Who are the "creepy guys"?

“Creepy guys”… that’s how the men shown on a recent current affairs programme, were described by several of my co-workers (see promo article – Close Up shocked by ‘sexually explicit’ online chat with girl).  Everyone around the table nodded in agreement… these guys were “creepy” and “disgusting”.  Implicit within their words, was the fact that it was obvious that these men were “bad”, and that they would be able to spot them a mile off…

While looking one of them in the eye, I responded that those “creepy guys” could have been your husband, father, neighbour, school teacher, anyone… including being a woman, rather than a man.

Their denials were swift and vigorous… No, all of those men looked creepy.  I don’t think they could get their heads around the possibility that an abuser could be a female, so that part of my response was ignored.

Then something happened… someone said that one of the men shown looked like he was a businessman.  Another mentioned a recent case where a well-known comedian was convicted of child sexual abuse.  My amazing cynical friend, who knows a little of my past, repeated my words to the others in a slightly different way… suddenly there were uncomfortable shifting in chairs as they realised the implications of what they had seen on the show, and were now realising… An abuser isn’t the “creepy guy” with a long coat hiding in the bushes, or online… No, an abuser could be your neighbour, friend, relative… anyone.

I work with educated people… about a quarter of our number have at least one masters degree, while the others hold at least one bachelor degree… yet, they have led fairly sheltered lives.  When faced with anything outside of their comfort zone, they don’t cope.  They have shown this time after time… so I don’t know why it surprised me today.

Actually, the only difference in the usual play of things, was that today, I spoke up.  I gently questioned their beliefs, and they listened.  I’m not naive enough to believe that I’ve changed their minds; but for a moment, I had them thinking.

I know it’s not much, but it’s something small that I could do to acknowledge my past.  I grew up in a time when abuse was considered to be physical violence only – sexual or psychological abuse weren’t well-known, understood, or acknowledged.  However, much like today, people considered that any abuse only happened to “those people over there…” as they point to a vague point in the horizon.  It certainly didn’t happen in their house.  Yet, my father was a well-known, and respected member of the community… as were the other men that my siblings and I, called “Uncle”.  This helped the abuse that I was subjected to, fly under the radar.  No one questioned why I came to my mother during a party in tears, I was just shooed back to bed with a drink of water; all the while, the party laughed about my “excitability”.

I can understand them not questioning… well, I try really hard to.  We were a white middle class family, and that sort of thing didn’t happen in white middle class homes.  I didn’t say why I was crying.  I never said anything.  I’d been told, in many ways, that telling was not an option.  Societal expectations played a part in my silence… maybe, just maybe, by questioning my co-workers beliefs about “creepy guys”, it might make them consider things such as why a young girl would be crying at an adult party…

It’s not much, but it was something that I was capable of at that moment.

—————-
Now playing: Tracy Chapman – I’m Ready
via FoxyTunes

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16 thoughts on “Who are the "creepy guys"?

  1. Hi CG – you said “it’s not much”, actually I think it’s HUGE. Yay to you for speaking up!! And yay for you that your colleagues listened! You should be proud of yourself. *happy dance*

    • Hi Kerro,

      Thanks 🙂 I think I felt safe speaking up because it’s all that they’ve been talking about during our breaks for the entire week. Each day, I’d touched upon something different within what they were saying… It started off with maybe the “girl” asked for it, but that was discounted within the story itself… They kept referring to these “creepy guys”, so yesterday I felt able to question them on that. I didn’t do it aggressively, but just said that it could be anyone, and let the conversation develop as a consequence. It was interesting to watch their reactions…

      Take care,
      CG

  2. Hi CG,

    THANK YOU for an eloquent contribution to the effort to combat society’s complete denial of this HORRIBLE reality: a child abuser can take on any form or appearance, including someone seemingly “normal’ and close to you, as well as the apparently “greatest guy”, “morally upstanding”, “kindest” family man next door. It’s akin to the conceptualization of the alcoholic many decades ago in the United States: you had to be a “skid row bum” to be an alcoholic. Oh, what we have learned since then about that disease. The same needs to happen regarding not only the epidemic of sexual and other kinds of abuse, but also WHO the abusers are … and not one moment too soon.

    Thanks for continuing to add your powerful and sophisticated voice to this fight … and a fight it is.

    Best … take care,
    Michael

    • Hi Michael,

      I grew up with warnings about “stranger danger”, which included all the stereotypes about suspicious looking people waiting to snatch me off the street… Not once was it mentioned that the “creepy guy” could be someone you knew, trusted and were expected to love. I know that the education programmes have changed since that time – thankfully! But, while there are those old stereotypes lingering, there are going to be children who are being hurt, and it won’t be seen. Abuse crosses all of the socio-economic barriers…

      Alcohol… the socially accepted drug. There’s often more peer pressure to have it, than refuse it. Alcohol is still very much a part of the kiwi culture; so we may not be as far along in our understanding of the issues, and where they lay, as you are in America.

      I should say that I’m not an advocate… I’m just a pretty messed up survivor trying to make it through each day the best I can…

      Take care,
      CG

  3. Hi CG,

    Bravo to you for speaking up. You were able to raise some awareness, and as Kerro said… that is huge! You also validated yourself in the process. You deserve that self-acknowledgement.

    It’s hard for those who have lived sheltered lives to understand that things like this can happen in *any* household. They’re unable to see that social status doesn’t necessarily equal decency and honor.

    And just so you know… you make a difference everyday with your blog. Thanks for sharing this story. You’re truly awesome, CG.

    Take care,

    ~ Mareeya

    • Hi Mareeya,

      Thanks 🙂

      I remember my father joking with the local Police over one of my brothers “incidents”… I wonder if we’d been another family – say, one from a rougher part of town, whether they would have still been willing to laugh with my father, and walk off without an arrest. When I was still married, the mental health team were always asking whether my husband was home to make sure I was safe… without ever asking, or even considering, that he was abusing me.

      Until people change their perceptions, then things aren’t going to change. The sad thing, is that you don’t want to push things too far, so that there is undue fear. But, I think we need much more healthy scepticism about situations…

      Take care,
      CG

  4. I suspect that most police officers don’t spend too much time laughing and joking with people who live in the rougher parts of town.

    Your story reminds me of the one time my mother actually called the police out to our home because my father was beating me bloody. He had me pinned to the floor choking me and I couldn’t breathe, so my mother called the police out of desperation. The officer that arrived was a friend of my father and they just sat in the kitchen laughing about all of the good times they used to have when they were younger.

    Just as you must have felt… I felt so invalidated, and so defeated.

    I’m so sorry that happened to you. There is no worse feeling than the brutal betrayal of your family, and then knowing that you can’t even feel protected by law enforcement officers. Who else do you turn to?

    I agree that there needs to be awareness if things are going to change, but it needs to be done without creating undue fear. Any kind of awareness at all is better than none, in my opinion.

    Again… I’m sorry you were so unprotected. I understand your pain.

    Take care,

    ~ Mareeya

    • Hi Mareeya,

      I’m so sorry for what you went through… I believe what you say about the police. I’m glad you survived and are now healing from those wounds.

      I should clarify, that the police were at the house regarding something to do with my brother, not me. But, seeing them there, supporting my father; encouraged me to believe what I had been told about the police not believing me if I told anyone about what was happening.

      It’s a great way to isolate an already isolated child.

      I really hope things have changed since that time… I really do. Sometimes I think it has, and then I read another story about how the different protection agencies have failed a child…

      Take care,
      CG

      • There is no doubt that the friendliness you witnessed between the police and your father reinforced who the police would most likely protect if you ever had any thoughts of telling. Even as an adult, that would serve as a deterrent. That feeling of isolation and hopelessness is amplified when it’s experienced through the fragile mind of a child.

        I know that back then, there was little to no public awareness. While there is more awareness today, I’m not sure how much has really changed. Working in the court system, I see kids who fall through the cracks every single day. There are just so many cases of abuse, and child protection services here are so overwhelmed. I hate to sound grim, but I think we’ll always be reading those stories that you speak of.

        I think the biggest hope is awareness, advocacy, and more awareness.

        Take care,

        ~ Mareeya

        • The fact the child protection agencies are more visible now, means things have changed since when we were children… I know there is more awareness than what there was, but the reactions of my co-workers shows how little has changed in peoples daily lives. They still think that abuse is something that happens to other people, people they don’t know; and they’re wrong.

          I know we’ll probably always be reading about those stories of the children who are failed… Those stories are heart-breaking, but they help to raise awareness and accountability. If there is still abuse in the world, and it’s not being reported, then we’re in trouble.

          Take care,
          CG

  5. I also thought this was huge CG. Speaking up is huge! You spoke up for the little girl you were and for the woman you are now. I’m so freakin’ proud of you!

    I know over here in the States, they’ve been doing more articles about abusers being the “normal” looking person not the scary guy in the bushes. Unfortunately, getting people to realize that women abuse too has been more difficult.

    Still what you said was needed and I’m glad your friend backed you up. Sometimes people need to hear things more than once for it to begin to get through.

    • Hi CI,

      Thanks 🙂

      I don’t think society is ready to accept that an abuser could be someone they know, and respect. It shakes them from their comfort zone… When you consider that people don’t want to believe that the “nice quiet man next-door” is an abuser, you can understand why they don’t want to see a woman as an abuser either. It’s kind of funny, as when I mentioned to my GP that there was abuse in my marriage, she said “were you abusing him?”… so, not only did she know that women could be abusers, but she thought that I was one.

      I’m glad my friend backed me up too…

      Take care,
      CG

  6. Ahh yes the comfort zone of thinking we know what the face of evil looks like. People like to believe that criminals all have tatoos and wear leather jackets, or have had some sort of corrective eye surgery to give them an intimidatingly piercing glare, when most of the true deviants are unremarkable and utterly normal people that most of society overlooks until they’ve done something horrid… including women.

    This reminds me of a discussion in high school when the topic of abuse was discussed in our health class, and topics of sexual abuse were discussed. One incredibly gifted student, a very smart and artistically talented young man protested. He couldn’t believe that anyone would do those things to a child, or that anyone would do those things to THEIR child. I looked him square in the eye, and told him that yes it did happen to children, and often at the hands of their parents, and I told him that he might not be aware of it, but he knew at least three people who had suffered those very things. He walked out of the class shaking his head, still entirely submersed in his denial. The discussion seemed as traumatic to him as if someone had told him that a close relative had died. His reality seemed to be crumbling around him. I never did speak to him after that. Not for any vindictive reasons, he and I just traversed different social circles, so I don’t know if he ever was able to wrap his head around it.

    • Hi Storm Dweller,

      You’re right… people can fly under the radar because of their looks, and also be falsely accused of things too. We still place too much emphasis on looks and stereotypes…

      Child abuse can be difficult for some people to come to terms with… It sounds as if the student in your class was at least thinking about what had been discussed. It might have been drowned out by their denial, or it might have sparked some rethinking of their ideas. It sounds like it was the right time and place to challenge those ideas. We can’t change everyone, but we can talk about our opinions and experiences in the hope that it will spark something for the other person…

      Well done for speaking out…

      Take care,
      CG

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