants to have sex with you. You are a human being, so you do not even think about motive when she begins stripping you. Before you know it she has rocked your world.

As you lay in bed happier than you have ever been, she begins to dress herself and turns back to ask if you can still tutor her for the exam. You begin to reply enthusiastically, but before you can finish she cuts you off. She does not want to actually learn anything for the exam, she only wants to do well enough so that she can graduate on time and she knows you can get her the grade that she needs to do so.

She wants you to cheat for her. At first you are hesitant. But she quickly puts to rest any of your concerns when she comes over and kisses you passionately for a minute or two. You agree to help her cheat on the exam.

You are a victim. You have been groomed. The smokeshow blonde gained your trust by manipulating you and used you for what she wanted.

To recap: grooming increases the predator’s access to their victim and decreases the likelihood of discovery.

As we have learned, child molesters do their homework. They take it slow and test the child many times before getting to the stage they ultimately want to be at. And to be clear that does not always mean rape. But technicalities for the police and investigators aside, being weird is being weird, and I think we can all agree on that.

Below are some quotes from convicted child molesters. They basically laughed their way towards molestation because of being too trusted and the negligence on the part of so many people –- specifically parents of the victims.

Be amazed:

“Parents are so naive—they’re worried about strangers and should be worried about their brother-in-law. They just don’t realize how devious we can be. I used to abuse children in the same room with their parents and they couldn’t see it or didn’t seem to know it was happening.”

“I was disabled and spent months grooming the parents, so they would tell their children to take me out and help me. No one thought that disabled people could be abusers.”

“Parents are partly to blame if they don’t tell their children about [sexual matters]—I used it to my advantage by teaching the child myself.”

“Parents shouldn’t be embarrassed to talk about things like this—it’s harder to abuse or trick a child who knows what you’re up to.”

I will write it a million times if I have to: grooming is a process. First, the predator chooses a target area, which could be places like schools, shopping malls, playgrounds and parks. They may work or volunteer at businesses that cater to children. Single parent families are also a target for predators.

There is no prototypical victim of child sexual abuse, which is contrary to public opinion, but predators often target children with obvious vulnerabilities. Think about it: a child who feels unloved and unpopular (think about the nerd with the smokeshow!) will soak up adult attention like a sponge. The same can be said about children with family problems, children who spend time alone and unsupervised, children who lack confidence and self-esteem, and children and who are isolated from their peers.

Predators use many different forms of charm with potential victims. They may offer to play games, give rides, or buy candy. If the children are older, the predator may offer drugs or alcohol. But no matter what the circumstance the predator almost always offer a sympathetic, understanding ear.

When the predator gives the child the candy they will then say things like: “Here’s some candy. But don’t tell your friends because they’ll be jealous, and don’t tell your mother because she won’t like you eating between meals.” Or they will threaten the child: “If you tell your mother what happened, she’ll hate you. It’ll kill her. Or I’ll kill her. Or I’ll kill you.”

Predators use the grooming process to break down a child’s defensive instincts and increase the child’s acceptance of touch. The first physical contact between predator and victim is often nonsexual touching designed to identify limits: an “accidental” touch, an arm around the shoulder, a brushing of hair. Nonsexual touching breaks down inhibitions with the child and leads to more overt sexual touching – the predator’s ultimate goal.

Successful predators will find a way to fill a void in a child’s life.

How do we stop pedophiles from getting that far with our children? The best way to recognize the grooming behavior is to pay attention the child and the people in the child’s life. Children rely on adults to protect them from strangers, most who are more often than not other adults.

The twenty first century world is fast-paced, interconnected, and diverse. The problems the world faces are at the highest peak of our civilization. There are many demands placed upon our time, and in our daily routines, but nothing is more important than the welfare of our children. When we blindly surrender responsibility for them to others without question, we invite trouble.

Parents and guardians should take the time to really get to know their child’s teachers, coaches, day care providers, youth group leaders, and other significant adults in their lives. Make unannounced visits. Ask questions. Stay involved. So what if you seem overprotective? So what if it may drive the people of authority crazy to have to answer your questions over-and-over again? At least you will know that you are protecting your child.

The simplest thing to do, to start, would be to talk to your children. Teach them to recognize grooming behaviors in adults. We can teach our children this aspect at that same early stage in their lives where we tell them repeatedly not to get in cars with strangers. Teach them to be wary of any physical contact initiated by an adult. And teach them to trust you with their problems and their pain. The safest child is a child who knows they can bring their problems and concerns to parents and not feel like they are going to be yelled at or punished in some way.

Finally, I want to say that the last quote from the barrage above really got to me and I think it is the epitome of what I am trying to do with this site. Here it is again from a convicted child molester:

“Parents shouldn’t be embarrassed to talk about things like this—it’s harder to abuse or trick a child who knows what you’re up to.”

Personally, I do not think it is embarrassment that stops parents from talking to their children about child abuse. I think there reason parents may choose not to talk to there children is simply due to a lack of knowledge. That is why it is my mission to try and connect with as many individuals as possible. Current parents, grandparents, future parents, children — whomever it may be. We can all learn how to better protect each other with knowledge.