Monday, October 09, 2006

Mark Foley and Coercion

Republican representative Mark Foley resigned last week following Washington Post allegations that he solicited sex from under-aged Congressional pages in their dormitory and contacted others using sexually explicit language over the Internet.

The Congressman's appearance in a residence hall after 10 p.m. was inappropriate, obviously, as were the e-mail solicitations. Was it illegal? And should that even matter?

The answer regarding the illegality is fuzzy. Geographical boundaries may limit the jurisdiction of state law. But it matters. What he did matters.

Take a look at the psychological ramifications, whatever the law:

Psychologically, what have we here?

IF it turns out that indeed this happened, that Mark Foley did solicit sex from at least one 16 year old, then he is guilty of using his position of authority, not to mention chronological age, to persuade someone younger and more vulnerable to have sex with him, some form of sex.

Will that young person remember it as a trauma at some point, perhaps even in the near future and feel shame? VERY possible.

Will that youth be angry at Mr. Foley? VERY likely.

Will the youth blame himself nevertheless? YES. VERY likely.

Even if the child can externalize blame to the predator, his own self-blame and doubt will be very difficult to erase. This event will constitute a snapshot memory.

Those of you who have been reading me up until now know what that means. He'll be ninety, but the "child" won't have forgotten Mark Foley and what they did/said to one another. Words like "dirty," "unworthy," and "bad" will become self-attributes, without therapy, that is.

Even if the child had agreed to sex, wanted sex, consented willingly, and was not under the influence of drugs and alcohol, if he regrets it later, he's in trouble psychologically.

Because there's this effect upon self-esteem, see. It goes down.

And low self-esteem makes a person more vulnerable to alcoholism, drugs, and other self-destructive self-medicating behaviors, even cutting. These changes have the potential to influence everything important in the future: education, vocation, other sexual relationships, even marriage, having children, and parenting.

Should a Congressman, or a teacher, or any other person in a position of authority be censured and forced to make formal amends to a victim of such an act of emotional, if not sexual violence? If it morphs into an emotionally violent trauma, then defeated self-esteem is an inevitable consequence.

Uh, YES. Mark Foley, and others like him, should be tried and should obliged to pay to make amends, which might include the cost of therapy for the victim, even the cost of a college education. Damages may depend upon how far the projected psychological set back of the child, dependent upon a thousand other variables.

When you mess with children, you don't know what you're really messing with. They're humans, and they have histories. It isn't a good idea, and that will be the ultimate lesson of this scandal.

For your edification, here are the definitions that this doc used while investigating campus rape at Xavier University in Ohio in an on-going three year longitudinal project. This school has an official zero tolerance policy toward sexual, racial, and minority sexual orientation harassment of students.

Xavier now has an excellent rape prevention/treatment program that networks with other local advocacy programs. Coercion, the act we're talking about, is the last bullet on the list.

- When someone verbally or physically taunts another because of gender, race, or minority sexual orientation (being gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, trans-sexual, inter-sexed, it is considered harassment.

- Giving in to unwanted kissing or fondling because someone continually argues or pressures is called forced sexual contact.

- When someone unsuccessfully tries to penetrate the mouth, anus, or vagina with an object or a penis——that’s called attempted rape.

- Any penetration is considered rape if it is forced, nonconsensual, or if the victim is too impaired from drugs or alcohol to make an informed decision. This is a fuzzy area for a lot of people. Understand that if a person’s goal is to have sex by getting another person so drunk or stoned that they can't give informed consent-- penetration is considered rape. Even if a woman doesn't protest very hard or says yes while under the influence, if she would definitely have said no while sober, it's considered rape by law in Ohio. That's why we're using this definition.

Again, any penetration is considered rape if it is forced, nonconsensual, or if the victim is too impaired from drugs or alcohol to make an informed decision.

- If someone in a position of authority pressures you into sexual contact or rape—either a boss or a teacher—that is considered coercion .

So it's coercion, peeps. Simple, but not so simple sexual coercion. I, for one, hope he pays.

Copyright 2006, TherapyDoc


Lin said...

Only recently stumbled onto your site. Thank you for this post ...true, deep, genuine gratitude for approaching it with depth and complexity rather than pouncing on it TV style -- shallow and absent sensitivity to what really happens to kids who are hurt. Great big kudos for 'getting it' and more still for articulating it.

TherapyDoc said...

Thanks for taking the time to read it.

Ella said...

I studied abroad when I was 17, and I worked hard at being tempting, but boy did I end up getting a response I didn't really want from my host "father". It is very intoxicating to have this "power" over an adult when you are this age. So, you see I *do* believe it is my fault - I did these things and got a typical male's reaction. I was scared, and I was sad. What made me saddest is that I cried so much the next day and none of the chaperones offered help. By the time I was back in the US, I was a bit thrilled and amazed at this power. I was more careful with it in the future.

therapydoc said...

It is SO powerful. Thanks, Ella.

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