People will do anything unless someone stops them.
If someone does something outrageous enough, no one will stop them because they won’t believe it’s happening.
—Robert Macfie Scriver
These two adages came from Scriver’s years as town magistrate and justice of the peace — not law school. His experience was ground-level on an “Indian” reservation. Pretty basic, which is the point of the justice of the peace system.
I used to deploy these quotes to talk about the Great Falls cannibal, David Bar Jonah, who killed and ate boys of his neighborhood, which no one could even imagine, and could not be tried because the mother of the only proven victim refused to believe he was dead and therefore would not cooperate. (Bar Jonah was arrested on other charges and died in jail.) I’m not making this up.
Sometimes I would use the quotes to consider the holocaust in Germany, which the citizens refused to believe was happening. Today what are American citizens refusing to believe happened, until the evidence and testimony are overwhelming? I mean, that has nothing to do with Russia.
Now it is finger-fucking of more than two hundred (265 and still counting) beautiful, disciplined, achieving girls in East Lansing, Michigan, by a certified doctor, Larry Nassar. This had been made possible because of the rules of secrecy (euphemistically called “confidentiality”), which protect professionals like doctors, lawyers, and clergy so that they can have healing and helpful access to the personal secrets of their clients. It is NOT meant to protect professionals who violate clients.
Stigma, confusion, and shame enforced secrets of the girls kept them from telling parents and authorities what had happened — damaged them and prevented the revelations that would have given the law access to their protection. Since 1997 girls were telling each other and adults they trusted — including parents — what had been done to them. They were shamed, shushed, ignored. Or some said it was the authorities who gagged them, admonished them to not tell such things.
Credentials, importance, reputation of a male middle-aged doctor were just cages confining silly girls — you know how they are — just entering adolescence and having Freudian fantasies. No one had explained to them what safeguards they should have had (female nurses in the exam room) or what signalled trouble (no gloves, no lubrication, no prior discussion, both vaginal and anal penetration). No one considered the fantasies of a male middle-aged geek.
Why weren’t the girls/young women — all of them serious and reliable — given classes in their own physiology, how to identify pains and sprains in an activity that was bound to create them, where to go for help if they were abused, what normal treatment is effective and why?
We need to do some serious rethinking of what privileged secrecy, sexual shame, and “handling the truth” really means. There’s been a lot of “drift” in standards and now so much bald nakedness is accepted that we can look at the President’s wife naked and shrug it off. Yesterday’s porn is today’s best seller, which quickly becomes a yawn. “Appearances are deceiving” and now that anyone’s face can be put on anyone’s body, clothed or not. the phrase “lyin’ eyes” is simply a fact.
If it’s extreme enough, sex can still be suppressed, turned back on accusers, suffused with enough emotion to confuse the issues. But it’s probably money that is the real subject. As sex is “liberated” to be open and benign (as though that were possible), the money value goes out of it. Those seeking to sell must explore to find the frisson that will bring the customer back.
Luckily, it’s not that hard. I’m told there is a body [sic] of porn that focuses on pretty girls who are marked with the places animals are cut to make butcher’s cuts of meat. I once went to interview a professor of animal studies at Bozeman. In his office, above his desk, was a poster of just such an image. I don’t know whether the girl was a gymnast. The prof was only a little bit uncomfortable that I was staring at his poster. Why didn’t I complain to his department head? Why didn’t someone else? Or did they, and found themselves laughed off.
So, in a kind of typology, there are true secrets (something known but not to be told); open secrets that everyone knows but pretends not to; denied secrets which are fairly open until they can be monetized (plus or minus); things that are not thought of as secrets or even shameful until someone from another level of society or a different country is shocked and horrified; things that no one can see even when they are in plain sight; things that truly aren’t there though people claim to see them. (I have a bit of trouble grasping some of the “harassment” claims.)
Maybe the most dangerous cases are the ones where certain persons claim to have insight and “vision” into phenomena that no one else can see. Doctors, scientists, spies, art curators, and religious leaders. Emperor’s new whatever.
Consider the subject of nutrition, which is vital enough to everyone’s well-being, and now is trampled earth where dozens of theories about the proper way of eating war it out. Animal fat is deadly. Plants are trying to kill us all. Take these pills that I alone can sell you.
The most dangerous cases are the one that feed institutions: hospitals, universities, athletic programs, humane societies. (What IS humane?) Because then all the machinery comes down on the person, whether they are huge football players suffering concussions or flexible little girls being finger-fucked. Why are these gymnasts always girls? Where are the male gymnasts who are just beginning adolescence? Aren’t fantasies about their bodies so easily marketed? Or is it because that impulse is so easily made real in the showers? They don’t need the fantasy of medical treatment.
Ground level observation by people in a community with a shared standard of behavior, “levelers” and anti-intellectuals, have their uses IF they act on what they see. Too often they pretend they see nothing because it will cost them, if only in terms of trouble. Yet that cost is real. Ask those gymnast girls how outrageous something must be to trigger action. There is more than one way to “eat” a child, or at least their happiness. Sometimes it is their own parents who do it secretly.