Feeding the mind:
Pornographic preoccupation leads to rising child sex abuse
By Michelle Nurse
November 23, 2003
`In the context of reproduction, in the context of pleasure, for adults, sex is the highest extent of the love relationship. (But) in a culture where we are supposed to be `civilised’, there are sub cultures where people don’t know much, where people are not very literate, where the most basic things, the basic parameters are unknown. As you have children and as they grow older, you should start to teach them about parameters. We need to teach them what limits are, not just sexual, but (limits) across the board in life’ – Mr. Dennis Cuffy, Public Education Officer, Help and Shelter
SOCIETY’S feast on the now apparent standard fare of sexually explicit literature, music, music videos and commercials, and a general lack of understanding of the grounds for sex, are emerging as some of the main reasons for the high incidence of child sex abuse cases being recorded in Guyana.
“It has a lot to do with what we feed our minds on,” charged Mr. Dennis Cuffy, Public Education/Outreach/Skills Training Officer, Help and Shelter. He added that “by beholding, one becomes changed.”
“Individuals behave the way we know how (to) and in human development … words have moulding powers. So if we continue to listen to the wrong things, and continue to read the wrong things, then there’s going to be a problem,” Cuffy said.
He noted that there seems to be an increase in men participating in pornographic activities, whether by videos and books or via the Internet, and pointed to the increase in child pornography sites. Their preoccupation with these kinds of activities prevents men from engaging in wholesome family life.
The Ministry of Human Services and Social Security, as well as Help and Shelter, record cases of child sex abuse and incest, but both agencies have cautioned that the increase in the complaints may not necessarily translate into an overall rise in cases.
“Statistically, I cannot say to you that there is an increase… but I have a gut feeling that there is, in fact, an increase,” Cuffy said last Wednesday. Chief Probation and Welfare Officer in the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security, Ms Ann Green, had told the Sunday Chronicle that the increase in reporting could be as a result of more persons becoming aware of child abuse and where to make such reports. She, however, noted that compared with the past, younger children are now becoming victims of sexual abuse.
The majority of the cases are of men perpetrating the crime, but in very rare instances, women have been accused of sexually abusing children. One of the many cases of child sexual abuse now before the Courts relates to a woman who allegedly forced her five-year-old son to perform oral sex on her while she was in a drunken stupor.
“Yes we are turned off by the fact that a man can have his own (son or daughter) growing up in the home and after a while, he stops looking at his wife and begins to look at his own daughter… lusting after her. The normal mind cannot figure that out and will be baffled… but I strongly believe that with this constant inflow of sexual images – commercials, dancehall – and with us looking out overseas where we see that women displaying their bodies is `nice’… We have bought that wholesale… I think that our men can’t handle it.”
He pointed to Sigmund Freud’s psycho-sexual theory of personality development which is centered on the effects of sexual pleasure on the individual’s psyche, and noted that man’s thoughts are more often on sex.
“The major thought on a man’s mind is about women, sexually... When we have those thoughts naturally, it is one thing, but when you…add these other images (the mind becomes skewed). It has a lot to do with what we feed our minds on constantly.”
He advised that positive nurturing of the mind must begin at a very tender age, and pointed out that children retain things from the concrete/formative years which can last up to about age seven.
“All that you would have learned during that period (formative years) is what you have to guide you through life. You are going to build on the foundation that was created then. So all your character traits, your personality, your temperament, are created in that period. Our minds are not like computers where you press `delete’ and everything disappears. As Sigmund Freud said, we suppress thoughts so as to function and to cope, but when the time is conducive, it all comes back,” the Counsellor pointed out.
He gave the example of an 11-year-old child who was involved in bestiality. In a counselling session, the child revealed that when he was about five, his grandfather introduced him to pornography. He was thus thrust into adult deviant behaviour from infancy.
“So, already from five to 11, he has images in his mind about these sexual activities. This is a boy who should be growing up doing `normal’ activities like playing with `slinging shot’. The grandfather was feeding his mind on those images and he transmitting them to his grandson, and that’s how these things are passed down from generation to generation,” Cuffy noted.
Domestic violence against mothers and sexual abuse of children also often go hand in hand, Cuffy pointed out.
Though Georgetown accounted for the highest cases of child abuse, Cuffy indicated that many cases are found in agricultural areas where there is a culture of hard work and heavy consumption of alcohol.
He related the cases of a father in one such area who had been sexually abusing his 12-year-old daughter over a period of time, and of others having `husband-and-wife relations’ with their daughters.
“When one consumes alcohol, one moves from the cognitive mind – the thinking and the rationalising - to the reptilian mind that has to do with adrenaline flow and heart pumping faster, where there is no reason at all. It is about flight or fight. So when you go into that mode, you do not have all the control that you require, and so many use that as an excuse to go sleep with their daughter,” Cuffy noted.
The effects on children who have been victims of sexual abuse, particularly by their fathers, are devastating. Apart from contracting sexually transmitted diseases, sexually abused children become depressed, have sleeping problems, develop late or become aggressive. Those who were excelling in school can “drop back in their work,” Cuffy said.
“They go to school, they’re very tired; they’re sleeping in class, and it’s not necessarily that they are in situations where they have to fetch water. It is because of the sexual abuse that is so constant and they’re losing sleep.
“The emotional effects can be so devastating. Here it is your father - the man you know is your blood relative, the man who contributed to you coming into this world - is now doing this thing with you. It can really destroy some children.”
Some children who are orphans are more at a disadvantage when they experience severe forms of sexual abuse and cannot benefit from the emotional support of parents.
“If they are not exposed to anything positive, they can trip,” Cuffy noted.
While some adults who were abused as children find refuge in religion, others struggle with internal conflict and are prevented from fully enjoying life because they lack trust in others.
“It can mess you up for life. It can destroy your trust in adults,” he pointed out.
Cuffy has joined other counsellors in stressing the need for children to be taught about sex and sexuality.
One of the theories offered for such perverse behaviour is ignorance of the reason for sex.
“In the context of reproduction, in the context of pleasure, for adults, sex is the highest extent of the love relationship. (But) in a culture where we are supposed to be `civilised’, there are sub cultures where people don’t know much, where people are not very literate, where the most basic things, the basic parameters are unknown. As you have children and as they grow older, you should start to teach them about parameters. We need to teach them what limits are, not just sexual, but (limits) across the board in life.”
He said parents should teach their children about body parts and their uses, and what is appropriate and inappropriate, so “if Uncle John or Auntie Jane or anybody else touches them inappropriately they would know that it is wrong, and would run and tell Mommy or Daddy.” In the case of a parent perpetrating the abuse, the child must be able to talk to the other parent about it.
“We don’t have a choice but to teach children sex education. The home is the best place to start. We have got to understand that when we were four and five years old, we were not as advanced as our children are in relation to sexual activities and drugs and so on. They are at a disadvantage and so parents and children are growing together. Parents must tell the children that (sex) must be left for your marriage.
“We must brainwash the children into positive things,” Cuffy said, adding that the home and school must work together to tackle these issues.
The perverse nature of society was obvious as the interview started at Cuffy’s office on Homestretch Avenue in Georgetown. The interview had to be aborted and shifted to the bowels of the building because of the ridiculously loud music emanating from the mini buses plying the South Georgetown routes.
While one was left in no doubt about the rhythm, it is anyone’s guess what the lyrics portrayed.