My rating: 5 of 5 stars
A gruesome, harrowing book, but by no fault of the author. It’s a gruesome, harrowing subject.
Salter has worked with kids for her entire career. When she first started, she was surprised by how prominent sexual abuse was; for a while she thought that her little corner of New Hampshire was some kind of incest vein, the factory from which all the pedophiles in the world were manufactured. The longer she stayed in psychology, the more she realized there was nothing special about New Hampshire. It’s like that everywhere, and nobody talks about it.
Salter has interviewed hundreds child abusers over the course of her career. Her disgust is palpable, and her rage is contagious. She suggests that child molesters live deliberate double lives, pulling an elaborate con on everyone around them. Molesting kids is the only thing that matters to them, and they’ll put it any amount of work and deceit in order to protect it.
We can’t conceive of this for three reasons.
1) The concept of being sexually attracted to children is so gonzo fuckin’ bonkers to us that it doesn’t even process.
2) We think child molesters are visibly monstrous. We’ll be able to see them, they’ll give off an aura of evil, they wheeze and snivel when they talk. The cub scout leader is such a nice guy, he can’t be that kind of creature. We would have to doubt our personal radars and our intuition.
3) No one is that driven. We all have dreams, we go to work, we take vacations, we do our part to achieve our goals in dribs and drabs, we maintain a work-life balance and get cases of the Mondays. We can’t wrap our minds around someone who devotes their every thought, every word, every action to arranging a circumstance where they can get away with pedophilia.
But they’re out there, and they do. Doc Salter is trying to warn us. It’s nearly impossible to prosecute a sex offender, and even more difficult when they’re offending against children because nobody believes children.
The pedophiles have orchestrated their entire lives to put them in positions of power over children — the priest, the teacher, the loving father — and if a kid has the wherewithal to even understand what is happening, their cries fall on deaf ears. Most of the pedophiles Salter interviews were only caught due to increasing escalation. Fear of getting caught often adds to the appeal for the offenders, and they eventually became so brazen that they *were* caught, in the act, by the family. And the family still wouldn’t believe it. I know that sounds fake, but denial really is that powerful.
That’s the take home of the book. We have to be vigilant, we have to be paranoid, because these animals are out there, and this is what they do. This is all they do. The author is so haunted by this knowledge, and her realization that she can do so little about it, despite her thirty year campaign encouraging us to pull our heads out of our collective asses and acknowledge the horrific child abuse statistics, that in her free time she writes mystery novels following the same theme.
She touches on psychopaths, sadists, and serial killers in the book, but they’re sort of an afterthought. They’re not her area of expertise, except where there’s an overlap.
There are wolves among us. She never said the word evil, but her description is as close to fairy-tale monsters as you can get. The book is thorough, well-researched, and heartbreaking.
She’s our voice. Our outrage. Our collective id that calls for blood, but even in the book she says that’s a cop out. Saying “they should all be killed” is a way of not thinking about the issue. That’s the exact ostrich syndrome negligence that’s letting them get away with it.
It’s not light reading. There are parts that might make you ill. But it’s an important book, especially if you work in psychology or social services.