Our story is meant to aid in understanding the dynamics of human trafficking and child abuse—both victim and perpetrator—and especially to give insight into the violence of this particular kind of abuse. In the process of writing this—as you will see—it became obvious that sexual trafficking is one of the most violent of crimes against children. It creates shame and darkens the soul more than almost any other type of human desecration. It is told from my perspective as Vicki’s husband, with Vicki’s own words in subparagraphs throughout.
Part 4: The Men’s Group
Because of the distance Vicki was driving, Isaac recommended that she attend a group therapy for women. There was no cost for this group and it would give Vicki more therapy time to help compensate for the long drive. A different kind of healing takes place with group therapy and Vicki was interested. The group met once a week in an old church building, but from the beginning Vicki didn’t like it.
It was all about anger for those women. They couldn’t even function; they hated men so much. Their lives were a wreck and I couldn’t identify with any of them. None of them could even hold a job; in fact, they were so angry they had to meet on a different hall than the Offender’s Group. They threatened to claw the eyes out of those men if they passed them in the hall.
After several sessions with the Victim’s Group, Vicki decided to quit. Therapy was hard enough without getting depressed being around those women. They talked about anger and retribution, not about forgiveness and that’s what our religious beliefs stressed. That’s the direction Vicki wanted to go in. Then she had the idea of attending the Offender’s Group. These were men, accused or convicted of incest or sexual abuse of children, that were court-mandated to attend. It would require special permission, interviews and the consent of the men’s group, but Vicki thought it might be helpful in understanding her father and his motivation. She hoped it might eventually lead to forgiveness.
Although the men were initially wary of having a victim in their meetings, Vicki was tentatively accepted into the group. On average about twenty men attended the once a week meeting. If they missed a meeting, they were immediately sent back to jail. This was a mandatory part of their probation. There were also one or two other women—a wife and a girlfriend of two of the offenders—at the weekly meetings. Much like an AA meeting trained therapists helped the men acknowledge and come to terms with their crime. Whenever a new member came into the group, each was required to “tell his story”.
Vicki learned that all of the men were sex addicts and sometimes had gone to great and crazy lengths to get that rush. They had almost all been molested as children and some had thought that it was just part of your initiation into life: even though it was illegal, it was like speeding—everybody did it. They had been convicted of molesting girls between the age of eight and twelve, usually their own daughters. Each man had already spent time in jail and was doing individual therapy with a counselor like Isaac, Vicki’s therapist. It was embarrassing for them to be in such a group and almost all of them wanted to get out of it and put this behind them. But the truth was that their lives were a wreck. Inevitably their wives divorced them and they lost contact with their children.
When Vicki did not castigate the men for their crime, a healing, reciprocal acceptance entered the group. To her surprise Vicki came to like most of the men. They had much in common; they were both damaged goods and spent too much time thinking about sex. Some were able to compartmentalize their behavior out of consciousness. One man, who reminded Vicki of a younger, heavier version of Archie Bunker, told the group that he would get irate with stories of rapists and child molesters on TV: “They ought to cut their-you-know-what off!” he admitted ranting, oblivious to what he was doing to his own daughters.
“Sex-offenders” quit being a category for Vicki, but a group of individuals, each with their own heart-rending story. She learned that sex offenders were not born but made. Much like an alcoholic they probably had a proclivity but fed it until it became a full-fledged and out of control addition—not that hard to do in our sex –saturated society. Empathy replaced hatred as she got to know these men and their tragic backgrounds and the uproar that their malicious behavior had caused in their own lives. Many had destroyed their own families and it was just plain sad to see them struggle to rebuild on those ashes. But it also created hope for her relationship with her own father because she had seen that repentance and restitution was possible.
One of the things that struck me so much in this group was how hard it is in our society to deal with a sexual addiction. The men spoke of it often: How TV, movies and bill boards were always in their faces and how children were sexualized. Children’s clothing, even costumes copied after Walt Disney characters, was often sexual. And that was 20 some years ago before the internet. I have seen a sickening increase in sexual crimes against children. Then it was said that 6% of the male population becomes addicted to porn. Now, with the Internet and the increased availability of pornography I am sure it is much worse. So we have men (and sometimes women) who are molested as children and then go on to molest more children and we have a vicious cycle. Everyone wants to blame the perpetrator, but I feel sorrow, as well as anger, towards them. It is the public tolerance of the sexualization of children and our sex-saturated society that leads to child rape and child trafficking.
While Vicki’s father rarely talked about his childhood, we did know a little. His father had owned a burgeoning auto parts business but had drunk himself into bankruptcy and then died. At fifteen years old Vicki’s father had to quit school and work to support the family. Vicki’s grandmother had lived with Vicki when she was a teenager and was obviously mentally ill. Vicki saw that her father’s childhood had been at least as dysfunctional as many of the men in her group. From Vicki’s perspective there was room for reconciliation but her father first had to acknowledge his trespasses.
Since these long biweekly trips to therapy took so much time and energy, Vicki decided to start making business contacts. Before long she was doing drapery estimates and making the trips profitable. She would leave around noon on Tuesdays and do any business she had. Her session with Isaac lasted from four to five-thirty. And then she went to economical restaurant with the three older girls and the nursing baby. After dinner it was group therapy with the men’s group. It would be around midnight when she returned home.
Donate or Learn More About our Work
If you would like to see the ongoing work we are involved with in Guatemala, please visit our website at www.safehomesforchildren.org. Our child advocacy work there is designed to keep families together which is the foremost deterrent to exploitation of children. Vicki does public speaking on child trafficking in the United States, and if you would like to support this work, you can make donations to Safe Homes and note its specified purpose. In the near future, you can submit donations or learn more about trafficked children at our new and specially dedicated site (launch and new address to be announced in an upcoming post).
Follow this series on Tuesdays of each week (read previous posts, 1-3 here).