Yesterday, I had a chat with a paedophile. Todd is open about his "sexual orientation". In fact, he has published his story on youtube, various websites, and social media. Being an abused child himself, Todd admits to have sexual attraction to children, but never acting on those urges. I am neither a psychotherapist nor an expert in human sexuality. I approached Todd because he said something that resonated with me and what I am trying to achieve with my forthcoming monograph "Race, Power and Restorative Justice: The dialogue we never had". Todd said: "Before judging me harshly, would you be willing to listen? Please, be understanding and supportive. It’s really all we ask of you. Treat us like people with a massive handicap that we must overcome, not as monsters. If we are going to make it in the world without offending, we need your help. Listening to me was a start". And yes, there are many more "Todds" out there who want to work with us!
Recently, I have come to conclude that the reasons behind our criminal justice system's failings boil down to two fundamental issues. First, its functionality as a 'sausage machine' manufactured to 'process' individuals without paying attention to their individuality. Secondly, its vary nature as a top down structure of managing power and enforcing a concealed control over us. This power has become so pervasive that has mutated to a "regime of truth". A regime that very few get to question.
But the message I want to send is one of hope. This time, I embarked on my new writing adventure not to criticise restorativisits or criminal justice practitioners. I am writing in the hope of unravelling the truth for myself and for all those who deny to live in the matrix that has blinded us all. My hope was founded in what Foucault eloquently calls "bio-power", the organic power founded within us. My grandmother spoke about this power in a different way. She told me a parable. " A beggar had been sitting by the side of a road for over 30 years. One day, a stranger walked by. 'Spare some change?', mumbled the beggar. 'I have nothing to give you', said the stranger. Then, he asked: 'What is that you are sitting on?' The beggar replied: 'Nothing! Just an old box. I've been sitting on it for as long as I can remember'! 'Ever looked inside?', the stranger asked. "No! What is the point, there is nothing in there?', said the beggar. "Have a look inside' insisted the stranger. The beggar open the lid. With astonishment and disbelief he saw that the box was full of gold. I am that stranger. My grandmother said to me. I have nothing to give you and who is telling you to look inside. Not inside any box, but inside yourself. 'But I am not a beggar' I said to my grandma. 'Those who have not found the power within are beggars' my grandma wisely said.
The "regime of truth" that is failing our every sense and experience of justice is pervasive, but not perpetual. It is as corruptive as we allow it to be. And the awakening is within grasp. We are sitting on it!
And what does Todd have to do with this? I was honest with Todd. I told him that I am not even sure about my own thoughts on paedophilia. I am a dad, and I had a very loving and happy childhood. So, I am biased! The truth is, however, that it didn't matter how I felt. What mattered was that Todd wanted a dialogue. A dialogue with me, with other paedophiles, with survivors, with society, with you. Listening to Todd is like looking inside that box, while ignoring the regime of truth that blinds us all.
Todd tries to reach out via his blogs and media engagement. He does not know about restorative justice. He is not an offender, but he wants to be listened to. He also believes that there is much to be gained by listening to sex offenders than just 'processing' them. Todd had no clue that in Canada, the US, the UK and many other places there are already restorative programmes that are successfully working with sexual offenders. In the UK, restorative programmes have even managed to get funding from our government, which in fact evaluated them as positive and cost effective. It is in my nature to be sceptical, and I have written about child sexual abuse especially in relation to what took place within the Catholic Church. My research suggests that despite the potential of restorative justice, the risks and complications are not to be underestimated. I have also proved that restorative justice will surface with or without government or top down support. Practitioners, victims, offenders (all labels of "the regime of truth") will meet with or without registers, accreditation or fancy logos and kite marks.
Todd is also open to meeting his own abuser. When I asked him the reason, he did not give me a straight answer. The response was rather unexpected. "What happened to me is connected with my sexual orientation", he said. "I come from a working class family. When I was a child, the male figure was one I could not associate myself with". Then, he met his abuser. A much more 'delegate' gentleman that he could connect with. As I said, I am not an expert in sexual behaviour. But it is my job to be able to detect when a victim or an offender, or you and I are ready for dialogue. Todd is.
As we would expect, there were more than a few raised eyebrows and plenty of damning, cursing and shaming, when he reached out. But Todd also told me that there were a lot of messages of sympathy. Only these were communicated in private. But who controlled them in such as way? This makes me ask: "what is power?" Is it about someone/ society making other people act against their best interests? Or, is it also the glue that keeps society together? How much power do we have over this control? Todd said that some of these messages were even from survivors of child sexual abuse telling him to continue the dialogue. A dialogue which he well knows could lead to his demise. After all, we are living in the era of paedophile killers (see Arnold Hartley).
Power is everywhere. I am exercising power as I write. You are exercising power as you read and judge. Abusing the innocence and vulnerability of a child is one of the worse manifestations of power. If we are to wake up from the society's regime of truth and "general politics", then a shock is needed. Paedophilia is shocking. I could not thank Todd enough. I am also grateful to the many practitioners, victims and offenders who sent their case studies. I am learning from them and hope to hear from you if you have any examples to publish in Routledge's 2018 publication.
Feedback and thoughts also welcome (below).