Imagine all the stuff of the earth. The matter, the energy, the chunk of
space in which it is. Now all the things of the earth. The plants and
animals. The peculiar arrangements of stuff. Now imagine all the travelings
of all of these things throughout the course of time and space. The weird
spirals like worms described by the motion of our planet, the clouds of human
activity spread, hopefully, across the sky. Now include all of the
possibilities, the would ofs, the should ofs, the might have beens. Now
imagine all of this contained in a book.
Imagine the mind that reads this book. There is no time or quantity for this
being. It holds within its mind everything in our world, like we hold the
plot of a story. This mind can flip back to Ancient Rome or forward to our
futures, as easily as we look up a word in the dictionary or surf the
Now imagine this mind in a library, studying.
The Nebraska cornfield. To an ant the extent of it must seem infinite. The
plants, to say nothing of the kernals, limitless. And all of this in the
course of a season. What of the ant that tries to number the kernals from
one year to the next?
But after all it’s just a farmer’s field. He will sow and reap the lot with
Well, things were just fine for me when I was four. Far as I was concerned, it couldn’t have been much better. I felt like the center of the whole business. I remember singing “The Birds and the Bees and the Flowers and the Trees.”
See, sometimes it happens that a young successful couple just can’t seem to have children. Well, being a normal young couple, this brings them great sadness. After much reflection and prayer, they decide that the love they have to share, needs to be shared and they begin the adoption process.
In the due course of procedure and time, I get an unexpected trip to the park with a bunch of strangers. What a party! I have a blast and am told wonder of wonders that I can expect another one soon! Ramifications. The next trip to the park is even more fun than the last. It is fun being the center of that much attention and hope. Doesn’t occur that there can be a price to being the center piece of someone’s dreams. That you get lost when forced into another’s dreams. But, again ramifications.
Some more due course and time and procedure pass along. And one day I find myself in a courthouse. Some people have talked to me and explained what was happening, so I know about adoption and what the park business was about. Still haven’t a clue about ramifications though. Eventually, I get shown in to the judge. Now, I’m pretty certain I knew the judge wasn’t God, but I couldn’t have pointed out the distinction, right then.
The judge tells me that these folks want to be my permanent parents and was that okay with me? Now this is the point where the ramifications I’ve been harping on came to hang in my closet. I said yes, great with me. Here’s the thing, I don’t pretend that this narrative is accurate. I remember and I’m trying to tell you how it was for me then, but I can’t hang on words in memory. Let me tell you what never, ever occurred to me and maybe you’ll understand. I expect I thought parents were the people who took you to the park every week or so. Because, I remember expecting to walk out of there and go back to my family, and hoping that it would be park next time not the courthouse.
Well that’s a pretty harsh smack down of a ramification. Try this one on for size. I’m no longer a little boy, I’m the incarnation of a dream. Finally, we have children. Now our love can mold their lives. Yeah, except I wasn’t a dream child. I was stubborn, defiant,self destructive, needed Ritalin, had problems with authority, I lied and cheated, and wet the bed. In short, I couldn’t be forced to fit their dream. I was pretty pissed off, really. I see that now. I had been tricked. I wanted to go back to my family. So my adopted mother, packed a bag and showed a five-year-old the door. The front door of the house. I was invited to leave. I was too scared, and that is when the shame set in. If I had taken those steps, and she’d had to haul me back by force, at least I would have been a prisoner and not a participant. Ah, God! I may not have understood ramifications at the beginning of five but half way through, I was an expert. If I walked out that door the scary world of adoption only got bigger. I knew I could be fooled, taken, abused. It had already happened. So, I sold myself to fear and betrayed my family.
And stopped feeling free and easy and the center of the whole business. And started feeling like what I was…, lost… and now ashamed. You should never at five feel as though you are five.
So tell me minister, prophet, God, how can you chastise me for a lack of faith? I was four. I was one of the little ones. Who, God, suffered me to be harmed, God? Pardon me, if the clay is a bit skeptical now.
Is there any chance at all that I can be forgiven for taking my pain and raping with it?
Can the pain a woman caused me be at least acknowledged as a dim component of my offense? Can the continuing pain at the hands of female teachers who saw me as my mother saw me, as a combatant? What of the woman, the teacher in second grade who saw the bruises from calf to shoulder? Well, at least I had her sympathy, if not protection. Does the abuse I suffered, and the fracturing of my identity exist as it did then, only for me? Might there be a reason for all my rage, if not for my victim? Or did all this cease to exist when I took my inexpressable rage and raped?
I was never sexually abused by any of my various parents. Why do we believe that is necessary? Harm comes from all quarters. Perhaps I am weak, but my crimes arose from, beatings, and the seemingly endless powerlessness of being a child to a mean, vindictive woman. Who was herself created by a mean vindictive father and so on and on to the end.
Another thing to consider, I was adopted into this mess. It took from the age of five to thirteen. Eight years to a rapist. I began having rape fantasies within weeks of discovering masturbation. How does that come to pass? I don’t believe I was born to rape. Add testosterone and simmer. That would make treatment kind of pointless as well as punishment. I don’t believe it is a flaw in my birth family genes as my adopted mother contends. I think I was trained to see women, all women, as combatants by my mother as her father taught her to see men. This training acted to sever my ability to experience intimacy. But like phantom pain, I experienced its loss, first as fear, then as shame, anger and eventually, rage. As I began understanding sexual attraction, I found rape fantasies gave means to release a bit of the rage at all the petty idignities, betrayals of trust, and vindictiveness of my mother. Not that I understood that then, I did not realize I was already long gone down the road to prison.
Inspite of Sex Offenders Treatment, I do feel entitled to my history of abuse. Both as the victim and the abuser. I feel entitled to the rage, fear, humiliation, powerlessness my mother instilled in me. I feel entitled to the despair of ever finding intimacy with women, after years of fearful approaches and terrible denials. I have lived all these, how could I help without them. I feel entitled to create something more from the misery I feel, than victims. I want my little boys, the internal one, and my son to stop being sacrifices. Sacrifices for war, corporate hegemony, public outrage, or for our simple need of self delusion.
The sex offenders that come out of prison and off parole and who live offense free lives. These are resources. They are veterans, like their victims, of our eternal war with ourselves. Our seperate halves. Our women, our men, our boys and girls. These are not victim or abuser they are not combatant nor foe. They are simply our family and ourselves in all the wonderful variety of humanity.
The chains of sexual abuse are not held in one mind, but in the generations of minds. It passes through families an obscentity so profound as to corrupt our love for our children or that of a woman for a man. It is not the province of a gender, but of humanity. Listen to this resource your prisons provide you now, please. It passes through society, in aggressive sexuality and the innocent who tamper with it. View its passing in fifty years of television. Simply type ‘raped’ into Google to see how capitalism offends free speech.
I seek a healing, let it have been enough. Let us begin to forgive each other. I’ll humble myself, please start with me. Why must every battle end in Palestine? Why, having been wounded, can we only pass it along with anger added. Well, I am weary, read the tears in my words. I would like to remember my innocence because I mourn its passing. I mourn that I took it from another. Let’s let it be enough, forever and again, amen.
“What is Government if words have no meaning?” Jared Loughner, let’s not give his third name shall we. This kid did everything but violence to get people to notice he was going crazy. Let’s not call him an assassin.
“What is Government if words have no meaning?” This doesn’t seem that crazy now. If words we learn in church like love, compassion, forgiveness, don’t mean anything on Monday why do they on Sunday? If words like civility, responsibility, duty have meaning only in theory why do we bother with them at all.
“What is Government if words have no meaning?” Why, that is the government we have now. The Constitution seems to have become merely an opportunity for naked ambition and greed. The children of the Great Generation, torture. My God, if that doesn’t wake us up, what will?
See, here is the way it is in my adopted family. The problems always seem mostly with our boys. It is our boys that pay in alienation. It only takes a brief look at our family tree to see it. Most of my male cousins made it through. But there were these few. As a child, when I would hear my parents discussing these boys, I was always left with the impression that these boys were at fault. These boys exist on the fringes of our family. They wander the desert, find their peers and comfort outside the family. The only person, I ever heard recognize it was my adopted father. He was talking with me about bed-wetting. He said that another member of my family, one of my cousins had this particular problem, and that it could be worse. When I asked him what he meant he said, “…believes that you should just beat the child until he stops. He would not respond to any further questions. But I did believe it could be worse.
So, I look and I see the shape of the landscape. There is severe alienation among my aunts and uncles. Fits of ostracism. Years ago, we lost an entire wing of our family, mother and cousins gone. Everyone seems to have just let them go. These people that we shared wonderful holidays with, the cassette tapes from Germany, summer vacations. Poof! gone. Now, I’m watching it spread to the children of my generation, and I fear for my son.
If we would start talking about it. Not replaying who did what to whom, but recognizing that there is a problem. We could, as a family, watch for the signals among our children, or in each other. We could intervene. Maybe then the alienation within our family would start to heal.
But we so often gather round to exclude.
I have posted a good bit of my pain on this page. I have made my family aware of it. I wonder, is the gathering beginning. Are loyalties being weighed, costs being counted? Hell, is there even a problem in your minds, except me?
I approach my family with this consideration. Maybe you know me only as a problem child, or a prisoner, or a liar. I have been all of those things. If you can not see the truth in my words. If you can not see that I believe them, then look for yourselves. How is it possible that we, as a family, lose so many boys?
Okay forget the anger. It is a burden that only gets heavier. How do we start healing?
1) What do you think of this idea? Let’s devote part of each school day, from K through college, to helping students process the challenges they faced that day. Did Johnny pull Suzie’s hair on the playground? What happened? How does everyone feel? The mental health group experience is very powerful. Once trust develops, empathy begins. Want to ease tensions in Palestine? Get small groups of people from opposing sides together. Let them tell their stories to each other. Watch them realize that their enemy shares their grief. If children learn to express their anger immediately and appropriately during groups, how likely is it that rage can develop? Young college men that feel connected to their female peers will not rape them. Young women that feel safe with their male peers will not ostracize them.
2) Does anyone out there know how to forgive? I don’t mean saying I forgive you to someone in a show of moral superiority. I don’t mean daily giving up your anger to God, whatever that means. No, I mean does anyone know how to just wipe the slate clean? If not, why do we keep telling people to forgive when nobody can really manage it? If so, those of you that know how, need to teach the rest of us how, because we are really slowing down progress. So I say let’s forget turning the other cheek. Don’t get me wrong it is a great idea and everything. Most of us just can’t pull it off with any regularity unless we have no choice. Let’s try redressing wrongs when we see them. Let’s do it on our own, not wait for the state. Every single one of you know a child in need. When you allow that child to suffer in silence, please, don’t be surprised when he joins a gang. Start speaking up when you see something wrong. Keep taking your swings.
3) Let’s start applying a little self honesty. Two examples:
Men notice when girls start turning into young women. You know dads, that is about the time you start shoving your daughters off your lap with no explanation. Good for you, not the best response but better than some. Why don’t we talk about this? Not talking leads us into all kinds of foolishness. For starters, everyone feels alone and perverse when they experience these taboo arousals. Add a little shame and you have the starter kit for a sex offender.
Women, you feel angry sometimes, right? Hurting someone isn’t always the hardest thing to do, is it? Your men will respect a blunt show of anger much more than martyrdom or endless memory. [note: I'm talking here about secure guys, not wife beaters.]
Okay that’s mine, anyone else?
Third, as you see, I do not believe you are the enemy. I could see compassion in the faces and actions of some officers and officials at all levels in Lansing. I did, and it was a drink to a thirsty man. Do not also think I wasn’t the victim of more than one officer who likely missed being where I was by a gnat’s whisker.
Finally, I consider that my success in navigating all the various pitfalls and requirements necessary to be released on parole, as well as those that faced me while on parole, give me a perspective that may not easily be available to you. So I have prepared an assessment. Please consider it.
a. Stamp out the idea at all levels that punishment is efficacious. Consider that the men and women who come under your care have had years of that model by the time they have reached you and yet have not been deterred. Consider also, how easily punishment becomes abuse. Consider finally, how often those who come under your care were created by abuse.
b. Make certain that we are doing our best at screening the officers responsible for the daily care of inmates. This can not be a simple intake assessment. The environment of your workplace is one of the most corrosive to character known. Everyone, at every level should be monitored. Abuse suffered by inmates at the hands of the officials entrusted with them is practically unredressable. It is tyranny of the worst sort to countenance these crimes. No matter workplace politics and the general untrustworthiness of the inmates. It happens as you know. And, it is foolishness. What are your expectations of the convict abused under your care? Is this likely to be a model citizen upon release?
c. Prisons should be violence free. We accept prison rape as one of the prices of doing business. If you are considering cost, or public opinion. I ask you to improvise, to care for these profoundly damaged human beings that come under your care. Of course they will try to abuse each other. Do not be lazy. Is rape an acceptable penalty for all of the crimes you house? For any?
d. Education. I don’t care if the officer’s are giving GED courses. It ultimately is more important than work. You know this, I know. But it bears repeating. Education gained in prison reduces recividism. If you have chosen the correct officers, and are motivated to do so, gains in this area recycle human beings. There are inmates that would help you. Work harder.
e. Get rid of the notion that a fixed time is enough or that a debt has been incurred. People are healed at no given rate. To release a man that is incapable of responsibility simply because his time is up? Who is pointing the gun, and who is the gun? If there is a debt for the offender, is there not also one for our collective failure to have properly socialized this person?
f. We need to heal and teach and retrain. This can not be done by system. The damage that passes through your walls is too varied. Programs like SOTP that are forensic and coercive in nature may seem to offer some safety net, but I don’t need to tell you that they are seriously flawed; both in focus and in ability to assess who can be safely released.
Prisons are horrible places, even well run and as safe as we can make them. They are horrible because they are filled with the despair of those who have failed. You bear a heavy burden having taken freedom in a free society. These sacrifices should not be pointless. Your shoulders shouldn’t sag with the evening news.
Perhaps you feel that you can’t take responsiblity for the actions of your former clients? How desperately futile you must feel to take that position. Who is responsible? If you are not responsible, why do you try? What is the purpose of the coercion in treatment, or the parole board or the hole? Why generate the pain to no effect?
If you can be said to have been successful with me, you deserve credit. And I consider that I have a wife and son now due to the efforts of your staff. However, you can not share in my success if you refuse to take responsiblity for those who fail. But really, I think you do feel responsible, that is why your shoulders sag. It is just so hard to accept. Well, you are not alone. I too regret my failures. I have learned that accepting the fact of my failures is the first step to correcting them. I learned that, finally, at Lansing. You taught me.
Patrick Arvin Briggs
So. Whom have I failed to piss off? Hmm, let's see
womenSo, I guess the men who love women.?Whom does that leave? . . . . Ah yes, . . . . The Senate.
4) Part of the realities of getting state business.
5) Academic interest.
I have tried to order these, I can’t decide between the order of two and three, they are interchangeable.
Notably not on the list is the reality. I never believed for a moment that you, as a professional, found such practices acceptable. Perhaps this is the coldness I sensed in you and mentioned early on. Perhaps it is why you no longer practice. I was weeks trying to rationalize this acceptance with my knowledge that you are a sincere and committed person. Then, just earlier today, I realized the problem.
To illustrate the problem, I need to remind you of Keith who reoffended in Florida. As I remember it, “You mentioned that one of your clients had reoffended.” and I broke in and asked you if it was Keith. I remember you being stunned and very interested in how I knew. Well I couldn’t put into words then how I knew because it wasn’t up top knowledge, it was in my gut. Like tracks in the snow Brad, I couldn’t understand how you couldn’t see them. I wonder if you have dismissed my knowledge as a lucky guess, or whether it still doesn’t pique your professional curiosity? Into that space where I had knowledge you did not, consider this.
I could see Keith because I’ve trod the paths he has, but not only that. It is this. I am bright and dangerous and sophisticated. I missed being a Ted Bundy by God only knows how much. And everyone who dealt with me was aware of it. I was aware of it. I was afraid of it. I am still afraid of it. I both want to offend and want not to offend. My character stands the difference. And that, is how I could tell you it was Keith. Do you think Keith was bright enough to have thought of ways to accomplish his goals, that I couldn’t? Can my son beat me at checkers? Come on, I could see his moves, like tracks in the snow.
It’s expensive sight, Brad. You have to have accepted responsibility for your offender. And you haven’t. And you are not even aware you need to. But if you did you could be a therapist who could see what I see. How valuable would that be? Would it rekindle your love for the practice of your profession?
Here are the people SOTP systems release:
1) Those who want to stay offense free and have both the will and knowledge to remain so.
2) Those who want to stay offense free but lack either or both of will and knowledge.
3) Those who have the discipline and knowledge, and have convinced the program they want to remain offense free.
What groups above are going to be the most motivated? What group is going to do the most damage?
I mention this, because I also have a sincere desire to promote public safety. I strongly believe that the SOTP program in Lansing only apparently serves the public. So also, does any program whose model is coercive in nature. Therapy is expected, therapy is promised. If you believe that therapy can be coercive; do you also believe that coerced sex is therapeutic? This is not an impertinent question. There can be no doubt therapy is intensely intimate. What is forced intimacy?
Consider this, in group we were sometimes video-taped. The pattern was always the same, at first everyone was uncomfortable then it would loosen up and people would forget about the camera and just relax. This has to be a common effect with theories to explain it. Apply it to this. Might not a client, desperate for change, forget the therapy model is coercive and expect actual caring supportive therapy? Wouldn’t it be that kind of therapy that would most effectively serve the public safety in the treatment of sex offenders? We can always test, Brad.
You break trust sir. Both in your duty to public safety and as a member of a profession that markets itself as healers. This is your offender. It would be in service of the public safety if you acknowledge this and use the force of your training and experience to effect change.
The coerced signatures, they don’t give you an uneasy moment, really? Wrapping a man’s penis in an attempt to force knowledge from his mind? What is your term for that? Christ, Brad what is the history of your own profession? Your method of achieving public safety is as questionable as was my attempt to gain intimacy through rape. In fact, I think that comparison already sits large in your mind. I am quite serious here, not simply drawing metaphors. The methods you pursue do not work. For evidence, simply read the newspaper, or remember Keith.
So, you break faith to little or no purpose. How can you not feel responsible for these failures to heal, when you have chosen to spend so much time trying to heal but failing? Or succeeding in such a limited fashion compared to what success could be gained?
You do not feel responsible, nor do any of the officials who pull the trigger on these guys release. I believe the reason for this is a simple as denial. You all need to believe that rape exists only in the rapists, or child abuse with the molester. You need to be solidly on the side of the non rapos. How honest are you, Brad? Have you completed an Abel assessment, a plesmograph, a sex history polygraph? If not, why not? If so, how solid are you? Where do we stop the testing and the forcing? Why wouldn’t we require providers to take the testing they administer if only to be sure we haven’t a wolf amongst the sheep? If you refuse to acknowledge or remember those impulses within yourself. If you deny the offender his own abuse or say that he lies? Who else does this? How do you miss the similarity? It is denial. How can you not see Keith’s tracks in the snow indeed.
We are part of a violent culture who denies its violence. Why can I see the tracks, Brad? It is because I hate violence; that I accept my own. You are blind-sided because you need to be violence free. You are a healer incapable of violence.
However, what is coercion, Brad? I have been taught that coercion is violence as certain as a beating. By you. What force does that education have, now that I am your victim? Don’t back away from it. “…I’m okay with it.”, wasn’t an ill considered answer. It was firm belief, I am good at hearing it.
If I forced a women to insert an electrode into her vagina and video taped while I asked her questions about every detail of her sexual behaviors, requiring her honest answers before release but never touched her. Would it be a sex crime? Are you a sex criminal? You don’t have to serve the state. You chose to. This choice again confirms your belief in violence, if violence was served during your tenure. These are the questions you are asked at Nuremberg, Brad. You do not heal with violence, no matter the provocation.
Let’s take this model a few steps further. What if you had tested me when I was 12? Let’s say Dr Abel is successful. You develop a method of stating a statistical probability for a given individual to commit a sex crime. How do you put that to use? Any good test of that nature would have given me a virtual certainty to offend. Yet, I wouldnt have done anything yet. Well treatment, of course. Yeah but what type of treatment, Brad? Do you lock these preadolescent preoffenders up? Require them to participate? On what grounds? Will it be civil commitment? Do you, seriously, not see the slippery slope you are standing on? Have you not read 1984, big brother? You sincerely, can not see your denial?
How do you think professionals travel down the path of a Carl Vaernet, the nazi doctor who tried to ‘cure’ homosexuality? Remember that ‘disease’? That it, along with rape and child sexual abuse were anathema? We can not conceive of a change in our attitudes toward rape and child molestation. Not a change toward accepting them, but a change toward understanding and dealing with them appropriately. Was our judgement any better fifty years ago, concerning homosexuality? What did that nazi doctor likely fear in himself, Brad? As he abused homosexuals in a effort to eradicate them. What do you fear in your former clients? I know you are trying to address public safety; however, your model is flawed. Do you remember rape energy, Brad? Do you remember that I laughed when I first heard the term? I reckon I came close to failing the program right there. I laughed because rape energy is so obviously the therapist’s fear of the rapist. I stopped because I could feel the rage in the rapist being forced. How deep is the denial that creates a term that blames the client for the therapist’s fear? Your model merely drives offenders underground. You claim to be aware of this, but you continually release the wrong people among the right.
Where is public safety when the state can read the content of a man’s mind before allowing that man’s character to act? Don’t say my character was evident. You were there purporting to change it. You don’t even trust that you have succeeded with me. You can’t recognize the disease when you see it because it is of the mind and you have it. I can recognize the disease because I have had it and am somewhat inoculated. You can not tell a dangerous man by sight, because you deny your violence instead of integrating the impulse. I can because I recognize a brother. I have not stopped being capable of rape, I merely chose to work against the impulse. But without acknowledging that impulse, I too, like Keith would be blind to it. So, my awareness comes of two parts: I own my violence. But more importantly I seek to end it not bury it.
Change your course sir. I do know you for a dedicated and caring man. But those traits are being corrupted. Whether you will trust it or not; it is a friend who tells you.
Patrick Arvin Briggs