The Place

This incident was included in a collection of vignettes submitted by incarcerated sex offenders titled “Voices Never Heard.”

- 0 -

I was visiting a friend at his family camp on a lake. I'll call him William. Over the last years we have both run the gauntlet of miscellaneous tortures that are meted out to people who have been convicted of sexual abuse.

I am in my 70s, and generally have to get up a couple of times during the night to take a leak. We had gone to bed early – shortly after nine. When I woke for my first piss call I was surprised to find him sitting in a chair in a corner of the living room, bundled up in a cover. “You’re up,” I said.

He nodded.

“I’ve got to take a leak,” I said.

“It’s raining,” He said. “Just stand on the top step under the eve and pee off the side.”

As I went to the door I asked if he was daydreaming. He said that he was having very violent daydreams.

It was raining hard enough that I didn’t want to go out into it, so I did as he suggested, and peed from the top step. When I returned to the living room he told me to sit down in a chair that was facing him at a distance of about seven feet. I did so. He handed me an afghan that he said his mother knitted. “This will keep you warm,” he said.

When I got settled into the chair with the afghan covering me, he explained that he wanted to tell me about his violent fantasies. He said that periodically he drinks excessively, while he also smokes pot, in order to get to a particular place in his head where he’s able to have certain violent fantasies. He wants them. As he described them, he said repeatedly that this was very weird and he’s never told anybody else about it before. He says that the fantasies never involve killing people, because he wants them to suffer.

As I asked him to be more specific about the people he fantasized about, he named people that have hurt him in various ways. One of the main people is his ex-wife who was responsible for poisoning his son’s mind against him, and ending his relationship with him. This was especially painful to William as he had been the one who raised his son while his wife worked. He and his son were very close. But his fantasies also involved people who had humiliated him either while he was incarcerated or when he was trying to reestablish a life for himself afterwards. He also mentioned some people who forced him into social isolation by their public attacks on him.

He told me that it is good that he doesn’t have superpowers, because, if he did, he would be able to get away with hurting these people without being caught. He said that he would do this if he were able to. He wanted me to understand that it was not moral principles, but simply the fear of being caught that prevented him from acting on his sadistic fantasies.

It was clear to me that these were not S&M type fantasies. The goal was not sexual gratification, but revenge. He has been hurt over and over again, and has not been able to defend himself or fight back. He did tell me earlier about a man in the jail that he came close to killing when the man went out of his way to humiliate him. But that was the exception.

As I listened to him, I thought about the different forms of injury that he has suffered. It was the same suffering that virtually every man who has been convicted of sex abuse has also experienced. First there are the losses. Not only is the relationship to the beloved boy taken away, but typically a person in this situation loses a large number of relationships to family and friends. William has maintained a relationship with a sister and with a few friends, but the loss of his relationship to his son was overwhelming. One of the most intense forms of suffering inflicted on people who have been outed is always grief.

Perhaps the second most intense form of suffering inflicted on sex-offenders is humiliation. To be on the registry and to have the public identity of the “pedophile” ensures one of a life of ongoing humiliation, against which one is helpless to defend oneself. People underestimate the impact of humiliation.


Sticks and Stones

Never-mind the things they sing.

Words sharp and witty,

As well as stones,

Despite the ditty,

Can break my bones.

Even an eyebrow raised can sting.


People will kill or die to avoid being publicly humiliated.

Additionally, one is subjected to social isolation. Once you have been convicted, or even accused, of the sexual abuse of a minor, you will never again be fully accepted by your community. You may find niches where they tolerate you, at least tentatively, but your acceptance in the community is always insecure. Such was the case with William. One of the people on his list of those to be hurt was a man who threatened his fragile acceptance in a restaurant/bar where he had managed to get a job.

In large part, he probably chose me to tell about his “place” because he was convinced that I wouldn’t have the same judgmental attitude toward “weirdness” that most people do. But he also mentioned that most people would not want to hear what he had to said. The general attitude he encounters around matters of psychological pain is that you should just “man up,” and get on with your life. To try to push against the resistance that others might have to hearing him would risk being accused of wallowing in self self-pity.

I pointed out to him what he already knew, which is that the forms of suffering he was telling me about are intense, and are the lot of all of us who have been outed. And because we are helpless to defend ourselves, or to respond in any effective way, it is inevitable that we will, from then on, be struggling with a inner cauldron of rage. There was nothing “weird” or unusual in what he was feeling. Everybody deals with this rage in different ways. But it’s there in everybody who has been through the experience.

To a considerable extent William evaded one of the most intense forms of suffering that is the experience the majority of sex offenders: guilt. He did not feel that what he did was intrinsically wrong, and as he knows, I agree with him on this. Making sure that “perpetrators” feel profoundly and incapacitatingly guilty is one of the main goals of the so-called “treatment” to which sex offenders are subjected. It is assumed that they are all sociopaths, that they knowingly and deliberately injured the their younger partners, and that therefore they must be taught guilt.

He emphasized that “I’m not asking you to do anything. You can’t solve it. I know that. I just wanted to tell somebody else about this.” And of course he was right. I could not “solve it.” That would mean undoing the past.

We are destroyed externally: by having our life situations ripped apart, by being excluded from our communities, and by being incarcerated in a continuing social prison even once we are released from literal prison. We are destroyed internally: by unbearable loads of guilt, by profound and continuing humiliation, by loss of loved ones, and by the condemnation of the innermost source of our love. How many times, and in how many ways, can a person be destroyed, and then pick himself up to re-establish a world, and a self that might wish to live in it? I mentioned a poem that I wanted to share with him, about the Phoenix. But I hadn’t memorized it so I was unable to share it with him at that time. But this is the poem that I had in mind:

How many times

[replace with formatted]

will you break my heart


This Phoenix thing goes

only so far

Before the dust settles

on the furniture

And rises again


as dust.

Clearly there was nothing “weird” about his fantasies. When we are attacked we desire to retaliate – and when we are deeply hurt, we desire revenge. All of us find different ways of dealing with these issues. The way William found is undoubtedly harmful to his health. The alcohol and the pot will take its toll on his body. I suppose one could fault him on that account, but since he has little desire to live anyhow, this is a small matter to him. Meanwhile he is hurting no one else with his secret retreats to that place where he can vent his rage on a world that has been unspeakably brutal in its dealing with him. Like most “sex-offenders” he did nothing that both he and his younger partner did not want.

Toward the end of our conversation he told me that not all the fantasies he had in his secret place were violent. Some were about positive things that he wished he could have. The main thing he wished for was the right to seek out the kind of love relationships that many societies have deemed honorable and beneficial to both the older person and his younger partner.

He reiterated the fact that he understood that I could not solve the issues that were manifest in his secret place, and that he did not expect me to. He just wanted to share it with someone. He had done so and it was time for me to return to bed.

I got up one more time that night. It was still raining when I went out to the step to relieve my aging bladder. He had gone to bed. I hoped that he was having good dreams.



Comments (0)

There are no comments posted here yet

Leave your comments

Posting comment as a guest. Sign up or login to your account.
Attachments (0 / 3)
Share Your Location
Download from, Joomla templates by a4joomla