I Knew My Dad Was a Sexual Predator

Lambert here: This post may be tough reading for some, but I do think it is in NC’s wheelhouse, partly because we do publish heart-wrenching stories from time to time, but also because a possible connection between loss of trust in public institutions, and sexual predation within the Catholic Church, the Boy Scouts, the entertainment industry, the media, and other major institutions — including the family — is too little remarked upon. I find the author’s idea of focusing on the social relations between predator and enabler very intriguing.

By Bob Goodwin

I knew my dad was a sexual predator.

I knew as a young man that my father was a serial sexual predator who looked for, and found, adolescent young men and boys in our community. The stories were not secret. I witnessed a certain amount with my own eyes. I did not stop him.

My father was Harvard-educated and a teacher and was mentally ill. Although difficult, he did many things of value during my childhood. But the predation had been apparent even in my childhood. He would take in troubled teens and once brought one into our home. They would always be his full focus. I had the room adjacent to my older brother, and when he reached adolescence, I could hear everything through the wall. I remember my mother ostracizing my brother because he was still pooping in his pants at night as a teenager.

A few years later my father tried to groom me. True to my personality I called him out on it, and it stopped – at least for me. None of this was a secret. But it continued.

Sexual predators will not stop. I believe the key to stopping them is for society to better engage would-be enablers. People like me. Our culture is going to need to take a far more nuanced view of enablers if we want to protect the vulnerable.

Hillary Clinton is accused of knowing that Harvey Weinstein was a sexual predator because she worked with him repeatedly in her career. Representative Jim Jordan is accused of turning a blind eye when he was an Ohio State coach who worked closely with team doctor Richard Strauss, who is believed to have raped 177 students.

Both Weinstein and Strauss are credibly believed to be sexual predators, and the level of damage they have done is immeasurable. Human lives have been destroyed. Our society is doing important work by vilifying these criminals.

But in neither case could the predation have been so widespread without enablers. I am certain that plenty of people (like me) both knew about what was happening and could have stopped it. Our society is doing important work by calling out enablers.

Despite that I have already told my story, I must offer some disclaimers and apologies. Read these carefully. The fact that I feel so compelled is evidence of the excruciating nature of this role.

My father has been dead almost 30 years. Most of my relatives agree with the narrative I am writing. If either of these statements were not true, I would not feel free to malign the reputation of my father. The damage done to my family and its bonds might otherwise be massive.

I am reluctant to share this story because of how it reflects on my reputation. Am I the son of a predator, or am I member of an extraordinarily talented and accomplished family? It turns out I am both. Still, I do not want my father to become the headline on my resume. I am in the later part of a very successful career, and I have little to lose, yet I still must manage my reputation. Earlier in my career I could not have risked it. What of my children? Am I harming their reputations?

Returning to my story: I eventual grew older and ceased to be a helpless child. Anyone who knows me can attest to the fact that I am fearless – perhaps reckless – in pursuit of righteous goals. At 24 I personally founded a venture capital-backed technology company that was sold to a conglomerate some years later.

And I hated my father.

My first inclination was self-destructive behavior. At 17 I woke up in the emergency room once after downing almost a full fifth of Southern Comfort, after which my brother rolled me over a snowbank to make sure I wasn’t caught. The psychiatrist who interviewed me (while I was still drunk) said that I was obsessed with making money and becoming independent. Shortly afterwards I switched my focus to stopping my father.

In the process I temporarily became homeless and slept in public places during the day while I was employed at my first computer programming job at night. My mom – long divorced and relocated – tracked me down to let me know that I had a trust fund that my father was hiding from me.

I approached the police. I approached the psychiatry department at Dartmouth to see if I could get my father committed. I even approached the parents of a boy my father was grooming.

I was rejected in all three cases. That was a defining experience in my life as a 17-year-old. I would be very surprised if it were any different today.

The dean of Tuck, the business school at Dartmouth, had a wife who worked for my father at a nonprofit focused on rural education. I heard an unsubstantiated rumor that their family was aware of my fathers’ predation and “wanted to see him run out of town.” Being an enabler is full of unsubstantiated rumors. Many of these rumors would probably turn out to be false, and virtually all of them would be denied.

I went on to attend a different Ivy League school. At the time I had no interest in getting a bad name in the academies, so I left well enough alone after that.

I have had a lifetime to think about why I acted (unsuccessfully) and so many others do not.

I remember once reading about inner city police corruption which seems to come and go in cycles. The article proposed credibly that 90% of policemen were essentially followers and would follow the existing culture of their institutions. The key to eliminating corruption is in the other 10%. People like me.

10% will act according to their own perception of right and wrong. 90% will imitate the culture that surrounds them. Those ten percent can be as easily agents for bad as agents for good. I would not make the claim that some of us are intrinsically good or bad. I have made many bad choices in my life, despite appearing to make myself the hero of this story. I could easily see myself as one of the mavericks who turned a police force corrupt.

But even among the 10%, I think I am part of an even smaller group. I think only 1% are fearless enough to buck the dominant culture. When a police force goes bad, 9% are leading the bad behavior, and 1% are trying to reverse it. Similarly, when a police force is good, 9% are leading the good behavior, and 1% are trying to reverse it. Often the key to protecting an institution is crushing people like me by “hammering the nail that is sticking out.”

Throughout my life I have been the rare person trying to change the culture wherever I go. Usually I am unsuccessful. When I am successful, I sometimes do more harm than good. We should be glad there are not more mavericks in the world. It would be anarchy. We should be glad that 90% of people fundamentally work to protect their institutions, even if those institutions are flawed.

Returning to the role of the enabler, let’s talk about Hillary and Jim Jordan. Of course, both people are part of the 90%. Of course, the Secretary of State, and a coach at a major university, have primary responsibility to protect their institutions. Protecting the institution is the very definition of those roles. Despite the significant power that they could have used to thwart evil, doing so would have undermined their primary roles. And like the Tuck Dean in my story, I am not even convinced they had anywhere near enough insight (if any) to have taken credible action.

In my case I may have done some good, even though it did not feel like it at the time. Although the parents I approached vociferously defended my father, I do know that my fathers’ access to him decreased, and had the situation continued there was less likelihood of those parents remaining enablers. I also know that word got back to my father, and although we broke off any further relationship, he had to be aware that people were watching him.

Years later I discovered that there was open communication amongst our family about my fathers’ predation, which surprised me. I always thought it remained a hidden secret. Maybe my actions had something to do with this. The life lesson for me is that speaking out is effective for would-be enablers despite the violent push-back and self-doubt. It sets the tone for everyone else in your system.

One of the problems with the #MeToo movement is that we ask people to believe accusers unconditionally. It is only a matter of time, and maybe this is happening already, when we find that some accusers are genuinely not credible. Despite all the evidence I had at the time, I did not even find myself that credible, and still question my evidence to this day.

Sexual assault accusations do horrible damage to the accused, and even more damage to the family (or institution) of the accused. It is the nature of our criminal justice system to require proof, and to tolerate that most guilty people are never prosecuted. We should not change this simply because sexual crimes are so difficult to prosecute.

Although criminal prosecution is a useful tool, we must accept that it not the only tool, and perhaps not even the best tool. Again, I believe that predators need enablers. If we can deny predators enablers even when we cannot prosecute them, this can make a large difference. My father was never going to be prosecuted. But that did not mean that we should not try to stop him.

Vilifying enablers, like we are doing with Hillary and Jim Jordan, may be valuable in bringing visibility to the importance of enablers, but it also does harm by forcing would-be enablers further into the shadows. We want people inside institutions and families to call out bad behavior within their system, and without having to pay too high a price. And we need to accept that not everyone is able to do this. We want to de-stigmatize whistle-blowers within our families and institutions. We want the mavericks to survive the ordeal, so that others will follow, when they can. A predator needs many enablers. We only need to turn one.

I am not sure exactly how to accomplish this. But I think my story gives some guidance.

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.

43 comments

  1. Arizona Slim

    I am a 1979 graduate of the University of Michigan.

    During the fall of my senior year, in November or December of 1978, I consulted with Dr. Robert Anderson. I had a knee injury, and he was the sports medicine doctor at Health Service.

    Fortunately, he didn’t mess with me in any way. And I thought that his diagnosis and prescription were right on point.

    During the semester break, I was at home in Pennsylvania with my parents. Since all three of us were Michigan alums, we had to watch the Rose Bowl, Michigan vs. USC in Pasadena. Game day was January 1, 1979.

    During the game, I saw something that has stayed with me to this day. After one play, the TV cameras went to Anderson on the sidelines. He was flat on his back, knocked out cold. I seem to recall that the refs called time.

    While I was a high school student, I was a photographer for the school paper and yearbook. I covered football games, and I noticed that everyone gave the team doctor plenty of space. He was a highly respected man in that town — still is, in fact. No one would have dreamed of running into him.

    So, I can’t help wondering if Anderson was targeted on a late hit away from the ball.

    As for me, I feel like I dodged a bullet. I was not one of Anderson’s victims, but a lot of other kids weren’t so lucky.

    Reply
  2. Oso

    in native communities the grandmothers will set down boundaries and what must be done to regain standing within the tribe. shunning until the predator follows steps they are told they must take. in the urban setting this is more difficult but still done here. it is difficult work due to the enablers (urban mostly) but it has been effective in getting notice. predators are escorted away from ceremony, not like bouncers because so many scarred victims.
    easier to accomplish within small connected groups, but same approach might help with what this gentleman urges, bringing enablers out of the shadows and particularly de-stigmatizing the whistle blowers. so many people of our people have been terrorized by the dominant culture that they don’t want to put business in the street, analogous to women/male allies speaking up in a way. it has to stop.

    Reply
  3. Petter

    I’ll keep this short. Back in 1959, when I was fourteen years old, my father’s best friend invited me on a ski trip. The first night, sharing a bed, he made a move for my nether regions. I slapped his hand away. He didn’t try it again.
    When we got back home from the trip I told my parents about what had happened. I didn’t hear what he had to say but my father called his friend and apparently really gave him a piece of his mind. I thought he would banish him from our house.
    A few days later the friend came by our house and everyone acted like it had never happened.
    How did this effect me? Ahh – it’s a long story.

    Reply
    1. Bob Goodwin

      But how do we make it safe for enablers earlier in the process, rather than implying they are evil after the fact?

      Reply
      1. sd

        Start with open and transparent information. It’s clear that history has done its best to keep secrets. My best guess:

        1. Education starting with children and continuing on. I would go so far as to say its an appropriate topic for business school – do not do business with abusers.
        2. Information – grooming is well known, expose the signs
        3. Laws – include co-conspirators, though it doesn’t help that people like Dennis Hastert roamed the halls of Congress
        4. Strengthen social safety nets – child care, meals, housing, jobs, education, safe houses, etc
        5. Family support groups
        6. Lastly, do not pardon pedophiles

        For what its worth – years ago I was at a dinner with 11 people who were from all over the world, men, women, gay, straight, just an incredibly diverse group. Somehow sexual abuse came up – out of the 11 there, I was 1 of 2 people at the table who had not experienced any form of sexual abuse. If that’s the reality of the world, that 9 out of 11 people will experience some form of abuse during their lifetime, then the sooner we start talking and admitting there’s a problem, the better.

        Reply
  4. New Wafer Army

    I was abused by an Olympic swimming coach in Ireland. Seeing the glory bestowed upon him by the press was so sickening, I contacted the Irish Times. Our supposed paper or record. They didn’t want to know. Power protects power. It was only when ex-Olympian swimmers came forward that I was listened to

    Reply
  5. Tomonthebeach

    What causes sexual perversion enablers is likely denial. Life is easier if my friends are not sexual deviates. If my friends are sexual predators, what does that make me? If I out a neighborhood pervert will anybody ever confide in me again? Will my actions have consequences for how my kids are treated? It is easy to see why people prefer to look away.

    But how do the predators rationalize their behavior? Epstein’s enablers were likely co-conspirators who used their wealth to shield themselves from their self-indulgences. Goodwin’s father likely viewed his behavior as providing comfort to kids in need of affection. It just tended to get too physical. As I said, it is easy to see why people prefer to look away. We should not because each incident ignored will scar people for life. For some, it might be limited to self-loathing. For others, those scars might lead to substance abuse and mental health issues.

    Reply
    1. Bob Goodwin

      I don’t think it is denial at all. I think it is a feeling of helplessness – that people don’t care, and there is nothing I can do on my own. When the violent push-back happens, that just makes us feel more helpless.

      For the predators, I agree there is denial. My father talked about ancient history when pedophilia was acceptable. But for those close to it – and even those further away – I believe there is widespread revulsion.

      Reply
  6. furies

    Enablers who become whistleblowers often end up diagnosed and drugged by psychiatry.

    It’s been the story of my life…the *abusers* always look ‘sane’ to a judge.

    Reply
    1. GramSci

      Yes, a good friend of ours was persistently sexually abused by her father, who was a prestigious professor of psychiatry. At age twenty she finally took him to court. The judges believed her father. His expert witnesses called her insane. He was acquitted, and she was “hospitalized” against her will. Her family shunned her for the dishonor she had brought down on the family. As she tells the story, *this* made her truly insane. Ten years later other victims came forward, and her father was finally incarcerated. Some of her family, including, most hurtfully, her mother, continued to shun her until her father’s death in prison ten years. ago. Finally now, at age 55, she and her mother have begun to speak to each other. I don’t know if they have yet been able to talk about “it”.

      Reply
  7. Left in Wisconsin

    Thanks for this post and I totally agree it is within the NC wheelhouse. And kudos to Goodwin for telling his story and raising the issue.

    I wonder if Goodwin has the percentages right. Or maybe, due to selection, they vary in different social settings. The setting I am most familiar with is the university, in which it is often assumed (at least among the PMC) to house the best of the best (or at least the smartest of the smartest), notwithstanding plenty of critics from outside. But it should be a screaming red flag that many of the worst cases of unchecked abuse happen in that setting.

    My Big 10 U has not had a sexual abuse case similar to Michigan, MSU, or Ohio State but we are in the midst of an outright abuse scandal revolving around the suicide of an engineering graduate student a couple years ago related to working under and in the lab of a professor known to be abusive. The U administration is of course repeating all the BS that the well-being of students is their number one priority, if they had only known (when it is clear that many faculty did know), but basically trying to sweep it away (again, after initial efforts to make everything go away quietly failed). And we of course have had our share of several smaller scale sexual predation cases. There was even a google doc that went around a year or so ago wherein people could anonymously report their sexual harassment/assault experiences and call out specific profs. My department was well-represented.

    In fact, I think what we see is that, the more competitive the environment the less “calling out” there is, because the stakes are so high. Anyone experienced in calling out bad behavior within their group or organization knows (or learns) the consequences of doing so even if, as in my case (which involved only garden variety moronic behavior), it takes a long time to accept the evidence right in front of your face. And anyone who has gotten near the top of their org/co knows that the closer to the top, the more important becomes the job of minimizing bad news (way more so than minimizing bad behavior).

    Also, we should ask if the hyper-partisanship of today makes the situation even more dire, because allegiance to the group (and hatred of the enemy group) leaves even less room for internal criticism or calling out.

    I don’t know what to do either. I’m not sure it will ever be the case that support from outsiders will be sufficient to encourage insiders to do the right thing. I honestly think maybe the most useful policy proposal would be the job guarantee, providing whistle-blowers at least a minimal fall-back should their actions lead to job loss, need for career change, blacklisting, etc.

    Reply
    1. Bob Goodwin

      I have no idea if my percentages are correct. I used the classic 90-9-1 framing that is used for social participation.

      Whistleblowing protection for employment is great, but how do we protect people within families? This is a cultural consideration, not legislative. Who has taken the place of 19th century ministers who can mediate in dysfunctional families?

      Reply
  8. Michael

    It’s not Harvey W. I think of Hillary as having enabled. Is Bill ever going to have his Me Too moment? Does Joe Biden believe Anita Hill yet?
    I am not claiming that all accusations of past abuse are accurate, especially involving famous or powerful people. Julian Assange comes to mind as a victim of weaponized accusations.
    The saga of Jeffrey Epstein, as it fades from the gaze of our media, also provides perspective. At this point I take it as a given that he was the (foolishly flamboyant) tip of an iceberg that was busily collecting compromising photos of powerful people. Once people are complicit photos are probably not necessary anyway. I am just unsure which Intel agencies from what nations were involved.
    It takes a huge number of worker bees to run such an operation. Only a society indoctrinated by feeling compelled to keep secrets, to accept abusive leaders (family, community, national) and to believe that it is useless to speak out can produce enough workers that it lasted this long. Sadly, you can be sure Epstein’s was/is not the only similar operation.

    Reply
  9. NV

    Unfortunately, we do not live with the ethos and practice which describe some or many Native American tribes, as described by Oso and others. Consequently, I am left with the thought that a group must not only confront the perp, but must then pummel the perp should confrontation not suffice.

    Finally, I am sorry to learn of all the suffering described by the previous writers.

    Reply
    1. Oso

      NV, “I am left with the thought that a group must not only confront the perp, but must then pummel the perp should confrontation not suffice” i like that you put confronting first. too many react with pummel the perp first, which could further traumatize already traumatized victims of predation and abuse. if there is a common group – neighborhood, church – banning can be effective. with Protectors escorting the abuser away from events or gatherings. it shows the victims (and enablers/would be enablers) community is aware and taking action. as you say, possibly further consequences may be called for.
      clearly this is only community or family approach tho.

      Reply
  10. freedomny

    This is an important conversation. I know so many people who were sexually abused as children by both family members and strangers. Sometimes I wonder if part of it is generational….my generation seems to be fine with “secrets” as to not rock the boat. At the same time I’m curious as to the trickle down effect of bad behavior from those in powerful institutional positions. It must be hard for many to tell their own stories as much depends on whether the predator is still alive, how the abused view their abuse, and how those who knew about the abuse (the enablers) view their role… it certainly has prevented me from telling my own story/ies

    Reply
  11. Anonymous

    I’m a regular here but I’m going anonymous for this, for obvious reasons. My (male) paediatrician, a certain Dr. Thomas Kowalski, was given a suspended sentence and fine at around age 70 for masturbating two pre-teen boy scouts on a camping trip. I had to read about it in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. As a child in the late 1960s, I could never understand why I needed a rectal exam every time I saw him for any minor ailment. Even during house calls where he’d tell my parents an excuse and close the bedroom door for his diddling with my anus. I’d just assumed it was normal because he was a doctor. He was otherwise a very kind person and I knew his children as friends. Bananas.

    I called up my mother after the Journal Sentinel crime report and she didn’t have much to say about it except that they had assumed that he was gay but in a heterosexual marriage for social networking reasons and that the abuse things were just part of being homosexual. I can’t say that it did anything to me except make me feel bad for kids that he’d abused in worse ways than me. I guess I’m lucky that I just accepted it. I’ve talked about it in therapy but it isn’t a major trauma compared to other things.

    Reply
  12. John Mc

    I am grateful for this story in a number of ways.

    First, I think the author uncovers something about politics in today’s society that I have long felt as someone on the far left. The process by which predation (RNC establishment neoliberalism) and Enabling (DNC establishment neoliberalism) combine to form economic, social, and systemic abuse for many citizen’s is clear.

    No wonder the largest group of people are those who do not vote
    No wonder PMC can render the public to be at fault for the Financial Crisis or fill in the blank
    No wonder our intelligence community can overthrow foreign elections and hem/haw about Russia
    No wonder we have 500K people sleeping on the streets in this country
    No wonder the elites outsource their predations to the colonies (Epstein, War Profiteering, Tax Havens)
    No wonder

    Secondly, I am grateful for the lack of certitude about how best to deal with those who enable. Not wanting to rock the boat syndrome seems to be a default for so many in this country (even Anthony Fauci – the leading scientist was just quoted about not wanting to pick a fight with the President when lies regarding CoVid-19). Whoo boy. But we must admit that there is much more animus for those who protect and enable a predator than often the predator themselves. Often times, the predator is viewed as mentally ill (which so many are) while the enabler has most of their faculties and much stronger relationships within families or organizations than predators.

    Nevertheless, how best to approach a culture of enablement to predation is one which needs to be better teased out — Calling out behavior and being wrong or creating a cycle of blame can destabilize any real learning and distract from the process of how abuse works. We should also remember that predation and enabling are trans-generational patterns — often found in family’s history. The complexity of who begins a path to be someone who calls bullshit on something and who goes along with it, starts there. The workplace is just another smaller petry dish for relational roles like these. Enron comes to mind. Madoff comes to mind… etc…

    Lastly, I am grateful for this because making associations between abuse in the different areas (interpersonal, familial, cultural, financial, Elder-Child, or in how research is conducted (Tuskeegee experiments) manufactured (Monsanto’s buying researchers off) requires more attention and a stronger shame quotient for bad corporate actors (no more bad apples analogies).

    Reply
  13. David in Santa Cruz

    As a former whistle-blower — thankfully not relating to sexual predation — this post makes me rather sad.

    How can a family continue to allow this man, who was just a young boy at the time, harbor such immense feelings of guilt so many years later? Was he the “enabler” of his father? Was it the child’s job to protect others from his parent? Where were the other adults in his family and his community? He was the one who lost his home and family, not the predator.

    Predation, be it sexual, be it financial, or be it the myriad other forms of bigotry and bullying that humans are capable of, is a gift that keeps on giving. Sadly, our “Too Big to Jail” culture seems to glorify the predators among us as “winners” thanks to the precarity and shame that most of the rest of us have decided to accept as our lot in life.

    Anne Frank had no choice in her victimization; the perpetrators of her victimization did. Don’t be a perpetrator.

    Reply
    1. robert L goodwin

      My father remained a predator after I became an adult. I either could not, or did not stop it. I don’t feel guilt about that. I made the best choices I could. I never felt like a victim either. Not sure if I was supposed to feel guilty or victimized, but I never did. But it had a profound impact on how I view social systems. I am just a witness now.

      Reply
      1. David in Santa Cruz

        Thank you for your response, Robert!

        It appears from your powerful story that your father was a predator long before you came into being and remained one long after you escaped your family’s and your community’s dysfunction. Perhaps your profound and justifiable anger makes it difficult to accept an expression of empathy, but it begs my question. Where were the other adults?

        Perpetrators exploit the precarity and the shame of others — particularly their victims — in order to get their way. In our culture, which I argue is based on exploiting precarity and shame, creeps often get their way. How can your experience help us to flip this script?

        Harvey Weinstein was a great Hollywood mogul; Presidents Bill Clinton and Donald Trump are venerated by millions. None of the perpetrators of the 2008 GFC went to jail or even had to give up the bulk of their ill-gotten gains. Is it a coincidence that Dartmouth produced both Hank Paulson and Tim Geithner?

        This website is one of the few places asking the question: Where are the adults?

        Reply
        1. Bob Goodwin

          I don’t feel free to malign the adults in my life at the time, but let me say that I loved them and that they each needed to make difficult decisions on who to protect, and who to leave alone. Nobody in my family feels they were let down by other adults. Nobody feels that other people were either in denial or uncaring. All were tortured that they could not do more.

          I think it is simply too glib to say that enablers are uncaring or in denial.

          I am sorry I appeared to be unable to accept empathy. This may be true. And I do value your gift. But it is also true that I did not feel guilt or victimhood. I felt anger. I felt impotence. I saw the imperfection of humanity.

          Reply
    1. robert L goodwin

      I was an enabler as an adult. By any definition. There were other enablers in my family. They were ineffective for much the same reason as I was. I do not accuse any of them.

      But I guess it is reasonable to feel otherwise.

      Reply
      1. Oso

        Robert L goodwin,
        i was thinking last night about what you said about vilifying enablers after the fact vs “forcing would-be enablers further into the shadows. We want people inside institutions and families to call out bad behavior within their system, and without having to pay too high a price”.
        There are people like yourself who tried to do something and got no support,and there are others who disbelieve what they hear about a predator (because predators typically choose victims with deniability in mind).I wish i could think of a solution, something other than believe the victims/whistleblowers, but i can’t.statistically false accusations are a tiny percentage. if people believe, it empowers other victims/whistleblowers to step forward. we all want quick fixes, but this is along the lines of ‘spreading seeds’.

        Reply
  14. Dave in Austin

    I’ve know both tortured pedophiles and their targets. And it is hard to risk your job and family’s livelihood to make a scene.

    I, like Lambert, at one point decided to occasionally throw myself in front of the speeding train and scream “Enough!” I’ve rarely been successful but changing even one life for the better is worth the embarrassment and ridicule. And the purps often turn out to be less than pure evil- and worthy of our respect as humans even though we should work like hell to stop them. So keep up the good work Lambert… and Yves

    Reply
      1. rivegauche

        When I was a toddler, my mother divorced my wonderful dad (who moved then a half-a-country away) to marry a pedophile monster a couple of years later that she knew from her high school days in the late 40s.

        Her enabling of this pedophile and his abuse began around the time of my kindergarten to first grade years. When I mustered all of my 5 or 6 year-old’s inner courage and told her, she left me in my room alone while she verified it with the pedophile. She returned and told me I was lying, because that’s what the pedophile said.

        The pedophile monster never attempted his crimes after that but was still a monster and expressed it in other ways. My mother continued to enable other of his wrong and horrid behaviors, and I was an adult before I regained enough courage to speak of it again. My mother never ever brought it up and refused to talk about it til her dying day.

        Accuse an adult enabler? Always.

        Reply
  15. Jake

    I have question for yves and lambert. As a subscriber for over three years I have noticed that NC posts way too much bad news. If not this, then that. I have learnt a lot from NC and am very thankful. But for the past few years I am increasingly worried that NC has fallen into a spiral of continously negative news. If not this topic then that. Certainly this cannot be good for either NC staff or its readers. So for the sake of everyone’s mental health, I request NC to reduce its stream of bad/negative news and start posting good news that creates more hope than despair. Thanks!

    Reply
    1. Yves Smith

      I appreciate your concern.

      We normally do have 20% or so devoted to animal stories and science.

      I am temperamentally a pessimist, so bad news bugs me way way less than having a bad injury and being physically very limited and not having any good treatment options.

      However, these are very grim times and we have never been in the business of candy-coating. Readers two days ago overwhelmingly said in Links that NC’s early, correct, but disturbing-to-many call on coronavirus allowed them to prepare psychologically and also do personal prep, everything from being careful early about handwashing and hygiene (like cleaning cell phones) to judicious stockpiling. We were early and right on the crisis and a lot of people’s net worths were spared because they cut their equity holdings early, and some even accelerated planned home sales.

      We want to mitigate real world damage. That isn’t consistent with trying to downplay the ugly things that seem likely.

      Reply
      1. Bob Goodwin

        I am temperamentally an optimist. And readers should find a variety of content to get perspectives. But since the 2008 financial crisis I have learned to value voices like Lambert and Yves, even if I lean in a very different direction.

        I am sorry that sharing my story caused despair and damage to your mental health. My hope in sharing it was not as a twelve step program for me to share my pain, but rather because I believe our culture could do better working with enablers, and helping to rebuild faith in our institutions.

        I perhaps could have written this in a better way, but I did not feel my message would be credible if I erased the pain.

        Institutions are incredibly important to how well our species has thrived. As an optimist I believe that our culture can evolve to the scale we now find ourselves. Ministers once may have helped dysfunctional families. But they are obsolete. Who reaches out to enablers in our current institutions?

        Yves and Lambert may lambast financial and political institution enablers, but I share their desire to address the failings in our current institutions.

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        1. Anthony Dorsa

          I so admire the honesty of the commenters who have participated here, most especially to the extent that they have revealed personal injuries, direct and indirect. Including the regrets of those who regret possible compliance to evil. I was most privileged to learn the history of philosophy from a giant who then taught at the University of Texas. IIRC, he told us that in order to understand our world, we must understand the connection between the intimate and the metaphysical. I can’t help but think of this as that our personal lives, our experiences, are a micro panorama of the larger world, no matter where you stand on the hierarchy.

          Reply
      2. Jake

        Yves, I appreciate your early calls on the coronavirus and how they helped many readers to avoid damage, especially considering the idiocy that is USA healthcare system. However, I am talking about the general theme of the blog, even before the coronavirus. There have been lots of positive developments around the world that one can be happy about, some that come to mind are rapid lab to market of alternatives to meat, massive investment into renewables and other climate change mitigation strategies, reduction of world hunger and poverty(although can be done much better under a different system than the current zero sum one), banks now less powerful, etc.

        Reply
        1. Yves Smith

          With the world on the way to the Jackpot, I don’t see much to celebrate.

          New gen meat substitutes are questionable from a health and environmental standpoints (see https://www.cnet.com/news/is-fake-meat-really-better-for-the-environment/ and https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/fake-meat-better-you-or-environment-n1065231). The benchmark for “meat” is corn fed beef, when grass fed beef is healthier and less environmentally damaging. Chicken is way more efficient in converting plants to animal protein. In general, people should be eating more veggies, beans and grains and less generally.

          As for renewables, they require the use of fossil fuel infrastructure to implement, so there is a front-end increase in carbon emissions. Renewables also make heavy use of nasty inputs like rare earths. Electric cars still get 75% of their electricity from fossil fuels. There isn’t a good solution for the base load problem save fossil fuels or nuclear. And radical conservation (more modest lifestyles, like more dishwashing by hand) is our best near term bet, and I don’t see anywhere enough people pumping for it.

          As for the reduction in poverty, Joseph Stiglitz has pointed out repeatedly that globally, it’s limited to China. Ex China, on average, poor countries are if anything a bit poorer.

          Reply
  16. Anthony Dorsa

    Forgive me, but I cannot help but to connect this conversation with the narrative of the way far-right, who allege a conspiracy of liberal-speaking pedophiles to control the world. It seems that abusive persons are present everywhere. But we may hope to progress by exposing those persons, and our own experiences; that we have a better approach than the right wingers, because we can discuss and expose these things.

    Reply

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