Thursday, January 31, 2013

Supplement to Jan 31 post: questions from a student

  1. You have met many survivors through your work and have taken on their burdens. How do you deal psychologically with the details of believing and knowing that these type of crimes are happening right now? 
  2. Are there more angles to approach the idea of why the "cult" mind set is happening  other than money, elite, and tradition? Or is my focus in the wrong area?
  3. During your presentation you mentioned  law enforcement and the two officers you knew who died unexpectedly. You also mentioned that sometimes the law and law enforcement is of no help and may even try to block certain information. Do you believe police departments are seriously lacking in their ability to "prevent crime"? And are they more of a reaction force? Also, would you suggest that unregulated education in psychology and mental illness would better equip/prepare students for what is really happening? It almost seems like the more I age the more I notice how thoughts and feelings are being funneled.

I answered:
In 1996 when I discovered two ritual sites near home and couldn't get people to see it or deal with it, I went into clinical depression and sometimes thought I might be going crazy.  I know a few colleagues did.  It was my good fortune just to have been introduced to Bloomington's first rape counselor, a clinical social worker, who accepted me as her client.  She got me to journal my memories from year to year and read them out loud with her for a while.  She asked me how the little boy in me was feeling.  At the start of our ten years together, when she asked me how I felt, I was at a loss for words and said, "I don't know."  (This gave me considerable sympathy for young male "offenders" I did victim offender mediation with who had trouble talking.)  By now, in any circumstance, I can easily listen to pain and fear without either alarm or sense of urgency that something be done about the violence I now know in such detail.  And I am satisfied that I have done my share of "activism."  At this point, I am just grateful and heartened to share what I believe and share my "evidence" for anyone who asks for me to talk about it.  I stay in touch with some of my survivor friends.

There are as many angles to explaining ritual abuse as you and I have imagination for.  Jeanette is one of those who would tell you that it doesn't matter why they do it; getting people out of the life and offering them recognition, compassion and support is the same, the trauma and the threat is the same no matter what makes people raised in it decide to join it rather than to try to leave it.

Now that you mention it, I believe that police presence which is genuinely responsive and caring for victims in a community is both a deterrent to those who would otherwise exploit vulnerable people, children especially, and refuge from the violence.  Simply put, I on the whole prefer reactive policing with enforcement power as backup trumps proactive policing.  Notice that the vast vast bulk of arrests and prosecutions are for "non-Index" offenses, and I think recent police reports from big departments that murders are dropping are phony.  (Chris can help you find where I've written about how that is done.)  So the idea that police can prevent personal violence especially, most of which happens behind closed doors.

Feel free to share our exchange with the class and anyone else.  What do you (all) think?  Thanks again for asking--love and peace--hal

First Responses to Victims of Personal Violence

Hal Pepinsky,,
January 31, 2013
                It was my privilege this morning to speak with two of Chris Magno’s criminal justice classes at Gannon U via videoconferencing.  (It was a new experience to me to carry on a discussion with a roomful of students following me on their screens in a computer lab.)  Chris had asked me to provide readings/audio and websites focused on ritual abuse like the kind described by the survivors of intergenerational ritual abuse and government mind control who stayed with me and came to my classes at Indiana U when Chris taught with me.  One student asked how I thought law enforcement should respond to people who told them of being victimized.  I explained my own priority for letting victims/survivors assume control of what I myself did.  As I reflected after class, I added this:

In the morning one of you asked what police could do, and I mentioned 2 cult cops I had known who had died unexpectedly without autopsies--one of them involved in Jeanette Westbrook's case who came to class with her the last semester of his life.  I met and heard the other a couple of times before he died, at Neil Brick's SMART conference.

I didn't mention that I have met other self-proclaimed cult cops and therapists, some of whom work with integrity (if futility), others who strike me as self-promoting experts for pay who have harassed if not bedded and otherwise exploited victims and mothers trying to protect children.  The trust I gained with survivors and parents rested on the fact that many women stayed over at my place when they visited my classes, including the last 12 years before retirement when my wife moved away for her own career and we commuted.  My reputation I'm sure rested in part on the fact that I never made any anyone feel uncomfortable as my guest, including having as guests for classes only those whose stories were credible to me.

With protective mothers including the many I came to know only over the phone in a flurry of early years, I occasionally found myself humming the Lone Ranger's theme song--dadaDUM dadaDUM dadaDUMDUMDUM with them as the described the latest minister or therapist or whatever man who had hit on her (assuming she had written or brushed the guy off). In general, as women's shelter workers for instance will tell you, victims of physical/sexual assault are most traumatized by the fear that they can no longer trust even the "friend." Basically, THEY HAVE LOST CONTROL.  They therefore first and foremost need to get the sense they are back in control.  They need to tell their own stories at their own pace and initiative.  And rather than making decisions for them for their own good, as in whether to take a rape kit, I think the first response to someone's disclosure can be to say something as simple as "I'm sorry," express appreciation for being trusted with that confidence, and then just listen.
This of course applies to boys and men; we have an even harder time bringing ourselves to talk about being hurt or scared.  Make sure that they understand that you will do nothing with their story unless they ask or give you their permission to do something.  Let the telling of the story including what s/he might be asking of you end before you even consider offering options including your own support and advocacy.

My discovery has been that when people know I will keep their confidences and act only with their blessing, and when I try (if sometimes fail) to make fewer promises than I think I can deliver (ie, obtain informed consent), people open up to me.  I think this is why it has been my privilege to hear so many secrets, and have so many volunteers to dare to share them with classesful of strangers, my students.  One of the satisfactions of the job was seeing survivors from Jeanette Westbrook on become stronger and feel it as they retold their stories over some years.

Jeanette as a clinical social worker took the position that she would never try to make a child who was caught in an "abusive" situation talk about it until she could assure the child or adult victim that the child would be safe after the telling.  Many of you (everyone in Indiana) are mandatory reporters of "child abuse."  I learned from experience trying to advocate--of all places--in nursing homes that reporting a problem might just bring retaliation against a resident.  Same goes for reporting child abuse.  I would only report the abuse if I believed that it would be "substantiated."  Otherwise, a child sent back to "the perpetrator" would suffer retaliation for being a snitch, or from a partner of the assailant for "lying."  Just hearing and believing the child and being someone the child (or adult victim) can return to is the greatest gift you have to give all by yourself.

Jill's and my Katy was a teenager when I got into all this stuff.  At first I was worried about her being stuck in an abusive relationship of any sort.  Then I recognized that in general, a child like Katy who could get angry or cry and talk back to me and Jill when we hurt or scared her--who could tell us any secret without being punished--was the last young person any predator would even mess with.  When her first boyfriend kicked her in the shin on the playground when she was 11, she kicked him back, ended the relationship and kept the prize skate board he had given her for her birthday.  Thinking back, then, I stopped worrying.

There's no telling how or when some victim will turn to you for help, professionally or privately.  By remaining calm and resisting the impulse to intervene (rape victims being afraid to tell boyfriends who might try to retaliate is a classic example), and mostly listening and affirming, you will I believe end up doing what is in the victim's best interest.  And I place a personal priority for helping the victims over legal duty--the line where my conscience tells me not to obey any higher orders.  My time in and around criminal justice has only deepened my conviction over time.

I hear you are writing journal entries about class today.  I'd love to see them from all who send them my way.  Nice meeting you--love and peace--hal

Hal Pepinsky,, "Peacemaking" at
519 Evergreen Circle, Worthington, OH 43085-3667, 1-614-885-6341

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Retraumatizing child porn victims

Hal Pepinsky,,
January 27, 2013
                I recommend today’s article on “The Price of a Stolen Childhood” by Emily Bazelon in today’s New York Times magazine ( to any victims’ rights advocate who has not already seen it.  Ms. Bazelon follows two women who by federal law have been notified that they have been identified in years’ old video of them performing scripted sex acts, from evidence used in child pornography prosecutions—evidence that has already been shared with state and local law enforcement.  The law now also provides that they get notified every time they appear in evidence used to convict anyone anywhere; the article includes a pictures of boxes full of notifications one victim has received.  She has also collected restitution from convicted owners of her pictures jointly and severally as now provided by law for her benefit, too.  In the process, contraband videos of her paired with her adult identity have now become collectors’ items.
                As a consequence of all this vindication and legally ordered financial compensation, her life has become a wreck.  She doesn’t know when anyone might be recognizing or stalking her—when she will next be reminded that men are still getting pleasure from her torture and abject degradation.
                I have been privileged to know survivors of horrific childhood ritual sadism who have healed in part by telling their stories as they chose to tell them to whom they wished when and where they wished.  I also consider open, honest sharing of information to be sacred.  But in mediation as in all healing from personal violence, it is essential for the sharing of private personal information to be voluntary.  It is elemental among victims’ advocates that sexual violence strips victims of control of their own closest most intimate lives, and therefore, that the would-be supporter’s priority is to let victims take control of who knows and who does what in response to offenses.  First order of business:  victims call the shots.  As they find themselves gaining control of their present relations, they can trust that what happened to them in the past haunts their present.  One of the re-victims in this story tells of relief that her civil lawyer volunteers that he has not looked at her “evidence” himself, says this enables her to trust him.
                I think the law ought to provide that when a victim is first notified that law enforcement has pictures of her or him, the primary holder of that evidence refrain from further distribution to law enforcement until the victim has given permission to do so.  I propose victims have the right to have the holder destroy the evidence and all records of their identities forthwith, or to set conditions on access to it or official use.  Ms. Bazelon didn’t ask her informants whether they would have just told all the agencies who first became aware of who they were to burn the videos and delete their names from their records.  It seems pretty clear that collecting large restitution sums has only made the life of one of them more haunted, more frightened than ever.  Every time another law enforcement officer or prosecutor sees the videos amounts under privacy law to republication.  Victims ought to be able to assure themselves that one official distributor of the stuff has stopped, for any purpose whatsoever.  That way there’s a good chance that they would soon get over the fear that their adult selves would be identified by anyone who had seen childhood pictures.
                Let us beware that the rights we give victims may in fact dis-empower them, and incapacitate them from healing.  We who would support them need not further publish their degradation in order to show them that we know what happened to them was awful.  As children and as adults dealing with childhood wounds, let our control of our own bodies and what is done to and with them be respected.  Love and peace--hal

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Roe v. Wade v. Texas legislators

Hal Pepinsky,, “Peacemaking” at
January 22, 2013
                Many are the news segments on this 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade.  None has been so moving to me as Terry Gross’s interview with Texas Observer reporter Carolyn Jones about the Texas sonogram law (  Ms. Jones describes the “information” the doctor who performed her abortion was required by Texas law to show her and describe/read to her while performing a sonogram just 24 hours before the operation.  The doctor already had the two sonograms confirming that Ms. Jones fetus had a genetic failure of spinal development so severe, that if the fetus survived, would produce a short life of unremitting pain.  Ms. Jones’s husband was  present.  Ms. Jones described trying to get away from the relentless litany that included medical misstatements, in a prolonged script.  As she turned away toward the nurse, the nurse turned up the volume on the music to drown out the doctor’s voice.  After the procedure, the doctor apologized for having done what the law required “or I’d lose my license.”
                Terry Gross asked how the procedure made her feel.  In the several seconds of silence, I said “angry!” softly but out loud.  I know that’s how I felt.  Ms. Jones acknowledged that the story she has told in the Texas Observer was inspired by the feeling that she had of being surrounded by a team who shared her anger that legislators should dare presume to intrude in what was already her moment of grief and disappointment…of kicking her when she was down.
                I concede the honest good will of do-good Texas legislators and of the female director of a “normal” Texas family planning clinic who doesn’t provide condoms but does provide counseling for women grieving after abortions.  But to them and to all of us including myself who seek to things to other people for their own good, that forcing people to know what’s good for them may breed the kind of anger that helped make women and I’m sure a lot of male partners and brothers show up to vote for President Obama.
                Granting mothers and doctors privacy on what women do to their own bodies is not just a matter of being nice to mothers.  It is also impractical in its personal and political consequences.  As my parents made me repeat to them time and again as a boy, “aggression begets aggression.”  Put another way, disrespect for privacy breeds disrespect.  Love and peace--hal

"Dirty Wars"

Hal Pepinsky,, “Peacemaking” at
January 22, 2013
                I defy anyone to click the link to today’s “Democracy Now!” segment on the film “Dirty Wars” that Jeremy Scahill and Rick Rowley are premiering at the Sundance Film Festival, and conclude that the US Government is the world’s leading and still growing terrorist force and state sponsor of terrorism, and since President Truman’s acceptance speech at the 1948 Democratic Convention  has constructed and swelled the ranks of anti-US guerrilla forces by giving them a common surnames, originally “Communists,” now “al Qaeda.”   If terrorism is the greatest threat to US national security, meet the enemy: the enemy is us.  If we US criminologists allow ourselves to include state action in our definition of terrorism, if we define terrorism as first-degree murder, and if serial first-degree murder is the most serious of violent crimes, should not our theories of today’s violent criminal careers be grounded in the study of habitual offender groups like the US Special Operations Command and its commanders, who carry on globally terrorizing and killing innocents in our name?  Without that conceptually grounding, our claims to knowledge of international violent crime are premature, if not morally bankrupt.  Love and peace--hal